A Virtual Trip to New Orleans from the Comfort of your Couch
There’s nowhere quite like New Orleans. It’s a city that’s incomparable in its rich cultural history and fueled by unrivaled food and drink concocted from a melding of the French, Spanish, Italian, Creole, and Caribbean influences of the people that have called this city home. It boasts a live music scene from the bars lining Frenchman street to Congo Square where jazz music was born, with an architectural backdrop unlike anywhere else in the world. The celebrations, from music festivals to Carnaval season are in a league of their own. It’s certainly hard to not fall in love with NOLA.
This week I’m bringing you another virtual trip to a city that means so much to me. We’re heading down to the Big Easy for a taste of good home cooking, swinging music, and lots of haunted history. I’ve rounded up the best ways to bring NOLA to you, and I promise not to make your tummy rumble too much! Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!
1. Pick your poison.
New Orleans is known for inventing its fair share of cocktails from well before the 1830s. The city’s bartenders have perfected them, between the classic Sazerac or the French 75, to the infamous hurricane and frozen daiquiri. Open containers are encouraged in NOLA, so grab your to-go cup and let’s get our trip started!
2. Turn up the tunes
Walking through New Orleans is best accompanied by music. Luckily the city’s best musicians have continued putting on concerts that can be live-streamed from the comfort of your home. Don’t forget to support the artists! Each of the shows has a link where you can tip the musicians.
Listen live to the famous NOLA radio station WWOZ, or some of my favorite Big Easy playlists. I dare you not to dance!
3. Get your bearings
Start off with this virtual guide that the tourism board put together, and don’t feel bad if it takes you down a rabbit hole of New Orleans experiences. Press play and be taken away by the sights and sounds of the Big Easy. Have a walk down Bourbon Street, take in the sights from the driver’s seat of a streetcar rolling down St. Charles Ave., and through Audubon Park.
Take a stop at Anne Rice’s home on the tour Uptown to see where she got the vampire inspiration for her books, and check out the enviable homes that date back to before the Civil War among the live oak trees.
This virtual treadmill run takes you on a tour of the city and ends in the lively French quarter.
4. Play Tourist
Some of the best attractions in New Orleans can be enjoyed virtually here. Here are some of my favorites.
Mardi Gras World
Mardi Gras may have passed already this year, but you can still take a look at how New Orleans prepares all year round. You’ll be amazed during a visit Mardi Gras World where you see how the floats are created, recycled, and re-purposed.
Stop by Preservation Hall and get a front-row seat at this historic music venue in the French Quarter, whose mission is to protect and perpetuate the art of New Orleans Jazz music. Get in the groove with their playlist with New Orleans’ legendary musicians, and a live version of the artists playing with the Preservation house band:
And its live version of the artists playing at Preservation Hall:
Cities of the Dead
If you know anything about New Orleans’ topography and high water table, you’ll understand why New Orleans cemeteries are referred to as “Cities of the Dead.” With its history of flooding, New Orleanians were forced to inter their family members in above-ground tombs, some resembling miniature houses, complete with iron fences. The rows of tombs look much like streets, thus the name “Cities of the Dead.” Lafayette Cemetery is a must-do if only to see how different these burial plots are.
New Orleans Museum of Art
The New Orleans Museum of Art is offering high-resolution virtual tours of its permanent collection here.
Scroll all the way to the bottom to access the virtual tour. Currently, the site has seven tours, including one called "Spirituality over Time," which includes Baroque and Renaissance paintings and another with French Impressionist works.
Don’t miss the five-acre Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at NOMA, one of the most important sculpture installations in the United States, with over 60 sculptures situated on a beautifully landscaped site amongst meandering footpaths, reflecting lagoons, and 200-year-old live oak trees laden with Spanish moss.
A visit to New Orleans with its Creole cuisine, swinging, soulful music, and glorious culture is not complete without paying homage to the people who built this beautiful city. It’s easy to brush over New Orleans’ gruesome past when visiting many of the Antebellum Plantations on River Road, not far from New Orleans. The Whitney Plantation is a museum of slavery on the grounds of a historical sugar, rice, and indigo plantation established in 1752. The museum tells the story of slavery through the eyes of the slaves.
The virtual tour here starts at the Angel Mother statue in the Field of Angels Memorial to the enslaved children.
Join the virtual book club the museum has been organizing here.
5. Eat like a Local
Whenever I’m asked for recommendations on what to do during a trip to New Orleans, ninety percent of my list includes restaurants and bars. I’d argue that New Orleans has the best food and drinks in the country.
Have a try at some of these traditional New Orleans dishes while learning about the history behind them. This roundup has got it all, beignets, jambalaya, gumbo, and pralines.
The city’s top chefs have created virtual cooking classes to bring NOLA goodness right to your kitchen. See here.
If you thought that New Orleans music festivals were all about the music, you’d be sorely mistaken. The city’s best chefs share their secrets for the best recipes during festival season here and here. Learn the secret behind Jazzfest’s famous crawfish bread (or get it delivered to your doorstep) and the French Quarter Fest BBQ shrimp po-boy.
If your pantry is lacking some ingredients, whether it’s Pat O’s Hurricane mix or Cafe du Monde’s beignet mix, this site has got you covered.
6. Party it up!
Springtime in New Orleans is synonymous with outdoor festivals, concerts, and events. Despite events being canceled this year, many venues are bringing the party to you (see the list here). Here’s a list of livestream events and more live music. I’ll be attending the Sazerac Virtual Tasting drinks lesson to learn how to stir up this famous cocktail and learn more about its history.
7. Get spooked
New Orleans’ rich history is not void of ghost stories and haunted places. Take a virtual ghost tour of some of the spookiest spots in New Orleans.
8. Read all about it
New Orleans sets the stage for many literary classics. This reading list offers a view of New Orleans' life outside the romanticized city seen by tourists. Some of my favorites are:
The Awakening: Kate Chopin
A Confederacy of Dunces: John Kennedy Toole
The Vampire Chronicles: Anne Rice
Zeitoun: Dave Eggers
Here are some of my favorite Instagram photos to peek at when I'm getting lonesome for New Orleans. The best virtual walks are via our.nola.walks. I love the colorful shots of Adrienne Breaux’s Creole Cottage photos.
Images via Adrienne Breaux
Get a peek of NOLA Architecture and interiors through Laura Steffan’s eyes.
Images via Laura Steffan
David NOLA’s stunning shots of the city.
Images via DavidNOLA
10. Movie Night
Walking through New Orleans can feel like walking through a movie set, as there are so many films that take place here.
Interview with the Vampire: This 90s film based on the novel by Anne Rice is a must-see horror film set in the Big Easy.
Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts depicts the suffering that took place in New Orleans when the levees collapsed during Hurricane Katrina.
Treme: The drama series takes place in post-Katrina New Orleans in Treme, the neighborhood that saw the birth of jazz music and is known for its music scene, soul food spots, and cultural centers celebrating the neighborhood's African-American and Creole heritage.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Filmed mostly entirely in New Orleans, the film takes us on a tour of the city through the twentieth century.
11. Shop Locally
You won't find too many chain stores or restaurants in New Orleans. And it's a good thing, because NOLA's charm comes largely from the locally-run shops and boutiques. Shop jewelry, antiques, local art, home interiors, and gifts while helping the local economy. Here are the ones that are open online.
Let me know in the comments which virtual stops you made in NOLA. I had a fun time re-visiting some of my favorite spots in the Big Easy and can't wait for the next time we're back in-person. There were so many places and happenings that didn't make my virtual list, which gives me all the more reason to do a follow-up when things get back to normal.
Thank you for following along and sharing!