Traditional Mardi Gras can’t be considered in The Big Easy this year due to COVID-19. Fortunately, there is still plenty to do in New Orleans, Louisiana. I visited in September of 2020 and believe me, this melting pot of culture, even when the typically partying streets are silent, still has a lively culture and an energetic underground. Here’s a list of my top 5 things to do while in New Orleans this Mardi Gras season:
#1 Swamp Tours
You guys. My beau and I went on one of the coolest adventures you have ever experienced down the bayou. Cajun Encounters had some awesome staff who grew up in the cajun country we were traversing. Prepare to see a TON of alligators, some houses of the bayou natives that are only accessible by boat, and some giant pigs. This tour was one of the most memorable things I have ever done in any of my travels.
A picture of how close I was to a Louisiana gator:
#2 New Orleans Jazz Museum
You have to hear some jazz in NOLA. The city’s streets just ring out with it because the soulful style was born in this awesome city. Check out tickets here. You can take the famous streetcar down the waterfront to get to the historic district where you’ll see some old school plantation-style houses with beautiful architecture. (Architecture is magnificent in New Orleans). Here you will depart to get to this absolutely stunning museum full of instruments and information from some of the greatest musicians in history. It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to get back toward the French Quarter. And while you’re walking back, be sure to stop at the famous farmer’s market. You can’t miss it.
#3 All of the tours.
Here you can find a list of a plethora of tours you can take while exploring this fantastically fascinating historic city. I was told the plantation tours are dynamite but we opted for the walking ghost tour in the French Quarter and the voodoo tour to visit one of New Orleans City of the Dead gravesites. We were able to visit the home of the inspiration of Kathy Bates’ character in American Horror Story and get the real, horrifying history, see the only place in the US where an old pirate bar and a church share a corner, learn the U.S. legend of the vampire, and see the grave of the voodoo queen Ms. Marie Laveau herself.
I would recommend these tours a million times over. And if you’re interested in the voodoo history of this city, and believe me, it’s way different than you think, you have to visit the tiny and fantastic New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum.
#4 Cafe Du Monde
As Mardi Gras “Fat Tuesday” is the carnival celebration right before Lent, you would do well to eat and drink your heart out. New Orleans is said to be the birthplace of the American cocktail (they are super big on nicknames down there) and just absolute artists of food. Cafe Du Monde is the original coffee joint of New Orleans. They serve beignets and chicory coffee that you just cannot find anywhere else in the world. Enjoying these in the wonderful southern weather while listening to some live jazz that just plays on the corner is sure to be as enjoyable for you as it was for me.
Some other local-sworn places to hit are Pat O’Briens (a super cool Irish pub on Bourbon), Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar and Fish House, and Willa Jean’s.
#5 Steamboat Natchez
If you want to do some romancing, please take my advice and book a ride on one of two still-running steamboats in the United States. Go for the dinner cruise. The food is fine, but the bar, the live jazz, and the New Orleans lights as you float down the Mississipi River is extraordinary. My soon-to-be and I danced to Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World on a beautiful steamboat ride. There are few experiences that amount to that sort of wonder.
Those are my top 5. However, there is a whole lot to do more to do in New Orleans. Some honorable mentions:
-More museums (the place just swarms with cool info)
-Street or REAL jazz club music shows
-Any of the bars and restaurants
-Walking through Louis Armstrong Park
-St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Sqauare
Or honestly, grab a bagged beer from a convenience store and start walking and talking to locals. You’ll have views of incredible architectural marvels. All while learning so much if you strike up a few conversations from some of the most friendly people you’ve ever met.
I am absolutely certain you will enjoy this breathtaking and slightly bizarre historic joint. It seems as if it belongs to France, Spain, Latin America, Africa, and the US simultaneously…because it kind of does.
Enjoy your stay and take it easy in The Big Easy. Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler! Let the good times roll.
Ready to get to planning this ultimate NOLA trip!? We’ve got you covered. Check out our New Orleans travel guides right here: Beyond Bourbon Street – Your Guide for an Amazing New Orleans Adventure and The Ultimate Guide to a Long Weekend in NOLA
About the Author
Dallas Thornley is a lifelong writer and traveler. Born in El Paso, TX as an army brat, she had the opportunity to visit cities all over the country. She has continued to wanderlust as an international traveler. She now lives in Utah with her daughter and her cat.