Sure, New Orleans is famous for a lot of things. Among them: food, Bourbon Street, the French Quarter, Jackson Square, Mardi Gras, Café du Mond, and free-flowing alcohol. But what about finding things to do in NOLA that are off-the-beaten-path? Here are some suggestions that are lesser-known, but entertaining, interesting and a lot less touristy.
Rock N’ Bowl
If fun, food, and music are what you’re looking for, head to Rock N’ Bowl. It’s just what the name implies – a bowling alley with a stage (that can be seen from every alley) and a large dance floor. There are regular concerts featuring zydeco, R&B, and honky-tonk. The cover charge is minimal and the drinks are ice-cold. Check out their website for a schedule of bands and a review of the interesting history of the establishment.
French Quarter Fest
Everyone knows the New Orleans Jazz Fest. Few (outside Louisiana) know French Quarter Fest (FQF). It occurs right before the Jazz Fest (JF) and is abundantly fun. FQF consists of 23 stages of varying sizes around the French Quarter that all have live music playing from 11 am – 8 pm for 4 days (Th – Su). There are drink and food kiosks throughout the Quarter from some of the best restaurants and bars in town. You take your lawn chair or blanket and find the venue that suits your musical taste. You will hear everything from Jazz, Zydeco, Gospel, R&B and Funk to Sacred music at the Cathedral. All performers are from Louisiana. And the best part – the music is all free!!
Perhaps this sounds a bit odd, but the Metairie Cemetery is quite an interesting place. It touts itself as “one of the world’s most unique and beautiful cemeteries”. The statuary includes everything from a pseudo-Egyptian pyramid to a 60-foot high marble monument to small chapels complete with stained glass. You can visit the cemetery on your own, on an organized tour or on a ghost tour.
City Park in NOLA has something for everyone! You can spend an entire day soaking up the fun and adventure. Some of the park attractions include: the Botanical Gardens, New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden, two golf courses plus a mini-golf course, splash water park, a Storyland kid’s park, an amusement park (seasonal), tennis courts, multiple athletic fields, a lake and lots of open green space to enjoy.
Sazerac, the Official New Orleans Cocktail. The story goes that this libation is the first American cocktail and was concocted in New Orleans. Not a big surprise!! Antoine Peychaud, a NOLA druggist, made his own aromatic bitters and mixed them with Sazerac cognac, water and sugar to “cure the ails of his clients”. Thus the beginning of what is now called the Sazerac. You must have at least one during your visit!
And for the eating portion of your visit….
Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop
Absolutely do not miss the opportunity to eat at Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop. Located just minutes from the airport in a rather obscure little strip mall you will taste some of the best Cajun food in the area. Everything we have tried has been delicious and authentic. My husband’s favorite (and he was born and raised in NOLA) is the Ultimate Gumbo – a 20 oz. bowl of chicken, sausage, seafood gumbo topped with fried catfish, fried oysters and fried shrimp. For a menu visit www.gumbostop.com/
If you happen to be in NOLA during spring, award-winning Antoine’s has a fantastic 3 course Spring Lunch Menu that costs the same as the year. Our lunch was $20.18 with $0.25 martinis! You have a choice between 3 appetizers, 3 main dishes, and 2 desserts. If you don’t have an overwhelming need for a nap after all of the food and drink, they encourage you to tour the historic buildings that have been joined together to form the country’s oldest family-run restaurant (established in 1840).
New Orleans School of Cooking
Don’t just eat the rich, abundant food in NOLA – learn to cook like a Cajun! New Orleans School of Cooking in the French Quarter offers hands-on and demonstration cooking classes that are fun, interactive and informative. The best part – you get to eat whatever was on the class menu, so go hungry!
This is just a very short list of some of the not-so-touristy things to do in New Orleans. If you happen to be in the city and want more suggestions, the locals are always full of fun ideas for places to see and places to eat and imbibe. LAISSEZ LES BON TEMPS ROULER!