This past Tuesday night, when I was making last-minute New Year’s Eve plans, I told a friend we should go somewhere “away from Bourbon Street.” It’s going to be super touristy, I thought. I don’t want to deal with that.
I have this conversation with New Orleans locals a lot. New Orleans is a popular city for tourists, but its residents often try to get away from the out-of-towners. Since moving here, I have learned New Orleanians appreciate the tourism and they are welcoming to visitors, but locals also like to stick to their neighborhood places while the tourists enjoy Bourbon Street and its surrounding areas.
While I don't consider myself a tourist, I'm still sort of a newcomer, so I feel like a visitor sometimes. I've been in New Orleans for 16 months, but I still get lost on my way to friends’ houses, and I just found out I’ve been pronouncing Calliope Street wrong.
While getting lost and feeling stupid gets frustrating, one good thing about enjoying the last ounce of my newness is I can use it as an excuse to do touristy things. For example, I’ve been on lots of tours, such as the Cajun Encounters Swamp Tour and the New Orleans Jogging Tour. I enjoyed these two a lot and I have been recommending them to everyone. I recently went on the NOLA Brewing tour, which I wrote about for New Orleans Magazine. I’m also a big fan of the World War II Museum.
These tours and places are clearly designed for visitors from all over the world. While you can learn a lot at the World War II Museum, for instance, I’ve noticed local New Orleanians don’t frequent it too often. Yes, they appreciate that the museum is there, but they don’t go all the time.
I’ve noticed this in other touristy cities, too. When I was studying abroad in Paris, I lived with a Parisian woman. I thought it was funny when one night at dinner she said, “Ughh, I hate the Louvre.” The Louvre! One of the most famous museums in the whole world! It was a quick subway ride from her house, but she chose to avoid it. Too crowded, she said.
I say the same thing about Bourbon Street, but on New Year's Eve my friends and I actually ended up there for a few drinks. Earlier in the day I thought I would try to avoid that area, but it was actually fun to try new bars and watch people jump on top of each other to catch Mardi Gras beads. New Orleans gets a lot of visitors for a reason, so sometimes it's fun to act like a visitor for a few hours.
I’ve talked about doing touristy things on this blog before, but since we've just started a new year, I encourage all of you to try something touristy in New Orleans. Even in a city that’s almost 300 years old, there’s always new stuff to learn about its history and new stuff to see, whether you're a native or a newbie.