French Quarter Shopping: One-of-a-Kind Stores
Photo by Selena N.B.H. on flickr.
Shopping in the French Quarter runs a long gamut of opportunities: from high end chain retail in at The Shops at Canal Place to magical spell components at a voodoo-for-tourists shop located down a small back alleyway. You’ll find just about every version of retail therapy in the Quarter, but the options are fairly tremendous, and it helps to be able to narrow the clutter of choices down. One bonus: staying in a French Quarter hotel, which gives you pedestrian access for all your shopping needs.
Fifi Mahony’s (934 Royal Street)
You’re in New Orleans. You need a costume, You have to look fabulous. This isn’t Kansas, Dorothy – no ‘Thing 1’ or ‘I’m a Nurse’ or ‘John’s Crazy Bachelor Party’ t-shirt is going to cut it. So do as the locals do and get a real wig and some off the wall accoutrement to accompany it at Fifi’s. Let’s be very clear, though: don’t come here expecting to get away with some lame feather boa and cheap wig combo. This is the shop of choice for many of the area’s most creative costumers, drag queens, theater professionals, makeup artists, etc. You’ll get a fitted artifact of awesome fashion expression at Fifi’s, and you will rock it.
Santa’s Quarters (1025 Dectatur Street)
We’re not trying to sound like Grinches here, but it’s a little baffling how Santa’s Quarters stays in business for 11 months out of the year. Because when you come in here, it is all Christmas, all the time. OK, let’s be fair: there’s actually a fair amount of Carnival accoutrement as well, plus some odd artifacts from Cajun country, but look, when you name your store ‘Santa’s Quarters’, there’s an ideal you’re living up to, and this spot does not disappoint. There are nutcrackers, Santa statues, bits of tinsel, ornaments and every under accent and oddity one associates with the holiday season in this store, and even in the sweltering heat of a New Orleans summer, they’re playing Christmas carols in here without fail.
Boutique du Vampyre (709 St Ann Street)
Hey – vampires gotta shop too, right? And when they do, they come to Boutique du Vampyre, which bills itself as the only vampire shop in the country. Whether that’s true or not, this shop is a unique experience unto itself, run by the city’s six foot queen of vampires, the German-born Marita Jaeger. What does a vampire buy? Well, there’s capes and cloaks, but there’s also Transylvanian hot sauce (hmmm), books on vampirism and general goth-y gift stuff.
Faulkner House Books (624 Pirate’s Alley)
There is no shortage of fantastic independent bookstores in New Orleans; it pains us that we only have room for two of them here. Faulkner House, a cozy book of a book shop (isn’t that always the best kind?) is a beloved institution, located in a building where its namesake once rented rooms back in 1925. The shop is stuffed with literature representing a wide swath of genres, and it becomes a major focal point for visitors who are in town for the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival.
Le Jardin (612 Royal Street)
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to art galleries on Royal St (let alone the French Quarter), and while we don’t have time to explore every individual art gallery in this piece, we do want to highlight Le Jardin, which is an excellent storefront that gathers locally made arts, crafts, picture frames, jewellery, and other goodies. Besides boasting a plum location, the shop also has a gorgeous courtyard, stuffed with a nicely curated selection of local art. A perfect shop for a New Orleans made souvenir.
Chiwawa Gaga (511 Dumaine Street)
When we say there’s a store for every need in the French Quarter of New Orleans, we’re not kidding, and no shop in the city exemplifies this truth like Chiwaya Gaga, a self proclaimed ‘small store for dinky dogs.’ You read that right: this shop is dedicated to small breed dogs (and their owners), and is stocked with costumes that will fit perfectly on your pet chihuahua, Maltese, terrier, etc. Ever wanted to see a dachshund in a hot dog outfit? This is the place. As one might guess, this store is all the rage in the weeks leading up to Barkus, the carnival pet parade.
Voodoo Authentica (612 Dumaine Street)
For what it’s worth, we need to point out that voodoo is a real religion in New Orleans, and its practitioners are no more scary or outlandish than the worshippers of any other faith. Most of those who hew to voodoo celebrate the ‘magic’ side of the religion with the occasional lit candle and prayer. With that said, most people in the city understand there is a ‘marketable’ side of voodoo that appeals to tourists, and Voodoo Authentic does a good job of selling this sort of ‘commercial voodoo’ while also being run by friendly folk who are happy to tell you about how the religion functions. We also give this shop credit for being a cool combo of clean, cozy and extremely colorful.
The Quarter Stitch (629 Chartres Street)
A lot of people pass The Quarter Stitch without a second look, but there’s a certain kind of person who enters this store and basically loses their minds. The Stitch is made by and for those who are obsessed with knitting (on that note, if you read the name of the place and laughed, you’re likely one of those folks who would lose their minds in here). Also a great spot for almost any kind of arts and crafting supplies, and meeting the sort of locals who will sink a lot of time into both creating a new hat and a cool DIY Mardi Gras costume.
Louisiana Music Factory (421 Frenchmen Street)
We’re cheating a little bit here, as the Music Factory is technically in Faubourg Marigny, just outside of the French Quarter. But whatever – if you’re in town looking for local music to take home, it is imperative you stop into LMF, which boasts an inordinately large selection of CDs, albums and concert ephemera from the most musically important state in the country.
Crescent City Books (124 Baronne Street)
Our other favorite spot in the Quarter for the written word, Crescent City Books feels like the sort of shop a kid walks into before being transported to some magical world. It’s dusty, but it’s the best kind of dusty – the dusty of a used bookstore where every title is well beloved, carefully curated and waiting to be discovered by a lucky customer, which we’re hoping is you.
Lucullus (610 Chartres Street)
You can’t walk without tripping over an antique store in the French Quarter; what sets Lucullus apart is its selection of culinary antiques, ranging from dishes to flatware to copper pots and pans that seem to have emerged from the mists of time. There’s plenty of other antiques for sale as well, but we have a lot of love for Lucullus’ focus on selling the sort of goods that are intimately associated with our city’s rich culinary heritage.
French Market (1235 N Peters Street)
The French Market is as much a tourist attraction as it is a shopping destination, but you can certainly buy stuff here. What that ‘stuff’ is depends on your taste – there’s plenty of tatty souvenir trinkets, belts with big fleur de lis buckles, cheap sunglasses and fake gator heads, but you can also find African prints, handcrafted art objects and local crafts. We’re not passing judgement on any of the above – the point is, walking around the Market is fun, and as much of a travel experience as buying something here.
For more, visit http://www.frenchquarter.com/shopping.