After returning from my trip to New Orleans, I spent time writing (and fantasizing about) the incredible dining and musical experiences I had the pleasure to experience. Somehow, I felt that trying to describe New Orleans by talking only about food and music would be a grievous mistake.
New Orleans is much more than a city with great restaurants and a killer music scene. In the case of The Big Easy, the whole is much greater than the sum of her parts.
Rather than try to give you some long-winded yet unsatisfactory explanation of the culture of New Orleans, I thought I’d share three parts of NOLA culture that made the biggest impression on me.
The first, is the cocktail culture.
Being from Portland, I’m used to drinking hand crafted booze of all kinds, but New Orleans really took it to another level for me.
Craft cocktails are enjoying a renaissance across the country, but particularly in New Orleans. Just about every bar I went to told me that they had the best Sazerac in town, and I took great pleasure in sampling each version to provide my feedback.
Our hosts, the New Orleans CVB, were kind enough to point us in the direction of some great watering holes. I especially loved the concoctions at the Loa bar (located inside the fabulous International House hotel) and, of course, the incredibly popular craft cocktail bar “Cure” located in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood.
The second part of Crescent City Culture that made a big impact on me is the rich history and architecture throughout the city.
Between the gas lamps, wrought iron detailing, and imposing mausoleums, there’s plenty for the history buff to gawk over in New Orleans.
Take a walk in the Garden District to see some stunning residential buildings, and be sure to take the time to visit at least one of the cemeteries located in the city.
I’d recommend visiting both the St. Louis #1 Cemetery (located near Bourbon Street in the Treme neighborhood) and the Lafayette Cemetery #1 (located in the Garden District). You’ll be amazed at how different these two sites look, even though they aren’t vastly different in age!
Lastly, and most importantly, the part of New Orleans culture that I loved the most was the pride the locals take in living there. Everyone I spoke to was more than happy to tell me all about NOLA and how his or her family fits into the history of the city.
On my last day in town, we went for a ride with Free Wheelin’ Bike Tours and I got to see parts of the city that I wouldn’t have otherwise visited. Our guide knew just about everyone we passed on the street, calling out to friends, addressing them by name, and asking about their family. Strangers were happy to shout out to us as we passed by, calling “Happy Friday!” and “Beautiful weather today!”
Stepping away from the crowds on Bourbon Street and the manicured lawns in the Garden District really provided me with a glimpse into what it is like to live in New Orleans, instead of just visiting.
While discovering the food, music, and culture of New Orleans, I knew I had found a new city that felt like home. I’ve definitely done my fair share of traveling, and it is rare for me to feel this way about any destination other than my own home town.
New Orleans reminded me of everything I love about Portland, and made me consider how many more cities I need to put on my bucket list here in the United States.
The best thing about travel, after all, is its ability to make us see everything in a new light. The ways we are affected by our adventures aren’t limited to the time away from home, whether it be domestic or abroad. Rather, you return home with a greater capacity to enjoy, experience, and live within the world you create for yourself.
For more information on the history and culture of New Orleans, be sure to check out the New Orleans CVB site!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of New Orleans Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. The opinions and text are all mine.