Somewhere in Middle America

experiencing new orleans for the first time

Bourbon Street New Orleans

French Quarter New Orleans

Bourbon Street New Orleans

Mardi Gras Beads

Musician in French Quarter

Garden District New Orleans

St. Charles Street Car

Bourbon Street New Orleans

Bourbon Street New Orleans

It was up in the air until the very last second whether my family’s planned vacation to New Orleans would actually take place this past weekend. As J and I were literally boarding our 6AM flight on Thursday, my parents called to let us know that their noon flight out of New York had been canceled. This was actually the second flight of theirs to be canceled, and as J and I were settling into seats, they were scrambling to find out if Continental could book them on their third later that evening.

J and I had to wait until we landed in Chicago to catch our connecting flight to find out whether our family getaway would become a romantic weekend for two. Thankfully, my parents, sister and brother-in-law finally made it to NOLA – but not until 1AM on Friday.

Because I spent so much time researching restaurants (more on that in another post!), I hadn’t created much of an itinerary of things to do or to see when we weren’t eating. I probably should have read up more on the history of the city and scouted out activities for us to do as a family. Besides wandering around the French Quarter and the Garden District (although after a while, you’ve seen enough antique shops and big houses), there wasn’t much else I was really excited to do. I would’ve been interested in visiting¬† The National World War II Museum, but the rest of my family didn’t seem too keen on going, and there weren’t any other museums that I was truly dying to explore.

Dare I admit that I found New Orleans a bit boring?

What made the trip worthwhile (besides the food) was being able to spend time with my family. We last saw them over Thanksgiving, but for a girl who is extremely close to her parents and sister, that was way too long ago. It was also a relief to be able to walk around the city wearing only a long-sleeved shirt and lightweight jacket; I’ll take 60 degree weather over the snow and ice any day. And I always enjoy the opportunity to practice my photography, and there was certainly plenty of interesting architecture and people to capture on (digital) film.

Finally, some general thoughts about NOLA:

As an almost 31-year-old, I had no interest in partying on Bourbon Street (does that make me old or just boring?), although I did get a kick out of the vendors selling frozen margaritas and beers to go out of closet-sized shops. Bourbon was interesting enough to walk up and down once, but the street reeked of cigarettes (outside!) and I feared being clonked in the head by the handfuls of beads being chucked off balconies by drunk fraternity boys. And don’t get me started on all the boobs and booty!

To the disappointment of my jazz musician brother-in-law, the only live music we heard on Bourbon Street was from cover bands playing in the bars. It’s a shame we didn’t learn until just before we left for the airport that Frenchmen Street was where we would have found authentic New Orleans jazz. A couple of local twenty-somethings told us that Bourbon Street was very different before Katrina hit and that you could pop into almost any bar on Bourbon to listen to jazz. Sadly, that’s no longer the case.

And on a positive note, nearly everybody we encountered, from cab drivers to waiters to the tipsy Southwest flight attendant enjoying oysters next to us at Felix, were extremely friendly and forthcoming with information and suggestions. New Orleans might be one of the most affable cities I’ve visited.

If you’ve had a different experience in The Big Easy, I’d love to hear about it. Leave your comments below!

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3 Responses to “experiencing new orleans for the first time”

  1. Scott Hartzler says:

    As a native Chicagoan, I decided I had had enough of the severe winters and moved to New Orleans last May. The weather here is unsurpassed.

    That being said, I share your sentiments about New Orleans. The people here always exclaim how much to do there is here in NOLA; however, when I ask for suggestions besides getting drunk or going out to eat, they act a little addled, as if one shouldn’t need anything else.

    The Jazz Fest is fun, but comes once a year. There are small clubs on Frenchmen and one on Oak Street, but all the music seems to be in the same vein. I could find similar jazz at the Green Mill on any given Friday in Chicago.

    The NOMA considers Renaissance to be modern art. lol. The WWII museum is very good and comprehensive.

    The architecture on St. Charles is good, but again it seems to all be cut from the same cloth.

    New Orleans IS boring. Unless youre from there. Or you like doing the same things over and over again.

  2. MN says:

    Yes, for me New Orleans is boring boring boring boring. There is more to life than eating, drinking, listening to music, and hanging out in smoky bars. On the other hand, some people can’t get enough of it. There are a lot of nice people here and I’m glad I’ve had the experience, but after 4 years I’m ready to move on.


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