Getting Quirky in Eastern Louisiana: New Orleans and More

by | Jan 7, 2024

Oak Alley, outside New Orleans Louisiana
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Featured image: The scenic Oak Alley, loacted just outside New Orleans, Louisiana | Photo by Karen Gershowitz

Fun experiences to rediscover New Orleans

by Karen Gershowitz

While many people focus their New Orleans (NOLA) travels on Mardi Gras or the Jazz Festival, Louisiana is much more than those events and visiting at any time is a joy. Louisiana is a place I have visited many times, for business, festivals, and to visit friends. But I hadn’t been there since before covid and a lot has changed. On this trip, my focus was to uncover what is new and different and discover or revisit quirky places, which the state has in abundance.

While in NOLA, I stayed at the Selina Catahoula Hotel. If you want luxury, this isn’t the place. But its eclectic décor and brick walls are a nod to the city’s quirky side. The hotel’s bartender brews his own tinctures and mixes ingredients together to make the ordinary, extraordinary. My gin and tonic was like none I’ve ever had; it was fabulous.

For an introduction to the geography and history of the city, visit The Vue. It’s a new interactive exhibit on the top levels of the Four Seasons Hotel.  Technology makes it easy and fun to understand the culture and people who formed the city. You’ll learn about food, music, life on the Mississippi and more. The top two floors offer 360o views of the city.

The Vue interactive exhibit in New Orleans

The Vue exhibit is a great way to learn about New Orleans / Photo by Karen Gershowtiz

The Vue interactive exhibit in New Orleans

The Vue exhibit is a great way to learn about New Orleans / Photo by Karen Gershowtiz

Whether You Choose to Eat Upscale or on a Budget, You Will Eat Well

New Orleanians are passionate about food and the city is a paradise for food lovers. Its rich history has created a culinary scene that blends French, African, Spanish, and Caribbean influences. Whether you want cheap eats or elegant dining, the choices are endless. 

On the budget side, stop in for a Po’Boy. The sandwich is nearly the symbol of the city. Piled high with lettuce, tomato and pickles and filled with roast beef, fried shrimp, oysters–or whatever you choose–Po’boys are slathered with sauce and served between two long pieces of French bread. It’s filling and inexpensive. A few places to get great Po’Boys are Mother’s Restaurant, Killer Po’Boys, and Johnny’s. Another local sandwich option is the muffuletta, introduced by Italian immigrants; cold cuts and olive spread on round sesame bread. If you’re looking for classic Creole cuisine, jambalaya, etouffée, and gumbo are what you want. Café Beignet, Coop’s Place, and the Gumbo Shop offer these at reasonable prices.

New Orleans’ fine dining scene offers an almost endless choice of upscale culinary experiences. Commander’s Palace, set in a historic Victorian mansion in the Garden District, is renowned for its haute Creole cuisine and jazz brunch. I’ve eaten there, the Court of Two Sisters, Brennan’s, Antoine’s and other iconic restaurants, the food is beyond delicious. On this trip, I ate at The Roosevelt Hotel’s Sazerac Bar, famous for its namesake cocktail.  It offers a luxurious historical setting, which, when I ate there, was decorated to the nines for the holidays. The people-watching was as great as the food. In the Monteleone Hotel, I dined at the Criollo restaurant and enjoyed a drink at the renowned Carousel Bar.  At Osteria Lupo, I ate one of the best Italian meals I’ve ever eaten.

But those are just the beginning. There are hundreds of fabulous restaurants. 

New Orleans is a Party City, No Matter When You Visit

I’ve been to NOLA during Mardi Gras, the Jazz Festival and Halloween. If you want a raucous party atmosphere, go then. But at other times of the year, including my recent visit, the city’s high spirits appear at less well-known events. 

Several years ago, I stumbled upon Luna Fete, an annual festival of light, art, and technology. The artistic light projections on the city’s buildings blew me away. This time, an unexpected Christmas parade materialized near where I was walking. Part Mardi Gras, part Macy’s Thanksgiving parade and uniquely New Orleans, the parade was great fun. I watched High School bands playing and strutting down Decatur Street, caught beads tossed from floats, shook hands with a rolling Elvi (part of a band of Elvis impersonators), ate a chocolate bar given to me. A few days later, I went on Magazine Street’s Champagne Stroll, which combined shopping and drinking. 

If you’re not in NOLA during Mardi Gras, but want to get the feel of it, visit Mardi Gras World. Many of the parade’s magnificent floats are built there. You can see how the floats are constructed and will be able to admire completed floats up close.  

Find the perfect place to stay in New Orleans right here!

Let’s geaux Saints! 

As with everything in NOLA, attending a Saints football game is a celebration. I was lucky enough to attend a VIP tailgate party on a patio overlooking the entrance to the Super Bowl. Catered by a local chef, there was enough food and booze to stupefy all the fervent fans.  

I didn’t watch the game from inside the Superdome, but from a local bar, The Upper Quarter in the French Quarter. When I arrived, the score was 21-0. I feared the fans would be morose. But no, there was glitz and glitter, booze, food, and joie de vivre.  In fact, hardly anyone was paying attention to the game until the few who were screamed or groaned. Then all eyes turned to the screens. When the Saints finally scored, they distributed pudding shots (pudding made with vodka) for a toast. 

Characters used during the Mardi Gras parade on display at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans

Characters used during the Mardi Gras parade on display at Mardi Gras World / Photo by Karen Gershowtiz

Characters used during the Mardi Gras parade on display at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans

Characters used during the Mardi Gras parade on display at Mardi Gras World / Photo by Karen Gershowtiz

Fans assemble in front of the Superdome before a Saints game in New Orleans.

Fans assemble in front of the Superdome before a Saints game / Photo by Karen Gershowtiz

Journey to the Plantations: Echoes of the Past

About a 30-minute drive from the city, Destrehan Plantation offers a stark reminder of the region’s history of slavery. The plantation provides an in-depth look into the antebellum South. 

I stayed overnight in a cottage on the Destrehan property. Should you want to stay in this area, it’s a good option. Far larger than my apartment, the cottage is very comfortable. 

Oak Alley, approximately an hour’s drive from NOLA, is a beautiful location (in Vacherie, Louisiana). It takes its name from the 28 live oak trees that form an alley (or allée in French). I took so many photos of the trees, with intense green Spanish moss and epiphyte plants attached to them, you’d have thought there was nothing else to see. But there is a lot to do and learn, including information about the enslaved people who worked there, as well as the history of the plantation and its owners. Dining at the plantation’s restaurant offers a taste of traditional Louisiana cuisine in a historic setting. Oak Alley also has cottages for overnight stays.

Nearly 40 years ago, I spent a lot of time visiting with a friend who was living in NOLA. She took me to several plantation homes. What they presented then emphasized the plantation owners and their lives, only mentioning enslaved workers in passing. It was as if the plantations planted and harvested sugarcane, ran the household, and did all the other tedious chores with the willing participation of workers. 

Now the stories are more realistic, giving equal weight to slave owners and enslaved people. Local universities have become involved in researching and presenting accurate histories. It’s chilling to read lists of people with prices attached to them, treated as if they were commodities rather than humans. Displays of shackles and other devices used to subdue resistance made my skin crawl.  The slaves’ miserable living conditions, especially in contrast to the elegance of the big house, are a vivid illustration of the horror of slavery.  

Kitchen at Destrehan Plantation in Oak Alley, outside New Orleans Louisiana

The kitchen at Destrehan Plantation / Photo by Karen Gershowtiz

Traditional Creole meal at Oak Alley, outside New Orleans Louisiana

Creole meal at Oak Alley / Photo by Karen Gershowtiz

Oak Alley, outside New Orleans Louisiana

The alley of Oak trees that make up Oak Alley / Photo by Karen Gershowtiz

Other Must-See Sights in New Orleans

Louis Armstrong Park: Louis Armstrong Park, in NOLA’s Tremé neighbourhood, is a tribute to the city’s musical heritage. The park, with its statues, open spaces, and theatre, celebrates the jazz legend and serves as a cultural hub. It’s a locale for events and festivals that celebrate the city’s musical legacy.

The Abita Mystery House: A visit to the Abita Mystery House, located across Lake Pontchartrain in Abita Springs, is a journey into the quirky heart of Louisiana. This folk-art environment, created by John Preble, is a playful exploration of creativity, with eccentric collections and imaginative dioramas.

Sazerac House: A visit to Sazerac House is essential for those interested in the city’s “spirited” history. This interactive museum pays homage to the sazerac, a local favorite alcoholic drink. Besides learning history, you’ll get to sample some of the city’s iconic beverages.

Preservation Hall: Nestled in the heart of the French Quarter, Preservation Hall is a revered musical sanctuary dedicated to traditional New Orleans jazz. Esteemed for its intimate, simple setting, this venue has celebrated and preserved the city’s jazz heritage since 1961, hosting nightly performances by renowned local musicians.

Café du Monde: This French Market coffee stand in New Orleans is famous for its beignets and chicory coffee. Established in 1862, it has become synonymous with the city’s French heritage. No trip is complete without sampling one of these sugary treats. 

Click here to find endless things to do in New Orleans and all over Louisiana!

No matter what you choose to do and where you eat, I can almost guarantee a fabulous experience.

The Bassigator at Abita Springs Mystery House

The Bassigator at Abita Springs Mystery House / Photo by Karen Gershowtiz

Sazerac House in New Orleans

Sample sazerac at the Sazerac House / Photo by Karen Gershowtiz

If you go

Getting around: The city is flat and very walkable. You can buy an inexpensive Jazzy Pass that will allow you to use any bus or trolley for 24 hours. Uber and Lyft are everywhere and fares are reasonable. Renting a car means finding somewhere to park, which is difficult and can be expensive.

When to go: Unless you plan to attend Jazz Fest or spend most of your time at Mardi Gras, I’d suggest visiting during quieter periods. Spring and fall have mild temperatures, are less humid and hotels are more affordable.

Make sure to listen to some live music.  Even if you’re not a jazz fan, there are lots of options and the music is world-class. Visit this website for a listing of live events.

Disclaimer: During her stay, Karen was a guest of The Louisiana Office of Tourism and New Orleans & Company.

More Places to Discover in the USA

Karen has been traveling solo since age seventeen, when she flew to Europe and didn’t return to the US for three years. She got severely bitten by the travel bug and since then has traveled to over ninety countries and has visited all fifty states -- many of them multiple times. In her career as a marketing strategist she traveled the world conducting thousands of meetings, focus groups and interviews. Her skills as an interviewer have persuaded total strangers to talk candidly about the most intimate of subjects, personal bankruptcy, illness and religion. When traveling for pleasure, those same skills helped her to draw out people’s stories. Karen’s first book of travel stories, Travel Mania: Stories of Wanderlust, explores the confluence of travel and life events, and how travel has changed her beliefs and life direction. Wanderlust: Extraordinary People, Quirky Places and Curious Cuisine continues those stories, addressing memorable food, people and places she experienced in her travels.


We always strive to use real photos from our own adventures, provided by the guest writer or from our personal travels. However, in some cases, due to photo quality, we must use stock photography. If you have any questions about the photography please let us know.

Disclaimer: We are so happy that you are checking out this page right now! We only recommend things that are suggested by our community, or through our own experience, that we believe will be helpful and practical for you. Some of our pages contain links, which means we’re part of an affiliate program for the product being mentioned. Should you decide to purchase a product using a link from on our site, JourneyWoman may earn a small commission from the retailer, which helps us maintain our beautiful website. JourneyWoman is an Amazon Associate and earns from qualifying purchases. Thank you!

We want to hear what you think about this article, and we welcome any updates or changes to improve it. You can comment below, or send an email to us at [email protected].

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *