6 Activities to Try in New Orleans That You Probably Didn't Think Of
Looking for something to do in New Orleans that doesn't rely on the same old tourist spots? Check out these lesser-known alternatives for a unique vacation.
New Orleans is a popular vacation destination for tourists who want to take in the familiar and well-known sights and sounds. But did you know that there are dozens of activities to enjoy in New Orleans that are a little bit more off the beaten path? If you have been to New Orleans before, you may be looking for a way to enjoy your time without having to repeat the same tours, excursions, and sightseeing locations that you have seen before. And, if you have never been to New Orleans before, you may still want to avoid some of the more popular places and partake in some less crowded adventures, too! Take a look at this list to discover six activities to try in New Orleans that you might not have thought of!
Visit the Southern Food and Beverage Museum
If you’re in New Orleans, chances are good that you’re eating as much Southern style soul food as you possibly can. After all, what better way to enjoy this vibrant city than by diving head first into its perfect blending of Deep South and Creole spices, seasonings, and cooking techniques? At the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, you will learn all about the history behind these delicious dishes and how they came to be such an important part of Southern United States culture. Discover the various ethnic backgrounds that inspired Southern cooking, and take a moment to remember the hard workers of the past who worked the land, caught fish, and performed other food preparation activities throughout the centuries.
Visit this fun and interesting museum on a weekday to avoid the crowds as much as possible. If you are traveling with a group, don’t be afraid to ask about a group rate for your tickets; normally, however, the museum runs about ten dollars per person to enter. Depending on when you visit, you may be able to take part in one of the scheduled events; if possible, I highly recommend it. These events provide hands-on cooking demonstrations or lectures about the history and preservation of traditional New Orleans food. For a foodie or anyone who is interested in the culture of this great city, these events are must-sees!
The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is open Wednesday through Monday from 11:00am to 5:30pm.
Do you prefer spending time in the great outdoors rather than in a museum? If so, you may want to try a kayaking trip in one of the swamps of the New Orleans area. New Orleans (and most of Louisiana) is full of swamps that are just waiting to be explored. Through several different companies stationed in the city, you can hop in a kayak and take a tour of these marvels of ecology. You’ll be paired with a tour guide who can teach you how to paddle your kayak if you have never been in one before. Along the way, you’ll see incredible scenery, including trees, houseboats and other structures on the bayou that may or may not still be inhabited, and perhaps the occasional wildlife.
I recommend booking your kayaking tour with New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours. This is one of the most popular tours in the area, and you will be safe and have plenty of fun when you take one of their beginner-friendly tours. Groups of two or more people can sign up for trips in tandem-style kayaks with a paired tour guide. It is possible to arrange private tours in a single-person kayak if you are experienced; you can call the company to discuss this option if you are interested. Even if you do have kayaking experience, however, I recommend taking the guided tour, so that you can learn about the history of the bayou as you go.
New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours last about two to two-and-a-half hours of in-water time.
Check out a Voodoo Shop
Louisiana Voodoo is big in New Orleans. This belief comes from traditions long gone, but many New Orleans residents still believe in the power of voodoo, and about 15% of the modern-day population still practices this ancient form of spirituality. There are some voodoo churches still in existence in the area, but as time progresses, they are becoming more and more difficult to find. Even so, you can stumble across voodoo shops easily while you are exploring the city. At these shops, you can purchase crystal ball readings, stock up on herbs, candles, scented oils, gris-gris bags and more, and even buy a chicken foot, if you like. Whether or not you choose to use these items in practice is completely up to you.
If you are looking for one of the best voodoo shops in town, stop in the Island of Salvation Botanica, on St. Claude Avenue to the northeast of the French Quarter. It is a little bit out of the way, but for off the beaten path shopping, you can’t get any more “New Orleans” than this place. If you have the funds to drop about a hundred dollars on a crystal ball reading, give it a chance here—where else would you want to take part in voodoo rituals if not in New Orleans? If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can also book a spiritual or physical healing session performed by the resident voodoo priestess.
Island of Salvation Botanica is located at 2372 St. Claude Avenue in New Orleans.
Explore Outdoor Art
Looking for something a little more leisurely to do with your time in the city? Why not take a stroll through an outdoor art and sculpture garden? At the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture, you can do just that! The museum is located in City Park, where gentle walking trails take you through the sixty-plus sculptures that decorate the grounds. Take some time while exploring to appreciate the oak trees that shade the park as well. They have been there for over two centuries.
It may go without saying, but when you are in the sculpture garden do not touch or play on the statues. If you take kids along with you, be sure to keep an eye on them—otherwise your whole group might get thrown out! Pets and smoking are not allowed in the garden. Remember that this is a peaceful experience and everyone wants to be able to enjoy the stroll equally. There is a lot of walking involved in the tour of the sculpture garden, so be sure to wear appropriate attire and shoes for your visit.
The New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture garden is open from Monday through Friday, 10:00am to 6:00pm; it closes at 5:00pm on weekends.
Admission is free.
Bet on the Races
Whether you are an old hat when it comes to betting on horse races, or you just want to experience something new and thrilling, set aside some time to visit the New Orleans Fair Grounds and place your bet on your favorite contender. The New Orleans Fair Grounds is a well-known horse racing course, and it is the third oldest race track in the United States that has been operating continuously since its opening. And since it opened in 1872, that is quite a record!
If you visit the city from November to March, you will have the chance to take part in betting on the races at the Fair Grounds. The rest of the year is off-season for the horses, but you can still visit the Fair Grounds and play the slots or attend the Jazz & Heritage Festival that is held there every year. When watching one of the races, you have the option to purchase a basic bleacher-seating ticket, or to go all out and buy yourself a glass box seat complete with modern technologies to make viewing the race that much easier.
The New Orleans Fair Grounds are located at 1751 Gentilly Boulevard in New Orleans.
Tour a Distillery
Sure, you can tour a distillery just about anywhere, but there’s something special about taking part in a tour like this in New Orleans. After all, the city is known for its party culture, and spirits and cocktails have been moving this vibrant city on toward its future for centuries. If you enjoy learning about the process of the creation of your favorite alcoholic beverages, or if you just like making an educational discovery in the middle of your vacations, then you’re sure to enjoy taking a distillery tour. Besides, these tours are generally out of the way and less frequented than many of the other tourist sites in the city, making them a great choice for second-time visitors or anyone who would like to get away from the hustle and bustle for a little while.
I recommend stopping in the Old New Orleans Rum Distillery for your tour. The tour includes a free cocktail at the beginning of your session, which is followed by a guided walk through the distillery itself. You will see every step of the rum-making process, from fermenting to filtering to bottling, and everything in between. After the tour, you will have access to the tasting room, where you can sample all of the products that are available at the Old New Orleans Rum Distillery. At only a ten-minute drive from the French Quarter, with shuttle service available, this tour is a great way to spend a day near the heart of the city, but far enough away to enjoy some peace and quiet.
The cost of the tours depends on the date and time selected. Old New Orleans Rum Distillery features free on-site parking.
Are you ready for your trip? Just choose your favorite from this list, or try to see all of them! The possibilities are endless in New Orleans if you know where to look. Don’t completely disregard the popular sites if you have never been to the city before, but also don’t hesitate to enjoy these fun, lesser-known activities as well.
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