New Orleans Travel Tips
Keep in Mind...
- Avoid Bourbon Street hotels Because this is the epicenter of New Orleans nightlife, there's really no escaping the late-night noise. Unless you're planning to join the party, find a different location to hang your hat.
- Be careful at night Residents are known for their Southern hospitality, but the city itself has a high crime rate. Avoid walking alone at night, especially if you're unfamiliar with your surroundings.
- Watch what you eat New Orleans is famous for its rich cuisine, but that combined with hot, humid weather can cause you to feel nauseous. When it comes to dining and snacking, pace yourself.
New Orleans is known for its European-style architecture, mouth-watering Creole cuisine and all-around mysticism. And as its backbone is music: Jazz, blues, rock 'n' roll, and Zydeco tunes ooze from every city crevice. But for many, the main reason to visit is Mardi Gras, an over-the-top party with Carnaval traits, such as masks, music, and an all-around wild time. Even if you don't make it to Mardi Gras, you'll still find a party year-round, with revelers pouring out of Bourbon Street clubs until the small hours of the morning.
Despite recent environmental disasters—namely the BP Oil Spill, Hurricane Katrina, and Hurricane Isaac—New Orleans continues to thrive. Over the past several years, major efforts have been made to restore the distinct districts. Today, the Crescent City looks almost as good as new. So start your visit in the French Quarter, where colonial heritage still survives. From here, you can explore the major architectural sites before enjoying a hearty plate of jambalaya and a rowdy evening out.
How To Save Money in New Orleans
- Don't stay in the French Quarter As charming as they may be, these hotels are expensive. If you don't want to sacrifice location for price, stay in one of the many bed and breakfasts in Faubourg Marigny.
- Check the calendar Hotel rates tend to skyrocket during major events. If you want to save money, reserve a room several months early to ensure the best price, or visit during a break in the festivities.
- Get ready to sweat You will find excellent deals on rooms and airfare if you plan a summer trip. Just be prepared for soaring temperatures.
New Orleans Culture & Customs
Like those who live in other Southern cities, New Orleaneans are very friendly. You most likely won't leave this city without having been called "baby" at least once in the slow, melodic accent only found here. Likewise, don't be afraid to ask for directions.
However, many people from New Orleans do not associate themselves with the South, but rather with an identity unlike any other found in the United States. Influenced by numerous cultures—including French, African, and Cuban—New Orleans displays a wide variety of tastes and habits. From spicy jambalaya to feisty beats, Voodoo traditions to one of the most renowned Carnivals in the world, New Orleans has a very strong and unique sense of self.
This city especially exudes the essence of both Cajun and Creole customs. And although they are often referred to interchangeably, the two cultures shouldn't be confused with one another. Today's Cajuns are descendents of the people from the French settlement of Acadia, which was established in the 17th century in Nova Scotia, Canada. Almost 100 years after Acadia was established, it became a British territory and many of its citizens were forced to either renounce Catholicism and swear loyalty to the British Crown or leave. Some inhabitants returned to France, but others headed south to the Caribbean before settling in the French colony of New Orleans. They brought with them traditions from Acadia and the Caribbean, as well as spices, music, and their own language known as Cajun French. Cajun French is not a dialect of the French language, but rather a verbal organism of its own.
The term "Creole," however, refers to people who were born within a Caribbean New World colony, not in Spain or France. Like Cajuns, many Creoles were not originally from New Orleans, but rather from French territories, the West Indies, Central and South America, and the Gulf States region. Creole culture is also heavily influenced by Caribbean traditions, often making it difficult for outsiders to distinguish between Cajun and Creole customs. Creoles also speak their own version of French that is a combination of French and African dialects, known as Creole French.
Music is a major part of life in New Orleans, just as it is in the Caribbean. According to New Orleans Online, jazz—which originated in New Orleans around the turn of the 20th century—was the first Creole music style to become nationally renowned. Zydeco music also originated in the area within the Cajun communities and is now performed widely today in English, Cajun, and Creole French. Music has infiltrated many different parts of life in this city, including funerals. A New Orleans's jazz funeral represents the fact that music is as much a part of death as it is of life.
Live music can be heard all over the city, but if you're looking to escape the tourist crowds and enjoy a more authentic experience, stray from Bourbon Street and head to one of the many cafés or bars in the Faubourg Marigny district.
Speaking of bars, many in New Orleans have no set closing time, and open-container laws are lax at best—staying true to the city motto "Let the Good Times Roll." But just because this is a city that promotes celebration does not mean that you should be disrespectful. If you're out late at night, make sure not to cause too much of a scene.
New Orleans Dining
New Orleans is the place to forget about your diet and enjoy the rich trifecta of butter, cream, and oil. While traditional southern flavors abound here, New Orleans is most famous for its unique Creole and Cajun cuisines, which feature a combination of French, Spanish, Italian, and African cooking elements. Restaurants featuring traditional New Orleans dishes, such as red beans and rice and Po-boys—a sub usually filled with fried meat or seafood—can be found throughout the city. Both Cajun and Creole jambalaya (a rice dish made with meat, vegetables, and Creole spices) and gumbo (a hearty stew consisting of meat or seafood and vegetables) are also staple entrées on many New Orleans menus.
Many famous chefs—including Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, and Leah Chase—own and operate restaurants in the city. The French Quarter is home to numerous Creole restaurants, as well as several authentic (somewhat pricey) French restaurants. Other popular eateries are clustered in the Central Business and Warehouse districts. If you want to mingle with New Orleans residents, we recommend dining at the budget-friendly restaurants in Mid-City or Uptown. Keep in mind that the rich flavors can be a shock to your digestive system, so pace yourself.