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If you’re planning a trip to New Orleans, you might already have a few ideas of what to check out while there, but some of the best spots lie off the beaten path.
New Orleans is home to incredible restaurants, and there are a few names that jump out as famous New Orleans stops (Cafe Du Monde, just to name one), but while in New Orleans, you’ve got to try some of the more local stops, too.
Head to St. Roch Market. Located just on the edge of the Marigny neighborhood, this wonderfully curated food hall features some of your quintessential Louisiana fare, like jambalaya, gumbo, fresh oysters and crawfish po’boys. They’ve also managed to squeeze in a variety of other delicious options, like sushi, Burmese and Malaysian cuisine and a whole slew of sandwiches and salads. Plus, there’s a full bar. With so many restaurants in New Orleans, St. Roch is a great place to find a delicious variety of dining options.
Molly’s Rise and Shine is just another testament to the fact that amazing food doesn’t just live in the French Quarter. Located in the Garden District is the self-proclaimed “hipster” breakfast stop — so hipster that it’s BYOB. And the food is nothing short of delicious. Try the Bagel Bite Tray for a polished version of a favorite snack or the Deviled Egg Tostada for a modern twist on a favorite appetizer.
New Orleans is more than just delicious food and drinks, it’s full of history and culture, too.
The Cabildo Museum, located in the heart of the beautiful and historic French Quarter, is a museum you could easily spend a few hours in. The outside of this Spanish colonial building alone is enough to ooh-and-aww at. The promenade in front of the building is full of hustle-and-bustle, featuring tarot card readers and artists against the backdrop of Jackson Square. But once inside, the stunning staircase leads up to three stories of Louisiana and New Orleans history, and the vaulted ceilings add to the regal feel of the building.
There was plenty to see here, like Napoleon’s Death Mask, oil paintings, a visual representation of how the New Orleans waterways were mapped and a dress literally made for royalty. There are more than 500 original artifacts and works of art here, but the third floor, though a bit sparser, was one of our favorites. One of the third-floor rooms holds three ornate chandeliers and a variety of flags hanging between beautiful arch-shaped windows that look out on Jackson Square. When the sunlight streams through them onto the polished wood floors, it’s both calming and incredibly stunning.
Right around the corner is the Old U.S. Mint, which as the name suggests, formerly produced coinage. It was the only mint to produce both Confederate and American coinage — add that to your trivia repertoire. It was also the only southern mint to reopen after the Civil War. Now, you can check out historic coins and the former minting facility on the first floor of the building, while the rest of it houses the New Orleans Jazz Museum.
This museum dives deep into the relationship between New Orleans and Jazz music. They even have an interactive area where you can learn to swing dance and record a song. There are tons of headphones scattered around the exhibits, so visitors can get an immersive Jazz experience while reading about various artists and time periods, plus the third floor houses a state-of-the-art performance venue that brings in New Orleans artists on a weekly basis.
If music piques your interest, The Music Box Village should be another stop on your list. This artist-made, interactive musical playground is located in the Bywater area, and if you didn’t know it was there, you might miss it. This rustic, do-it-yourself musical experience is like nothing we’d ever seen, or heard for that matter. Pull a lever to make fans whirl, talk or sing into a phone in a run-down-looking telephone booth and hear a distorted version of your words. Try your hand at a unique rhythm with the help of metal siding, makeshift cymbals and old wheel wells.
There’s also a bar if you need a little liquid courage to set those creative juices in motion. The Music Box Village was created and is run by New Orleans Airlift, a non-profit artist-driven organization that creates large-scale community art projects. While this venue does host well-known musicians for concerts, it’s also a place that a group of friends could spend hours and parents can bring their kids to explore their creative side. Even if you aren't musically inclined, or you can’t keep a beat to save your life, this musical experiment is well-worth a visit.
This next stop is one we just can’t let you pass up. Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar on Bourbon Street is said to be the oldest structure used as a bar in the United States. It was built circa 1722, and by the looks of it, not much has changed — except the few TVs scattered around to watch Saints games, of course. The quaint-looking bar is far enough down Bourbon Street to not be packed constantly but close enough to indulge in a fun night out.
After a night at Jean Lafitte's, you could definitely use a treat from District Donuts on Magazine Street in New Orleans. They have more than 100 different donut flavors and offer six rotating donuts every week. We were lucky to pop in on a day the cookie dough donut was featured, and it’s just as delicious as it looks. We also tried the miso praline bacon and sunny side up egg sandwich on a homemade buttermilk drop biscuit, and it was what breakfast dreams are made of.
The vibrant city of New Orleans is everything a great vacation is made of. Its delicious food and drink scene will have you craving more, its engaging museums won’t disappoint and its experiences are nothing short of unexpected.