French Quarter#2 in Best Things To Do in New Orleans
- 4.5Food Scene
If you want to experience New Orleans properly, it's best to begin your tour here. Recent visitors said the neighborhood is lively, with lots to do and see and offers a one-of-a-kind experience. The neighborhood, also known as Vieux Carré, is the heart and soul of this city, and it's also a National Historic Landmark. As the site of the original New Orleans colony (established by the French in 1718), the French Quarter has held on to its heritage, complete with street names that are still listed in French. Wander the narrow cobblestone streets to find such attractions as Jackson Square, Faulkner House Books and the Cabildo. While you're strolling, pay attention to the neighborhood's architecture: balconies are designed with baroque ironwork and hanging plants, while leafy courtyards are filled with bubbling fountains. The scene is definitely charming, but it can also be expensive if you choose to stay at any of the French Quarter's hotels.
Undoubtedly, the French Quarter's main draw is Bourbon Street – New Orleans' infamous party hub. You'll find this street laden with performers and fortune tellers as well as rowdy bars. Although a trip to New Orleans isn't really complete without strolling down Bourbon Street, keep in mind that rowdy evenings on Bourbon are best appreciated by adult travelers. If you're tempted to hang your hat on Bourbon Street, don't. While it's fun to be at the center of the action, there's really no escaping the late-night noise.
If you prefer a tamer French Quarter experience, opt for a day tour. You can tour the neighborhood several different ways: Mule-drawn carriage tours line up daily on Decatur Street in front of Jackson Square taking groups of four through the crowded district. Or, rely on your own two feet with one of the city's top walking tours. Several of the city's top ghost tours also make stops throughout the French Quarter. You can also take in the area from a completely different perspective – on the water via a Steamboat Natchez Cruise. Several streetcar and bus lines service the neighborhood, including the Canal, Riverfront and Loyola lines, and bus route Nos. 5 and 55.
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#1 Frenchmen Street
If you want an authentic New Orleans experience more removed from the touristy areas of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, head to the lively Frenchmen Street. A popular spot for locals, Frenchmen Street is a four-block stretch of live music, bars, restaurants, night clubs and art galleries. Here, not only will you find fewer crowds (albeit not by much), but you'll also encounter cheaper eats and drinks, and better music – it's kind of like Bourbon Street's hipper, trendier cousin. If you don't consider yourself a night owl, the Palace Market (open daily 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.) is a shopping haven where locals sell homemade art and jewelry.
Recent visitors agreed that a trip to New Orleans isn't complete without stopping by Frenchmen Street. Some even suggest skipping the more crowded and touristy Bourbon Street and instead meandering along Frenchmen Street where you'll find live music, specifically jazz, and great bars. Travelers and locals alike love The Spotted Cat, Three Muses and d.b.a thanks to their extensive beverage selections, fun atmospheres and, of course, talented musicians. "Frenchmen Street is what Bourbon Street used to be ... it's about four blocks of more laid-back, old-style jazz clubs. Nothing fancy to them, very local with great music. A much more laid-back area to stroll from bar to bar and listen to music," said Isabelle Van Bockel, a concierge at the JW Marriott New Orleans for 10 years.
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