The Big Easy is synonymous with Mardi Gras, but locals and savvy tourists know that there’s a whole ‘nother side to the city than beads and Bourbon Street. In addition to world-class cuisine, you’ll find incredible live music and amazing architecture here. As an added bonus, a visit to the city in the off-season (June through early February) can save you money and help you avoid massive crowds.

Sweet Eats

Leading the pack when it comes to gourmet grub is Commander’s Palace, an institution in town since 1880. From the five-star service — you get TWO waiters! — to the food, created by James Beard award-winner Tory McPhail, you’d be hard-pressed to find a dining experience that compares.

Acme Oyster is another favorite, with a menu that includes the famous po’ boy sandwiches, classics like jambalaya and gumbo, and the namesake in all of its delicious forms — chargrilled, fried, or shooter-style.

Of course, you can’t leave the city before you experience the world-famous chicory coffee and beignets at Cafe Du Monde. This spot is open 24 hours a day, but you should still be prepared to wait in line for your French donut fix.

Tour de Fun

A stroll through the city’s French Quarter provides incredible sights and sounds, but a guided tour tells you the fascinating stories behind the historic hotels and houses. Free Tours by Foot lets you pay what you’d like for a leisurely two-hour excursion through New Orleans’ most famous neighborhoods.

You’ll hear about haunted lore and historic gossip, along with the best places to party, N’awlins style. Perhaps the most famous is Pat O’Brien’s on Bourbon Street, home of the legendary rum-based cocktail known as the Hurricane.

You Got the Beat

It would be difficult to go a day without hearing live music in New Orleans. While jazz is the dominant genre, you’ll find rock ‘n roll, folk, and blues here as well. Some will argue that a trip to the Big Easy isn’t complete without a visit to Preservation Hall, one of the oldest venues in town. You won’t find VIP or balcony seating here — on any given night, you’ll be treated to a performance by unparalleled musicians in a dimly-lit, bare bones room that’s furnished with nothing but benches.

Frenchmen Street, in the city’s Marigny district, is also home to famous dives like The Spotted Cat and the Apple Barrel. No need to plan ahead; let your spontaneous side take over and bar-hop the evening away. It’s all part of the fun and charm of New Orleans!

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