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New Orleans is a popular tourist destination year round, and it attracts a wide range of attention for everything from its history and architecture to sports to music and night life to Southern cuisine.

For a destination constantly in the spotlight, there are still a couple of things first-time visitors should know.

Kids Love Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is one of the most famous festivals in the world, a colorfully and flamboyant celebration each year. This is a family-friendly event, so there’s no reason to leave the kids at home.

Families with small children love the parades and have a fabulous time sharing in the festivities and spirit of the carnival. A major street parade complete with glittery costumes, elaborate floats, pounding music, and cool stuff that flies through the air at you? How can kids not love that?

There’s an understanding among those who attend that children in the crowd are treated with respect.

Photo CC Will Montague

Don’t Expect an Uber

Uber is a relatively new concept in New Orleans. While it’s available there, it’s quite controversial, with not the most reliable reputation.

You Can Drink in the Streets

New Orleans is one of the few cities in America where it’s legal to consume alcohol in public areas. If you don’t finish your drink before your group leaves the bar, just ask for a “go-cup” and take it with you to the streets!

The official motto of NOLA is “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” which translates to “Let the good times roll!”

Keeping this in mind, you’ll notice on a Saturday or Sunday morning walk down Bourbon Street that the town smells. You’ll likely catch a whiff of old beer tossed out the previous night, as well as cigarettes, marijuana, and coffee. Also, horse manure.

It’s Got a Lot of History

New Orleans has 20 historic districts, more than any other American city. And the best way to experience the city’s heritage is by organizing a stay in a historic hotel.

Historic hotels throughout New Orleans are world class. Between private spas, rooftop pools, and revolving bars, historic hotels here take luxury to a whole new level. Depending on the time of year, you can even find IHG deals for New Orleans hotels.

Don’t Expect Southern Culture

Geographically, Louisiana is a Southern state. That said, New Orleans is not really “Southern” in the cultural sense.

NOLA locals identify more with the cosmopolitan cities of Los Angeles and New York, and it’s this kind of atmosphere you should expect from your trip.

Know How to Spot a Tourist Trap

As with any tourist hot spot, there are going to be tourist traps. And many of these are restaurants.

If you have to wait in line for a table, this is most likely a tourist trap. Eat somewhere else. There are more 4- and 5-star restaurants in New Orleans than any other city in America, and locals don’t wait for a table. With so many amazing options for food here, step out of line and flag a local for advice on where to eat.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

    12 Comments

  1. I’ve always wanted to visit New Orleans. It has so much history and just looks like an overall fun place. As long as there’s not too much flashing for beads…. does that still happen at Mardi Gras?!

    • I believe it does still occur … not too much though! Hope you have the chance to visit NOLA soon Sam – it’s a pretty special place!

  2. I never heard about the Mardi Grass festival. Seems to be fun! I like your tip to ask for a go-cup. Nice to know public alcohol consuming is allowed.

    • Mardi Gras is definitely something else! You should absolutely try to schedule your trip to coincide if you get the chance :)

  3. These are some handy hints to know before you head to New Orleans. I definitely love the atmosphere of this city and the ability to drink (and party) on the streets. Good to know about Uber – I visited before Uber even existed ha ha

    • The atmosphere is unlike anything I’ve experienced anywhere else! And yes, uber hasn’t really taken off here!

  4. I went to NOLA as a child and it was pretty horrifying. I’d never seen so many adults out of control before and creepy dudes were trying to grope my sister and I, despite the fact that we were in elementary school. We ditched that vacation ASAP and went somewhere else.

    Mardi Gras might be fun, but it’s not a place for kids.

    • Hi Cori, so sorry to hear about your experience – it sounds absolutely terrifying. Our experience was quite different, and didn’t run into any of the issues you faced, so hopefully that’s not the case for others experiencing the festival too XXX

  5. I’d love to go to New Orleans. I feel it has so much history and colour to it! Love to explore during Mardi Grass or any other time. Your post makes me want to go even more!

    • Hope you have the chance to travel soon Naomi :)

  6. I recently visited New Orleans and was surprised to hear that Mardi Gras was in fact a family event. I had heard it was all….grown up. I had the most wonderful visit to Mardi Gras world where they make all the floats for parades. You can go through the factory and see the artists working. Such a cool sight!

    Your comment on New Orleans not being southern in the cultural sense really took me by surprise. I never thought about it before but supposed you are correct. There is a great French and Creole community there and they are unique. Southern like you might see in south Texas or South Carolina would certainly feel different.

    Don’t be afraid to take the kids. With exception of the partying in the streets on Bourbon Street at O’dark thirty, I wouldn’t hesitate to take mine and they are 10 and 12. Enjoy making family memories!

    • I was quite surprised by the family friendly nature of Mardi Gras at first too – it’s not the stereotype I had in mind. Obviously there are certain areas which see intense partying and drinking during this event which wouldn’t be appropriate for kids, but if planned properly it’s a great day which the whole family can enjoy :)

      Yes, I think I base my understanding of “Southern culture” in the US off off states like Texas or Alabama, New Orleans has it’s own thing going on completely, so it’s definitely unique!

      So glad to hear that you have many fond family memories from time in NOLA – it’s refreshing to hear from someone who embraces travel with their kids, and having the opportunity to experience new parts of the world as a child is such a wonderful thing :)

      Happy travels! X

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