New Orleans New Year
December 25, 2003 8:59 AM   Subscribe

So, what's there to do for a few strapped-for-cash college students in New Orleans on the week around New Year's?
posted by lychee to Travel & Transportation around New Orleans, LA (15 answers total)
There is always beer.
posted by Keyser Soze at 1:19 PM on December 25, 2003

sorry, but it made me giggle
posted by andrew cooke at 2:10 PM on December 25, 2003

hahaha... thats good. id start with a lonely planet guidebook - and be sure to visit the garden district - so pretty.
posted by specialk420 at 4:34 PM on December 25, 2003

see what's going on at Les Bon Temps Roule on Magazine. They usually have great free music. Look for Kermit Ruffins or the ReBirth Brass Band especially. Have oysters at Cooter Browns. If you can afford it, see music at Tipitina's uptown. Check for listings. Have a blast.
posted by muckster at 7:18 PM on December 25, 2003

They have a nice little streetcar line, one of the few remaining operating streetcar lines in the country, and one of the few that has continuously operated for over a hundred years. Like riding the cable cars, but older. And they don't soak the tourists like the cable cars do, charging base fare for the routes.
posted by calwatch at 9:24 PM on December 25, 2003

lychee. are you going for the Sugarbowl? Because if you aren't going for that reason, I would strongly advise you to reschedule your trip if at all possible. All the things you are going to want to do are going to be packed with people (coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde, Muffaletta sandwiches from Central Grocery, dancing at Tipitina's). If the weather's good you can go to Audubon Zoo (which I'm guessing won't be full of crazy college football fans) or visit the carousel in City Park (there's also the New Orleans Museum of Art there), or visit Lafayette cemetery in the Garden District. And you can always just grab a beer in a go-cup and a po-boy and wander around looking at all the crazy people. If at all possible, try to eat at Taqueria Corona on Magazine Street.
posted by taz at 10:30 PM on December 25, 2003

Response by poster: Thanks all, great suggestions. taz, we are not going for the Sugarbowl, but it is too late to reschedule. Oh well, we'll see how it goes.
posted by lychee at 9:26 AM on December 26, 2003

This might be helpful.
posted by ajr at 12:12 PM on December 26, 2003

Dixie Brewing's Blackened Voodoo Lager is very tasty, and I have heard (third-hand) that you can tour the brewery.

There is also a wide selection of riverboat casinos to choose from. Not such a hot idea when you're strapped for cash, and likely to be pretty crowded at this time of year, but most of 'em do have nickel slots.

I wish I had more to offer, but my memory of my trip to New Orleans is pretty much limited to the shockingly grimy condition of the hotel, chatting with the cute chick working the counter at some pleasantly dodgy late night pizza joint, and an overwhelming urge never to return because of the smell. Everything else about the trip was seared out of my brain by the overpowering waft of the alcohol-infused human extcreta that flowed through the streets at every hour of the day or night.
posted by majick at 1:04 PM on December 26, 2003

Okay, I was a poor local for five years, so I know a few things.

First off, the French Quarter is a heck of a lot better during the day than it is at night. New Orleans has 24-hour liquor laws, so most of the bars are open already, and they're not as loud and filled with annoying people. And the stores are also open, which is fabulous. The alterna-shops are on Decatur, especially the upper part, the ultra-posh antique shops are on Royal and Chartres, and all the side streets have fabulous little shops too.

Don't buy your drinks from the walk-up places on Bourbon Street, unless you like everything tasting of watered-down cough syrup. However, I believe there's a walk-up place that sells vodka jello shots for $1, and, frankly, I'm all about that.

The streetcar, mentioned above, is wonderful for sightseeing. You might have to put up with a few disgruntled locals who are just trying to get places (like I regularly was), but, generally, it's filled with tourists, so it'll be nice and mellow.

If you're visiting other college students in the area (Tulane and Loyola especially), the easiest and quickest way to get there is to snag the Freret bus -- when I was there, it picked up in front of the big Walgreen's on Canal Street (but that was three years ago). It's cheap, it's quick, and you'll see parts of New Orleans that you're not supposed to see. The local government has spent years trying to hide poverty from the tourists, but one trip on the Freret Jet'll show you more than you saw before.

Also, if you get the bus up through Magazine Street, it'll take you along a fantastic bunch of shops, and, if you ride it all the way up from Canal Street, you'll get right to where the Audubon Zoo and Park is. The zoo costs a little more than you might have, but the park is beautiful and a lot of fun.

The Aquarium, near the French Quarter and the river (basically, get off the streetcar at Canal, turn left, and walk all the way down), is also a bit expensive, but it is fantastic. And the Moonwalk -- the sidewalk right by the river -- is enjoyable.

On weekends, the French Market between the river and Decatur is filled with a variety of tables selling all sorts of weird things. Plus, the regular vendors sell a great number of vegetables and fruits for really cheap, which makes for great lunches and whatnot.

One of the sites you should adore is the Regional Transit site. Bus routes, timetables, etc. etc. etc. If you're going to be there for a week, you might want to consider getting a 7-day bus card, which'll work on all the buses and the streetcars.

Don't use cabs unless you have to, don't get conned in by guys who say they can tell you where you got your shoes, and don't get too drunk in the French Quarter, because you need your wits about you -- there are far too many abusive tourists and locals.

And you will have a great time. I'm sure of it.

(Oh! If you're staying past the 6th, you have to get a King Cake. It is divine sugar goodness.)
posted by Katemonkey at 4:46 PM on December 26, 2003

Oh, also, on New Year's itself.

Generally, right around Jackson's Square is the place to be. It's free to hang out there, and it's filled.

Also, as a trick, buy your beer in any little grocery store or whatever, and ask for a "go cup" after you buy it. Go cups are the plastic cups that make it legal to drink alcohol on the street. You'll probably be able to get away with drinking from bottles or cans, but it's better to be safe than sorry. Grocery store beer is generally cheaper than bar beer, and you'll know what you're getting.

Or buy a bunch of liquor before you go out, mix it in your hotel room, and carry it out in public in a plastic bottle (the liter water bottles work the best, especially if you're mixing something with sweet and sour mix or something like that). Cheaper than bar drinks and can be mixed to your pleasure.

my god, am I a cheap bastard...
posted by Katemonkey at 6:42 AM on December 27, 2003

And oh! Cheap places to eat!

Take the streetcar up to Carrollton and the Camellia Grill. Cheap good food. Generally really crowded, but worth it.

Also the Streetcar Cafe (oh god, I have forgotten the name entirely, but it kinda looks like a streetcar and the taxicabs all go there) is open 24 hours and serves damn fine breakfasts.

Poppy's Grill on Bourbon Street (up past Oz, the big gay club) is also open 24 hours and also serves damn fine breakfasts. Head there around 5-6am, when it's the least-crowded. To really get on the waitstaff's good side, ask them what they wanna hear on the jukebox -- usually, they have a couple of CDs in there not listed on the guide, and before you know it, the entire place is singing along.

Mona Lisa on Royal Street has great old-fashioned Italian, and Angeli's on Decatur is a bit more nouveau, but produces huge calzones that'll keep you full for hours. And up on S. Carrollton, get off the streetcar where the Walgreen's is, face the school, turn down Maple Street, and walk down a few blocks to Figaro's. Best Caesar Salad ever.

And now I'm realizing you've probably already left for New Orleans. Oh well. Have fun!
posted by Katemonkey at 6:56 AM on December 27, 2003

I miss it too, Katemonkey.
posted by muckster at 7:01 AM on December 27, 2003

Oh, and, one more thing (I swear, this is the last. Honest!).

Since I imagine you're driving, park the car in the hotel parking lot, and ignore it for the rest of the trip. You'll save shedloads on parking fees and annoyances, especially if you were even remotely considering driving around the French Quarter.
posted by Katemonkey at 7:01 AM on December 27, 2003

Response by poster: Once again, thanks to all, especially Katemonkey. The trip will be much more fun now!
posted by lychee at 9:09 AM on December 27, 2003

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