From brass bands and Bourbon Street to beignets and Mardi Gras, it's easy to see why New Orleans' unofficial motto is laissez les bons temps rouler, or let the good times roll. To help ensure your trip lives up to that saying, here are 10 rookie mistakes to avoid when visiting the Big Easy.
1. Not Leaving Bourbon Street in New Orleans
Day after day, night after night, Bourbon Street in the French Quarter serves up a rollicking good time. From admiring the French and Spanish colonial architecture to hitting up the many bars, restaurants, and live music venues, a visitor could spend their entire trip on this historic stretch. However, not venturing beyond this area would mean missing out on cool neighborhoods, like Faubourg Marigny and the Garden District, and unique attractions like the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, the St. Roch Cemetery, and The National WWII Museum.
2. Forgetting About Pickpockets in New Orleans
A town synonymous with booze is going to encourage opportunistic crime, and a pickpocket likes nothing more than a tipsy tourist taking leave of their senses. New Orleans has its fair share of pickpockets — especially in the French Quarter — so don’t make yourself a target. That means keeping wallets and purses nice and secure, so not in your back pocket or poking out of bags and backpacks. Yes, this advice applies to every destination, but not every city promotes hedonism quite like New Orleans.
3. Visiting Just for Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Yes, Mardi Gras is an amazing festival with nonstop parties, but New Orleans offers so much more, from awesome art in Jackson Square to intricately designed mausoleums and stone crypts in cemeteries around the city. Solely sticking to the festivities surrounding Mardi Gras would mean missing out on a true taste of the city.
4. Walking Around Alone After Hours, Especially When Tipsy
On the subject of drinking, hedonism, and opportunistic crime, it’s important to keep your wits about you. While you’ll likely encounter plenty of positivity in the bars (and potentially even meet some new friends), there is always the possibility of trouble. So be safe, don’t overdo it, and maintain common sense. A good rule of thumb is to not wander around alone in the French Quarter late at night — especially after drinking.
5. Relying on Taxis and Streetcars in New Orleans
Taxis can be a pain to flag down in New Orleans, especially around Bourbon Street, when the night’s winding down. To avoid any hassle, book an Uber or Lyft. While we’re on the subject of transportation, don’t treat the St. Charles Streetcar as a way to get from point A to point B in a hurry. The historic streetcar is best enjoyed in a relaxing fashion, so that you can see the sights along the famous avenue.
6. Leaving Your Unfinished Drink Behind
As anyone who has shelled out for a hurricane cocktail knows, prices for drinks in New Orleans can be high. The good news is that, in the French Quarter, open containers are allowed. This means that when it’s time to leave the bar (whether it’s closing time or you’re heading to the next spot), you can take your unfinished drink with you — provided it’s in a plastic cup. So, there you have it — never leave a good drink behind.
7. Forgetting About the Wildlife and Water in New Orleans
There’s plenty going on in the streets of New Orleans, but the sights and sounds of the swamps, forests, and nature reserves are worth experiencing. Start with a hike in Jean Lafitte National Historical Park, where you’ll find beautiful swamplands and a range of animals, including alligators. Then, consider checking out the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge or staying local and exploring the Couturie Forest in the heart of City Park. Visitors can also take a ride on a steamer for some nostalgic feels.
8. Only Eating in Chain Restaurants in New Orleans
You’ve been walking for miles, your feet hurt, and you’re hungry. We get it, looking for an independent eatery isn’t always the easiest option, but in New Orleans, you should make it a priority. The city is home to a wide array restaurants and famous local specialties, including beignets, po’boys, fried chicken, and gumbo, and it’s worth sampling them all.
9. Wearing Black to Cafe du Monde in New Orleans
A New Orleans institution, Cafe du Monde a must-visit. The famed beignets here come coated in powdered sugar, which is likely to wind up on your clothes. Unless you want everyone to know where you’ve been for a quick snack stop, pick an outfit that isn’t black.
10. Responding to Street Scammers in New Orleans
If someone approaches you on the street and bets they can guess where you got your shoes, it’s a scam. The answer? On your feet. Seriously, don’t engage unless you want to be hassled for money for the next block or two by a persistent street hustler.
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