On my first tour around cross-country USA with Topdeck Travel, we arrived into the state of Louisiana and our first stop was the city of New Orleans.
This is what I had envisioned New Orleans to be like:
music music music
buskers and street performers playing on the street
live music live music all the time
New Orleans ended up surpassing all the expectations I had because it was BETTER, MORE AMAZING and WONDERFUL than I could have ever imagined or envisaged; hence the title of this post.
Why Do I Need To Spend A Week Or More In New Orleans?
Located in the heart of New Orlean’s oldest neighbourhood in the French Quarter is Burbon Street. With rich history and insight, Burbon Street is one of the most famous streets in New Orleans; many tourists make it their first stop when visiting this city for the first time!
Burbon Street also houses the oldest running bar by the name of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Built sometime before 1772, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is the oldest occupied bar in the United States and is a National Historical Landmark.
Burbon Street is also known for its bars! The bars are something to see in itself, they all look quite different aesthetically, and cater to various music audiences. Here are a few snapshots of some of the bars we stumbled upon on our walking tour.
Signature Cocktails on Burbon Street
Another reason why Burbon Street is famous, is for their signature cocktails. There are two main cocktails we were informed about (and encouraged!) to drink! Beware: They are super strong! So having just one is plenty!
1. The Hand Grenade Cocktail
As the name suggests, it is actually shaped like an actual grenade (pictured below). The Hand Grenade is sold frozen or on-the-rocks through only five licensed nightclub bars in the New Orleans French Quarter. The best place to purchase a hand grenade (an authentically tasting one) is at the Tropical Isle bar.
2. The Hurricane cocktail
Made famous by Pat O’Brien’s French quarter bar in the 1940s, the hurricane drink is another popular cocktail in New Orleans. The hurricane cocktail is a sweet drink made with a potent fruit punch and rum, served in a special hurricane lamp glass. During the Second World War, liquor such as whiskey was in short supply, so bar owners were forced to order large amounts of rum in order to get their quota of whiskey. In order to dispose of the large quantities of rum, the hurricane cocktail was created.
Everywhere you go, there is music. New Orleans is renown for jazz, blues and big band music.
If you are a passionate musician who loves playing your instrument or you are in love with music, a week spent in New Orleans being exposed to and exploring just the music scene alone is highly recommended! (which is what I intend on doing when I return).
Frenchman Street is the street you want for LIVE MUSIC ALL THE TIME! Over two big nights, my tour group bar hopped around Frenchman Street to check it all out! We all had a blast! I would highly recommend to do this if you have a limited amount of time to spend in New Orleans like we did!
The musicians in the bars are authentic, passionate and love performing on their instrument in the same bar at the same timeslot for many years. In some bars you have musicians that play their own songs, but most bars have bands that cover many of our favourite modern songs but with a jazz and blues twist. At one bar in particular they change up the bands throughout the night providing an opportunity for them to show the audience what they got! They were all really impressive and played some classic songs both old and new! “Come Together” by the Beatles was definitely a favourite among the bands!
The street performers and buskers are also amazing; during the day while I was strolling through town, there were many buskers and street performers just “doin’ their thing!!” They were amazing to watch. Around the main square in town are local artists selling their work plus music shops and nick nacky/trendy shops with bits and pieces that are also worth a look!
That’s just it! The atmosphere is there all the time both day and night! New Orleans is continually filled with authenticity and creativity in music, combined with passion, love and adoration for the life that music brings!
Travel story adventure
The two nights that we spent in New Orleans were actually on the Easter Weekend, so around town some houses were decorated with bunny ears and various Easter related decor.
While on our walking tour we stumbled upon a Mardi Gras parade, which was absolutely crazy! Let’s just say this was my very first experience of anything really related to mardi gras, so what did we do? As curious travellers we followed the music! There were trombones, french horns, horses and carriages beautifully decorated with vibrant colours and floral arrangements!
One of the very common items you may receive in New Orleans is FREE BEADS! I can assure you that your first visit to New Orleans will involve receiving free beads, but not just one pair, LOADS OF THEM! It was so much fun to witness and be involved in the parade and the festivities. The parade create a fun, excited and joyful atmosphere, what an experience!
There are hundreds upon hundreds of wonderful cafes throughout New Orleans; one in particular that myself and some of our tour friends went to was by the name of Café du Monde. Café du Monde is a popular café located in the French Quarter that are famous for their signature coffees with chicony and café au lait while also specialising in French-style Beignets.
Beignets are a French term for a pastry made from deep-fried choux paste. In lamens terms, Beignets are like a huge doughnut. In New Orleans, beignets are commonly on the breakfast menu and are prepared traditionally right before consumption to be eaten fresh and hot. They are also served with powdered sugar on top (Warning: With the amount of powdered sugar on top, it can get very messy to eat and it WILL get on your clothes, but it is SO WORTH IT!). This is exactly what happened to myself and my tour friends; we demolished those beignets at Café du Monde and they tasted GLORIOUS! I can attest that it is one of the best pastries/doughnuts I have ever tasted!
Fun fact: In 1986, the French-style beignet was declared the official state Doughnut of Louisiana.
Don’t forget that apart from the amazing mesmerising music scene in New Orleans, there are also many sights to be seen!
Louis Armstrong Park
Right across the road from our hotel was the Louis Armstrong park. Louis Armstrong is considered to be one of the most influential artists in jazz history; he was a trumpeter, a band leader, singer, soloist, film star and a comedian who is well-known for songs such as “Stardust” and “What a wonderful world”. For the city of New Orleans to name a park after him, I would also consider him to be influential and a highly valued individual in the music world. Highly recommend you visit this park!
The Mississippi River is the largest drainage systems in all of North America making it the fourth longest and the tenth largest rivers in the world. The river borders or passes through nine US states including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Travel Story Adventure
On our walking tour of New Orleans we arrived at the Mississippi river to witness a man (who was not part of our tour) who decided that it was his lifelong dream to take a swim in the Mississippi river, which we all found quite amusing.
Insider Tip: Probably don’t swim in it.
St Louis Cathedral
St Louis Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in New Orleans. Located in the heart of the French Quarter, St Louis Cathedral is among some of the oldest cathedrals in the United States and one of the few Roman Catholic churches that faces a major public square. The cathedral is an amazing piece of architecture surrounded by beautiful gardens and facing the Mississippi River. Nearby are many horse and carriages available for you if you fancy a romantic ride through town the old fashioned way.
So why not?
For anyone who loves music – particularly jazz and blues, and for anyone who is a singer or a musician, this is a place that is not to be missed! You simply cannot travel to Louisiana without stopping by in the city of New Orleans. Two nights for me was not enough to fully take in my surroundings, the atmosphere and the music! My next visit to New Orleans will hopefully be for at least a week or more!
Insider tip: One of the best and probably one of the busiest times to be in New Orleans is when they have their annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. For this festival, the city of New Orleans invites some of the big names in the music world to play and it is a big deal! This usually happens around the month of April. This is a festival I will be adding onto my must-do-in-the-USA list!
I hope you now have some insight into New Orleans and make a visit there soon!
Share your thoughts
1. What amazing bars with authentic jazz/big band music have you visited in New Orleans before and would highly recommend?
2. What other sights did you visit and can highly recommend for my next visit to New Orleans?
Share your New Orleans stories and experiences by leaving a comment below!