We took our three intrepid teens to New Orleans (“Nawlins”) last summer. Yes, I wrote summer, but we truly lucked out on the weather. We were greeted the first day by sweaty gentlemen in red tutus and leotards—it turns out there was a fun run in support of local charities. Ladies were also sporting red eveningwear, and local pubs were providing “refreshment” from their morning exertions. I have to say, we really fell in love with this American city right away.
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New Orleans’ rich cultural history creates a feeling of mystery and intrigue. Never have I seen so many ghost tours available, or thought they might be plausible. The odd mix of voodoo, Christian mysticism, sultry jazz tunes and must-see, over the top graveyards add to this feeling. If that is not enough to convince the inexperienced visitor, at night, there are palm readers sitting about on the edges of Jackson Square with candles lit on the tables; waiting for their next customer.
This is a great city for teen tourists. Walking the French Quarter streets makes them feel part of the party whether they are allowed in a given place or not. Many of the jazz venues were open to all age groups. Our kids explored on their own, which included a stop in an incredibly fancy antique store on Royal Street. The kids were determined we should see it for ourselves despite the fact that we could not possibly be potential customers. We were surprised at the formally dressed staff’s placid and even friendly reaction to our teens bopping about the museum-like establishment. Their parents were not quite so calm.
The architecture of the French Quarter and Garden District is beautiful and area specific. Balconies dripping with flora (and probably fauna) cascade down from the balconies in the French Quarter while wrought iron, gated fences provide privacy to the large 19-century homes in the Garden District. Additionally, we headed to the 9th Ward where charming shotgun, bungalow style homes are being recovered from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. In fact, the local populace invariably referred to “before Katrina” and “post Katrina” when discussing their lives and experiences.
On a practical note, there is a convenient streetcar that runs up and down St. Charles Avenue. It can easily carry you as far as the University District and Audubon Park. We caught the streetcar in the Warehouse District. The city is flat and an easy walk, as well.
This is a formal (read dressy) but friendly place. There is a general sense of acceptance for all kinds of folks. None-the-less, I felt there was something hidden behind the locals’ public personas—a knowing or understanding that I could not quite reach, which has made me still more curious about this place. I can’t wait to go back and my family feels the same.
Oh, and don’t forget the alligators!