First-time visitors, especially, will likely want to take a formal cemetery tour, but if they're up for something a bit less formal (and a bit more unsettling), take a quick spin through the St. Roch Cemetery, home to a famous shrine to the saint himself, where generations of New Orleanians have left ex-votos -- physical mementos thanking the patron saint of healing for his interventions. These include religious objects as well as medical ones, like leg and neck braces and plaster casts of various body parts. It’s eerie, for sure, but it’s also a glimpse into the faith of a city that’s often regarded as a place of iniquity by outsiders.
If you happen to have guests in town for Satchmo SummerFest the first week in August, make sure you rouse them out of bed on Sunday morning for one of the best events of the whole year: the jazz mass at St. Augustine’s Church. Yes, really! This historic African-American Catholic church has been the spiritual heart of the Tremé neighborhood since before the Civil War and served as the church home of famous parishioners including jazz legend Sidney Bechet and civil rights icon Homer Plessy. Each year, they offer a jazz mass in conjunction with Satchmo SummerFest, and it’s a blast, even for non-Catholics; just remember that it's a good idea to drop some money in the collection baskets. (Also, their regular choir performs a jazzy and gospel-tinged version of the traditional Catholic mass most weeks, and guest musicians aren’t uncommon, so you'll likely see a lovely service no matter when you go.)
Yes, OK, it’s swarmed with tourists, but for less than $5, it’s an iconic New Orleans experience, and you're probably going to love biting into a beignet no matter where you're from. Locals know to hit it up as far away from the breakfast rush as possible -- and to bring cash when they go.
Easily one of the Gulf Coast’s most interestingly tiny, hyper-specific museums, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum is home to rows upon rows of jars that once held opium, cocaine, leeches, and all manner of snake oil, plus oodles of ooky surgical implements and lots of fascinating historical info about the connection between the history of the pharmacy industry and the history of cocktails. (Yes, they’re totally connected, and it all happened here in New Orleans!)
Eat a snowball at every possible opportunity
After around Easter-ish, when the weather turns from warm to really warm, the city’s ubiquitous snowball shops start opening up all over, and frankly, they’re almost better than air conditioning for cooling off. Get yourselves to Hansen’s, where ol’ man Hansen invented the original ice-shaving machine (which distinguishes snowballs from their far inferior crushed-ice cousin, the snow cone), and you probably oughta make time to hit up Plum Street as well, and maybe... well, just try them all of them. You won't regret it.
Get some beers and head to The Fly
Look, it’s no big deal for us locals, but odds are that if you're not from around here, if you want to drink outside, you have to do it out of a brown paper bag or a hip flask. Our open container law is a simple New Orleans joy that feels like pure luxury to outsiders, and a boozy picnic at The Fly -- the grassy, mostly undeveloped strip on the river’s edge of Audubon Park -- is the perfect way to enjoy a lazy afternoon of watching the ships roll down the Mississippi. You won't be alone. All of us locals will be doing the exact same thing you are.