Apr 17, 201207:00 AM
The Lighter Side
Exploring the humor and peculiarities of the Big Easy
Being a Tour Guide
Papa Drummond's first crawfish boil
Photo by Annie Drummond
I love when people visit me.
My family came down over the weekend. My mom, dad, brother and sister-in-law. Whenever I'm showing people around New Orleans, I love to get vistors off the beaten path a little bit. I always warn them to not wear a bunch of Mardi Gras beads around if it's not Mardi Gras and always try to ram it into their brains that the hurricanes at Pat O's and hand grenades at Tropical Isle are a lot more powerful than they seem and to pace themselves. They usually don't listen, but hey, we've all been there.
It was a little strange for me at first to live in a tourist destination because I come from a place that definitely does not attract many visitors (except politicians salivating over swing states), but I've come to find that I love being a novice tour guide. Here are my essentials:
1. Seasonal Stuff
My husband and I had a crawfish boil on Saturday. We worked out most of the kinks from our first-ever boil last year. We didn't need to go to the store for last-minute bottles of seasonings or go searching around frantically for newspapers. Everything went smoothly. What was cool was that it was my family's first time eating crawfish the boiled way; it's always fun to teach people how to peel the little suckers, to suggest to a person who just tore a head off a bright red body for the first time that they should suck the head. I love that perplexed look. My mom refused to try any because she's not a fan of seafood, but my brother and dad took to it like champs, though my bro somehow developed a knack for squirting crawfish juice onto everyone surrounding the table.
2. Haunted History Tours
Some of the guides for these tours are absolutely amazing storytellers, especially the ones who like to dress up as pirates. And it never matters how many times I go because the tales never seem to be told the same way twice and are always entertaining. You can also grab a few drinks as you go, which usually makes things even more interesting. This is always great for the history buffs in your life.
3. The Joint and Other Bywater Establishments
I love my 'hood, so I like to keep it real and take visitors to our hidden gems. The Joint is always amazing and their new location is an awesome upgrade with the same amazing food. Bacchanal is also another great place and now that they have music back, everything is right with the world again.
4. Magazine Street
It's fun to take a day off from marveling at the French Quarter and wander around uptown. And it's great to take people to Magazine Street to get away from the "big-ass beer" signs and souvenir shops adorned with classy t-shirts that sport phrases like "I Got Bourbon-faced on Shit Street." I like to go to cool local stores like Storyville and Fleurty Girl. Both have really cool New Orleans-inspired gear. It's also fun to walk around the cute boutiques and antique shops, and I always have to make a quick stop to Sucré for some of their amazing macaroons and gelato.
5. Cafe du Monde
Off-peak hours only. Their beignets never disappoint and visitors always love it. It's one of the many places in New Orleans that just seem timeless.
6. A "Fancy Restaurant"
There are so many amazing restaurants down here that it can get overwhelming. When people come down to visit, they automatically want to go to the famous fancy joints like Commander's Palace or Antoine's, and while those are great and steeped in culinary history, they're not mandatory. I'll usually make a reservation for one of these places to get some of that old-school New Orleans atmosphere, but then for the rest of the trip I'll try to take them to places that locals go to like Bacchanal or Boucherie for some new-school New Orleans as well.
7. Festivals and Events
I've had friends come down for Voodoo Fest, Mardi Gras, French Quarter Fest etc. It seems like sometimes it doesn't matter which weekend a person comes to visit because there is always something going on and it's a great built-in instant activity.
8. Louisiana seafood
Some people are just not that into seafood, but even folks who don't like it very much usually like at least something that New Orleans has to offer. If it's crawfish season, that's a given, but what I also try to get people to eat are the chargrilled oysters. Just thinking about it is making me hungry. Of course, Drago's is the quintessential place, but I've found that Acme's oysters are pretty awesome as well.
9. Frenchmen Street
Frenchmen is a nice and tolerable alternative to Bourbon Street. I don't mind taking my friends and family to Bourbon, but I don't really like hanging out there all day. It's fun to walk down during a festival just for people-watching purposes, but after you've been here awhile, the novelty certainly wears off. Way off. Frenchmen is great because it's a happening area but not annoying. People always love going to hear some New Orleans jazz music while having a beer or two.
As always, it's hard to even scratch the surface when you have people in town for a few days. You really need visit over and over to get far enough off the beaten path, but I hope I do an okay job at revealing the hip and hidden treasures that this great city has to offer.
What are some of your favorite places to take visitors? I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments because even though I've lived here for a few years, I still feel like a tourist a lot of the time. (My checklist of things I still have to try in New Orleans is, sadly, pretty long. It's still got "swamp tour" way up at the top along with "plantation day trip" and "alligator cheescake.")