For those looking for something unusual to do in the Big Easy, there are plenty of options. From clothing-optional bars to sampling the universe’s hottest sauce to indulging in crabmeat cheesecake, you’ll be able to have some truly unforgettable experiences. To help you plan your itinerary, here is the Traveler’s Guide to Quirky New Orleans.
Experience A Clothing-Optional Bar
One interesting bar experience to have is The Country Club’s (634 Louisa Street) clothing-optional outdoor party. While the interior of the expansive house is free to enjoy, you’ll pay $8 (it’s $2 extra if you want a towel) to enter their backyard where you’ll find an in-ground pool, beach chairs, a hot tub, sauna, bar and clothing optional philosophy. The crowd is mainly welcoming LGBT locals, and you won’t get gawked at if you decide to bare it all. It’s a truly liberating experience.
Try The Hottest Sauce In The Universe
The Pepper Palace (835 Decatur Street) is literally that. With endless shelves and a tasting bar of free-to-sample hot sauces, salsas, dips, butters, jams, seasonings and more, you’ll get a taste of true New Orleans heat. Out of their more than 1,000 hot sauces, the most interesting option is undoubtedly the “Hottest Sauce in the Universe: The 2nd Dimension.” Apparently it’s the hottest sauce on the market, and you’ll need to be over 18 years of age and sign a waiver before trying it. While a sample will undoubtedly lead to sweat, tears and pain, you’ll be able to write in your name in the Pepper Palace’s boast-worthy Book of Fame.
Enjoy Live Jazz At A Wine Shop
Walk into Bacchanal (600 Poland Avenue) and you’ll think you’re in your everyday wine shop; however, step into their backyard and you’ll find the most ambient and energetic outdoor party you’ve ever seen. The grass is littered with tables and chairs (they even provide bug spray), with the entire scene illuminated by whimsical lights strung from the trees. There’s also a small stage where local performers play only their own original music. It’s unlike any wine bar you’ve ever been to.
Sail Aboard The Last Authentic Steamboat On The Mississippi River
The Steamboat Natchez is New Orleans’ only steamboat, the ship resembles an old world sternwheeler with a genuine copper and steel whistle, copper bell, a 32 note steam calliope and a 25-ton white oak wheel that churns the heavy waters of the Mighty Mississippi. Along with listening to live jazz music and sampling authentic New Orleans’ cuisine, your captain will regale you with historical and cultural information as he talks to the entire boat over an old-time handheld megaphone. The experience is certainly out of the ordinary as you take a step back in time and immerse yourself in old New Orleans.
Farm-To-Bar Cocktails At The Three Muses
While farm-to-table dining is commonplace, it’s not everyday you see a genuine farm-to-glass cocktail bar. Along with offering live jazz and sustainable meals, the Three Muses (536 Frenchmen Street) has a menu of cocktails with locally-sourced and housemade ingredients like their ginger beer, cherry cola, bitters, olive brine and fruit juices. Try the “Luisas Husky Revenge” made with Zaya rum, housemade ginger beer and basil-lemongrass bitters; “Suspiciously Absinthe” with Toulouse Red Absinthe, housemade grapefruit-dill bitters and hibiscus grapefruit soda; or a “Tequila Tiff” concocted with Avion Reposado with Agave Nectar, fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and soda.
Peruse A Voodoo Shop
New Orleans is home to a strong voodoo culture that stems from a time when Africans were shipped over as slaves, bringing with them their gris gris (magic making) objects and healing philosophies. There are many voodoo practitioners in New Orleans, and a visit to a voodoo shop allows you to peruse voodoo artifacts, buy voodoo dolls, have personalized gris gris bags made with oils, herbs and roots, have spiritual work done, get a reading or peruse special potions. Some voodoo shops in New Orleans worth checking out include Voodoo Authentica of New Orleans Cultural Center and Collection (612 Dumaine), Reverend Zombie’s House of Voodoo (723 St Peter Street) and Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo (739 Bourbon Street).
Steep Yourself In Voodoo-Inspired Luxury
At the Ritz-Carlton Spa, New Orleans (921 Canal Street) you can further your exploration into voodoo culture and have a voodoo-inspired treatment. Their “Marie Laveau Voodoo Love Bath and Massage” allows you to steep yourself in the same earthy oil used by Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. While you soak, red candles flicker, incense burns and voodoo music sets the mood. The treatment is followed by a Swedish massage.
Have Crabmeat Cheesecake At The Palace Cafe
At the Palace Cafe (605 Canal Street) you can sample one of the quirkiest desserts ever created: The Crabmeat Cheesecake. Combining New Orleans passion for fresh seafood and decadent desserts, the cake features a pecan crust with a filling of onion, crabmeat, Creole cream cheese, eggs, hot sauce, salt and white pepper. Each slice is topped with warm meunière sauce and three crab claws.
Do A Cemetery Tour
While wandering around a cemetery may not sound like your idea of a vacation, it’s a quintessential New Orleans experience. While there are dozens of cemeteries in New Orleans, most people choose to visit St. Louis Cemetery #1, the city’s oldest cemetery and the resting place of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, and Lafayette Cemetery where many films have been shot. New Orleans has a spooky history (many spots in the city are said to be haunted), and its cemeteries feature ornate above-ground tombstones dating back to the 1700s that are interesting to explore.
Taste Homemade Italian Ice Cream At Angelo Brocato
At Angelo Brocato (214 N. Carrollton Avenue), you can have the unusual experience of sampling authentic Italian ice cream in New Orleans, with all treats made in-house. Sample gelatos and ice creams in flavors like Italian Almond, Chocolate Kiss, Tira Mi SU, Cassata and Zuppa Englese.
Learn About Jazz Funerals
In New Orleans it’s not uncommon to see procession of brass instruments playing jazz music during a funeral, known as a Jazz Funeral. The procession begins with family, friends and a brass band marching from the home or funeral to the cemetery. The philosophy of Jazz Funerals stems largely from Haitian Voodoo’s idea of celebrating after death to please the spirits who protect the dead. It’s also a celebration of life. Typically, these types of funerals are given for musicians themselves or young people who died tragically.
Explore New Orleans by Segway
If you’ve never tried driving a Segway before, I suggest you start in New Orleans via a tour with City Segway Tours New Orleans (214 Decatur Street). You’ll explore the city mall cop-style riding a machine that’s a cross between a motorcycle and a scooter, learning about history, culture and beyond from a knowledgeable guide. City Segway Tours New Orleans offers an array of entertaining tour options, including a Private Segway Experience so you can have a more personalized excursion.
Dine In A Truck Bed At Jacques Imos Cafe
Located at 8324 Oak Street, Jacques Imos Cafe serves up authentic New Orleans Cajun and Creole food fare in an energetic setting with boisterous locals and garish decor. While you have the option to sit in the restaurant, you can also dine at a table for two in their pickup truck bed, which makes for a quirky date. The cafe also serves up some unusual fare, like Shrimp and Alligator Sausage Cheesecake and crabmeat-stuffed shrimp.
Stroll Down Bourbon Street
New Orleans’ most iconic street is full of quirky characters. You’ll see toddlers breakdancing, vampires, lady boys spanking tourists, Greenman, guys throwing beads at girls flashing their boobs, debauchery and pure quirky craziness. While I suggest hitting up some of the great jazz clubs and cocktail bars in the Marigny neighborhood and not spending too much time on Bourbon Street nightlife, no trip to New Orleans would be complete without experiencing this crazy street.
Mix Live Music With Bowling
At Rock ‘n’ Bowl (3000 S Carrollton Avenue) you can combine a fun night of bowling with live zydeco music. Top local musicians come to play live shows, which really enhances the experience and makes for some unusual fun. Price is $24 per hour.