This week, I went to New Orleans for the first time!
My dad and I arrived on Tuesday afternoon and started our day at The Gumbo Shop because who goes to New Orleans and doesn’t get gumbo? Anyway, I feel I should express here that I thought that besides Bourbon Street, there wasn’t much to do in New Orleans aside from some plantation tours and eating and drinking. I was pleasantly surprised to find that we had a full couple of days.
We took a walk around The French Quarter to see the sights like Jackson Square, Decatur Street, and Steamboat Natchez. If you are not familiar with Steamboat Natchez, it is New Orleans’ only steamboat that takes you on a two hour cruise along the Mississippi River.
My dad previously told me about its organ that can be heard miles away that is reminiscent of Steamboat Willie (but a little bit slower). There is an elderly woman that sits way at the top and plays that organ; my dad and I believed she was not real and the music was a recording, but right as we were walking away, she got up from the piano bench and [presumably] took a break. It sounds kind of dumb, but this was actually a really exciting moment!
We kind of zipped through the rest of our self-guided walking tour of the nearby hot spots. My dad was adamant about me seeing Bourbon Street for the first time at night, so we killed a couple of hours at the nearby theater. Finally the time arrived, and we made our way over to Bourbon Street only to find IT IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION.
All of the shops and bars are still open, but the street is completely dug up and the sidewalks are cramped by construction equipment. To say this was a letdown would be an understatement. Given that I was coming on a Tuesday, I already knew the street would be somewhat dead, but there wasn’t even a visual until you got down closer to Funky 544.
Once we made it to where we set out to go, which was Tropical Isle, we sat on the patio and ended the night with a couple of hand grenades and people-watched.
Wednesday was supposed to start with beignets at Cafe du Monde, but, as one can imagine, it was packed. We moved on to our next destination which was the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. Personally, I felt overall the Dallas Aquarium is better, but this one does let you pet stingrays and the ticket price includes a 3D movie screening which honestly makes up for what you pay.
The biggest thing I think on our list aside from Bourbon Street was taking the St. Charles line trolley. It was nice to get out of the center and see the history continue down the way. All the old houses have been repurposed, but still retain their charm. I enjoyed watching the bulk of people get off of the trolley to take their teens to visit Tulane University and Loyola University, which are literally next door to each other. The further we got out, the quieter and cleaner the atmosphere became. I was starving and sort of developing a heat headache, but it was nice to be off of my feet!
After a full meal at Deanie’s Seafood, we went out of the center again to StudioBe, an art studio near Frenchmen Street. Besides the fact that I was profusely sweating from the air-conditioned-less warehouse, it was a beautiful exhibit that highlighted a lot of black history–quote from Audre Lorde, murals of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Muhammad Ali, a description of mass incarceration of young black males, and so on. Everything was large installation and, naturally, there was a section dedicated to Hurricane Katrina. The section of Hurricane Katrina was so immersive that I believed there was a rain simulation instead of realizing it was actually pouring down outside.
It was actually so nice to see something like this and I got so many good pictures. Not to mention, it’s free for students, Louisiana residents, and military on Wednesdays. After the rain subsided, we gave Cafe du Monde another try and finally got some beignets!
We grabbed some souvenirs and ran over to Bourbon Street with less than 10 minutes before sunset so I could view some of it in the daylight. As one can imagine, we were pretty dead from the day and the heat, so our last night was pretty short-lived. I will say, once you get to a little ways down on Bourbon Street, stop at Pat O’Brien’s and ask for Manny.
Overall, my first trip to New Orleans was great and necessary. I look forward to getting the ‘full experience’ with some friends in the future, but I am happy that I am now familiar with what there is to do and locations of things. If you have never been to New Orleans before and are thinking about going, ask yourself these things:
1. Do you hate humidity?
2. Are you averse to bad smells?
3. Are you afraid of homeless people?
I am not trying to be funny at all about this last one; let’s not pretend we don’t know people who seize up and become noticeably uncomfortable near homeless people.
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these things, New Orleans is not the place for you. While I think everyone should experience new places as much as possible, this is the last place you want to be if you are generally an inhibited person. And these are my thoughts from visiting on a Tuesday! I cannot wait to return at a less hot and humid time of year.