a handy guide to New Orleans, from someone who has never been there

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Dear reader, I missed last week’s Friday Fives.  I was luckily otherwise bothered to be in New Orleans for the very first time.  We spent an amazing 4 or 5 days there, and it was just the best time and place ever.  Now… this week’s Friday Fives will likely be late or never, as I am training a new hire training class every day 80 miles away.  If I am not training my new hires for 8 hours a day, I am prepping or tearing down.  Or… driving.   So, let’s kill 2 drunk college kids with 1 stone.  I am going to answer all your questions about New Orleans.

As North America’s ‘Top Unsolicited Tour Guide®’ step right in to the real New Orleans… from a guy who was just there like this morning, y’all.

After my very first time there (for only a few days), I will take on the questions on the Chamber of Commerce site.  Likely, the answers were thoughtfully and painstakingly put together by people with lifetimes of experience of the ‘Big Easy’.  I am not only not that person, I won’t pretend to be.  My answers are honest and only speak of my limited experience there.  I will tell you the real truth that those pinheads are afraid of.

Note, I did not ever read any of the answers.  I just copy pasted right off this fine site

first… let me start with this, their new slogan

New Orleans – Its like Las Vegas for people with souls and character®

How can I experience New Orleans’ cultural celebrations and festivals this season?

GTS – google that shit.  There is TONS of amazing and free stuff happening pretty much always.   We found the New Orleans Treme Jazz and Gumbo fest this last weekend.  Totally free, and in a beautiful and awesome park  > Louis Armstrong park.  It was exactly what it sounds like, and it was amazing.

I have not visited New Orleans in a few years. What can I expect?

The fabled ‘French Quarter’ is exactly how you mis-remember it.  Painfully so.  I got the vibe that New Orleans works really really hard to feel and look like what you think it might look like.  We have traveled a lot, around the world, and this felt like a singularity. Remember that iconic scene in ‘the Great Outdoors’, where they are trying to sell their miserable house?  They want it to look like a woodland paradise for the buyers, so you hear things like ‘ok, queue the deer’.  I swear, it felt like that… and it was AWESOME.   Hookers?  yup.  Every single building looking like it was painted only once about 1200 years ago?  Amazing street music and jazz everywhere?  An odd amount of body paint and glitter?  Each and every square inch declaring itself the ‘real New Orleans’, and the actual, genuine, and real life “Home of the _________”.  I dare you to find a business in New Orleans who doesn’t not proclaim themselves the ‘home’  or originator of something.  It’s pretty terrific!

I swear, it feels like every day New Orleans is auditioning to get the lead part in a movie about New Orleans.  This isn’t a bad thing, they know who butters their bread.  It did feel a bit desperate, though.  Example, I dare ANY owner of ANY thing in the ‘French Quarter’ to put a new coat of paint on anything!  You can’t, it ruins the ‘charm’.

Now, obviously there are still tons of ‘pre/post’ Katrina  things happening and evolving.  Basically, Hurricane Katrina was like the arrival of Jesus and his impact on the calendar.  Every conversation about every single thing begins pre, or post, Katrina.  You truly cannot fathom the impact it had on every single aspect of life in New Orleans.  We weren’t in town longer than 30 seconds when our Uber driver told us an excellent (and plausible) explanation of how the government actively failed in the controlling the hurricane damage and flooding.

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amazing local singer Meschiya Lake

How many visitors have been to New Orleans recently?

7?  I don’t know.  Who cares? You shouldn’t!  What kind of stupid question is that?If you are just a follower, go to a Cowboys game. Does it make a difference, or have a direct impact on your experience?    Just go, man.

What time of year should we go?

not summer, way too hot and humid and sticky.  and busy.  Not Mardi Gras, because now you are sharing the roads and sidewalks and airports and cabs and lines for the bathroom with a million random ass mouth breathers who are so drunk that they won’t even remember being there.   Like most places, aim for the ‘shoulder seasons’, which is the time least busy.  This way, everything is the least crowded it can be, the locals are the most ‘locally’, locals aren’t so sick of tourists at this point that they are happy to strike up conversations, and you can get better deals.

What are my restaurant choices?

Too many to mention.  Your choices are 2, basically.  You will end up doing the third.  First choice is start researching now.  You will go down a rabbit hole of food porn.  You may never escape.  You will go to New Orleans on a 3 day trip with a list of 37 places you MUST visit.   Second, you told some people you were going to New Orleans, and they gave you a list of 38 places you MUST visit… or why even fucking bother.  These are good.  Write these down, and (most importantly) get a strong feel for where you are staying.  This, where you are staying, will dictate everything.

See, what will actually happen is a combination of the three.  The top two, and the reality of just winging it.  Yes, there is that amazing café that will change your life that is a short 25 minute cab ride away.  It won all the awards.  Guess what?  You are tired, and had an amazing day, and just don’t have that in you.  Blow it off.  Find a place in walking distance.  It will be amazing, no matter where you go.  There is SO much great food there, that it equals competition.  You can’t succeed wit mediocre in that environment.

In fact, put away your trip advisor and yelp for a couple days.  Go out, make snap judgements.  Improvise.  Pretty much no matter where you go, you will have the best food you have ever had.  Every single meal was transcendent, even sketchy $6 subs from the corner market.   Btw, you have to call a sub a ‘po boy’.   Don’t even ask why, but I just made you cool.

What are my options for shopping?

Just like any other place on earth, too many to mention.  If you are looking to find cool stuff, or unique local stuff, or fun gifts… you will find that.  This isn’t a New Orleans thing, it’s a getting out of your house, thing.

What type of events does New Orleans offer sports enthusiasts?

Wrong question to ask.  With SO much going on culturally there, to go for sports would be a waste of time.  Would you ask that about going to Angkor Wat in Cambodia?  If you got to see Pearl Jam at Red Rocks, would you ask where you can get good fries?  If you were offered a sailing trip around the Caribbean, would you ask where you can catch a good basketball game?  Like any major market, there are many sports and sports franchises.  That isn’t why you are going to New Orleans.

Wanna go to a great sports city?  Go visit Buffalo, or Green Bay.  Those towns, some would say, are cultural zeros.  So, they WORSHIP their football teams.  Trust me, more travel than I care to admit is to go see the Broncos play in other markets.  In Buffalo, for example, they show up to the parking lot to tailgate the day before the game.  Yeah, you leave Saturday morning to go watch a Bills game at Orchard Park.   1) it’s wicked fun, and 2) there is literally nothing else to do in Buffalo.   Great football town, but not much else.

What’s the best way to get to New Orleans?

Doesn’t make a difference how you get there.  However, consider how to maximize your time there.  Yeah, you could drive there.  But, then you spend 2 or 3 days getting there, 2 or 3 days there, and 2 or 3 days getting home.  That is a great adventure, and you should take that adventure.  It is a road trip, though.  Not a trip to New Orleans.  If you have 7 days off of work, spend that 7 days in New Orleans if you can… not getting there and back.

that being said… that airport is SKETCH.  Shady, gross, terrible food, one lousy coffee stand, and to fill my water bottle i had to go into the bathroom.  Pretty sure I have Hepatitis after that airport.  Which one?   Each!  Granted, these are truly first world problems.  I guess I am spoiled by the Denver airport, it’s pretty great.

What are my options for taxis, buses, airport shuttles and streetcars?

All those things mentioned above.  Those are your options.  However, you won’t use any of them.  You’ll find yourself on a rented bike or in an Uber/Lyft if you aren’t on foot.  We had bikes the whole weekend and it was my favorite part of everything.  You move swiftly through neighborhoods, you still see and take in and small all the adventure, you aren’t paying per trip, you are getting exercise, you are saving the environment, you won’t spend 4 hours a day looking for parking space… and even if you are rip shit drunk… you won’t hurt anyone but yourself.

Is New Orleans a safe place for visitors?

Sure, but like ANY travel, have your common sense.  Don’t wander too far away after dark, don’t be overtly drunk… especially after dark.  Don’t leave your valuables laying around or in play site.  Don’t leave bikes or cars or kids unlocked.  This has nothing to do with New Orleans, but is about travel in general.  Nothing good is going to happen anywhere on earth at 3 am… especially if you just look $300 out of the ATM.  Go to bed.  There is plenty of adventure tomorrow.  opt to live to see it.  That is the difference between going when you are 20, or 45.  Hint… I am closer to the latter.

*** odd.  You didn’t ask about the music.  The music is the thing there, man.  It is everything.  The food is the best you have ever had, and the limitless booze (and fact that the bars don’t close) is plenty of fun… the thing about New Orleans is the music.  It is everywhere.  I saw SO much great and amazing and life affirming music in three days.

proof?  Here are some shots from my phone over the course of a few days.  This isn’t even necessarily seeking out music.  it’s just being out and about.  You’ll notice some of these folks are proper stages, some are in corners of bars, some are on corners of intersections, and some folks were just plain set up in the middle of the street.  Musical heaven.  no.  Musical Double Heaven®

 

it was magnificent.  I have traveled a modest bit around the world… and never to New Orleans.  It was everything I wanted it to be, times 100.  I can’t wait to go back.

*** side note – our host, the Nixons, also turned us on to the HBO show Treme.  Spot on.

I will say this again, because this is the story of New Orleans

New Orleans – Its like Las Vegas for people with souls and character®

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