The French Quarter in New Orleans

Certainly the highlight of any trip to New Orleans, Louisiana is visiting the French Quarter. With a history that dates back to 1718, there are many different sites to see when spending time in the French Quarter. One of the first things that comes to mind when talking about the French Quarter is Bourbon Street, which is in the heart of the neighborhood. Regardless of the time of year, it can be raucous with many different bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. Although there are parades and special events during Mardi Gras, the street is pretty much an outdoor party all year as people are allowed to take drinks with them in plastic cups as they walk the streets. Although it can be a fun street to visit, there is certainly a lot more to see in the French Quarter than just Bourbon Street.

Walking Bourbon Street at Dusk
Very Busy Jackson Square
St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square

Jackson Square with its bronze statues of Andrew Jackson and proximity between the St. Louis Cathedral and the Mississippi River is an absolute must to visit. It is a beautiful park and is usually surrounded by artists selling arts and crafts as well as performers entertaining the crowds that gather in the area. A walk along the river or taking a tour on one of the historic paddle ships such as the Natchez should also be on your agenda. Obviously the St. Louis Cathedral, which is the oldest continuously operating catholic cathedral operating in the United States, is worth spending about an hour visiting. Located next to the cathedral is The Cabildo where you can see exhibits providing information on the history of New Orleans and Louisiana.

Historic Streets
Artists in Jackson Square
Voodoo Shop

In addition to the restaurants and typical tourist shops, you will find several voodoo shops in the French Quarter where you can buy yourself a voodoo doll or perhaps have a psychic reading done if you are interested. You will also find many different tour companies that offer ghost and cemetery tours and you will find many of them walking the streets after it the sun goes down. If you want a more lively way to spend your evening, there are lots of nightclubs offering live music, including jazz, Dixieland, as well as modern rock bands. As the night goes on, Bourbon Street becomes livelier and livelier and it is certainly not an environment for anyone under the age of 21.

Carriage in the French Quarter
Sign for a Voodoo Shop
Another View of Bourbon Street

Any trip to New Orleans should include sampling many of the varieties of food that are very specific to the region. You can find many different styles from inexpensive to the most formal meals. You should certainly expect long lines at many of the restaurants that don’t take reservations and for those that do accept them, you should plan to make reservations well in advance. In addition to the various foods such as po-boys, oysters, seafood, and crawfish, there are also several specialty drinks that can be found. Having a Hurricane or Sazerac are certainly worth having if you are looking for a unique adult beverage.

Natchez Riverboat
Mississippi River
Walking the Streets at Christmas

Overall, we would say that spending time in the French Quarter is a lot like visiting the Las Vegas Strip, meaning that it is probably worth about three or four days and is certainly not a great place for children to visit after dark. Regardless of the time of day, we really enjoyed walking the streets of the French Quarter including Royal Street with all of its art galleries, Jackson Square, and even spending time on Bourbon Street.

Inventor of the Hurricane Drink
St. Louis Cathedral
Beautiful Architecture

Jackson Square in New Orleans, Louisiana

While Bourbon Street might be the heart of the French Quarter during the night, Jackson Square is the heart of the French Quarter during the day. With many different local artists performing and selling local items, the area is full of activity throughout the day. The St. Louis Cathedral is also there as well as the Cabildo, which is a museum reflecting the history of region. There are also many different restaurants on the streets surrounding Jackson Square offering some of the best food in New Orleans. Needless to say, being a location that draws so many tourists, there are also a variety of stores that sell a wide variety of items that represent New Orleans.

Jackson Square, Andrew Jackson’s Statue, and the St. Louis Cathedral

Crowds Watching a Performer

As different artists perform, from musicians, magicians, and jugglers, to acrobats and dancers, crowds gather around making it difficult to make your way through the area. As one artist finishes their performance, another will immediately start setting up near by. Many of these performances at Jackson Square are quite entertaining and they make their living from the tips that they receive once their performance is over. Because it is their source of income, they can be quite aggressive as they ask for people to pay for the performance that they just watched.

Artists Selling Artwork

St. Louis Cathedral

The focal point of Jackson Square is the park with its statue of Andrew Jackson on his horse. There are many benches within the park where you can sit and relax away from the noise of the people gathered in front of the cathedral. There are also several flower beds and shade trees, although we were there during December, so they weren’t all in bloom. In addition to the artists performing, you will find artists selling paintings and crafts all along the fence that surrounds the park. Depending upon your taste, you can likely find something interesting if you are looking for something original.

Performers Just Gathering a Crowd

At the Edge of the Park

Jackson Square will certainly be quite crowded throughout the day as throngs of crowds flock their to visit the park, see the performers, and go into the cathedral. It is certainly one of the more family friendly areas within the French Quarter and you can certainly spend a couple of hours in the area. It is also right by the Mississippi River and you can go on a riverboat cruise following your time in Jackson Square. Additionally, there are horse-drawn carriages offering to take you on tours of the French Quarter.

Shade Trees and Vendor Carts

Walking into Jackson Square

Christmas in New Orleans

We decided to spend our holiday week in New Orleans, Louisiana, and it was definitely an enjoyable trip. We stayed in the French Quarter and spent our days wandering the streets, doing some tours, and eating wonderful meals. New Orleans is one of those places that has its own unique take on the holidays, especially in the French Quarter, which is the old town section of the city with a history that goes back hundreds of years.

Uniquely New Orleans

Altar in the St. Louis Cathedral

Festive Streets in the French Quarter

Hotel Decorations

Although it was the holidays, the French Quarter remains pretty much the same as it does throughout the year, meaning that it is basically a big party. The streets were a little quieter on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but generally there were a lot of tourists in town and the restaurants were very busy. Many of the buildings were decorated for the holidays and we enjoyed seeing some of the more whimsical decorations. As with many other cities, hotel lobbies are adorned with elaborate decorations as are many of the restaurant interiors.

Jazz Paintings and Holiday Lights

Whimsical Fun

Nativity Scene in the Cathedral

Restaurant Decorated for the Holidays

To really get a feel for how festive the streets are decorated, it is best to see them at night when the lights are all lit. We happened to do a carriage ride one evening and thoroughly enjoyed seeing the balconies all brightly decorated throughout the French Quarter. There are many other places to see holiday lights in New Orleans, but there is something special about seeing the decorations in such a historic atmosphere. In many ways it reminded us of the decorations that we saw throughout Europe on other trips we have taken.

Decorations at Night

Christmas Tree Near Jackson Square

Historic Building with Decorations

Southern Elegance

Christmas Tree in a Hotel