Big Easy Bound — More than just Mardi Gras

Big Easy Bound — More than just Mardi Gras

By Rachel Galvin

Want to go to the Big Easy but have no clue what to see? Sure, you know that Mardi Gras has plenty of parties taking over the streets, parades and revelry every year, but what about when the krewes go home? It can be difficult to do anything but join in on the festivities during the biggest party time of the year, but for those who want to check out what New Orleans has to offer after the party has subsided, here are some suggestions.

You may be aware that New Orleans can be a rather spooky place. Built in 1718, the town can appear quite haunted. There are plenty of ghost tours to fill you in on the resident ghosts. Try Free Tours By Foot ( This offers a knowledgeable local guide who will show you around the town and tell tales of woe of those who once walked the streets in this historic town. The best part about this tour company is that you pay what you want! You do have to reserve a spot and there is a booking fee however; and if you are late, they will call you, and you will get dirty looks from the group who has all been waiting on you (I know from personal experience). Our tour guide regaled us with stories of the people who lived in the homes of the French Quarter and some of the mysterious and downright gorey details off what took place there. 

Besides ghost tours, there are also voodoo tours and even cemetery tours, as there are many above ground cemetery stones that have become a focal point for many tourists in town. Take the trolley to one of the many graveyards.

Speaking of history, the massive National World War II museum ( is a must-see for history-buffs. Just plan on spending multiple hours (or days!) going through room after room of very detailed history of every campaign of the war. This interactive museum experience begins when you walk in. The first thing you are able to do is pick up a dog tag and step into a train to register the tag, which will be associated with a particular veteran. After that, you will be able to track his or her experience throughout the war as you walk through the exhibit. This is optional and does take extra time before you even get to the exhibits. Not doing it certainly will not detract from your experience however.

The museum can be quite overwhelming and uses a variety of interactive and multisensory experiences to draw you into the conflict, learning about all the theaters of the war, the social impact, the major players and the battles. They utilize visuals, elaborate staging of props to look as though you are on the scene, audio documentation, documents, videos and more. The depth of coverage is mind-blowing. 

Make sure to take time to watch the Tom Hanks narrated movie “Beyond All Boundaries” in their Solomon Victory Theater. It is worth it, This is not your average movie. It is 4-D with multiple movie screens, pop up scenery and unexpected 4-D elements that really keep it exciting while delivering even more information. 

They also have the USS Tang Submarine Experience where guests can relive the last battle of the submarine during the war. Also ask about their Expressions of America nighttime immersive and educational sound and light show. 

Once you are done perusing all of the museum, feel free to ask the volunteer curators some questions. They are happy to help. 

The historic St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square ( is also a great place to stop. Built originally in 1727, the building had a fire and was rebuilt, eventually completed in 1794. It is beautiful inside and out. Just outside of its doors, many buskers make a home, drawing large crowds. Make sure to go across the street and have a beignet and chicory coffee from Cafe Du Monde ( There may be a line, but it usually goes pretty quickly, and stopping there is a rite of passage. Not far away, you can jump on a steamboat and take a look at New Orleans via water.

There are so many wonderful places to eat in town that showcase the flavors of New Orleans. Try some etoufee or jambalaya, or oysters, or poboys or gumbo and more. Try Felix’s Oyster House ( for some great service and lowkey dining. There will be a long wait most assuredly.

For a special occasion, try the elegant and historic Antoine’s Restaurant ( Built in 1840, the family-owned restaurant is where Oysters Rockerfeller were first invented. This fine food establishment has been visited by dignitaries from President Roosevelt to President Clinton, to Pope John Paul II and plenty of Hollywood celebrities like Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and many more. Their photos are on the wall. The place is huge with 14 rooms. They even have a Mystery Room, which used to be a speakeasy during Prohibition. 

Nearby at Hotel Monteleone (, check out the carousel bar. Since 1949, it has been the only rotating bar in New Orleans. Since it is so popular, be prepared to wait to get a seat.

Make sure to stop by Pat OBrien’s ( This is a real happening place, squeeze yourself into the frey and check out the fun. Sing along with dueling pianists, grab a drink and look up at more than 500 beer steins mounted on the ceiling or check out their flaming fountain.

Preservation Hall ( is a great historic place to catch some Jazz, although you may find wandering jazz musicians throughout the city. And this is just one place to listen to music, since music is the lifeblood of this very active place. Just walking around Frenchman Street will have plenty of places to pop into and hear some great tunes.

Whether you walk through the French Quarter or Garden District, or Royal Street, or beyond, you will be overcome by a sense of history and so many places to explore. If you are looking for gifts to take home, don’t worry – there are gift shops almost literally on every corner, and most of them have the same products. A good spot to shop is the French Market, which has plenty to choose from. Although they have some food available, there are also restaurants nearby.

If you have a car, you may want to venture outside the city and visit a plantation. Try the Oak Alley Plantation ( About an hour’s drive from New Orleans, this is a site that will take awhile to explore. Guests are greeted by double rows of huge oak trees along the main road leading up to The Big House. Guests can get a guided tour to learn this history of the place, which was a sugar cane plantation. Guests can walk around on their own and see the slave quarters or learn about how sugar cane was harvested and made into sugar. There are many areas to explore among the sprawling lawns and gardens. Make sure to stop by the small restaurant on property for a delicious meal before you go home. This is just one of many plantations in the area.

With so many places to visit, New Orleans is not a place you come to just once. You will want to return again and again to enjoy all aspects of this always lively historic hot spot.

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