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A Guide to New Orleans: What to See, Eat, and Do

Anna Drake
by Anna Drake

April 24, 2024

3 minute read

Step into New Orleans, the “Jazz Capital of the World,” and a melting pot of cultures and cuisines. Slip into the rhythms of this soulful city and discover its history, traditions, food and, of course, its incomparable soundtrack.

americana must see bayou

MUST SEE

French Quarter: The famed French Quarter is the original city of New Orleans, founded by (you guessed it) French colonists in 1718. The Spaniards took over for a whilst, so you’ll see a mix of French and Spanish architecture here. See the majestic St. Louis Cathedral (the country’s oldest) as well as a statue of Andrew Jackson. Stroll over to the French Marketplace and explore Pirate’s Alley, packed with historic buildings, and the Pontalba Buildings, home to shops and some of the oldest apartments in the U.S.

Esplanade Avenue: This quiet, historic, tree-lined street takes you past dozens of stunning 19th-century mansions, including one the famed painter Edgar Degas visited and worked in for several months (his mother’s family owned it; today it’s a B&B).

The Bayou: Once you’ve explored the city proper, take a narrated cruise through swamplands and be amazed at the wildlife teeming within it. Search for bald eagles, herons, turtles, and alligators as you learn about the amazing ecosystems within this quintessentially Louisiana landscape. (If you hum “Blue Bayou” as you drift along, we won’t blame you!)

americana must eat creole food

MUST EAT

Cajun food: This delicious cuisine was developed by the French colonists who settled in southern Louisiana after being expelled from Acadia (Maine and eastern Canada) after the French and Indian War. Based on local ingredients, it features seafood, sausage, rice, and “the trinity” – green peppers, onion, and celery. Louisiana hot sauce gives the food a mild but zesty bite. Famous Cajun dishes include gumbo, jambalaya, and rice and gravy.

Creole food: Still hungry? Good! Time to explore Louisiana Creole cuisine, a blend of cooking styles from West African, European, Caribbean, and Native American cultures. As with all creole cuisines, it’s marked by the liberal use of spices and mixing many different ingredients in a single dish. Along with gumbo and jumbalaya (Cajun and Creole cuisines frequently overlap), classic dishes include crawfish etouffée, dirty rice, and turtle soup.

Sweets: Whatever you have for dinner, be sure to leave room for dessert. Consider a beignet (also served for breakfast), a rectangular deep-fried pastry smothered in powdered sugar, or a praline, a confection made from pecans, sugar, and cream. If you’re in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, a slice of king cake is in order – if your piece contains the hidden figurine, you win a prize!

americana must do jazz

MUST-DO

Listen to some jazz: There’s a reason New Orleans is considered one of America’s music cities! It’s acknowledged as the birthplace of jazz, so a visit to a local club is in order. Head back to the French Quarter and take in a live jazz revue in the city where it all began.

Bring your appetite for food and fun, and make the most of your New Orleans experience!

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