7 Things To Do In New Orleans Before You Leave: A Biophysicist’s Guide

We find ourselves immersed in New Orleans, Louisiana, an old city with an abundance of history. As our time remaining at the Biophysical Society Annual Meeting 2017 dwindles, it’s important to ask ourselves what local experiences we’ve missed. Maybe it’s just me, but as a tourist I have an eternal struggle to find authentic experiences. But according to the Atlantic, authentic experiences don’t exist. Among many reasons, they cite the “traveler quantum effect” in causing this: because we are tourists, the mere fact of our being results in inauthenticity. Once we accept this, we can shrug off any doubts about experiencing “true” New Orleans, and we can focus on simply having fun. Here’s a list of 7 arguably “fun” activities to do after a day at the convention center.

1. Walk Along the Mississippi River
The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is situated right next to the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk. When you’re done with the day’s sessions, enter the mall and continue walking north until you exit the mall again. Continue north along the choppy waters of the Mississippi. Along the way, you’ll be pleasantly serenaded by street music and will eventually find the Steamboat Natchez (which offers a dinner jazz cruise). Once you see Jackson Square on your left, stop.

2. Beignets at Café du Monde
You’re at the river. Before crossing Decatur Street to get to Jackson Square, you’ll find Café du Monde. This locale is known for its beignets and café au lait. Sadly, I attempted to visit the café Sunday morning but was beset by an incredibly long line. If you brave the wait, when you receive your beignet, you can ponder about the ratio of sugar to bread. How much is enough? Hopefully the answer you’ll find is similar to the answer I arrived at during previous visits to New Orleans: there is never enough. If you’re besmitten by the beignets, you can even buy the mix for home use!

3. Pirate Alley
After crossing Decatur Street and making your way through Jackson Square, you should turn left at the cathedral and then immediately right into Pirate Alley. I won’t distract you with the historical details, but this quaint alley is also one of the most allegedly haunted in New Orleans. As you walk through the alley and contemplate the existence of ghosts, be sure to stop at Pirates Alley Café.

4. See the Dueling Pianists at Pat O’Brien’s
Once through Pirate Alley, turn left onto Royal Street and then right onto St. Peter Street. On the left you’ll find Pat O’Brien’s, known for their dueling pianos and hurricane cocktail. Sunday evening I found myself at Pat O’Brien’s and quickly lost myself in the music. As one of the pianists belted out the lyric to the Eagles’ song “Hotel California” that “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”, I checked my watch and realized that too much time had passed. Beware: Pat O’Brien’s resists the flow of time.

5. Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Once sufficiently sated by piano renditions of the golden oldies, you can walk just up St. Peter Street to the Preservation Hall. Every evening at 8pm, 9pm, and 10pm they put on a performance featuring the world-renowned Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Tickets cost $15 per person and are first-come first-served (you must wait in line before the performance). The music is boisterous jazz from another era that shouldn’t be missed. If you have time, I definitely recommend going.

6. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar
Once you exit Preservation Hall, continue up St. Peters Street and then turn right on Bourbon Street. Walk 3 or 4 blocks and then you’ll find Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar on the left. This bar is quite old (built between 1722 and 1732) and is claimed to be the oldest bar in the United States. Interestingly, the bar is lit by candles, which give it a very mellow atmosphere.

7. Frenchman Street
After Lafitte’s, continue along Bourbon Street until it becomes Pauger Street and then take a right on Dauphine Street. You’ll walk two blocks and then be on Frenchman, which is acclaimed for its jazz and nightlife. I will leave you to explore on your own here. When you’re done, order an Uber back to your hotel rather than taking the long walk back. Why not?

You will notice that this route avoids the heart of Bourbon Street. If you want to subject yourself to Bourbon Street crowds (see my previous post), I recommend stopping by the Musical Legends Park with its jazz at night. There is also a cocktail bar called the 21st Amendment—my favorite bar in the city—just off Bourbon Street on Iberville Street that has good late night jazz. If you have some time in the morning, I recommend trying brunch at the Court of Two Sisters, which operates from 9am-3pm. Finally, if you wish to mobilize yourself, I recommend taking a ride on the streetcar through the Garden District and appreciating the gorgeous buildings you’ll see along the way.

Chris Lockhart

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