The Top 20 Must-Sees of New Orleans

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“Who can resist New Orleans? Gumbo and oyster Po’Boys, jazz and funky blues, the French Quarter and the Garden District. Eyes light up, mouths water, toes tap. ‘Nawlins’ is my home, and its uniqueness to visitors, and even myself, is always dynamic,” says Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® Meritorious Instructor Jeff DeMars.

In this guest post, Jeff shares the top 20 things you can't miss during the CPI Instructors' Conference in New Orleans this July.
Café du Monde
This world-famous institution is revered for its beignets (pronounced ben-yay), light-as-air squares of fried dough dusted lavishly with confectioner’s sugar. Beignets are this city’s guilty pleasure. Yes, they are as scrumptious as everybody says, and twice as messy.

Audubon Zoo
More than 1,300 creatures live at the Audubon Zoo, including a Komodo dragon, a herd of playful sea lions, a pair of white Bengal tigers, and a family of extremely rare alligators.

Folks have gotten around New Orleans by streetcar since 1835, first in steam-powered cars and later in horse-drawn ones. At $1.25 a ride, streetcars are a bargain slice of history and one of the most fun ways to get from A to B.

Jackson Square
This famous landmark facing the Mississippi River is surrounded by historic buildings, including the St. Louis Cathedral. For well over a half century, there has been a plein air artist colony at Jackson Square. Local artists paint, draw, and create portraits and caricatures.

Above-ground cemeteries
One of the coolest things about New Orleans is its above-ground cemeteries, known as “cities of the dead.” In an impressive display of urban planning, these cemeteries were indeed laid out like mini cities.

Michaul’s Live Cajun Music Restaurant
If you’ve never been to a Cajun hoedown, here’s your chance to put that right. Get the whole family into comfy shoes and head for Michaul’s Live Cajun Music Restaurant, where everyone gets free dance lessons. The dining room is suitably rustic, and the menu features all the usual suspects—gumbo, jambalaya, fried chicken, étouffée, and shellfish done every which way.

Louisiana Children’s Museum
If your kids are coming with you, little children can feed their big imaginations at the Louisiana Children’s Museum, a 30,000-square-foot interactive wonderland with over 100 hands-on exhibits.

Johnny’s Po’Boys
Hungry kids can lead to high food bills. Get the ultimate cheap lunch at Johnny’s Po’Boys, an eatery whose interior is as humble and scrappy as the sandwich itself.

New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
Strings of garlic? Dried bats? Dancers entwined with live snakes? You may think the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum sounds creepy, but face facts, and y’all will think it’s the coolest place ever.

Preservation Hall
The city that gave the world Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton is a tremendous place to hear live music, as long as you’re over the legal drinking age. For a kid-friendly jazz venue, head over to Preservation Hall, where the motto is “No smoking, drinking. All ages.”

Cookin’ Cajun
Wish you could whip up a jambalaya like they do in “Nawlins”? Learn from a local during demo cooking class at Cookin’ Cajun, a 35-year-old, family-run, gourmet foods business.

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
True to its name, the top-notch Audubon Aquarium of the Americas showcases four major sea-life habitats: the Amazon, the Caribbean, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf Coast.

Mardi Gras World
Love parades? Get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the Big Daddy of them all at Mardi Gras World. Inside this enormous warehouse, thousands of parade props, ornate costumes, and giant parade floats are on view, including a 140-foot sea monster and a 240-foot riverboat.

Canal Street Ferry
Who says nothing is free? Pedestrian passengers can take a tour of the historic Algiers by paying nothing to ride on the Canal Street Ferry from the Central Business District across the big, muddy Mississippi River.

City Park
Moss-draped oaks and lily ponds lend a beautiful backdrop to 1,300-acre City Park, where you’ll find one of the most charming playgrounds in the country for small children.

Swamp Tour
Touristy? Sure. Hokey? No doubt about it. An absolute must-see if you have kids. A Swamp Tour is guaranteed to be the memory of your trip, especially the part where your guide lures live gators to the boat for morsels of chicken.

Central Grocery Company
This New Orleans institution was established in 1906 and has one major claim to fame. It introduced New Orleans to the muffuletta, the overstuffed sandwich that begins with a 10-inch, round loaf of Italian bread.

Acme Oyster House
If you hadn’t noticed, oysters figure prominently on menus in New Orleans. The oldest oyster bar in the French Quarter got a makeover after Hurricane Katrina, and now Acme Oyster House is better and brighter than ever.

Lalaurie Mansion
Dare to stroll past the Lalaurie Mansion, the most haunted house in this ghoul-loving town. At this address lived Madame Delphine Lalaurie, a well-to-do, thrice-married socialite. In 1834, neighbors came to help put out a fire in the attic and discovered Lalaurie’s sadistic treatment of her slaves. When an angry mob gathered, Lalaurie and her family fled to Europe. Locals say that the house has been haunted ever since by ghostly figures who rattle chains and appear fleetingly in the windows.

Bourbon Street
Of course you can’t leave Bourbon Street out of your visit—the street where the partying never stops. It’s the French Quarter’s liveliest and wildest thoroughfare, where the rhythmic sounds of jazz, country western, Dixieland, and sultry blues permeate the air. You’ll find everything here from shopping to music, Cajun food, and night clubs.
Also check out Culture With a Cajun Twist: How a Meritorious Instructor Adapts to Participants' Needs by Jeff DeMars [Certified Instructors only]
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About the Author

“I believe that more often than many people think is possible, we can prevent problems from getting out of control. We can make each other safer.”