Will I love it when I get it home?
Like all hot tourist spots, New Orleans offers a range of really great to really tacky merchandise. Mardi Gras is, of course, a (yawn) common theme in souvenier shops as is weird "jazz funeral" junk and really nasty T-shirts. To be honest, beads and hats and other Mardi Gras stuff can be found in most local party-supply stores. If it's a real throw from a real float during real Mardi Gras, sure, OK, fine. You can probably snag some free beads just hanging around on Bourbon Street late at night (especially if you remove some clothing). Let's just say that a lot of this stuff isn't worth forking over for.
For those with limitless funds, there's good art, specialty clothing and accessories (see pix) and antiques all over the Quarter and Magazine Street. Go crazy. For others on tighter budgets, spend your $$ on sightseeing, eats and fun first (NOLA isn't cheap) and then hit the stores. New Orleans is famous for food and music so a few suggestions might be pralines (see shopping tip), hot sauces, chicory coffee, drink mixes or other edibles connected to local flavor. My favorites are CDs - they're easy to pack and good forever. Jazz, rock, blues, Dixieland, whatever - if you hear a great local band, ask them if they have a CD for sale. They usually do. This city is LOADED with drop-dead great music.
I figure if I'll wear it, eat it or use it long after the trip is history, it's a good buy.
Fun Alternatives: Unless you know at first glance that it's a "must have", I'd recommend shopping on the last day of your trip as prices can vary widely. A pound of chickory coffee at an upscale shop might be several dollars more expensive than at the French Market or other outlet so shop and compare. Shopping after downing 4 Hurricanes at O'Briens is probably not a great idea. :)Related to:
- Women's Travel
- Budget Travel
The Konriko Rice Museum
I was so excited when I saw the sign for the "Rice Museum", odd person that I am, because I thought it would have all sorts of cool historical rice-related stuff. But the Konriko Rice Museum is really just an expensive place to buy rice and other Konriko products, as it turns out. You don't have to pay to get in, but unless you want to buy some pricey rice I'd just avoid the place and save your time for something else.Related to:
- Family Travel
Cafe du Monde - that's right, you heard me!
Cafe du Monde started out as a beignet "stand" many years ago. The last time I was there, one could walk up to the stand, order a beignet and chickory coffee and possibly find a seat at one of the few tables positioned outside.
Presently, Cafe du Monde is no longer a "cafe", but a loud, obnoxious, overcrowded dump. For gosh sake, don't use the bathroom (yes, only one) in the back or you'll never step foot in there again. To access the public restroom, one must walk through the kitchen where the beignets and coffee are being prepared. There are despicable acts of horror going on back there - just take my word for it and stay away.
Unique Suggestions: Don't use the restroom. Just wait in a long, long line for your authentic New Orleans beignet.
Fun Alternatives: Where to go then? See my restaurant tip for Cafe Beignet - conveniently located just across the street.
Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum
During My first trip to New Orleans, I had all these plans to visit famous historical venues and museums. what was the only museum I ended up going to, you ask?
yup. sadly the ripely's believe it or not museum which was suprisingly entertaining in a wierd, campy kind of way.
admission was a little expensive at 10 bucks a pop, but it's pretty big and it's right on Decanteur at the Jax Brewery (a place you want to avoid going into)
go see Lee Harvey Oswald's toe tag and cringe in horror at the world's ugliest woman. marvel at the beauty of the old testament carved intricately on the skeleton cross hanging or try your hand at opening the locked gate upstairs.( it only took *me* one try, but I'm not telling how I did it. You'll have to figure that out for yourself:P)
here's a picture of an 'authentic' vampire hunter's kit found at the museum.
Unique Suggestions: make a pit stop in the bathroom(it's funny in a 'haha' kind of way), get yourself a tacky 51cent souvinir or pay to have your fortune read by a vending machine:P you're dooomed! dooooooomed!Related to:
- Museum Visits
The Bands are Just as Good from the Street
There are many places that offer good music. Most are great to hang out in for a while, but a few are way overpriced and pushy and rude about food/drink minimums.
Unique Suggestions: Listen from the street for a bit before you end up in a dive like Petout's (or the Cajun Cabin or Bourbon Viex - all the same owner) wondering why you are paying for a drink what the bottle would cost and to be ignored by your wait staff to boot.
Fun Alternatives: Despite how they may act, your business is important and you can spend your time, and money, wherever you choose.
These rides may be something you might be interested in, but you need to be cautious of your driver overcharging you. Just agree to the price before boarding. These rides are the consumate flag for locals that you are a tourist, but if you are one, who cares, right? They do show you the sites and the drivers are known to be well versed in NOLA history. And BELIEVE me, they will give you all the information you can handle!
Unique Suggestions: The biggest "meeting ground" for the carts is across from Cafe du Monde in Jackson Square. As you can see in the picture you will have your pick. My suggestion would be to go to each one and get the best price.
New Orleans Hotels
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