First Impressions of New Orleans: Bourbon Street (Photos)

Jazz, fine dining and public drinking: the perfect getaway?

Seven years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city, New Orleans is once again a bustling weekend getaway and bachelor(ette) party destination. With friendly locals, affordable prices and a laid back attitude, it’s clear why the city is one of America’s most popular tourist destinations.

Attracted by its rich history, music and foodie scene, Jake and I decided to spend Thanksgiving week in southern Louisiana. On our first night in “The Big Easy” did not disappoint, as we explored Bourbon Street while sipping on a  Hurricane cocktail and watching three separate wedding parties dance down the street.

Scroll down for the highlights of day 1 in Louisiana. Stay tuned for photos of Cajun Country, as we head to Breaux Bridge today!

Rebuild, Recover, Rebirth

First look at Louisiana-- lots of bayou! #nola

As our plane approached Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, our first impression of Louisiana was of endless swamps and an oil refinery. It was hard to imagine a bustling city just a half hour away.

Louis Armstrong welcoming us to his airport! #nola #neworleans

The local flavor shines through at the Louis Armstrong airport, where a sculpture of the jazz legend greets arriving visitors. I was surprised to see fresh flowers in the women’s bathroom!

Recover, rebuild, rebirth - New Orleans

We booked the affordable Quality Inn near Bourbon Street for our first night stay. The breakfast nook features a tribute to employees who suffered great losses in Hurricane Katrina; scrapbook-style collages  list how many feet of water filled each employee’s home and show photos of the damage. A plaque commemorates the resilience of locals and emphasizes that “there’s no place like home.”

Who needs a mint on the pillow when there's Cajun Crawtators? @choicehotels

In a nice local twist, the hotel placed a pack of “Spicy Cajun Crawtators” potato chips on our pillow instead of a mint. They tasted a lot like New York Deli Chips jalapeno flavor. In other words, they were delicious!

Bourbon Street

"Love Acts" -Bourbon Street signs #neworleans

Bourbon Street, the most famous attraction in New Orleans, is an intoxicating blend of our favorite destinations. It has the flashiness of Times Square, the spectacle of Las Vegas, the wildness of a Caribbean spring break and the sleaziness of a Bangkok ping pong show.

Classic Bourbon Street: public drinking and jazz!

For the ultimate Bourbon Street experience, order a Hurricane cocktail “to go” from just about any business lining the strip (even t-shirt shops have bars in this part of town) and take a stroll down the street. With so much competition for business, the alcohol is incredibly cheap: a cocktail costs $5, a large cup of beer costs $2-$3 and a shot costs about a buck. You won’t see those prices in New York City outside of happy hour!

Wedding party (literally) on Bourbon Street, New Orleans

During our Saturday night stroll we came across three separate wedding parties. In a process that makes our Broadway theater wedding look positively low key, each wedding march was led by a dancing bride and groom holding parasols. Close behind them, the immaculately-dressed guests jumped up and down while waving white handkerchiefs. New Orleans police officers on motorcycle led the marches through the pedestrian-lined streets, although I’m not sure if they were protecting pedestrians from getting run over or safe guarding the wedding party from drunken tourists.

Bourbon Street: Bachelorette parties, live jazz & beads!

I’d describe the atmosphere on Bourbon Street as “spring break for adults.” Bars give away plastic beads to entice customers, and souvenir shops sell “bachelorette” and “birthday” sashes to groups of tipsy partygoers. Just about every bar or club features live music, ranging from jazz (the most common) to rock and rap. The street is also a stage, as tourists line up to watch break dancers and pose with locals dressed in Mardi Gras attire.

This statue really wants a drink! Bourbon Street, New Orleans

Even the statues are a bit saucy. This bronze sculpture was eying Jake’s Hurricane!

What’s your favorite New Orleans attraction?

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About Leslie Koch

I'm a New Yorker with a passion for travel and art. I founded DowntownTraveler.com after returning from a year-long backpacking trip around the world. Find me on Twitter at @leslietravel.