Rohan Planet’s guide to New Orleans
New Orleans, the crown of the Mississippi. I’ve been told that it’s the sister city of San Francisco in the the sense that you won’t find a city as diverse and laid back as San Francisco. Either way, I finally got an opportunity to head out there recently and spent a week from February 16th to the 22nd with my friend Kristy. As most people ask, that is not Mardi Gras. I was mostly interested in the city itself and only cursorily in Mardi Gras itself. So I figured the best time would actually to be right before Mardi Gras, the city is preparing for the party but everything is still open, and everything isn’t retiredly expensive yet either.
I figure I would highlight the main things people I feel ask about going to a new place and the things they don’t realize to ask about going to a new place.
Public Transit takes almost an hour to get into the city, a taxi takes < 30 minutes. It’s regulated to be about $33 as long as you stay west of Elysian Fields Avenue or Franklin Avenue. Elysian fields is what a taxi driver told us, Franklin is what a local told us. If you’re staying east of either of those locations I would do more research and look into yourself. The $33 is actually a max fare within the city regardless of location actually including the airport, so if you really want to take a taxi in the city that’s the cap.
Get a bike, seriously. The city is flat and fairly small and if you exclude East New Orleans & Algiers which are more residential, I believe the city is tiny. We ended up traveling on bike across the city the first night in less than an hour or two on Magazine Street. Depending on which neighborhood you’re in, the streets are either well paved or have potholes that look like they were caused by mortar shells. Prepare for a bumpy ride but it’s a pretty solid ride. Locking up sometimes was a pain in the ass but there are plenty of bikes around and the popular areas have plenty of parking meters. You’ll meet a few other bicyclists here and there and occasionally see a bike lane but just take the road when you need to.
The Trolley apparently also runs all night and is a pretty solid way to get across the city I believe based on the route, but never took it myself.
Things to Eat
Just like you have the “Freshman 15”, the 15 lbs you gain as a freshman living in the dorms, there is an equivalent tale of the “NOLA 15”, the 15 lbs you gain when you visit New Orleans. The city is known for food and everyone ALWAYS talks about the delicious things they ate, I can give you a giants list of all the places I ate or you could just find my reviews on yelp. I will cover the 3 essential places you should go to.
We’re going to start out strong and I’m just going to mention the best place I ate in the city. Sorry, the rest of the list is going to be a bit downhill. If you want some food that I expect is Cajun/Creole, the seafood and lamb dishes were superb. The restaurant is cute. Expect a long wait but there’s this little bar near by with a chess board on a table that if you can somehow scavenge a chess set would be fun to play.
So color me surprised when I found out there’s a huge Italian population in New Orleans. Wait what? Well it started as french colony, taken over by the Spanish, and finally turned over to the Americans. The city has had huge influxes of European populations not necessarily associated with the city including German and Italian. Italians had a presence in New Orleans long before the major influx of Italians into the Americans during Italian unification in 1861.
Either way, Adolfo’s a small little Italian place above Apple Blossom Bar on Frenchman street. I recommend it because 1) It’s delicious 2) It’s right on Frenchmen Street so you can go explore the live music right after.
Pro tip: The yelp location is wrong, don’t trust it. I’ve tried correcting it, but to no avail.
Po Boys are a New Orleans staple, or at the very least their city sandwich. Created during the cable car strikes as a cheap source of food for striking workers. The Po Boy is the epitome of cheap food. The best place for it though didn’t end up being Mother’s, but Parkway Tavern. That gravy smothered on the roast beef is the best, I recommend the Surf and Turf myself with the combination of Roast Beef and Shrimp.
Look out for the sauces on the side.
Don’t eat at Mother’s, their fried chicken was good but their Po Boys were subpar.
Do get oysters if you love them, I’m not normally a fan but these ones in NOLA were massive and delicious. Cochon honestly had the best ones I had.
Cafe du Monde and Morning Call are the beignets hot spots in the city. The weird thing is that they always ended up being inconsistent, having them multiple times the time of day and when you go the beignets differed in quality. Morning Call is prettier though, Du Monde is in the French Quarter so more accessible.
Things to See
In case you don’t know about it, there’s a small statue garden near the New Orleans Museum of Arts (NOMA) in City Park. There’s some great statues there and it’s right near Morning call and NOMA so you can knock it all off in one go. I recommend it.
The museum is the center of the French Quarter near Jackson Square. There are two main exhibits in it: the Mardi Gras History and the Katrina exhibit. The Mardi Gras one is pretty good but standard faire, the Katrina one though is amazing. You walk in and you see that everyone is a slight shade of blue as the faint sound of news report enter your ears hearing about the approaching hurricane. You read about the past hurricanes that hit New Orleans and how the levees that were create to hold the Mississippi ended up allowing the gulf to hit the city. It honestly was one of the more informative and best exhibits I’ve seen and it’s well done. The individual reports, the atmosphere the exhibit creates, remarkable. I would 100% visit it if you care at all about what happened to the city.
There’s a lot of cool architecture in NOLA, there was even a period of history called the eclectic period where people build strange houses. Here’s a fairly good guideline for the basic types of houses but you’ll see a variety of architecture.
Just pay attention around you, especially in the central business district which is a weird mix of older buildings, the partially demolished, and new skyscrapers. It’s fairly surreal.
I only ended up visiting one cemetery during the time I was there, off of Washington Street La Fayette Cemetery No #2. It was quiet since No #1 is the hot tourist spot. It was nice just to explore and see what people did for their people’s coffins. The only bizarre thing was that it was almost exclusively German Catholic. Another sign of New Orleans strange immigrant histories that you wouldn’t expect.
Frenchman street is where you go repeatedly for live music, of the three bands I saw I loved 2 of them. A band that basically reminded me of Go Go Bordello and one that played jazzy versions of older style songs (think temptations). It was great there are quite a few places without a cover or a minimal cover. Everyone recommended this place and it never disappointed.
I’m not a heavy drinker or a partier in that sense, sorry. You can pretty much ignore my advice here if you’re looking to get trashed. The French Quarter seemed great for that though! Honestly though the entire area seemed just filled with tourists and shops catered to them, I wasn’t the biggest fan of it.
If you’re a fan of American Horror Story and you were curious about Madam LaLaurie’s house it’s nothing interesting :(