The French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans and also the one most frequented by visitors. We called it home for the duration of our stay in Louisiana. The French Quarter is a mix of old and new, existing in perfect harmony. Every corner is filled with art and music all day and night. In addition to the many bars and art galleries, you’ll also see artists spreading out their wares on the street, hoping to catch the eyes of passersby.
Music can always be heard on the street that varies from the deep soulful sound of the saxophone played by some old timer in front of Café Du Monde to the marching bands in Jackson square. At night, most bars and restaurants will feature live bands. Since there are no cover charges at most bars, throughout the night people will drift in, grab a drink ,sit back, and enjoy a set. These talented local musicians play mostly for tips, so it’s encouraged that everyone tip well to keep the music culture alive.
In the middle of the French quarter is the infamous Bourbon Street. The street has everything from street performers to strip clubs. There are also restaurants, bars, and clubs with their bright signs and hawkers trying to draw people in. From most bars, you can hear dance music blasting, creating a cacophony of noise drifting down the street. Bourbon Street is chaotic, like a big frat party. As the night wears on, you’ll see more and more drunk people pouring out into the street with their drinks. In New Orleans, you are allowed to drink on the street (as long as it’s in a plastic container), so at every corner there are storefronts enticing people walking by with cheap booze. Liquor flows freely and is enjoyed by everyone. From the balcony, multi-colored beads are thrown down to the girls eagerly waiting below. It’s hard to imagine this place during Mardi Gras since it was so crazy during a normal day.
Contrasting the chaos of Bourbon street, the atmosphere on Frenchmen street is more calm and relaxed. A few blocks away, this low key neighborhood also features restaurants, bars, and music but without the rowdy tourists. This area is where you’ll find the locals hanging out and enjoying a more authentic jazz experience. We spent an enjoyable night at the Spotted Cat listening to jazz and knocking back a few Abita – the local brew.
Aside from art and music, the French Quarter is also full of beautiful and colorful houses. The architecture of the buildings vary and reflect the multicultural heritage of the city. The most distinctive feature of each house is the huge balcony over the sidewalk. Interestingly, the streets in the French Quarters are actually lit by gas lamps. These antique lanterns looks like something from the 19th century, yet are still in use today. In the heart of the French Quarter is Jackson square and St Louis cathedral. This historical park was named after general Andrew Jackson following the battle of New Orleans. The whitewashed St. Louis cathedral is one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in the United States. The buildings in the French Quarter were minimally impacted by Katrina since they were located far enough from the breached levees. Elsewhere in the city, there are many houses that were flooded during Katrina and are still abandoned today.
The melting pot culture is the result of the very unique history of New Orleans, and our first time down south was filled with good food, amazing music, and many photo opportunities. The Big Easy exceed our expectations. Check back soon for our New Orleans trip report.
- Hotel: Sheraton, $115 per night (including tax)
- Length of Stay: 4 nights