Photo Courtesy of Keith I. Marszalek

The internet is replete with “best ofs,” “top tens,” and “don’t miss” lists for cities like New Orleans. More often-than-not, these highlight highly visible low hanging experiences that nobody has to look too hard or far to find.

New Orleans, while still occasionally a city defined by a single street and atmosphere of all-day drinking and revelry has over the last decade become one of the nation’s hottest spots for lesser known, off the beaten path experiences that create a perfect escape to get delightfully lost within.

Pay your respects

Everyone knows that jazz began in New Orleans. A cultural melting pot, filled with the sounds of West Africa, the Caribbean, Spain, Italy, Germany and Native American tribes, that when mixed together just right produced a sound like no other. Take a moment to sit with the standard bearers at Preservation Hall and the Palm Court Jazz Café. Both venues feature legendary musicians who have been swinging out for decades.

By land and by sea

Uniquely situated on the national’s third (and overlooked) coast, New Orleans has benefited from the best offerings the land and sea and provide. The Gulf of Mexico’s fertile waters give birth to the finest (and fattest) oysters you can find. And while most people think the famed “Bourbon Trail” begins and ends in Kentucky, few realize it actually ends where the New Orleans’ famed street begins. Located at the foot of Bourbon Street, Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House  serves Gulf oysters raw, chargrilled, and topped with Caviar if you so like alongside over 300 American Whiskeys, the city’s largest collection.

A tale of two parks

New Orleans is home to two unforgettable greenspaces, City Park and Audubon Park. Both are just a simple and short streetcar (don’t call it a trolley) ride from the French Quarter. City Park which houses the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), and the newly constructed Louisiana Children’s Museum, features 1,300 acres of live oaks, draped in Spanish moss, miles of walking trails, two golf courses, a miniature golf experience like no other, and giant bench swings to lean back and enjoy the sunset from. Audubon park on the other hand offers a 2.2 mile walk through a park dedicated to the life and mission of John J. Audubon, the nation’s premiere ornithologist and naturalist who took it upon himself to document the region’s birds. One lap around the park is all it takes to see pelicans, egrets, herons, woodpeckers, parakeets, ducks, and geese. Don’t forget your camera!

300 years of architectural history

A walk through the French Quarter and Treme neighborhoods of New Orleans will introduce you to architecture that exists few other places on earth, and fewer still on one block. Play a game of “Architecture Bingo” by finding examples of 200 year old creole cottages, single and double “shotgun” homes, Greek revival mansions, side- and center-hall homes, “camelbacks,” “double-gallery” homes, and even a few California style bungalows can all be found within a short walk of the French Quarter.

More shopping than one street can hold

American cities featuring unique shopping districts is nothing new, but Magazine Street in New Orleans is a road packed with shops, museums, restaurants, bars, and galleries, stretching over five miles. Begin your journey downtown with stops at the “World War II Museum” or the “Ogden Museum of Southern Art,” then grab an eye opener at French Truck Coffee before heading on to “Trashy Diva,” “The Bearded Lady Barber Shop,” “Stein’s Deli,” and the “Terence Osborne Gallery.” And all that is just within the first mile!

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