Desert-dweller seeks fun in Crescent City
February 27, 2010 9:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm in New Orleans the week of the 13th-20th and have very few plans for what to do during the day (by myself) or at night (with a friend). I'm looking for suggestions for places to go, preferably that we can get to by streetcar. Note: I've never spent this much time in a city with a big river before and have no idea what to do with that.

I'm looking especially for places to eat/drink that have patios where I can sit and read, as well as fun walking/shopping places. (This question mentioned patio/sidewalk cafes, but the answers didn't specify which ones were patio and which ones weren't.) I love bookstores (especially comic book and used ones), clothing stores and jewelry, if you have store recommendations. I'm not interested in chain restaurants/stores.

It would also be cool if you have ideas involving the river. I'm from the desert and so the Mississippi is strange/awesome to me, but I have no idea what you are supposed to do with actual rivers aside from look at them or have bridges that go over them. Bonus points for boats, since I've never really been on a boat, and it would be fun to go on a boat!

We're also looking for places with jazz, since the friend I'm visiting still hasn't managed to see any.

Stupid touristy crap is welcome, as is offbeat stuff.

I've already seen the question on seeing the devastation. The Bulldog, The Columns, the Kitchen Witch, and Oak Street are already on the list.
posted by NoraReed to Travel & Transportation around New Orleans, LA (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Cafe du Monde, obviously
posted by jckll at 9:13 PM on February 27, 2010

You could take a steamboat to tour the river.
posted by govtdrone at 9:32 PM on February 27, 2010

Response by poster: I am scared of the steamboat because I am worried it will make me sick. Should I be?
posted by NoraReed at 9:43 PM on February 27, 2010

Best answer: Some suggestions for you--

Jewelry: bijounola at 635 St. Peter. Nice lady will often knock off a percentage if you fall in love with more than one item. ;) Also, the shop Local Charm in the Riverwalk marketplace has unique things.

Jazz: Snug Harbor on Frenchmen St.

Friendly balcony: Good Friends at 740 Dauphine St. (primarily gay clientele but in my experience, everyone is welcome!) Across the street is the Gold Mine Saloon which is full of locals. Both are a nice getaway from Bourbon St.

Take the ferry across the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Algiers (and back) for free. Take it several times. ;)

The aforementioned Riverwalk has a patio that runs the length of the building--when it's not busy, as at lunch or dinnertime, it's a good place to sit by the river and chill out and eat your beignets. :)

One of the best brunches in town, imo, is at EAT Restaurant, 900 Dumaine St.

We did one of the nightly Ghost Tours last time we were there, and it was great! Make sure your guide is Scary Mary. :)

Have fun!
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 9:55 PM on February 27, 2010

Commander's Palace for $0.25 lunchtime martinis.

I had a hell of a good time, but I'm not a NOLA native, fyi.
posted by sallybrown at 10:10 PM on February 27, 2010

I am very prone to seasickness, but the steamboats and ferries in New Orleans have never bothered me at all. (I can't go near sailboats, and the English Channel Ferry was quease-tastic for me.) The river seems pretty calm to me, at least from a boat-rocking-wave point of view.
posted by artychoke at 10:13 PM on February 27, 2010

Best answer: Taking a swamp tour can be pretty neat. It's not the main river, but it is a boat, and it's probably more interesting than the Mississippi.

Preservation Hall is kind of the classic traditional jazz place to visit.

Also the WWII museum and the Audubon Insectarium are both excellent museums.
posted by phoenixy at 10:29 PM on February 27, 2010


Dinner at Conchon for an amazing meal. Also, heard good things about Irene's.
Lunch at Coop's.
Loved brunch Po' Boy at Mother's
Heard good things about Preservation Hall for Jazz
Be sure to walk around the French Quarter down to Frenchmen street.

NO is a lot like Paris or New York. You're going to have a blast and go to great places just by walking around. If you want to spread some cheer, just say "Who dat!".
posted by xammerboy at 12:06 AM on February 28, 2010

Best answer: Get yourself some pralines, for sure.
posted by sallybrown at 12:10 AM on February 28, 2010

Best answer: I had a fantastic time visiting New Orleans a few months ago. For jazz, just stumble down Frenchmen St. and you're sure to find something spectacular. The joint where I spent most of my night was called the Spotted Cat.

As far as offbeat goes, I got a tarot reading at the Bottom of the Cup tea room (which was established in 1929 and has lapsang tea amidst their wide selection). I did it almost as a lark (albeit an expensive one), but if you go let's just say I recommend Lettie and leave it at that. The complimentary cassette tape of the reading is a nice touch.
The Voodoo museum is tiny but cheap and worth a visit.
Greg's Antiques on Decatur is also worth a gander if you happen to pass by.
I didn't get around to visiting the Pharmacy Museum, but it actually seemed pretty interesting, despite how boring it may sound.

These are just the gems I found. I'm sure there's a ton more to discover. God what a place.
posted by inkytea at 12:32 AM on February 28, 2010

Palm Court Cafe.
posted by TheRaven at 2:40 AM on February 28, 2010

Best answer: My trips to NOLA wouldn't be complete without a muffuletta from Central Grocery.
posted by kimdog at 7:07 AM on February 28, 2010

Best answer: You've got some time to eat, so let me recommend to you the 700 block of St. Peter St. in the French Quarter. On this one lovely block you will find the place that has both my favorite breakfast in the city as well as my favorite chicken andouille gumbo in the city, the Coffee Pot. You will also find Pat O'Brien's, the place that made the Hurricane (drink) famous. You can also find on that same block Preservation Hall, which I have not been to but seems to be a venue for jazz and there are a ton of events going on the week you will be here.

Since you're in town during the week of St Paddy's Day, make sure to check out the Irish Channel St. Pat's Parade which starts at noon on Saturday. You may not want to keep all your cabbage, but you'll have fun catching it. Also make sure to visit Parasol's that week, although I don't know if going there on the 17th will be your thing. They have one of the best roast beef po' boys in the city.

Walking down Magazine St. is a treat, full of small shopping boutiques and cool old stores, like the giant costume shop near Napoleon Ave. or the dusty old music store near Louisiana Ave. I may be biased, since I work at a sweetshop on Magazine St., but I think it's one experience that any first time tourist should not miss. The place I work has outdoor tables where you can watch the people go by while you drink coffee or wine and eat dessert. There are also places you mentioned (like the Bulldog) that has a patio area that looks out at the sidewalk.

The steamboat river tour is pretty cool, but if you already have the "looking at it" part covered, a swamp tour might be a little more fun for you, provided you understand there will be bugs and other wildlife present as you are in nature.

Definitely try to make it to the Columns on Monday night, that's when I usually go and the people that play music there are such great characters!

If you're a night person and want to check out a crazy eclectic coffee shop, go to Zot'z, which is one block of the streetcar line and is with the crazy awesome.

I might check back if I can think of anything else.
posted by Night_owl at 8:30 AM on February 28, 2010

I second jazz on Frenchmen St. Just wander up and down and you'll find something. Please avoid Bourbon street like your life depends on it.

For coffee, Zot'z used to be much cooler when it was over in the bywater, but it's still pretty good. I also have a fondness for Neutral Ground, which is a couple blocks up from the streetcar (I forget the stop, but google maps can make it clear). Finally, secret food recommendation: the red beans and rice w/ smoked sausage at Betsy's on Canal st., blue plate special every day except Wednesday.

Also, for god's sake, go see Rebirth at the Maple Leaf on -- Tuesdays still? I think so.

Basically, stay out of the French Quarter, it's all tourist traps (though there are a couple good swanky restaurants, and also a decent bookstore up Royal Street -- also Verti Marte for poboys). You want to be in the marigny/bywater (which starts roughly at frenchman street) and/or the garden district for the stuff that doesn't suck.
posted by paultopia at 11:08 AM on February 28, 2010

Basically, stay out of the French Quarter

THIS is complete bullshit. Yes, a lot of the quarter is touristy, yes, bourbon can be crazy.

But there are wonderful restaurants, both expensive and not, fantastic architecture, great music on the outskirts, beautiful antique shops, historical pubs, and on, and on, all over the French Quarter.

The French Quarter is a working, living neighborhood, with all the good and bad things that brings. Anyone that believes the quarter is only bourbon street or that it isn't worth visiting would be best ignored.
posted by justgary at 1:02 PM on February 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you're interested in cooking, a fun thing to do for a morning is the New Orleans School of Cooking. It's a demonstration - you get fed, learn something, and since you'll be alone during the day, I think it would be a fun way to spend the morning.

Another place to hit up if you're into food is the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. It was just the right size for my museum attention span:

I would love to sit outside in the courtyard of this cafe and read:
I don't know how busy it gets, but when I was there, the courtyard was not too crowded (and there was a cute bench by the fountain calling my name).

You might also enjoy sitting at a bench near the river and reading.

(I also second a lot of the other suggestions - Cochon was great...)
posted by beyond_pink at 5:59 PM on February 28, 2010

Best answer: Cochon is amazing- if you go, get a shot of CatDaddy moonshine! (or 2, etc....use at your own risk). It is delicious after dinner because it spiced (nutmeg/cinnamon?) flavored. Its very hard to get, but we did manage to find a shop in New Orleans that had it. Cochon also has a sandwich shop around the corner, but I don't think it has outdoor seating.

Another restaurant that you'll need to take a cab to - maybe 10 minutes out from the french quarter is Dante's Kitchen. A fresh take on southern and new orleans cooking.

Definitely go to Frenchmen, too - for bars and live music that is more of a local scene than Bourbon.

For clothing stores - Trashy Diva is a great (though not cheap) shop. They make vintage-style dresses with modern fabric that are gorgeous. They also have a shoe store a few doors away. Its nice to walk around this area for shops, street musicians, etc.

oh man, now I am seriously craving some new orleans food, music, drink, everything! have fun!
posted by hazel at 6:28 PM on February 28, 2010

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