From hurricanes to hand-grenades, sazeracs and go-cups, there is no shortage of places to grab a great drink in New Orleans. However, there is also plenty to do outside the booze soaked streets of the French Quarter to help you get into the New Orleans spirit. Here is a list of some of our favorite things to do between drive-through daiquiri stands:
1. Swamp Boat Tour – While it might be super touristy, it’s also a ton of fun. We got tickets for Airboat Adventures and had an absolute blast. They arrange for a shuttle to come and pick you up and bring you out to the swamps. You can choose between a 6-8 passenger boat or 15-27 passenger boat (the more people, the lower the price). Not only is this a great, high speed ride, you also get a beautiful view of the South Louisiana Bayous and New Orleans Swamps. Encased in cypress trees, this 20,000 acre tour of tidewater swamp offers a majestic view of the nature that surrounds New Orleans. The guides are well seasoned and have scouting out alligators down to a science, sharing a marshmallow or two with them from a stick up on the boat. You’ll also get a chance to see snakes, turtles, and in our case a few hawks. You may even get the chance to hold a baby gator! We hitched a ride on one of the Jean Lafitte Swamp Tour boats and had a great time!
2. Kayak Swamp Tour – If you’re up for a little exercise and can keep your fear of spiders at bay, this is a great way to get up close and personal with the Louisiana Swamps. We took a tour with New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours to Honey Island Swamp. The waters are calm, so no worries if you aren’t an expert kayaker. We decided to take the “Funky Swamp” tour in a 2-seater kayak together since some of the nooks and crannies of the swamp can be a little difficult to navigate. The guides are super knowledgeable and can tell you just about everything about the swamp from the types of vegetation you’ll see to the critters in the water. Keep an eye out for alligators and steer clear of the trees–there are giant tree jumping tree spiders on them!
3. Shopping on Magazine – From Jackson to Jefferson and everywhere in between, there are tons of shops to check out along Magazine Street. You’ll find small boutiques with designer clothes and high price tags (Hemline, Lucy Rose) , to costume shops (Uptown Costume & Dancewear), record stores (Peaches Records ), art galleries, consignment stores (Funky Monkey) and pawn shops (Magazine Street Pawn Shop). Whether you’re looking for a gift or a little something for yourself, there’s something for everyone on Magazine Street. Jonathan bought himself a trumpet at the pawn shop, but still hasn’t quite gotten the hang of it…
4. Cooking Class – We did our fair share of eating in New Orleans and wanted to learn how to recreate some of our favorite dishes after we left. New Orleans Cooking School of Cooking, conveniently located in the French Quarter, offers up hands-on cooking classes, open demonstrations and group demonstrations. We opted for the hands-on class and learned how to make andouille sausage gumbo, bbq shrimp and grits, bananas foster crepes and pralines. The demo was informative, fun and we got to eat all the delicious food we cooked up. It’s all about the roux!
5. Tour the Plantations – Located about an hour from The French Quarter, you’ll find a string of plantations along LA-18 in Vacherie. The drive alone is a nice way to get out of the city and you can view most of the plantations from the road. We decided to take a deeper look at Oak Alley Plantation and grabbed tickets for a tour. There is a Slavery at Oak Alley exhibit of reconstructed slave quarters where you can learn all about the lives of the slaves that used to live and work there. Afterwards, we participated in a professional tour of the Big House narrated by a young woman in full costume and character. We learned all about life at the plantation 175 years ago. The Big House entry is a great photo opp (in fact, there is a photo contest) lined with 28, 300 year-old oak trees.
6. Audubon Zoo – The Audubon Zoo is located uptown near the Audubon park. Check out the exotic animals like orangutans, tigers, white alligators, and more. If you like zoos, this is a good one to check out! Note, you can save about $30 per person if you buy tickets for the Zoo, Aquarium and Butterfly Garden/Insectarium together.
7. Audubon Aquarium – The aquarium is located adjacent to the French Quarter near Harrah’s Casino. You can see sea otters, penguins, stingrays and everything in between. This impressive aquarium is a must-see for animal lovers. Great option for a rainy day!
8. World War II Museum – This massive museum, located within the Warehouse District, provides an interactive, highly entertaining, and immersive experience like no museum we had ever experienced. Upon arriving, you are given an ID card of a veteran from the war. You can follow along their individual journey as you go through each exhibit. Aside from displaying artifacts, this museum takes an extra step with 4D cinematic experience, decor that brings you into the trenches. This museum definitely requires a full day (we had four hours and had to rush through a large chunk of the museum). This is a must-do while in NOLA!
9. Burlesque Lessons – This one lends itself more to a girl’s trip or bachelorette, but still notable. Aside from hand grenades and beads, you can find some great live burlesque down on Bourbon Street. If you’re interested in learning the art of burlesque yourself, check out a workshop at The New Orleans School of Burlesque. These classes teach you the walk, moves, sensuality and attitude required of burlesque performers. Taught by Headmistress, Bella Blue, you’ll have a great time learning the art of the striptease (minus the strip!)
10. Steamboat River Tour – Take a tour of the Mississippi River on the Steamboat Natchez. There are dinner, brunch and jazz cruises available. We opted for one of the daytime trips which takes you on a two-hour cruise from the French Quarter down the Mississippi. You’ll learn all about the time when the delta was a bustling industry center, and get to tour the engine room of the steam boat which is a real treat for geeky types. The tickets are a little pricey, but it’s a nice ride and you can catch some live music inside! Note, there is a bar on board if you decide you’re ready to get back on the wagon.