A Backpacker’s Guide to New Orleans

Despite the fact that most of the news surrounding New Orleans over the past couple years has been negative, there is no denying that it’s back. Sure there are obvious signs of damage still throughout the city, but as far as a tourism destination is concerned it appears as if it didn’t miss a beat. There are but a handful of cities in all of North America that beat with such a powerful pulse and I’m not sure there’s a better place in America to have a night on the town. Between the music, the arts and fashionable culture New Orleans leaves visitors entertained, hungover, and wanting more all at the same time. If for some reason you’re deterred from visiting by the negative press about the city, know that this is still the great city that some have claimed to have washed away.

Days Needed: 3-4
Backpacker’s Budget: $65 a day

Things to do in New Orleans

While the majority of people stick to the nightlife as their “thing to do” in New Orleans, there are plenty of other things to do. The city is packed with history and there are plenty of museums and galleries worth checking out as well. If you’re only interested in the nightlife, there is a bit of a guide below as well.

  • Jackson Square: If you were to show pictures of Jackson Square to people most wouldn’t think it was America.  It’s very European, and a great sight!  Make sure you check out the inside of Saint Louis Cathedral as well.
  • Arts District: If you’re into the arts head here and pop through the galleries and check out the brilliant local work.
  • Southern Food Museum: I love Southern food, so when I heard of this place I had to check it out.  It was actually really interesting and well worth a visit.
  • Swamp Tour: There are lots of places that offer a trip out onto the swamp on a fan boat.  It’s lots of fun and you’re guaranteed to see some wildlife as well, perhaps including some crocs.
  • Ward 9 Tour:  I know that it’s a little bit sad that there are tours to check out the damage of Hurricane Katrina.  However, it is good to get a sense of what this city must have been like during the disaster and how people are still coping today.

Where to Eat in New Orleans

Soul food might be my favourite in the world so it’s obvious that I did nothing but stuff my face the whole time I was in New Orleans. I listed a few places below but there are countless.

  • Coop’s Place: On Decatar this is the first place I went to eat in town on the Hostel’s Recommendation.  It was great.  The atmosphere is very dirty pub, which for me feels authentic, and the food is out of this world.  If you want to taste the local dishes and not pay too much this is the best place to go in my opinion.
  • Domilise’s Po-Boys: If you’ve never had a po-boy you’re missing out.  I had a couple while I was in the South on my latest pass through and this was the best I’ve ever had.
  • Central Grocery: Whenever you tell someone in New Orleans that you’re on a budget this is the place they point you towards.  For lunch, the prices are insanely good and the food is outstanding as well.
  • Bubba Gump Shrimp: How can you go to the South and not get a little bit of Forest Gump culture?  The shrimp dishes here are also just as good as the photo ops.

Where to Go Out in New Orleans

The average tourist sicks fairly tightly to Bourbon Street which is fine. There are plenty of places to party and things get going pretty early. I would say that once the night starts to get busy head for Frenchmen Street where the scene is more authentic and the acts a little more up close and personal. If you choose to stick to Bourbon street, buy your drinks on the street and drink between bars to save some cash.  Below I have listed two places that had great music on Frenchmen Street, worth checking them out.

  • Maison: On one night there was an awesome big band playing here, and then the next night was a blues show that was also very good.  Worth checking out.
  • Blue Nile: We had a great time here, and like almost everywhere on Frenchmen Street it has a good atmosphere and puts you within inches of the band.

Where to Stay in New Orleans

There are a couple of hostels in New Orleans but I only checked out one, and unless it was booked I would see no reason to stay anywhere else. The India House Hostel is a perfect place. They do good breakfasts, although you’ll have to pay a bit, and there is a really good open backyard space which is great for meeting people. Oh, and there’s a pool which I’m sure gets lots of use in the summer months.

Photos of New Orleans

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