7 Things People Get Wrong About New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana - June 18, 2019: Passengers ride the historic railway streetcar along Saint Charles Avenue in the Garden District of New Orleans Louisiana USA.

New Orleans exudes a captivating allure as a city where history and cultural fusion intertwine. From its French origins and brief Spanish occupation to its ultimate acquisition by America in 1803, the city's unique narrative unfolds through its atmospheric streets.

These Are The Things People Get Wrong About New Orleans

Also known as The Crescent City due to its location on the bend of the Mississippi River, New Orleans is a captivating mosaic, blending diverse influences, such as Cajun and Creole, to create an unparalleled tapestry of traditions, flavors and the undeniable spirit that defines this remarkable destination.

Unfortunately, visitors make assumptions about what to expect and often miss out on opportunities to experience more than just the party scene of Bourbon Street. For a truly immersive experience, here are a few things visitors to New Orleans need to know. 

Mardi Gras

Group of happy people in carnival costumes dancing and having fun during Mardi Gras festival on the street.
Image Credit: Drazen Zigic/Shutterstock.

Catholicism was the prominent religion for the French and Spanish who settled in the area in the 1700s, and with it, Mardi Gras celebrations followed suit. Some may not realize that the event marks the Catholic holiday of Shrove Tuesday before refraining during Lent.

It's the city's busiest time of year, and locals and visitors love the parades. It's normal for people to walk around in garishly fun costumes, watch heavily decorated floats, and catch beads thrown at them. By the end of Mardi Gras Day, Bourbon Street is ankle-deep in cast-off beads. 

At this time of year, hundreds of thousands of visitors vie for expensive hotel rooms, and it is worth doing once to say you've had the experience, but this is a festival city, and there's a festival on offer every other month. However, there's much more to do here, especially if festivals are not your thing.

Partying and Drinking

Pubs and bars with neon lights in the French Quarter, New Orleans USA
Image Credit: f11photo/Shutterstock.

In particular, New Orleans and the French Quarter have some fantastic bars. In fact, almost the entire length of Bourbon St is a place where bachelor and bachelorette parties converge in droves. Since it's legal to walk around carrying your daiquiris and beers, why wouldn't you?

Just outside the Quarter in the district known as the Marigny is another street dedicated to music and partying called Frenchman Street. You will often find random bands playing in the street, and people block traffic with dancing. This makes Crescent City so much fun, but it's just a tiny part of what the city offers. 

The city's rich history, architecture, art, music, and culinary traditions are unique and worth a trip just for these. Exploring museums, taking historical tours, visiting art galleries, and enjoying live jazz music are just a few examples of the diverse experiences New Orleans offers.

The French Quarter

Colorful architecture in the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Image Credit: Fotoluminate LLC/Shutterstock.

While the French Quarter is the epicenter of New Orleans, it makes up a small portion of the city. Many visitors to New Orleans assume that the French Quarter is the entire city or the main attraction. While the French Quarter is worth it for its historic architecture, lively atmosphere, and iconic Bourbon Street, the city has diverse neighborhoods, such as the Garden District, Uptown, and Bywater, with unique charm and attractions.

The Garden District is an adventure in itself. After the Louisiana Purchase, Americans started to move into this suburb. The area is a time capsule of 19th-century American opulence with streets of iron-work fences, live oaks, and large mansions. The Bywater offers a unique and bohemian atmosphere. Its artistic spirit thrives through colorful street art, quirky galleries, and live music venues.

Uptown contains Magazine Street, a vibrant thoroughfare showcasing trendy boutiques, antique shops, art galleries, and culinary delights. Uptown's oak-lined streets offer historic mansions, charming cafes, live music venues, and a thriving local scene.

Just Beignets

Beignets at Cafe du Monde
Image Credit: Kelli Hayden/Shutterstock.

When it comes to New Orleans cuisine, beignets often steal the spotlight. While these powdered sugar-covered pastries are delicious, visitors should be open to more than this iconic treat alone.

New Orleans is a food lover's paradise, renowned for its mouthwatering Creole and Cajun dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish étouffée, po'boys, and more. Exploring the local food scene and trying various dishes is essential to experience New Orleans fully.

Regarding beignets, visitors often flock to Cafe Du Monde on Decatur Street. While this place is iconic, there are many better places to grab the sweet treat. This cafe only offers outdoor seating, so you don't want to make it your go-to option on a hot, humid New Orleans day.

Skip the queues and try Morning Call or Cafe Beignet. 

City Park

New Orleans City Park Spanish Moss and Fountain
Image Credit: Mallory Fandal/Shutterstock.

Boasting a world-class sculpture garden, a historic carousel, and the largest oak grove in the country, City Park is a tranquil retreat that most visitors are unaware of. It's just north of the French Quarter and spans over 1,300 acres. It offers a serene oasis with lush green spaces, beautiful gardens, picturesque lagoons, and an impressive collection of outdoor art.

The park is also home to the Louisiana Children's Museum, the Botanical Gardens, New Orleans Museum of Art, and there's even a Cafe Du Monde so that you can skip the tourist crowd in the Quarter. 

Historical Sites

Plantation home built in 1787 (French Colonial style), remodeled in 1840 (Greek Revival)
Image Credit: John S. Sfondilias/Shutterstock.

While there is plenty of history to absorb in the French Quarter, Louisiana has some amazing historical places just a short drive from the city center. It's worth spending a day exploring the historic plantation houses that were once a way of life in the southern state.

Destrehan Plantation, for example, is one of the oldest plantation houses in the area. It was constructed in 1790 and is only a 20-minute drive from New Orleans. There are plenty of tours from the city center to Destrehan if you don't have a car. 

History buffs may way to take the 15-minute journey outside the city to see where The Battle of New Orleans was fought in 1815. General Andrew Jackson led a diverse force to victory against the British army, solidifying American independence and bolstering national pride.

You can check out the museum, walk around the property, and watch as a re-enactment soldier fires a musket. 

Filming Sites

Joseph Morgan in The Originals (2013)
Image Credit: Skip Bolen/The CW.

Most filming in the Crescent City takes place in the cooler months, so if you happen to be here during Winter or Spring, you might see some action around the streets. Writers and filmmakers often fall in love with the atmosphere here, and you can spot locations for favorite TV series or movies. Some of these include American Horror Story: Coven, Green Book, Interview With the Vampire, Runaway Jury, Renfield, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

One last thing that visitors get wrong that I will never understand — many guides tell you to “pronounce New Orleans as Nawlins because that's what the locals call it.”

I've never heard it once in all my years here. I see “Nawlins” written on signs, but every local pronounces it New Orlens.

Author: Ree Winter

Title: Journalist

Expertise: travel, food, history

Bio:

  • Expertise: Travel, History, Food
  • Education: Monash University, Australia
  • Over 400 articles published in newspapers, magazines, and across the web

Ree Winter is a versatile journalist hailing from Australia and now making New Orleans her home. Ree's passion for solo travel shines through as she expertly tracks down fantastic flight deals and accommodations, sharing her extensive travel experiences with readers. With a Master's degree in Journalism and a Bachelor's degree featuring double majors in history and literature, she brings a unique blend of skills to her work. Ree's historical expertise extends to the world of architectural history, where she has worked as a tour guide in historic house museums. But her journey doesn't stop there; she's even delved into the art of coffee as a barista, running a coffee van at events and markets, making her a genuine connoisseur of coffee preparation. Today, Ree channels her insights and expertise into sharing these topics with readers at Wealth of Geeks.