Archive for the ‘Sightseeing’ Category

Famous Streets of the French Quarter: Chartres Street

Posted on: February 8th, 2018 by FrenchQuarter

Chartres Street
Photo by Trevor Mark

When it comes to Chartres Street, a good rule of thumb is to keep it simple. That guideline pertains to both the street’s name (no need to pull out your French pronunciation guide—it’s simply pronounced CHART-ers) and your approach to exploration. Chartres Street is lined with historic sites, restaurants, bars and boutiques. Here are just a few top spots to check out.

Photo by Teemu008 on flickr

Napoleon House (500 Chartres Street)

Although this weathered brick building was offered as a refuge to Napoleon Bonaparte by its owner, New Orleans mayor Nicholas Girod, the exiled emperor died before taking advantage of the gesture. However, the name stuck. Napoleon House served as a family home, grocery store, and bar before coming into the ownership of Ralph Brennan in 2015, who added it to his lauded restaurant collection. Today, it’s a unique place to taste New Orleans’ cuisine in a setting that feels rich with history.

Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Pharmacy Museum (514 Chartres Street)

Truly one of New Orleans’ must-see oddities, this museum is a beautifully preserved, circa-1823 pharmacy. From leech jars to bloodletting devices and a soda fountain, the multi-story building’s medical paraphernalia and exhibits offer a glimpse into the past—and a reminder that simpler times weren’t always better.

United Apparel Liquidators (581 Chartres Street)

Frugal fashionistas: your mecca is here on Chartres Street. Balenciaga, Chanel, Givenchy, Alexander Wang—you’ll find all these designer labels at UAL, discounted 70 to 90 percent. The small chain was launched in 1980 and now boasts six locations across four Southern states. Find out why the New York Times calls it the best-kept secret in fashion.

Photo courtesy of Sylvain on Facebook

Sylvain (625 Chartres Street)

This chic gastropub is a great place to grab a cocktail or a multi-course meal. Lauded by publications including Southern Living and Travel + Leisure, it’s dim, intimate, and very New Orleans.

Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Cabildo (701 Chartres Street) and Presbytere (751 Chartres Street)

These neighboring 17th century structures were built in the Spanish colonial style (and later destroyed by a 1788 fire and rebuilt). They have served as courthouses and commercial sites, but today they house Louisiana State Museum.

Photo by Trevor Mark

Muriel’s Jackson Square (801 Chartres Street)

There’s no better place to sip a brandy milk punch than on the second-floor balcony at Muriel’s overlooking Jackson Square, where both the people-watching and the view are excellent. But the Muriel’s courtyard is a close second. Don’t forget to stop by the Sunday Jazz Brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. Somehow, shrimp and grits just taste better paired with the lively sounds of a jazz trio.

Old Ursuline Convent
Photo by Louisiana Travel on flickr

Old Ursuline Convent (1100 Chartres Street)

Built in 1748, this gracious, French Colonial cathedral is one of New Orleans oldest buildings. It was also the place where many of New Orleans’ founding matriarchs first resided. These casket girls, who were sent from France to serve as brides for colonists, lived with nuns until marriages could be arranged. Many locals proudly claim their casket girl ancestry—and even more come to this convent to pay homage to the original New Orleanians.

For more, read Famous Streets of the French Quarter.

French Quarter Like a Local

Posted on: February 8th, 2018 by FrenchQuarter

French Quarter Like a Local
Photo by Cheryl Gerber

The French Quarter is without a doubt the most touristed neighborhood in New Orleans – but is it also a place where locals hang out? Are there even French Quarter locals?

Yes and yes. To be fair, the Quarter isn’t the residential neighborhood it once was. Well into the mid-20th century, this was a place where families hung out to do laundry and children walked to school. The famous French Market really used to be the local grocery store, in the sense that it was a spot where you could pick up produce and similar goods. This dynamic has obviously changed over the years. The Quarter has evolved into a place primarily aimed at visitors, and the residents that remain do not tend to raise children in the neighborhood, with a few exceptions.

This evolution reflects the Quarter’s changing identity – it has shifted, over the decades, more into a place to play as opposed to a place to live. But let’s not forget: New Orleanians like to play. And many locals prefer to play in the Quarter, which has a mind boggling number of restaurants, bars and shopping opportunities.

Photo courtesy of Mary’s Ace French Quarter Hardware

Where to Shop

Fifi Mahony’s 934 Royal Street
New Orleanians are serious about their costuming (also known as masking), and those who are in need of a specialized wig or hair piece to set off their outfits head to Fifi’s. It may not be the cheapest wig shop in the land (although the prices are actually quite reasonable), but as far as quality and attention to detail go, you just can’t do better. Plus, there’s always a scene here: drag queens and hair stylists, models and artists, all hanging out and trading the best costuming tips. If you’re into glitter, sparkles, and generally looking fabulous, Fifi’s has got you covered.

Mary’s Ace Hardware 732 N Rampart Street
Hold up: you’re on vacation. In New Orleans. Why do you need to go to a hardware store? This author had to deal with a Mardi Gras costume emergency awhile back with some visiting friends. Who came to the rescue with some Gorilla Glue and random timely advice on how to fix a stain on a hardwood floor? The folks at Mary’s Ace Hardware, a spot where you’ll find almost no tourists, but a bunch of New Orleanians who are doing what they need to do to fix up their homes (or costumes, as the case may be).

Chi-wa-wa ga-ga 511 Dumaine Street
Chi-wa-wa ga-ga is amazing because it’s not just a pet store – a brand of business where the mom-and-pop outfits are getting rarer and rarer – it’s a pet store specifically aimed at small pets. Yes, visitors often pop their heads in, but the main clientele are those New Orleanians toting around small dogs (and sometimes cats) who are in need of a costume for their little loved ones. Because sometimes, darn it, we just need to emphasize the identity of our wiener dogs by putting them in adorable little hot dog suits.

Speaking of pets, if you’ve traveled to New Orleans with a furry (or scaled or winged) friend in tow and they need some medical attention, try the French Quarter Vet (922 Royal Street) or the Pet Care Center (938 Esplanade Avenue). Both offices are friendly, helpful, and accustomed to dealing with patients from out of town.

The Quarter Stitch 629 Chartres Street
We mentioned earlier that New Orleans is the kind of place where people like to get into costume. That’s another way of saying New Orleans is crafty, and when the crafty folk need to get their DIY on, they often come here. There’s a plethora of needlepoint and yarn supplies at this Chartres Street store, as well as bins of beads, bling, and anything else you need to create a perfect costuming (or otherwise fashionable) statement.

Porter Lyons 631 Toulouse Street
What’s neat about Porter Lyosn isn’t the fact that this is jewelry with a Louisiana twist. There’s plenty of that to go around in this state. What’s unique is the way owner and Tulane graduate Ashley Porter utilizes local materials – from agates to nutria fur to alligator skin to labradorite – to form pieces that are truly grounded in the Pelican State’s identity. There’s no shortage of jewelry stores in New Orleans, but you’ll often find locals shopping here simply because they know they can find something heartfelt and unique.

Trashy Diva 537 Royal Street & 712 Royal Street
The Diva is a longtime favorite for New Orleanians who want to glam out in mid-century retro style fashion. The 537 Royal Street location is the standard clothing boutique where you can find gorgeous dresses and funky accessories that come in a wide, inclusive array of sizes for any and all body types. The 712 Royal Street location rocks some risque and fun lingerie, also aimed at the same diversity of shape.

Photo courtesy of Galatoire’s Restaurant – New Orleans on Facebook

Where to Eat

Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House 144 Bourbon Street
It may be located in the very heart of the Quarter, but the Bourbon House is a longtime favorite for workers in the neighborhood and CBD who want some good seafood to accompany a drawn out lunch (or a decadent dinner). We’re a city that loves its seafood, so you better believe the locals’ stamp of approval goes a long ways here.

Galatoire’s 209 Bourbon Street
Galatoire’s doesn’t just attract locals – it attracts a specific cast of the city’s old money and high society, who are particularly known to pack into this iconic restaurant for Friday ‘lunches’ that tend to last until the last bottle of champagne is emptied and everyone is heading to sleep. How local is Galatoire’s? The last time we went, our host brought ‘his’ waiter a present – a portrait of the waiter.

GW Fins 808 Bienville Street
It takes a lot to divert old school New Orleanians from their favored dining institutions, but GW Fins has managed to do so in a neighborhood packed with grand dame Creole restaurants. This spot specializes in seafood, and their version is simply some of the best in the city. The menu changes with availability, but be assured that what comes to your plate is consistently fresh and delicious. An enormously popular date night option for those New Orleanians who are in a mood to splurge.

Acme Oyster House 724 Iberville Street
Acme is one of the more established oyster houses in the New Orleans pantheon, and it remains a favored destination for those locals in need of something delicious on the half shell. There’s something to be said for consistency, and this is what Acme provides: skilled shuckers who work fast to get you a glistening plate of Gulf-sourced goodness. While we tend to prefer our raw oysters straight, you shouldn’t leave town without trying an oyster shooter.

Brennan’s 417 Royal Street
A long, leisurely breakfast, accompanied by plenty of ‘eye openers’ (before noon cocktails) is a New Orleans tradition, and Brennan’s has been packing locals in for this ritual for years. While it’s been recently renovated, Brennan’s retains an old school, Creole castle charm, which makes for an attractive atmosphere as you scarf down eggs sardou and turtle soup. This spot is further commendable for its efforts to locally source from area farms and other food providers.

Verti Marte 1201 Royal Street
There is no shortage of po boy shops in New Orleans, but there’s a surprising lack of really good examples of the genre within the Quarter. Then Verti Marte raises its hand, as if to say: hey, we’re open all the time, and we got good grub. And do they ever, particularly the sandwiches, which are several meals packed between two loaves of bread.

Felipe’s 301 N Peters Street
While New Orleans is world famous for her food, not many people come here for the Mexican cuisine. But when locals are in need of a quick burrito or taco, many head to Felipe’s. It’s cheap (you can fill up for under $10 a person, especially if you skip a drink), it’s filling, and honestly? It’s really good – this may be a locals spot, but we also have friends from South Texas who attest to the reliability and tastiness of Felipe’s.

Cosimo's New Orleans
Cosimo’s by Cheryl Gerber

Where to Drink

Erin Rose 811 Conti Street
If you’re a member of the service industry in New Orleans and you’re out for a night in the Quarter – or if you’ve just kicked off of work – chances are you’ll end up in the Erin Rose. This is a small, cozy little dive tended by sassy staff, doling out strong drinks for the people who serve you strong drinks (and food).

Cosimo’s 1201 Burgundy Street
A true neighborhood bar located within the more residential side of the Quarter, near the Marigny and Treme, Cosimo’s is simply a very nice bar. There’s a great jukebox and potent drinks, plus a cast of locals to keep things interesting as the night goes on.

Port of Call 838 Esplanade Avenue
To be fair, Port of Call is as much restaurant as bar, and locals do love to come here for the excellent burgers. But we’d be remiss to not mention some of the amazingly powerful mixed drinks available here, ranging from the Red Turtle to the Windjammer. All of the above concoctions go heavy on the fruit – and the spirits, so be careful.

Must-See French Quarter Courtyards

Posted on: January 9th, 2018 by FrenchQuarter

french quarter courtyards
Photo courtesy of Hotel St. Marie

There’s no shortage of grand courtyards in the Quarter. Many of these are, obviously, located on private property, but some are open to the public. Le Monde Creole walking tour is an excellent introduction to New Orleans buildings, including some of the Quarter’s loveliest courtyards.

The following fantastic examples of indigenous New Orleans design should not be missed by travelers, especially those who are interested in art and architecture.

Prince Conti Hotel 830 Conti Street
Located between Bourbon and Dauphine Street, and across the way from iconic New Orleans restaurants like Arnaud’s and bars like French 75 and the Erin Rose, the Prince Conti is a historic gem within the city’s hotel pantheon. The courtyard is lush and green, set off by classical statuary that adds to the old school atmosphere. You can dine on Creole cuisine in the Cafe Conti, or enjoy a good drink in rarefied air in the impeccable Bombay Club.

Court of Two Sisters 613 Royal Street
This courtyard is so great they named the restaurant after it. This is one of the more romantic dining destinations in the Quarter, swathed in leafy shade and elegant ambiance. Still, the Court doesn’t dine out, as it were, on its location alone – the Creole menu and the jazz brunch are staples of the local culinary scene. The location is steeped in history – in 1726, it was the original residence of Sieur Etienne de Perier, the second French governor of colonial Louisiana, and president Zachary Taylor once resided here.

Place d’Armes Hotel 625 St Ann Street
Head just off of Jackson Square, between Royal and Chartres streets, to find the Place d’Armes and its classic courtyard. The space is offset by brick walls and shade trees that catch the breeze, which is a nice spot to be in as you sit by the pool and enjoy life. Guests can look out onto the courtyard from the rows of outdoor balconies, a historical accent that allowed the occupants of these buildings to soak up fresh air and cool breezes even in the midst of a New Orleans summer.

Pat O’Briens 718 St Peter Street
Most visitors to New Orleans have at least heard about the (in)famous Pat O’Briens Hurricane, but this iconic bar doesn’t just sling neon red cocktails. It’s also anchored by a gorgeous courtyard that is widely regarded as one of the most attractive in the Quarter. The central fountain has been the photographic background of many a happy New Orleans memory. To be fair, Pat O’Briens gets pretty lively, so you may not be focused on the outdoor architecture, but try and take a moment to appreciate the space before you order that next Hurricane.

French Market Inn 509 Decatur Street
Located about a 10 minute walk from the marketplace that gives this hotel its name, the French Market Inn’s courtyard is interesting, in that it gives off more of a brick-and-mortar sense of stately presence as opposed to a leafy green secret garden. It’s still an oasis from the street scene of the French Quarter – the muscular stone walls buttress the isolation that guests have from the noise outside, enhanced by the presence of a teal blue pool.

Beauregard-Keyes House 1113 Chartres Street
One of the most well known historic homes in the Quarter, this 1826 Center Hall classic of the genre actually boasts two outdoor spaces, although only one is a proper French Quarter courtyard. The first space is a garden that is a popular wedding destination. Ensconced by brick walls (but visible from the street if you can boost yourself and peak over the top), the garden is surrounded by low hedges and brick pathways. In the back of the house, a more spacious courtyard is simply a lovely setting for many a special New Orleans event or celebration. The house can be visited on a formal tour.

Hotel St. Marie 827 Toulouse Street
Head just off of Bourbon St to find the St. Marie, which encompasses an exemplary tropical courtyard that is romantic as all get out on sultry New Orleans evenings. Wrought iron accents, a sunset-esque color scheme, and swaying palm fronds set off a courtyard pool that feels simultaneously adjacent to and removed from the busy Quarter dining and nightlife, which is a stone’s throw away (or closer; the St. Marie is the location of Vacherie, a fine French Quarter dining destination). Guests can enjoy the setting from outdoor balconies that look down upon the pool and the surrounding courtyard space.

The Historic New Orleans Collection 533 Royal Street
It should come as no surprise that one of the city’s top historical learning institutions is also the site of a courtyard that ranks among the Quarter’s best. This relatively thin courtyard connects many of the collection’s excellent exhibition halls, and is also the location for Concerts in the Courtyard, a concert series that regularly features some of the city’s best musicians.

Hermann-Grima House 820 St Louis Street
The Hermann-Grima House is one of the most popular historical homes open to visitors to the French Quarter. At times a home for some of the city’s most prominent merchant families, today the House offers tours that provide insight into both the history and architecture of New Orleans and the French Quarter. The spacious courtyard is one of the most beautiful features of this historical home, and has been the backdrop of many a New Orleans wedding.

Cane & Table 1113 Decatur Street
The backyard at this cocktail bar is a Quarter courtyard that pretty much screams ‘tropical indulgence.’ To be fair, that characterization is aided and abetted by the Cane & Table menu, which includes a long list of tropical drinks that eschew sugar overload and instead present a slate of complex fruit concoctions. Order something with rum in it and find a spot to chill under the palms and on the pretty tiles that make up this wonderful hidden gem of New Orleans’ outdoor architecture.

American Aquatic Gardens 621 Elysian Fields Avenue
Located in Faubourg Marigny, not far from Frenchmen Street, this garden supply store doesn’t really boast a Quarter courtyard per se. But it’s display area includes an enormous gallery of the sort of accoutrement you’ll find in most French Quarter courtyards – tropical plants and tinkling water installations. This may not be a technical courtyard, but a stroll through the Aquatic Gardens will give you a sense of the aesthetics that underlay many of those spaces.

Famous Streets of the French Quarter: North Rampart Street

Posted on: January 8th, 2018 by FrenchQuarter

Rampart Streetcar
Rampart-St. Claude Streetcar by Cheryl Gerber

For people who like living on the edge—of the French Quarter, that is—North Rampart Street is where it’s at. This street serves as the northernmost boundary of the French Quarter, dividing it from Treme. You’ll find less foot traffic on this bustling thoroughfare than in other places in the Quarter, but no shortage of photo-worthy destinations. Plus, thanks to the newly installed streetcar line, getting around Rampart Street is a snap. Here are a few must-see destinations on the historic thoroughfare.

Rampart-St. Claude Streetcar Line
Long ago, almost all of New Orleans was crisscrossed by streetcar tracks. In the mid-20th century, streetcars fell out of favor as buses became the norm, and many tracks were ripped up and repaved. Today, as the charming, energy-efficient form of mass transportation regains popularity, several new streetcar lines have opened.

The newest streetcar line is the Rampart-St. Claude route, which travels from the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal to the intersection of St. Claude Avenue (Rampart changes to this name when it passes Esplanade Avenue) and Elysian Fields Avenue in the Marigny. Each ride costs only $1.25 (exact change required).

NOAC by Cheryl Gerber

New Orleans Athletic Club 222 N. Rampart Street
Established in 1872, this marble-clad, chandelier-hung gym boasts the Old World-opulence you’d expect of a club where Tennessee Williams and Clark Gable once worked out. Modern exercise equipment meets luxurious amenities, including a saltwater lap pool, free parking, group exercise classes and a full bar. Your hotel key, ID and $20 gets you a day pass to this storied gym, and you truly can make a day of it. Start with free coffee and newspaper in the library, move on to a yoga class in the ballroom, then sit in the sauna, shower, grab a cocktail and head out on the town feeling refreshed.

North Rampart Arrow Cafe
Arrow Cafe on North Rampart Street by Cheryl Gerber

Arrow Café 628 N. Rampart Street
Patrons say the Four Barrel coffee at this quaint café is the best in New Orleans—and it’s joined by organic iced teas, vegan pastries, and small gift items. Whether you’re looking for a pick-me-up or a souvenir, this petite coffee oasis delivers.

North Rampart Armstrong Park
Armstrong Park on North Rampart Street by Cheryl Gerber

Louis Armstrong Park 701 N. Rampart Street
Inside this leafy, 31-acre park, a large statue of Satchmo himself presides over fountains, walking trails, lagoons and the Mahalia Jackson Theatre. Armstrong Park is also the location of Congo Square, where enslaved Africans and free people of color congregated on Sundays to socialize, dance and sell goods in the 18th and early 19th centuries. This historic park is the birthplace of jazz, named for a jazz legend, and it’s definitely worth a visit.

Saenger Theatre by Cheryl Gerber

Saenger Theatre 1111 Canal Street
The beautiful, 4000-seat theater opened in 1927 as a silent movie destination. Recently renovated after years of neglect following Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters, it shines more brightly than ever. One hundred and fifty lights twinkle in the domed auditorium ceiling, evoking a starry nighttime sky, and the entire interior resembles a 15th-century Italian courtyard replete with columns, arched doorways and mosaics. Broadway shows, touring musicians, comedians and more make stops at this theater, which is listed on the National Register of Historic places—you should, too.

For more, read Famous Streets of the French Quarter.

Famous Streets of the French Quarter: Burgundy Street

Posted on: January 8th, 2018 by FrenchQuarter

Burgundy Street
Burgundy Street Tiles by Cheryl Gerber

The French Quarter is many things: a historic site, a shopping and entertainment district, a premiere food and drink destination and, to many tourists, an adult Disneyland. But for roughly 3,888 New Orleanians, according to the 2010 Census, the French Quarter is home. Nowhere is it easier to remember that the Vieux Carre is a living, breathing neighborhood than on Burgundy Street. Unlike Bourbon Street, with its daiquiri bars and strip clubs, or Royal Street, with its antiques shops and boutiques, Burgundy Street is lined with the down-home essentials that make the French Quarter livable. From parks to bars, Burgundy Street is the place to go if you want to live like a local. Here are a few favorite neighborhood hangs.

Buffa Esplanade Ave
Buffa’s Lounge by Cheryl Gerber

Buffas’s 1001 Esplanade Avenue – where Esplanade Avenue meets Burgundy Street
A neighborhood staple since 1939, this 24-hour destination isn’t so much a dive bar as it is a community center. On any given night, patrons will find Bible discussion groups, live music, open mics and more in Buffa’s back room. The menu ranges from classic bar bites (burgers and fries) to Louisiana fare (gator balls and red beans and rice). Plus, there’s breakfast and a Sunday brunch.

Cabrini Playground 931 Barracks Street – where Barracks Street meets Burgundy Street
This fenced playground backs up to Burgundy Street, and if you’re traveling with kids, it’s a must-stop and a great place to let little ones burn off excess energy. Slides, climbing equipment, jungle gyms, grassy fields and more are all available at this newly updated neighborhood park.

Cosimo's New Orleans
Cosimo’s by Cheryl Gerber

Cosimo’s 1201 Burgundy Street
This dim, dog-friendly neighborhood hang is just the place when you’re in the mood for a pint and conversation in a laid-back environment. During crawfish season, you might get lucky and stumble upon one of Cosimo’s boils, and the bar serves top-notch pub grub year round. It’s a great place to take in a New Orleans Saints game, too. Plus, there’s pool tables, Pac-Man and pizza—what more could you need?

The Ruby Slipper 2001 Burgundy Street
Looking for a brunch? Cross over into the Marigny and hit up The Ruby Slipper, a local chain serving Louisiana-tinged breakfast staples, such as barbecue shrimp and grits or banana pecan pancakes. Plus, there’s a full bar. Just don’t get there too late—this popular spot attracts a weekend crowd and long waits.

French Quarter Wedding Chapel by Cheryl Gerber

French Quarter Wedding Chapel 333 Burgundy Street
From cake pulls to second lines, New Orleans has rich wedding traditions, which is just one reason so many couples plan destination weddings in the Big Easy. But for spur-of-the-moment nuptials, this petite, 24-hour wedding chapel fits the bill. Reverend Tony Talavera can waive the 72-hour waiting period that usually accompanies a wedding license application, so you can get married on the spot. Whether you want a quick 20-minute ceremony ($200) or a two-hour affair that includes a violinist, photography, second line and hankies for 50 guests ($4,700), there’s a package for every price and preference. It’s no wonder more than 15,000 people have gotten hitched here.

For more, read Famous Streets of the French Quarter.

Fun New Orleans Sightseeing with the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour

Posted on: November 24th, 2017 by FrenchQuarter


With a city as robust and cultured as New Orleans, you can imagine the overwhelming number of attractions, restaurants, shops and much more. We found ourselves asking – What neighborhoods are must-sees? Which museums are worth the price of admission? How will we get there? What do the locals do for fun? I am certain even locals who’ve lived here for decades haven’t seen every concert, shopped at every boutique, enjoyed each delicious restaurant or even attended every festival. So, where to begin?

We decided to start with a broad overview of the city—which is just what the Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour offers! Chances are, you’ve noticed the BIG RED, double-decker buses rolling around New Orleans (they’re hard to miss). But, what you may not know is why they’re an excellent way to start exploring the magic of New Orleans.  Hop-On Hop-Off gave us a great big southern welcome to the Big Easy!

What is the Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour?

Simply put, the tour consists of an Open-Top fun bus navigated by a SAINTED driver and hosted by a TALENTED tour guide, who describes the sites and history you encounter along the way. You’ll learn more than you ever imagined, from the iron-laced historic buildings to the above-ground cemeteries. We discovered New Orleans’ Jazz, its unique cuisine, antique street cars, Mardi Gras traditions and the romance pulsating throughout the soul of the city. Few cities can boast so rich a heritage!

But here’s the real beauty of the Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour: you will see landmarks and local hangouts you would have otherwise overlooked. With a local tour guide showing you the ropes, you can’t miss a thing! We left the city with such a wealth of knowledge and a true overview of New Orleans!

The bus makes a total of 18 stops along its 2-hour loop, and you can start your tour wherever most convenient – Jackson Square, the Garden District, or even at the Basin St. Station Visitor Center. You’ll cruise down Canal Street and through the Central Business District; then head straight up Magazine Street into the Garden District. This is where we decided to Hop-Off. The streets were filled with locals, and spicy aromas – on every corner, there was another unique boutique or shop, not your run-of-the-mill selections. After our fill… Food, Shopping and Local Beer… we hopped back on the bus and continued down the historic St. Charles Avenue. This is where you discover a true sense of New Orleans Mardi Gras. We learned about the strong French and Catholic roots. But, even better, saw what they call “BEAD trees” first hand! Next stop: the heart of the French Quarter. You’ll travel around the Marigny then pass by Tremé and Louis Armstrong Park. All the while, your Top-Deck Tour Guide portrays the culture and describes the city’s unique characters with you!

How does ticketing work?

It’s very simple – you can Hop-On at any stop and buy a ticket!  A one-day ticket of unlimited rides is $39, but the best value is found in the three-day ticket. For $10 additional dollars, ride the bus for 2 more days and take advantage of the two free guided walking tours:  French Quarter and Garden District. Another great bonus, we were able to get our bearings, ride the two-hour loop, and then really plan where we wanted to get off the next day to discover the unique treasures of New Orleans.

With your Hop-On Hop-Off ticket, you also have tremendous savings on other attractions. All along the route there are city deal offers. Our absolute favorite was the St. Louis #1 Cemetery Tour! You save $5 dollars and get to walk through the tombs of Voodoo Priestess Marie Laveau and even get to see the future home of Nicolas Cage (a gleaming, nine-foot pyramid).


Much more than just a bus

The Hop-On Hop-Off Tour is an unbelievable bargain – both City Tour and Transportation.  Every stop on the tour, from Jackson Square to Mardi Gras World, is a world-class destination. You aren’t just getting shuffled around from point A to point B: you’re getting a curated experience.

When we considered the cost of other tours, or added up the price of Ubers and taxis for three days, we felt like we saved a ton.

Plus, riding in the open-air bus is fun! There’s nothing like sitting on the breezy top deck, beneath a red-and-yellow awning, at the height of a Mardi Gras float, and passing under the oaks on St. Charles Avenue, inches away from the leftover beads glittering in their branches. If you need a break from New Orleans’ humid, subtropical climate, just go downstairs and soak up the air conditioning on the bus’s lower level.


What can I expect from the tour?

We wouldn’t want to give everything away (and there’s hardly enough room to share all the information here), but below are a few highlights from our favorite stops!

Stop 1: Jackson Square

Grab a beignet and café au lait from Café du Monde, which sits at the start of this large open-air market. Relax and take in the views of the river and the Iconic Cathedral. This is perfect photo opportunity!

Stop 2: French Market

Hop-Off here and join the French Quarter walking tour. Be sure to check out the French Market; it is the oldest of its kind in the U.S. and, originally was founded as an American trading post. Today, you can shop with local artists, jewelry makers, and grab a bite to eat along the way.

Stop 4: Treme

Willie Mae’s Scotch House, Dooky Chase and Ernie K-Doe’s lounge are just a few must-sees in this historic neighborhood, which is named for real estate developer Claude Treme. Be sure to double check business hours, as many are rather erratic.

Stop 5: Basin St. Station Visitor Center

At this former site of the historic Southern Railway/New Orleans Terminal Company, you’ll find restrooms, a gift shop, cold drinks and souvenirs for sale, an educational exhibit and 7-minute film. Also, an easy and affordable parking option sits right next door for those in need. This is also where you would hop-off to join the St. Louis #1 Cemetery walking tour.

Stop 7: Riverfront Harrah’s Casino

Enjoy a signature drink and take advantage of the $5 FREE slot play. Fulton Street is also packed with lots of great places to check out, from Fulton Alley to do a little bowling to having a beer at Manning’s.

Stop 10: The National World War II Museum

This museum opened in 2000 and honors Andrew Higgins, who owned Higgins boatyards here in New Orleans. President Eisenhower called these “the boats that won the war.” The Museum features immersive exhibits, multimedia experiences, and an expansive collection of artifacts and first-person oral histories to take visitors inside the story of the war.

Stop 11-12-13: Magazine Street

Welcome to miles of fantastic shopping, restaurants, bars, and boutiques! There are 3 stops along this mile-long stretch of Magazine Street (at Jackson, at Washington, and at Louisiana) – convenient for Hopping-Off, Strolling along, and Hopping-On down the block! Don’t miss the Garden District Walking Tour that leaves from Stop 12.

Stop 14 & 15: St. Charles Avenue

You’ll find a piece of the original Eiffel Tower on this street. It was disassembled into 11,000 pieces and rebuilt on St. Charles Avenue, where it now serves as a club and events venue.

Stop 16: Mardi Gras World

These warehouses contain floats and décor made by Blaine Kern for 48 prominent Mardi Gras krewes. It’s most definitely worth a tour and Hop-On Hop-Off ticket holders are afforded a discounted admission!

We made our way around the city, hopping-on and off at our leisure. This city tour was flexible, at our own pace, convenient and overall, a lot of FUN.  We left New Orleans feeling like a local! The Hop-On Hop-Off is an absolute must-do.

Exploring St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

Posted on: October 30th, 2017 by FrenchQuarter

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1_Overhead
Photo courtesy of Cemetery Tour New Orleans at Basin St. Station on Facebook

Former New Orleanian William Faulker famously wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. It’s not even past.” Nowhere is this truth more evident than in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. In this storied “city of the dead,” elaborate, crumbling above-ground graves hint at the stories of the larger-than-life personalities entombed within. As is true for many places in New Orleans, the veil between past and present feels very thin here.

It’s no wonder St. Louis Cemetery attracts more than 100,000 visitors each year. Some come to leave offerings for Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, while others come to tend the graves of loved ones interred within (St. Louis Cemetery remains an active gravesite). Still, others come to experience city’s living history via a stroll through its oldest cemetery (St. Louis Cemetery was built in 1789). Regardless of your motivation, a trip to New Orleans wouldn’t be complete without visiting St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

One caveat: Unlike most other New Orleans cemeteries, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is accessible only via guided, licensed tours. That’s because the cemetery has been subject to much vandalism over the years. Tickets are only $20 at Basin St. Station, or $15 when you purchase a Hop-On Hop-Off three-day pass.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1_Tomb
Photo courtesy of Cemetery Tour New Orleans at Basin St. Station on Facebook

Here’s what to know (and a few things to look out for) before you go.

Dress for success

We’d be lying if we said New Orleans’ hot, humid subtropical climate never got the best of anyone. Any experienced tour guide will tell you they’ve had a tourist overheat. Why? It’s simple: the sun is intense, there’s very little shade in the cemetery, and the oven vaults block any semblance of a cool river breeze.

That’s why proper preparation is key, especially if you’re visiting during warmer summer months. Bring a bottle of water, dress lightly and don’t forget the sunblock. You may notice a few savvy tour guides sporting both wide-brim hats and parasols to block the sun. Properly prepare for the heat, and you’ll be able to get the most out of your visit.

It should go without saying that you mustn’t touch or desecrate the tombs, drink alcohol or smoke in the cemetery. Photographs, on the other hand, are welcome—and your tour guide will be happy to snap a picture of your group.

With that in mind, here are a few things to know and prominent gravesites to watch out for.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1_Statue
Photo by Kathryn Valentino

The story behind the cities of the dead

Above-ground burials are just one of New Orleans’  idiosyncrasies, but they don’t exist solely for the sake of uniqueness. The city’s high water table makes in-ground burials impossible—a coffin buried underground simply floats back up to the top.

Once located at the marshy city limits, St. Louis Cemetery is now near the center of the city, thanks to the draining of the swamps, which permitted people to settle beyond the French Quarter.

One of the first things you’ll see when you enter St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is a bank of “oven vaults” or “wall vaults” to your left. These tombs stack gravesites, filing cabinet style, one above the other. Glance at the ground, and you’ll see some graves are only partially visible—the rest are below the earth, evidence that New Orleans is gradually sinking.

Many oven vaults house the remains of countless family members. After a body is interred, it is left undisturbed in the grave for a period of one year and one day. At that point, the remains may be pushed to the back of the tomb, leaving room for another body to be interred. Other families prefer to collect the remains, placing them in a muslin bag.

If you wish to be buried in this famous graveyard, you can make it happen to the tune of $40,000—the going price for a plot. It’s a high price, but it’s not unreasonable when you consider the people who will become your neighbors for eternity. They include…

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
‘The future tomb of Nicolas Cage’ – St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 by Nelo Hotsuma

Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau

Born in 1801 in the French Quarter to a Haitian mother and white father, Marie Laveau gained prominence as a Voodoo practitioner. The beautiful young woman was also a hairdresser to the wealthy, learning many beauty tricks and herbal remedies from her mother. She was known for her caring and benevolent heart, as she nursed many people who suffered during the yellow fever epidemics of the 19th century. She saved countless lives, and to this day, people think of her with gratitude.

Many believe she continues to work her magic from beyond the grave. That’s why you’ll see faint triple XXXs etched into her grave—a practice that is actively discouraged—or trinkets such as bobby pins left in threes. (Bobby pins and hair clips are an homage to Laveau’s past work as a hairdresser.)

Homer Plessy

In June 1892, Homer Plessy challenged segregation laws when he refused to disembark from a “whites only” train car at nearby Press Street. (A train still runs on those tracks today.) He was convicted of breaking the law, and the case moved to the Supreme Court. In 1896, the “separate but equal” mandate was ruled constitutional, setting the stage for years of segregation and oppression. But the seeds of the civil rights movement also had been planted, thanks to Homer Plessy.

Nicolas Cage

Wait—he’s not dead yet, you might point out. Well, you’re right. Nicolas Cage is only  53 years old and seems to be in good health. However, he’s thinking about the future, which is one explanation for why he purchased a gleaming white, nine-foot pyramid inscribed with the Latin phrase “Omnia Ab Uno” (All from One).

The gravesite has baffled news outlets worldwide, whose reporters have come up with many different conspiracy theories. Among them: Cage is a closet Voodoo practitioner; Cage has Illuminati ties; Cage is an immortal who will entomb himself for a century before re-emerging; Cage has stored his wealth in the tomb. Nobody really knows why he chose a tomb that’s so incongruous with its surroundings, but we do know it’s a very eye-catching construction, and that Cage evidently likes New Orleans a lot.

Famous Streets of the French Quarter: Dauphine Street

Posted on: October 6th, 2017 by FrenchQuarter

A dauphine is the wife of French king’s oldest son—and just as its name suggests, a stroll down Dauphine Street will make you feel like royalty. That’s thanks in part to the standout restaurants that line the elegant (and, yes, regal) corridor. But Dauphine Street is also host to attractions that range from humble to down-out weird. Here are just as few top spots on Dauphine Street.

Killer Po-boys 219 Dauphine Street
Killer Po-boys launched as a pop-up in the rear of Erin Rose Bar—and the proprietors still sling sandwiches there. But if you want to taste the innovative po-boys in a more expansive environment, this counter-serve restaurant fits the bill. Killer Po-boys expanded to these new Dauphine Street digs in 2015, where a steady flow of French Quarter workers, locals and tourists rub shoulders over truly outstanding po-boys. There’s a sweet-potato and greens version for the vegan crowd, a cheddar omelet po-boy for breakfast fiends, and a seared Gulf shrimp and sriracha version that has the flavor profile of banh mi. In short, Killer Po-boys has a po-boy for every palate.

Museum of Death 227 Dauphine Street
What better place to contemplate your own mortality than the most haunted city in the United States? The Museum of Death offers creepy, oddball and downright disturbing artifacts and paraphernalia. Shrunken heads, mortician equipment, serial killer letters, graphic crime scene footage and more fill the space. This morbid museum may be a little too intense for children, as well as some adults.

Bayona 430 Dauphine Street
Legendary chef (and James Beard awardee) Susan Spicer has crafted a restaurant empire, racking up accolades from Food and Wine, the John Folse Culinary Institute, the Zagat guide and many others. Opened in 1990 in a 200-year-old cottage, Bayona is the restaurant that put her on the map. Today, its globally accented Louisiana cuisine feels both classic and forward-thinking.

Good Friends 740 Dauphine Street
Laid back and welcoming, this is the Cheers of French Quarter gay bars. You’ll feel welcome at its mahogany bar (or on its second-floor balcony) whether it’s your first visit or your fiftieth. P.S. Good Friends is a great place to watch the New Orleans Saints play.

Matassa’s Market 1001 Dauphine Street
It’s an MVP for French Quarter locals and tourists alike: a family-owned market where you can grab everything from a sausage po-boy and a six-pack to paper towels and bananas. Plus, they deliver. Is it any wonder Matassa’s business has been booming for 85 years?

Washington Square Park
Dauphine Street forms the northernmost boundary of this dog-friendly park in the Marigny, where you’ll find playground equipment, shady oak trees, benches and grassy fields. The 2.54-acre park is a comfortable neighborhood hangout and a great place to unwind. Grab a beer and a hot dog from a Dat Dog, or get an iced coffee and sandwich from Rose Nicaud, and enjoy a picnic in the park.

For more, read Famous Streets of the French Quarter.

All photos by Cheryl Gerber

Famous Streets of the French Quarter

Posted on: August 4th, 2017 by FrenchQuarter

Royal Street
Royal Street by Trevor Mark

When French cartographer Adrien de Pauger laid out the Vieux Carre’s orderly grid in 1721, he envisioned the St. Louis Cathedral as the city’s center. While its Jackson Square location does remain a hub of activity, a modern 21st-century visitor would be hard-pressed to define the Quarter’s center: is it the St. Louis Cathedral, Bourbon Street, bustling Canal Street, or somewhere else? Regardless, we think de Pauger would be proud to see New Orleans thriving over the centuries. Here are a few renowned streets in the French Quarter and what you’ll find there.

Royal Street New Orleans
Royal Street Between St. Louis and Conti, New Orleans, Louisiana by Ken Lund

Royal Street

Art galleries, antique shops, fine dining and fantastic live music—that’s what you’ll see on this charming thoroughfare, which runs parallel to Bourbon Street but feels light years away. Some sections are fenced off to form pedestrian malls (don’t bike through these areas—you will be ticketed). Must-stops include the George Rodrigue Gallery, food at Brennan’s and antiquing at M.S. Rau. Read our block-by-by guide to Royal Street.

Bourbon Street Bars

Bourbon Street

No, it’s not named after booze—though you wouldn’t be the first person to assume so. Pauger actually named Bourbon Street for the French ruling family of the time, the House of Bourbon. Today, Bourbon is the site of a 24/7 party that must be seen to be believed. Don’t miss a show at The Jazz Playhouse, a meal at Galatoire’s and a drink at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. For more, read our block-by-block guide to Bourbon Street.

Decatur Street
Photo courtesy of Tujague’s Restaurant on Facebook

Decatur Street

Decatur Street is a little more locals-friendly, a little more down-to-earth, and in its lower (nearer to Esplanade Avenue) blocks, a lot more hipster-oriented than the rest of the Quarter. It borders Jackson Square and Café du Monde, but if you continue past the beignet destination, you’ll find Tujague’s, the second oldest restaurant in New Orleans. A little further down, you’ll find Café Envie a delightful, breezy coffee shop with sidewalk seating. Follow Decatur past Esplanade to land smack dab in the middle of the Marigny Triangle, surrounded by the city’s best music venues and bars. Read our block-by-block guide to Decatur Street.

Famous French Quarter StreetsChartres Street Trevor Mark

Chartres Street

This pleasant street is lined with boutiques, restaurants, galleries and souvenir shops, and cuts right through Jackson Square. Visit must -see museums—New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, The Cabildo, The Presbytère. In the mood for shopping? Browse Crescent City Books, Shoe Be DoHemline, and UAL. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, enjoy a meal at Muriel’s, Sylvain, Kingfish and loads more. Read our Famous Streets of the French Quarter: Chartres Street.

Dauphine Street
Photo courtesy of Satsuma Cafe on Facebook

Dauphine Street

Named for a dauphine, the wife of a French royal heir titled a dauphin, this regal street hosts plenty of great bars and clubs, especially if you follow it a few miles downstream into Bywater. There, you’ll find breakfast destination Satsuma, music hub and dive bar extraordinaire, Vaughan’s Lounge. Read our Famous Streets of the French Quarter: Dauphine Street.

Armstrong Park North Rampart Street
Armstrong Park by Nigel Burgher on Flickr

North Rampart Street

The western border of the French Quarter, Rampart Street is named for the barricades that guarded the former French colony. Today, it features numerous bars and restaurants (don’t miss the Black Penny and Bar Tonique for cocktails). It also hosts an entrance to Armstrong Park, a leafy, fountain-filled tribute to Satchmo himself, which is also the site of the Mahalia Jackson Theater and the former Congo Square. Recently, a streetcar line was re-installed on Rampart Street, which runs all the way from Canal Street to Elysian Fields. Read our Famous Streets of the French Quarter: North Rampart Street.

crescent park north peters street
Crescent Park, Bywater photo by Bridget Coila on flickr

North Peters Street

Need a breath of air? Walk along North Peters Street, which borders the Mississippi River and its Moonwalk. At the very edge of the Quarter, near North Peters and Elysian Fields, you’ll find a staircase and elevator leading to Crescent Park. The 1.4-mile linear park boasts running trails, gardens and the best view of the river and downtown skyline you’ll find anywhere.

Decatur Street: A Block-by-Block Guide

Posted on: August 3rd, 2017 by FrenchQuarter

Decatur Street A Block-by-Block Guide
Decatur Street photo by Trevor Mark

Decatur runs parallel to the Mississippi River, starting on Canal and ending at St. Ferdinand Street in the Marigny. Decatur was previously known as Rue de la Levee (“Levee Street”) but was renamed in 1870 after Stephen Decatur, the American naval war hero and Commodore.

Basically a waterfront strip, the French Quarter part of Decatur Street has catered to sailors and hosted the kinds of businesses a big port would have. By the 80s it still retained its port feel, especially in the Lower Decatur near Canal Street, but the part closer to Esplanade and Frenchmen Street became a bohemian haven with a vibrant goth and punk scene.

All that changed drastically in modern times, though some places remained, like Cafe du Monde, Central Grocery and Tujague’s. These days Decatur Street is as vibrant as ever, even though the punk clubs and dive bars had been replaced by restaurants that cater to tourists, and bars and clubs that have more traditional jazz bands. There seems to be a candy store and a visitor center on every other block, and the number of places that sell po-boys, daiquiris and Mardi Gras masks is staggering.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. Decatur Street features a diverse selection of restaurants, a few funky bars, lots of shopping (from national chains like Sephora to unique local artist co-ops and vintage stores), and plenty of live music. In just 14 short blocks, Decatur packs a few legendary, centuries-old institutions, historic landmarks, an amazing bookstore, and so many zydeco-blasting souvenir shops that all your hot sauce and mask needs could be addressed within one block.

Let’s start walking from Esplanade Avenue to Canal Street, noting the highlights. Two places stand out when you are on Esplanade and Decatur — the live music bar Checkpoint Charlie and the firehouse, at the beginning of Frenchmen Street. This is where the French Quarter ends and Faubourg Marigny begins.

On the corner of Esplanade and Decatur (1331 Decatur St.) is Balcony Music Bar (BMC), a bar with live music and pub grub. After a few in-between reincarnations BMC has eventually replaced the beloved local haunt El Matador Lounge. It seems to have music spilling onto the street at all hours, from brass bands to rock to traditional jazz.

Across the street, the Old U.S. Mint takes up a chunk of space on the block. Built in 1835, the Old U.S. Mint uniquely served as both a U.S. and a Confederate Mint. The building is now a museum (free to the public) and research facility. It also serves as a site for music festivals, like the French Quarter Festival and Satchmo SummerFest. The permanent collection showcases coins and stamping presses. Upstairs, you’ll find the “New Orleans Jazz” exhibit featuring priceless pieces like Louis Armstrong’s first cornet and Fats Domino’s Steinway grand piano, plus historic recordings and rare film footage.

One more place of note on the same block is the eclectic David’s Found Objects

(1319 Decatur St.). Its quirky display of collectibles and antiques often spills onto the street, from costumes to kitchenware to paintings. David’s has quite a collection of costume jewelry and vintage glass Mardi Gras beads.

The next block is home to the always busy Envie Espresso Bar & Cafe (1241 Decatur St.), The Artist’s Market and Bead Shop (1228), SecondLine Arts & Antiques (1209), and Palm Court Jazz Cafe (1204). Envie is an airy coffeehouse with comfortable sidewalk seating, popular with the locals. It has a full bar and a big breakfast menu, plus small plates like hummus, and panini and burgers. It recently opened at another location, 308 Decatur St., with a smaller menu of breakfast sandwiches and quiches.

The Artist’s Market and Bead Shop has two entrances, one on Decatur and another on the French Market side, and is filled with unique, well-priced local art and beads. Formerly Greg’s Antiques, SecondLine Arts & Antiques has equally expansive indoor and outdoor spaces full of both serious antiques and funky junkyard-type salvaged pieces like ironwork, signs, and windows, plus lots and lots of local art — all priced to move quickly. The space multi-tasks as a daily outdoor art and flea market. You can also rent a bike or book a tour while there, and even get a snowball.

Palm Court Jazz Cafe is a must for jazz and Creole cuisine fans alike. The dining room is pure old New Orleans elegance, with high ceilings, a mahogany bar, mosaic-tiled floor, jazz photos all over its brick walls, and a Steinway grand piano. The place has hosted numerous jazz greats and their fans since 1989. Palm Court closes for a few weeks at the end of summer, but otherwise the bands play every Wednesday through Sunday ($5 cover). The menu is classic Creole: shrimp remoulade, gumbo, oysters Bordelaise, chicken Clemenceau, and so on.

The 1100 block is a heavy hitter with a slew of legendary bars, longtime popular restaurants, and two relative newcomers that bring fresh elevated takes on the local cuisine and cocktail scene. Remodeled after a fire in 2016, Fiorella’s (1136 Decatur St.) fully deserves its popularity for its southern fried chicken alone. The unpretentious restaurant also serves Italian and Cajun/Creole specialties like po-boys, pasta, and seafood platters. The checkered tablecloths and sidewalk/balcony seating are a plus.

The two most recent additions on the block, Trinity (1117) and Cane and Table

(1113) are both sleek foodie havens. Trinity’s dining room is modern and airy, with open kitchen. It also has balcony seating, which is great for people-watching on this buzzing block. Executive Chef Michael Isolani serves elevated Creole cuisine with emphasis on locally-sourced seasonal ingredients. The menu offers oysters five ways: raw, broiled, baked, smoked, and fried. The summer “Cava and oyster special” at the bar includes a glass of bubbles and an order of oysters ($4).

Cane and Table describes its menu of small plates like ropa vieja and seviche as “rustic colonial cuisine” with the ambiance of Old Havana. The cocktail menu showcases seriously crafted concoctions, many of which are rum-based, imaginative updates of the classics.

If you can settle for less than a craft cocktail, the 24-hour dive next door, The Abbey (1123), or Molly’s at the Market (1107) are two classic, laid back, and welcoming bars of the French Quarter you should definitely check out. Molly’s is home to an excellent jukebox, a back bar courtyard, and frozen Irish coffee. The bar was (and, to an extent, still is) a favorite of local musicians, journalists, and service industry workers since late founder Jim Monaghan opened it in 1974. It still serves as a starting point and lingering must-stop-hang for the annual Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day parades.

One of the French Quarter’s bright stars and mainstays is the always bustling Coop’s Place (1109 Decatur St.). Coop’s is a no-frills bar and restaurant with a surprisingly extensive and excellent menu that goes way beyond barfood grub. The hands-down standouts are the seafood gumbo and rabbit and sausage jambalaya (the “supreme” version also has shrimp and tasso). Cajun fried chicken won’t steer you wrong either. Popular with the locals and the visitors, Coop’s can get busy and loud. Please also note that it’s 21 and older only, even the restaurant seating area, because of the video poker machines on premises.

Next up, on the corner of Ursulines at 1104 Decatur is BBQ King’s Blues Club, a chain southern food/BBQ and live music restaurant. It replaced Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, and what used to be Margaritaville’s store next door is now occupied by Pepper Palace, another chain that sells salsa, seasonings, rubs, hot sauce, and so on.

Two more places of note on the block are the dog-themed art/supply store called Tahyo Tavern, which benefits the Villalobos Rescue Center, and funky novelty store Funrock’n, with a sister store called Pop City, at 940 Decatur St. Those sell collectibles, toys, and clothes. Funrock’n also has binders full of t-shirt transfer designs, so if you want to score a t-shirt with a NOLA-centric design, this is the place.

Moving on past the park with the gazebo, the next block, the 1000th, has the Christmas-themed Santa’s Headquarters (1025 Decatur St.), open all year round and positively magical, especially if you want to wow your kids with lavish decorations and elaborate holiday toys. It’s also a great spot to stock up on NOLA-centric ornaments in Mardi Gras colors and every possible take on a fleur de lis.

On the same side, you can’t miss the striped awning of French Market Restaurant and Bar (1001). Open since 1803, the restaurant specializes in Cajun/Creole cuisine and seafood in particular. Across the street, two adjacent restaurants also serve Cajun/Creole fare, but the biggest draw of Market Cafe (1000 Decatur St.) and Gazebo Cafe (1016) are their patios and the constant stream of live music. The Market Cafe has been around since the early 80s, occupying the building that dates back to 1823 and was part of the French Market (check out the original cypress ceiling and columns). Bloody Mary and baked muffuletta are the restaurant’s specialties. Gazebo Cafe‘s covered patio and courtyard are often packed, the bands mostly play jazz, and the ice cream daiquiris are delicious.

Check out the historic Dutch Alley nearby on N. Peters (home of the one and only radio station, WWOZ) and French Market’s Shops at the Colonnade. The strip of shops, some with Decatur and some with N. Peters addresses, is worth a visit if you’re shopping for souvenirs or local specialties like pralines. Another Christmas store, Merry Christmas & All That Jazz, has lots of cool ornaments with local flair.

Moving past the gold statue of Joan of Arc, we come to yet another New Orleans landmark and home of the muffuletta, Central Grocery (923 Decatur St.). This sprawling old-fashioned Italian grocery store is still run by the family of its founder, a Sicilian immigrant named Salvatore Lupo. He was credited for creating the famous sandwich, which now ships worldwide, along with the Central Grocery’s famous olive salad by the jar. Eat your made-to-order muffuletta at one of the few tables in the back or take it to go.

As we approach the Dumaine Street intersection, you’ll go by the French Quarter Visitor Center and Magnolia Praline Co. The visitor center is run by the National Park Service and has a gift shop along with some exhibits and walking tours. Next we come to two city institutions, Cafe du Monde (800 Decatur St.) and Tujague’s (823). The grand dame of cafe au lait and beignets needs no introduction since it opened in 1862, so let’s just say no visit to New Orleans would be complete without getting powdered sugar all over yourself. Hectic yet charming, Cafe du Monde is open round the clock, and is busy at all hours.

Tujague’s also hardly needs an introduction or vouching for. The second oldest restaurant in the city, it was founded in 1856 and has since been offering traditional, fixed-price Creole menus to many a president and celebrity. Its iconic bar takes credit for inventing the Grasshopper cocktail, and the restaurant may or may not take credit for creating brunch.

Now you’ve reached Jackson Square! Here, you can have a beer and a po-boy at Monty’s on the Square, whose French doors offer a view of the square (casual southern with modern twists, local craft beer). This is where you’ll also come to grab a mule-drawn carriage tour, by the park’s gate on the Decatur side.

Then, past the shops of Jax Brewery (parts of the building are currently under construction), Big Easy Daiquiris, The Fudgery and Walgreens, you’ll come to the corner of Toulouse Street, the home of Cafe Maspero (601 Decatur St.). The always-open enormous windows provide a great view of the busy corner, and you’ll like its heaping seafood platters.

The next two blocks are light on restaurants, represented by Crescent City Brewhouse (527 Decatur St.) and Bubba Gump (429). The Brewhouse is a two-story, 17-barrel microbrewery with balcony and courtyard seating, an oyster bar, and lots of live jazz. Get the crab cakes or a pulled pork sandwich, and enjoy the bistro ambiance. Bubba Gump, a family-friendly chain with a fishing boat theme, has a kids’ menu, and can accommodate large groups.

Across the street, you’ll find the sprawling H&M, Urban Outfitters, Vans, and the most recent addition, Sephora, next to one another. Past the souvenir shops blasting zydeco, French Market Inn, and PJ’s coffee shop, you’ll come to a historic landmark — the monument to the city’s founder, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville.

Past Conti Street, Decatur Street becomes more quiet, with the exception of the House of Blues that takes up most of the 200th block with its concert venue and the restaurant/bar. The block livens up on most afternoons, with the trucks unloading band gear and people lining up to see the shows. The dimly lit, laid back Kerry Irish Pub (331 Decatur St.), also features live music, but on a much smaller scale.

Across the street from the House of Blues between Bienville and Iberville, you’ll find one of the best bookstores in the city, the bi-level Beckham’s Books (228 Decatur St.). It specializes in used, antiquarian, and rare books, as well as CDs and vinyl. A gem of a place, Beckham’s has been around since 1979 at this location. It’s crammed floor to ceiling, and is beer- and dog-friendly.

On the same block, at number 216, is a funky retro-inspired boutique not unlike Trashy Diva, called Dollz & Dames. It has a sister store in Seattle and sells vintage-inspired clothing, shoes and accessories. You can’t miss its eye candy of a storefront on an otherwise sleepy side of the block.

Three restaurants close the journey up to Canal Street. Huck Finn’s Cafe at 135 Decatur St. is a brick-walled sports bar with a big breakfast menu and 15 plasma screen TVs. The drink menu is full of the classics, martinis in particular, and there are shot specials, especially during Saints games.

Creole House Restaurant & Oyster Bar, located in an historic building on the corner at 509 Canal St., rounds up the tour of Decatur Street with its “casual Creole” menu.

There you have it — lots to see, eat, drink and buy on the historic yet young at heart Decatur Street!

For more, read Famous Streets of the French Quarter.

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