New Orleans is recognized as one of America's funkiest cities — and we don't just mean its music, either. Take a break from the ordinary and head towards the kinds of destinations you'll find nowhere outside the Big Easy.
New Orleans' Creole cuisine is unique to the city itself — often imitated, never replicated — but the city's culinary offerings go far beyond its famous French-inspired cuisine.
Don your favorite Hawaiian shirt and head to Lucy's Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant for a New Orleans-style luau, complete with an specialized cocktail menu that includes a deadly delicious concoction known as Da Killer Blue Whale. Or hop on over to Vic's Kangaroo Café, a late-night Australian-themed restaurant whose phone number is — no kidding — 524-GDAY.
For a New Orleans take on the humble hot dog, go to Dat Dog, a restaurant located amid the bustling music venues of Frenchmen Street. Choose your meat (alligator and crawfish sausages are local favorites) and dress your dog with such unusual toppings as andouille sauce, chipotle mayo and wasabi - wowzas!
Spell it Out
Who can resist the charms (both literal and figurative) of New Orleans' Voodoo history? As a town often called "the northernmost city in the Caribbean," it's no surprise that New Orleans has strong ties to Haitian spiritualism, complete with amulets and spells. Learn more about Voodoo history at the VooDoo Spiritual Temple and pick up a keepsake at HEX: Old World Witchery and Island of Salvation Botanica.
Water, Water Everywhere
With swamps, the Gulf of Mexico and North America's longest river running through it, there's no denying New Orleans' connection to water. Get close to the city's wet and wild side by touring mysterious swamps just a few miles from town. Airboat tours provided by Airboat Adventures, Swamp Adventures and Airboat Tours by Arthur L. Matherne, Inc. will take you into a world that relatively few have seen, where alligators roam free and thousands of exotic migratory birds stop on their way to destinations as far south as Argentina.
Closer to town you'll find LPBF New Canal Lighthouse. Built in 1839 and reconstructed in 2013, it is both a museum and a working lighthouse where visitors can learn the story of New Orleans' connection to the watery ecosystem that surrounds it.
Follow up these visits with a tour of the Ninth Ward, aboveground cemeteries and City Park (bordered by Bayou St. John) courtesy of Gray Line Tours' Isle of Orleans Tour. Or, to really get your sea legs, sign up for Gray Line's Paddle & Wheel Combo tour, which takes visitors on a two-hour cruise aboard the Steamboat Natchez.
See NOLA's Historic Homes from the Inside
It's impossible to drive through New Orleans without marveling at its extraordinary houses. The palatial Garden District digs lining Prytania and Coliseum streets, the humble Creole cottages and shotguns of the Tremé and Uptown - this town is an architecture buff's dream.
But unless you're friendly with the neighbors, you may never get to see inside these homes, right? Well, think again. Plenty of New Orleans' historic houses have been converted into shops and cafés. In Mid-City, look for Café Degas and Fair Grinds Coffeehouse on Esplanade Avenue. Along Magazine Street, look for homes-turned-businesses at Kevin Stone Antiques & Interiors, Make Me Up and Mahony's Po-Boys. In the Bywater neighborhood, stop by pizza joint Sugar Park, and when you're uptown, find old-school Creole architecture at Frenchy Gallery and Jacques-Imo's.