Known as The City of the Dead, New Orleans is the most alive city I’ve ever been to. Whether it’s the beauty and history of the French Quarter, the rambunctious and sensory-overloading Bourbon Street, the mysterious swamps, or the mixture of very colorful locals and overly carefree tourists, NOLA simply pumps energy out into the world. The history is unique, and being such a huge fan of the supernatural, it’s my kind of place. NOLA fulfilled every expectation I had, apart from not seeing a real-life alligator in the wild. 👎🏼
I was hooked by the French Quarter (FQ) the second I laid eyes on it. I’ve seen pictures of this whimsical place, as well as been to Disneyland’s version, but I had yet to visit the real deal for myself. Parking deep inside the FQ is basically like going into battle, sooo I don’t recommend it. All the streets going through the FQ are one-way, with parking along the side, but most is private and/or already taken for eternity. There are numerous pay-to-park lots just outside the FQ which unbelievably are not too expensive. We ended up paying around $11 for approximately 7ish hours.
Our first stop was the Museum of Death, located on Dauphine Street. The parking lot sat right on the edge of the FQ, so we did have to walk a bit. However, we had only walked about 50 feet before being completely trapped in an insanely heavy rain storm. We were trapped underneath an awning for a good 25 minutes before realizing we’d have to call an Uber or do SOMETHING, otherwise who knows how long we’d be stuck in this rain purgatory. It seems to rain at least once a day in Louisiana, as it rained every day I was there, for at least an hour or so.
Important: if you put the address to the Museum of Death into a GPS, it’ll take you about 60 feet ahead of the actual museum. Our Uber driver put it into his phone and we ended up in front of a café, while he insisted this was the address for the museum, showing us his phone. Due to the heavy rain, we had no way of knowing the museum was directly behind us. We were very confused and wondering if it had recently closed. He ended up dropping us off under a nearby hotel, where we went inside to search for umbrellas, finding plastic rain parkas for $3 apiece. After building up the courage to run through about 3+ feet of water (the rain was coming down so fast and hard that the drainage system couldn’t keep up), we started making our way back to the car for safety.
After about 15 minutes the sky became clear again and it was time for Take Two. Off we went to find the Museum of Death. While trapped in the car, I googled it; the most current reviews were from a week before, so it MUST exist. We headed back towards where it said it was located and sure enough, there it was, tucked a bit back. Located at 227 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70112, it’s open 7 days a week from 10am to 7pm – and no pictures are allowed inside the museum. This is due to items and photographs that aren’t public or readily available online. We met the actual owner (who was working the front desk) and that’s what he explained to us. They monitor the museum very closely – through cameras and workers walking around – and if they catch you taking pictures, you will be immediately kicked out and banned.
Truthfully, it was unlike any place I’ve ever been. While I’m not näive nor been shielded from the horrors of the internet, my stomach was extremely queasy by the end of the visit. There are a lot of photographs depicting both famous and non-famous people dead; photographs of the Manson Family murders that I’ve never seen before and aren’t available online; various pieces of clothing, furniture, paintings, drawings, and other effects belonging to numerous serial killers like Richard Ramirez, John Wayne Gacy, and Charles Manson; a theater in the back playing a movie on a loop of just various real and awful deaths from around the world… we didn’t stay and watch it; as well as items from 9/11 and a video of the attacks playing on a loop.
There was so much more than this, and none of it is for the weak-of-heart.
After leaving, we made our way to the Hard Rock Café. It’s not somewhere I suggest and our experience was not pleasant. I strongly suggest trying a more local restaurant in the FQ, and there are plenty. My personal suggestion is Pat O’Brien’s, but more on that later.
After lunch, we made our way over to the infamous Bourbon Street, known for its debauchery, bars, and bare chested ladies. I was warned prior to visiting Bourbon that I should not wear flip-flops or “any shoes you don’t want ruined”. Apparently, this was due to the amount of vomit and urine that lines the streets of Bourbon 🥴. I like to live life on the edge, and wore my sandals anyway, not really noticing an ungodly amount of human waste. It honestly just seemed like any large city street: dirty.
Another place we ate at was Pat O’Brien’s, which is tucked away off Bourbon street into a little secret garden-like place where I half expected fairies to come out at any second. Located at 718 St Peter, New Orleans, LA 70116, it’s only open Thursday through Sunday, from 12pm to 7pm (Sunday & Monday) and 12pm to 11pm (Friday & Saturday). Once inside you forget that you are on the craziest street NOLA has to offer. The food is good, they give you a lot, and most importantly – it’s reasonably priced. On my last night here, I stayed at a hotel near the airport and instead of spending money on overpriced hotel food, I Ubered to the FQ specifically to eat here again. 10/10, would recommend.
New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum.
We came back to the FQ two days later, this time to visit the famous St. Louis Cathedral, Saint Louis Cemetery #1, the Coven House, and to do our ghost walking tour. The very first place we headed was Saint Louis Cemetery #1, because it closes super early (9 am – 3 pm), and we had arrived in NOLA around 2 pm. Ugh… the cemetery was the single biggest disappointment of my entire trip to NOLA – because I didn’t get to visit the thing. Nobody informed me that a few years ago, the city of New Orleans closed the cemetery to the public due to vandalism and grave robbing; therefore, you can only visit with a pre-approved, guided tour (like the company we booked for our ghost walking tour).
As we walked up, I noticed a long line to get in and people at the gate filtering in tourists. I asked a random guide if you needed to be in a tour to get in, he said “yes”, and it was at that moment that disappointment washed over me like a black wave. Since the cemetery closed in less than an hour, it was far too late to book a tour, and this was our last day of visiting the FQ. I had no choice but to cut my losses, learn my lesson (google EVERYTHING!!! Or read travel blogs 🤪), and make sure I return in this lifetime to visit it.
After pouting for a few minutes over the cemetery, we moved on to the heart of the FQ, and to Saint Louis Cathedral.
Located at 615 Pere Antoine Alley, New Orleans, LA 70116, it’s open Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 4pm, Saturday 5pm to 6pm, and Sunday 9am to 12pm. Officially named The Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, the current church has been standing in New Orleans since 1789. It is the oldest cathedral in the United States. The church is completely open to the public; however, when you go inside the chapel, be advised that people are actively praying. You’re allowed to walk around and observe, but they have multiple “please keep quiet” signs displayed.
Next, we headed to the Garden District to do what every good American Horror Story fan does in New Orleans: visit the Coven House. For non-AHS lovers, the third season of the show was filmed entirely in NOLA and included a handful of real-life famous historical figures from there, like Marie Laveau and Delphine Lalaurie. I’m a super fan of AHS, so there was no way I was passing up the opportunity to see this famous house. The Coven House, or as it’s officially known, the Buckner Mansion, is located at 1410 Jackson Ave., New Orleans, LA 70130.
Do not let the internet fool you into thinking it’s open to the public. If you google the Buckner Mansion, Google will tell you it’s open 24 hours a day. LIIIIIEEEESSSSS (for all you AHS fans out there). Do more than a simple google search and you will find countless reviews and articles that all say the same thing; no, it is NOT open to the public and you will NOT be getting inside. You will be insisting to the police officer arresting you for B&E that “Google says it’s open, Officer!”. It’s a privately-owned residence and is only available for rent a few weeks out of the year (for the economically sound and reasonable price of $20,000). The gate was securely locked and there were numerous signs in the yard stating that trespassers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. So yeah, make your own judgments here.
Our final thing in the FQ was our long-anticipated ghost walking tour. We signed up just a day or so in advance, with a company called Ghost City Tours. They offer numerous walking tours; Ghost of New Orleans Tour (the one we took), Haunted New Orleans Tour (not quite sure how it differs from the first tour, but whatevs), Haunted pub crawl, Killers and Thrillers west and east (two separate tours), and a cemetery tour (St. Louis Cemetery #1). Our tour was $19.95 per adult, and $9.95 per child. They run this tour twice per night, once at 6pm and again at 8pm, and it’s 90 minutes long. The walking is not strenuous, so if you are wearing sandals or flip-flops it shouldn’t be an issue (my friend and I were wearing sandals). The tour never leaves the FQ, and most of the locations are located near one another.
We visited a handful of supposedly very haunted locations; however, tours are not allowed inside any of these buildings, so you learn about their history and what makes them so haunted from the sidewalk on the outside. It is still very educational and fascinating, but just a heads-up.
Some of the places we visited were St. Louis Cathedral (Touchdown Jesus), Muriel’s restaurant, the Andrew Jackson hotel, Pirates Alley (along with its 18th century drainage system still visible), the old city jail, the house with a bricked-up window because it is said that’s where New Orleans vampire Jacques Saint Germain lived (and he’d supposedly use that window to lurk into the night and do whatever it is vampires do), and finally the famed Lalaurie Mansion. There were a few other stops but frankly, I can’t remember them.
Our guide was an extremely animated and energetic woman who told us about the history of all these places and how they came to be so haunted. Apparently, quite a bit of murder and supernatural shenanigans went down in New Orleans back in the day. Of all the places we went, the only one that is completely off limits to any visitors in any capacity is the Lalaurie Mansion. There are fraudulent companies out there that will claim to be able to take you inside the mansion, but that’s a lie. It is privately owned, and the owners don’t even live there for like 95% of the year. Absolutely no tours are offered, and you cannot rent it like the Buckner Mansion. All you get to see is the outside and a peek though a small, barred gap over the door. In fact, American Horror Story couldn’t even film here while shooting Kathy Bates’ Lalauire scenes and had to shoot “inside the house” at a different location.
*Important note: my friend and I didn’t even think about bringing cash to tip the tour guide and felt like giant assholes as a result. So bring some cash with you.*
We headed to Frenchmen Street the same night of our ghost tour because we had some time to kill beforehand. Plus, my friend’s bf is familiar with the the area and told her that all the looocals go to Frenchman Street and avoid Bourbon like the plague. The biggest difference between the two is that Frenchmen is more artistically leaning and quiet, while Bourbon is all about drinking yourself into a coma and being way too overstimulating. To be honest, I was bored with Frenchmen; however, I did score two really cool hand-painted NOLA inspired paintings.👇🏼👇🏼
Café Du Monde
Café Du Monde is located about half a mile from Frenchmen Street and a stones throw from Saint Louis Cathedral, and is quite the experience. The official address is 800 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116, and its open daily from 8am to 8pm. I went the first day we visited the FQ, but the line was too long, and it was too hot. I thought I was going to leave NOLA without getting to try their world-famous beignets; however, on the last night I was there, I headed over after dinner. Both times I went – once during the day and once at night – the place was PACKED. Every table was taken and the lines for sit-down and to-go will have you waiting a good 15 to 20 minutes. Another important note (that I almost learned the hard way) is that they only accept cash. I stood in line for about 20 minutes only to make it near the front and see the ominous “cash only” sign looming ahead of me. It ended up being $3 even for 3 beignets, and I had EXACTLY three, $1-dollar bills. Divine intervention, perhaps?
Overall, my visit to New Orleans did not disappoint and I was able to mark off several items from my bucket list (seeing a real-life alligator in the wild not being one of them). There are very few places I have visited that I absolutely know I will be returning to, and NOLA is one of them. Next time I plan on staying near the FQ, or at least near the airport depending on prices, to make the trip easier since Baton Rouge is a good hour away.
City of the Dead, I will be back for you!