So you’ve been following all of our happy hours and bar crawls, the restaurant reviews and the sports re-caps here on Red Beans and Life? So you probably think you’re an expert on where to go in the city? But where are you bringing your tourist friends when they visit? They likely want to head to Bourbon Street so see all the drunks and general lewdness but if you can convince them to avoid there, do you know where to bring them that will show off the best and most fun aspects of New Orleans? Well, that’s what I’m here for. These are the best places to bring friends that isn’t a bar or club and you’ll still have an awesome time.
1) The Audubon Aquarium
Your friends may not understand why the Aquarium is so awesome until they see it. People usually think that trips to the Aquarium are only for kids but the New Orleans Aquarium is the real deal. Run and operated by the Audubon Institute, it is one of the leading research facilities in the country for aquatic and marine biology. You can touch stingrays, marvel at sharks, fish and turtles in the Gulf of Mexico exhibit. Walk in glass lined chambers that make you feel you are in the ocean with all these amazing creatures. Open 10 AM until 5 PM, be sure to check the schedules so that you can do a penguin feeding! Where else in the South do you get to do that?
2) New Orleans Museum of Art
The New Orleans Museum of Art is located within City Park and is a local treasure. It’s a large space and inside there are a number of exhibits so art fans of any taste can enjoy something: medieval art, modern installations, Victorian portraits, historical recreations, everything. As if that wasn’t enough, once you’re done exploring the Museum, you can head into City Park for a walk through the Sculpture Garden or the Botanical Garden. It’s affordable, you can spend the whole day doing it and you can enjoy any of the numerous restaurants in the Mid-City area.
3) The Garden District
With the name alone, you can understand why I would recommend this area of town to tourists instead of the French Quarter. While I have been a Quarter rat for many years, it can be jarring experience for people that aren’t ready for it. And if you catch the Quarter on a bad day, it can be a real turn-off to visitors. So I say bring them to the nicer part of the city. Take them on a streetcar ride down St. Charles Ave, take a long walk down Magazine Street, and show them all the beautiful mansions, the shops and boutiques, and all the amazing bars and restaurants.
4) Frenchmen Street
Instead of taking your out-of-town friends to Bourbon Street, take them where the real locals go, Frenchmen Street. Do a little bar hopping, catch some live music and invite all your local friends out to hang out with your tourists pals. On weekends, next to the Spotted Cat Bar, there is usually a small market filled with local and handmade items that your friends can buy for souvenirs instead of the usual fare.
5) The National World War II Museum
The largest and arguably the best WWII Museum in the country, you can spend hours soaking in the history and seeing some of the best exhibits. The WWII Museum features a Boeing exhibit with real aircraft from that era, the tragedy of the Holocaust with pictures and stories, and you can see Beyond all Boundaries, a 4D movie produced by Tom Hanks that takes you through what was really like being in the trenches and on the homefront during this monumental time. If you know a WWII veteran, honor them with a brick along the entry pavilion. After you tour through the museum, enjoy a dinner at John Besh’s restaurant, the American Sector and a performance from the in-house performers, the Victory Belles.
6) The Lakefront
Back in the 1950s, the Lakefront was the place to be on Saturday night. After watching the sailboats all day on the water, people would line up their cars, barbecue and drink, play music and just hang out next to Lake Pontchartrain. Things are a little different now but the Lakefront is still beautiful. Brings your friends here for some fun in the sun, bring a picnic and the animals and just spend the day lounging. Take a long drive with the windows down all the way up and down and show your friends the sites along the way. Teach them what levees are and how they do almost nothing in a hurricane.