Listen to jazz from another era
See the best jazz musicians in town (and by extension probably the world) at tumble-down Preservation Hall. Every evening dozens of people squeeze into the beautifully faded old space. It’s been going since 1961 and if you’re in luck you’ll get to see members of the world-famous Preservation Hall Jazz Band perform.
Address: Preservation Hall, 726 St Peter, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
Eat America’s tastiest sandwich
Some critics have named low-key sandwich shop Turkey and the Wolf as the best restaurant in the USA, and the lamb roti and collard-green melt we tried were indeed pretty special. For more traditional carb-loading, go for a po-boy (deep-fried-shrimp or oysters in a soft white roll) at Parkway. Tip: skip the queue by sitting at the bar and ordering from there.
Party like a true New Orleaner
Sure, Mardi Gras is the headline act in this town (abut there are other less heavily beaded festivals that are just as fun. Come in April for the French Quarter Festival, in late spring for the brass-fuelled Jazz and Heritage Festival and in November for the Creole Gumbo Festival in the neighbourhood of Tremé.
Go antiquing in the French Quarter
New Orleans is the second largest port of entry for antiques into the USA and you’ll get to see many of them while browsing the shops along Royal and Chartres streets in the French Quarter. A standout is MS Rau, which first opened its doors in 1912 and whose collection has previously included original Mayan jewellery and an orchestrion organ from Belgium, an Art Deco cabinet that plays the accordion all by itself.
Address: MS Rau, 630 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA
Have the best cocktail in town
At Arnaud’s French 75 the barmen wear tuxedos, the lighting is soft and the drinks are strong. Settle into one of the white-tiger-print armchairs and order the bar’s namesake cocktail, made here with Courvoisier and Moët. If you’re planning a second round, then it’s probably best to throw in a plate of soufflé potatoes, and before you leave make sure to wobble upstairs to see the secret Mardi Gras museum, filled with the incredible costumes that have made the parade over the years.
Address: Arnaud’s French 75, 813 Bienville St, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA
Settle in for a musical pub crawl
You will need more than just one night to take in all the high-tempo jamming along Frenchman’s Street. The Spotted Cat is particularly heaving local haunt. Just don’t forget to tip the band – you will be heckled from the stage on your way out.
Address: The Spotted Cat, 623 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
See head-turning art
New Orleans has two excellent art museums, covering both this century and those past: the Contemporary Arts Centre, in a huge, former warehouse space, hosts brilliant exhibitions and performances, and across the road, the Ogden is an excellent centre for the best art from the American South.
Join the foodie revolution
The historic Bywater neighbourhood, known for its shotgun houses, is also home to some of the most exciting restaurants in the city. Get a taste for it all at Bacchanal. Downstairs is a wine shop and a festoon-clad backyard where musicians perform nighty, and upstairs is a bar serving great small plates such as Gulf shrimp with sherry and red-pepper flakes, and hanger steak with bagna cauda aioli.
Address: Bacchanal Wine, 600 Poland Avenue New Orleans, 70117
Stumble upon an alligator
Not every nature walk starts with someone telling you to watch out for the snakes in the trees. At Jean Lafitte national park, a 30-minute drive from the city, you are deep in bayou territory, with wispy Spanish moss dripping from the branches, bone-white cormorants stealthily hunting fish and tar-black alligators resting, deathly still, in the stagnant water (don’t even think about straying from the boardwalk). Come here for a surprisingly beautiful respite after the hubbub of New Orleans.
Address: Jean Lafitte National Park, New Orleans, Louisiana 70067, USA
Hang out with the city’s most creative minds
The galleries on St Claude Avenue have their new show openings on the second Saturday of each month. They stay open late and draw in the crowds. Check out artists such as Joshua Edward Bennett, Jessica Bizer and Lala Rascic at the Good Children Gallery, as well as works at The Front and Antenna.
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