Crimespree’s Bouchercon City Guide For New Orleans
Bouchercon City Guide
By Bryan VanMeter
Hey out there! If you’re like me, you’re probably getting pretty excited about Bouchercon in a couple weeks. However, unlike me, you probably don’t live in this amazing city. So before you arrived, I wanted to give you a couple of my favorite hot spots to hit. For the most part, I didn’t include places that are splashed all over travel guides. You can find info for those easily enough and these are well worth your time. The following is a collection of some of my favorite things near the Bouchercon Hotel.
1. MUSICAL LEGENDS PARK – 311 Bourbon Street www.neworleansmusicallegends.com
This is a great place to grab a beignet and a daiquiri and listen to some great live music. An oasis of peace amidst the chaos that is Bourbon Street, you will find a beautiful tiny park filled with bistro tables and bronze statue of some local jazz greats. This is especially beautiful in the evening and a great way to wind down.
2. NAPOLEON HOUSE – 500 Chartres St. www.napoleonhouse.com
This is one of my favorite pieces of architecture in the Quarter. The fact that it also serves amazing food and drinks is just an added bonus. It is a perfect place to take in the feel of the old Quarter and enjoy a traditional Pimms cup or Sazerac.
3. PIRATES ALLEY CAFÉ – 622 Pirates Alley www.piratesalleycafe.com
Nestled beside the Cathedral, Pirates alley can feel like stepping back in time to when New Orleans was young. Pirates Alley is a great little place that specializes in serving traditional absinthe. As an added bonus, just one door down is the William Faulkner House and Bookshop.
Got a Couple of Hours?
1. TAKE A STREET CAR RIDE DOWN ST. CHARLES
The street cars are one of the most iconic images of New Orleans and a great way to see the city. I am particularly fond of the St. Charles line as it takes you through the uptown mansions and manors, giving you an excellent look at the architecture of the area. Live oaks and Spanish moss line the street, and more often than not, a few strands of beads hang from the trees. It is a constant reminder that one Mardi Gras has ended, but another is just around the corner.
2. WALK ROYAL STREET
Essentially running down the middle of the French Quarter, Royal Street is home to amazing antique shops and art galleries. It is common to see pieces of furniture dating back to the 1700’s in the antique shops. It is always fun to look, but it also has an interesting insight into the fashion and design of New Orleans homes.
3. GRAB A DRINK AND WALK BOURBON STREET
Yeah it’s touristy. Yeah, since it’s summer it smells a bit funky. Yeah it’s filled with idiots who think the city is nothing more than a 24/7 bar. Yeah, there’s seedy looking strip clubs. However, there is also a ton of live music, neon lights, booze, and smiling people. It is total sensory overload and it can be kind of fun to indulge it for a little while. So jump in. Grab a hand grenade or a daiquiri and take a walk. If nothing else, you may get some good character inspiration for the next thing you write while you people watch.
Got a Half Day or a Full Day? (LUCKY YOU!)
1. HAUNTED HISTORY TOURS – 723 St. Peters St. www.hauntedhistorytours.com
This is my favorite group to get a tour from. They have a range of walking tours from Voodoo to Vampire. However, my favorites are the Ghost Tour and the Cemetery Tour. The ghost tour is a wonderful walking history lesson of the Quarter, peppered with some paranormal mystery for flavor. The cemetery tour takes you through the St. Louis Cemetery #1 where some of the most famous people in New Orleans history are interred, including the Voodoo Queen herself, Marie Laveau. Either way, these people are marvelously entertaining and wonderfully knowledgeable at the same time.
2. WWII MUSEUM – 945 Magazine St. www.nationalww2museum.org
Yeah, it is in all the guide books and I am supposed to be guiding you to other things, but believe me when I tell you that this is the most amazing museum I have ever been to, and I am not even that in to WWII history. Everything down to the minutest detail is designed to draw the visitor into the story, both good and bad, of the war. It is immersive, personal, and far beyond the scope of any museum I have seen before. This will take a whole day, though.
3. AUDUBON AQUARIUM – 1 Canal St. www.audubonnatureinstitute.org/aquarium
Seated on the Mississippi River, the Audubon Aquarium is an amazing piece of architecture filled with wonderful exhibits. From the Tropical reef you can walk through, to the giant shark tank, to the white alligator, it is a fantastic place to visit. It is always memorable and a spot we typically bring visitors.
4. WALK DOWN MAGAZINE STREET
It is advertised as 6.2 miles of shopping and food. It is certainly that. From Mahoney’s Poboys to District Donuts more than a few of my extra pounds are due to that stretch of road. However, it is also a really cool area that has unique shops and sights that are beyond the beaten path of most tourists. In the area, there are also sights like the AHS Coven house, the Anne Rice house, the Eiffel society and many others.
Be aware that this is a city that loves to eat. Around every corner there is another fantastic place to grab a bite. These are just a couple of my favorites in the area
1. MULATES – 201 Julia St. www.mulates.com
When people ask where to go for traditional Cajun food, I always send them here. The menu is straight out of the New Orleans play book with everything from jambalaya to red beans to etouffe. Featuring a live Zydeco band and a dance floor, it is everything I love. I have never left without being painfully stuffed, but do yourself a favor and try to save room for dessert. Their bread pudding is heralded far and wide one of the best in the world.
2. COCHON/COCHON BUTCHER – 930 Tchoupitoulas St. www.cochonrestaurant.com
The baby of the famous Donald Link, this place is constantly serving amazing food. Everything is prepared over a wood burning stove. The charcuterie is 100% hand prepared and aged on site. Not fine dining, this isn’t a grab and go restaurant either. It is the perfect blend of brilliant food and a relaxed environment. Tasso wrapped shrimp and the braised ham hock are my usual go to’s.
3. BARCADIA – 601 Tchoupitoulas St. www.barcadianeworleans.com
Part bar, part classic arcade. Featuring an awesome selection of beers on tap, inventive burgers, and wonderful pub food. What more do you need to know? Grab some quarters and I’ll see you there
4. NOLA POBOYS – 908 Bourbon St. www.nolapoboys.com
There is something magical about a great poboy. NOLA POBOYS is a guaranteed stop any time I am in the quarter. They serve every kind of poboy imaginable and make them perfect every time. This is where I will be having lunch more often than not during the con.
5. FRENCH MARKET – 1235 N Peters St. www.frenchmarket.org
This isn’t a restaurant, but rather 6 blocks of a great open air market. Here, you will find vendors serving everything from oysters on the half shell, to snoballs, to etouffe by the bowl. It is the perfect place to wander a bit and taste a bit of everything.
While I’ve got your attention, allow me to pass on one final piece of advice. When we first visited the city a few years ago, I came as prepared as anyone could be. I had read all the travel guides, explored all the websites, and planned an itinerary that was iron clad. That itinerary barely lasted 12 hours from the moment our feet hit the slate streets of the Quarter.
The people who live here live each day as though it might be their last. Now, that doesn’t mean we are drunk 24/7, like some may think. Rather, it means they don’t pass up a chance for happiness or pleasure. They go where their hearts, stomachs, and ears lead them. They may have left the house with a destination in mind, but five hours later find themselves walking in the opposite direction with a drink in one hand following the sounds of brass across the city.
The unexpected wonders are part of the magic of this city. Whether it is a street performer playing like you have never heard before or the smell of something too good to resist, follow it. Embrace the unplanned. Love the unexpected. Every time you walk outside the hotel, you have the chance of experiencing something you may never experience again. Have plans and enjoy them. But do not turn away a moment of pleasure in the present for something that you are planning to enjoy later. Relax and let the good times roll!
Looking forward to seeing you at Bouchercon 2016!