By Kevin Wilkerson, PubClub.com New Orleans Blogger
With so much to do at night, it may come as a bit of a surprise to some that New Orleans offers a feast of activities during the day, as well.
Walking around the French Quarter and along the Mississippi River is something that, experienced at the proper Southern pace, can take up several hours on several days. The Quarter has shops ranging from elegant art galleries to small voodoo stores to the Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville store. There are many excellent restaurants, air-conditioned bars for heat relief or cocktails on the go, the French Market and, of course Jackson Square and Cafe du Monde for beignets and strong coffee.
This is a city made for tours. There are walking tours, boat tours horse-and-carriage tours, city tours, guided walking tours, cemetery tours and haunted hours tours.
Ride the street cars along the riverfront or pass by the historic houses on St. Charles Ave. The St. Charles line has a stop at Tulane University, making it an easy way to tour the campus. There are also several restaurants and bars where locals hang out, so many of the latter that we’ve put together a street car pub crawl. The street car fare is $1.25 each way – exact change required – or $5 for an all-day pass. The street car runs until 11 p.m., on weekdays, midnight on weekends.
It’s not Mardi Gras every day in New Orleans, but it is at Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World. See the actual parade floats up close and, if it’s close enough to Mardi Gras, watch workers put on the final touches before the floats hit the streets. The one-hour tour ($22) includes the props, building of the floats and finished floats. Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World is open every day except Fat Tuesday. The venue has moved from across the river to a much more convenient location along the New Orleans waterfront at the Crescent City Connection. Tours run 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (504) 361-7821.
One of the city’s best attractions is The National D-Day Museum (945 Magazine Street). What makes this such a captivating museum is not just the story it tells of the World’s greatest invasion and the sacrifices involved, but the many short movies and personal recorded accounts from the combatants of the battles and events. Originally devoted exclusively to the Allies’ invasion of Normandy in June, 1944, it now boasts a wing dedicated to the many D-Days of the Pacific Theater. Allow 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Tickets start at $35.
For wildlife – a good change of pace from the wild life of the city – tours of the Louisiana swamps get you up close to alligators, turtles and birds, plus puts you among tall grass and moss-covered cypress trees in the swamps and bayous of Cajun Country.
There are several from which to choose and we highly recommend Dr. Paul Wagner’s Honey Island Tours (985-641-1769). It claims to be the tour the locals take and the guides certainly are local. PubClub.com had Capt’n Paul at the helm of our excursion and it was like having him give us a tour of his own house. In a way, it probably was, for he seemed to know every tree branch and picked out well-hidden turtles and gators the way some people seem to always find that last beer hidden at the back of the refrigerator at a party.
One of the tour’s more interesting aspects is not the sunning alligators – Capt’n Paul refers to anything under 8 feet as a “cute little gator” – but the swampside shacks that true Ragin’ Cajuns use for weekends of partying and fishing. The “houses” are just as one would imagine – wooden, sitting right at water’s edge and seemingly ready to collapse into a cute little’ gator’s waiting jaws.
This excursion – unique to New Orleans – is worth leaving the city. There are two tours daily and each takes about half a day. It costs $29 and $58 for transportation from downtown, which includes ongoing commentary from a New Orleans native driver.
Other activities outside the city include tours of plantation houses and airboat rides through the bayous.
Also on the water, albeit from a much cozier perch far removed from the alligators, are the paddlewheel boats that plow down the Mississippi. The most recognizable of these is the Nachez, the only steamboat, which offers jazz and sunset cruises.
New Orleans also has a zoo and an aquarium. Brochures on these and other activities are widely available around town and in the hotel lobbies.
Next Stop On The New Orleans Party Bus: New Orleans Dining and Restaurant Guide!
PubClub.com covers nightlife, bars, festivals and party events around the world. I have been to New Orleans many times.