10 Non-Traditional Things to do in New Orleans

New Orleans


Though visitors come from around the world to visit New Orleans’ famous French Quarter, the city is filled with other lively places and things to do. Of course, the city is all about eating great food and hearing great music.  And there’s no question that you’re going to get your share of red beans and rice, crawfish, po’ boys and jazz, but the city is full of so much more.  So much so that there are activities that even locals haven’t done yet.

If you are looking for something that is slightly different and located away from the crowds, you might consider a few of these options in New Orleans.

The Fly Exposition Drive, Uptown District

This is a section of Audubon Park which is along the waterfront across from the Mississippi River levee and behind the Audubon Zoo. Locals call it “The Fly”. You might plan a visit to the zoo, and then head to this area for a crawfish boil, barbecue, picnic or just to visit and watch the sun set.

Frenchmen Street

Frenchmen Street

Frenchman street is the place where locals hang out to hear some of the best live music any night. There is a stretch of the street two blocks long in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood which has clubs, inexpensive admissions and drinks. You can literally dance outside in the street along with those who have come to hear the music. Street dancing is one thing locals love to do, so you may as well join in when the mood strikes you.

If you like art, you can also see the Frenchmen Art Market to shop for distinctive New Orleans items. There are plenty of local dining areas there, too. It’s within walking distance of the French Quarter, or you could simply take one of the many taxicabs which are always available.

Casamento’s Restaurant4330 Magazine Street

Visiting New Orleans means having an oyster po’ boy. Shrimp is good, too. Some places also offer alligator meat, but it’s usually a tourist sort of thing. Head over to Casamento’s to try a delicious oyster version of this favorite sandwich. Casamento’s was established in 1919 when Joe Casamento and his brother Anthony came to New Orleans from Ustica, Italy. The restaurant interior was designed with tile sourced from four different companies located across the United States, so that the establishment would always be clean and spotless.

Casamento’s bakes their own signature pan bread to create some of the best oyster po’ boys ever. The restaurant has always been family owned and operated. They have limited open hours and close during the summer months. But if visiting New Orleans any other time, this is the place to head to for old world traditional décor and fresh oysters.

Magazine Street

The Amistad Research Center – Tilton Hall, Tulane University, 6823 St. Charles Avenue

The Amistad Research Center is currently celebrating its Fiftieth Anniversary. The center has a rotating exhibit space which features wonderful photographs and manuscripts. The staff is helpful and friendly. It was founded to document America’s racial and ethnic heritage and race relations. Its collection efforts have focused on civil rights, and the social and cultural contributions of African Americans, Appalachian whites, Native Americans, Jewish Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans. The Amistad Library collection includes over 2,000 periodical titles and 25,000 books and pamphlets, which are catalogued in Tulane University’s library system.

Maple Leaf Bar – 8316 Oak Street

Maple Leaf Bar

Located in the Carrollton neighborhood in Uptown New Orleans, the Maple Leaf Bar has been continuously operating with live performances every night of the week since it opened on February 24, 1974. The Society Jazz Band led by Andrew Hall performed there that night, and spent every Saturday performing there for seven years. Old time musicians from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and other notables were featured. Through the years, many other local groups and national touring acts have performed there. Frequent local legends performing include Henry Butler, James Booker, The Radiators, the Rebirth Brass Band, “Money Mike” Armstrong, Papa Grows Funk, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown.

Sit-ins are common too: drawing Bonnie Raitt with Jon Cleary’s band and Bruce Springsteen jamming with The Iguanas. The Leaf is the spot for the city’s emerging talents to meet the musical public. Students from Tulane, Loyola and New Orleans universities often mingle with local musicians at this popular music venue.

The Leaf is also a place for emerging and establishing poets to read. Poetry reading is held there every Sunday, and it has the record for being the longest of any readings in the United States. The Leaf once had a small laundrymat inside, and stories about it can be found in many books written by New Orleans authors. Beyonce Knowles recorded there, creating her Déjà vu promotional video with rapper Jay-Z in 2006.

NOMA, New Orleans Museum of Art – One Collins C. Diboll Circle, City Park

The NOMA is the oldest fine art institution in New Orleans. It opened with just 9 artworks on December 16, 1911, and now has a collection of over 40,000 items. It is noted for its collection of French and American, African and Japanese works, glass and photography. Also noted is the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, which features five acres of beautiful landscaping including magnolias, camellias, 200-year-old live oaks strewn with Spanish moss, reflecting lagoons, footbaths and bridges. There are more than 60 sculptures within the garden. The museum is a lovely spot to have a bite to eat, shop for unusual gifts at the museum shop, relax and reinvigorate the intellect and body.

NOMA

Red Beans and Rice Mondays at Joey K’s Restaurant & Bar – 3001 Magazine Street

Mondays were traditionally wash days in New Orleans before washing machines. Women did the laundry by hand. Sometimes, they used a crank and wringer, and if the clothes were particularly soiled, they also boiled the clothes in hot water. Dinner on wash days needed to be simple to fix. Putting beans and rice on the stove to simmer while the wash was being done was one easy way to have dinner ready without extra loads of work…no pun intended. So Red Beans and Rice on Mondays is a traditional meal. There are several restaurants around town which serve the best flavors outside of a home kitchen. Joey K’s is one place to go and have a delicious traditional New Orleans Monday meal. Try the delicious hot sausage along with the beans, too.

Rock ‘n’ Bowl – 3000 South Carrollton Avenue

Rock n Bowl

The Rock N Bowl is a city institution where locals go to bowl, have a bite to eat, and listen and dance to some of the best Zydeco music Louisiana has. The Rock ‘n’ Bowl has been part of the New Orleans music scene since 1995 when a National Geographic reporter wrote about the spot. He had come for some food by chance, met the owner, and came every Thursday night to hear Zydeco. His article devoted an entire story about the Rock ‘n’ Bowl, and before long, CNN, USA Today, Life Magazine, Southern Living Rolling Stone and the NBC Today Show had all done stories.

The Rock ‘n’ Bowl is the spot where local groups rotate in an out regularly. Anyone wanting to hear local groups playing Zydeco, Cajun, Swamp Pop, Blues, Swing and all the hits played by New Orleans based musicians must visit this legendary place.

Steamboat Natchez – Toulouse Street Wharf

Take a cruise around the harbor with jazz and a fresh brunch prepared on New Orleans’ last authentic steamboat. Each cruise is two hours long, and features not only the Duke Heitger’s Steamboat Stompers Jazz Trio, but two calliope concerts on each cruise. The boat departs every day from the French Quarter. Riding on a steamboat is an American tradition, and these short cruises give a taste of that experience. Evening cruises with dinner are also available.

Steamboat Natchez

Beauvoir. Retirement Home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis – 2244 Beach Boulevard, Biloxi, Mississippi

Heading out of New Orleans on the coast highway offers a day trip to visit the home of the only man ever to be the President of the Confederate States of America. Beauvoir construction was begun in 1848 and completed in 1852. The property has scenic views of the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi Sound and it enjoys some relief from heat and humidity due to its location. Davis wrote The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government at Beauvoir, and lived there the rest of his life. He died in New Orleans of acute bronchitis and malaria in December 1889. Visitors can take one of the daily guided tours of the home’s interior and visit the gardens, memorials and Confederate veterans’ cemetery or simply enjoy a walk along the property’s walking paths.

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