1. Dragon's Den435 Esplanade Ave, New Orleans
2. Confederacy of Cruisers Bike Tours634 Elysian Fields Ave, New Orleans
3. The Bulldog Uptown3236 Magazine St, New Orleans
4. Sisters in Christ5206 Magazine St, New Orleans
5. Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market1436 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, New Orleans
6. Dr. Wagner's Honey Island Swamp Tour41490 Crawford Landing Rd, Slidell
7. Julia Street ArtwalkJulia Street, New Orleans
8. The Broad Theater636 N Broad St, New Orleans
9. Domino Sound Record Shack2557 Bayou Road, New Orleans
10. Frenchmen Street Art Market619 Frenchmen St (Next to Spotted Cat), New Orleans
At any point in a given evening, something nuts will be happening at Dragon's Den. You might find teen rockers playing their first gigs, or stumble on a brass ensemble you can overhear while sipping beers in the high-walled, ivy-covered back patio. Or post up on the balcony with a grilled cheese and enjoy the breezy river view. It's a great spot to mingle, dance, and drink, and its location right on the outskirts of the French Quarter makes it a great quick escape when you need a breather from the city center.
New Orleans' convoluted layout plops a classic American city grid onto the wandering folds of the Mississippi River. The bad news: You will get lost. The good news: You’ll be amid romantically beautiful homes and gorgeous oaks and an ethereal atmosphere. To get the lay of the land without totally losing your way, take a Confederacy of Cruisers bike tour. The tour staff will direct you to the best option depending on your interests and athletic ability, and they lead the rides in a friendly, unscripted fashion. You'll finish with an understanding of the city's layout and lesser-known neighborhoods where, assuredly, fantastic things are afoot. If you're looking for an adventure without the apparent danger, this is the way to do it.
Bulldog is a low-key tavern on the corner of Magazine and Pleasant with a vast beer selection and a popular, dog-friendly patio (hence the name). The neighborhood watering hole boasts 48 mostly craft and local beers on draft and more than 100 bottled, plus a pub menu of burgers, seafood, and signature dishes like crawfish banditos and Tex-Mex eggrolls. It's the ideal lineup for the fans who pack the place during football season thanks to Bulldog's many flat-screens. But, if you're not crazy about sports, the twinkle-lit, brick-walled patio is worth a visit, offering a gorgeous and relaxing spot to people-watch on one of the most popular thoroughfares in the city.
Connected to Mae's Guitars and Rank & File Books, Sisters in Christ is one of the finest underground record shops in the South, a repository for newer indie, punk, and metal vinyl, cassettes, zines, and memorabilia. Wander in to browse rare vinyl or discover a new favorite artist, and check out its calendar for intimate in-store performances by emerging and established artists. Its friendly staff makes it a surprisingly inviting, intimate place to ask questions and explore.
The Jazz Market is a modern performance space established by local trumpetist/composer Irvin Mayfield. It hosts frequent events, like a weekly live jazz jam during which the audience may join in. Even if you're not a jazz aficionado, Jazz Market will help explain New Orleans to you as nothing else can.
Honey Island is one of the best excursions around for meeting the egrets and gators of Louisiana. Unlike an airboat tour, the swamp tour lets you slink through the wetlands stealthily enough to actually see animals rather than just scare the hell out of ‘em. Plus the licensed guides here know their cypress from their cottonmouths. You’ll want to make a reservation before going, but chances are if you plan ahead you’ll enjoy this day trip into the honest-to-God wilderness just outside town.
Julia Street is home to an array of galleries that will ensconce you in the New Orleans art scene. The galleries range through avant-garde, abstract, and modern pop; many artists are self-taught while some are more traditional. It all adds up to a New Orleans arts district more local, organic, and approachable than most big-city art scenes.
In true New Orleans fashion, the Broad Theater is open year-round except for Mardi Gras. Locals know it as a favorite place to slow down (or to stop sweating, on summer days) and catch mainstream movies… or, more likely, the experimental, classic, foreign, or cult films that too rarely find their way to theaters in the South. You don't have to buy a ticket to enjoy the fully stocked bar, complete with a happy hour and film-themed cocktails.
Domino Sound is where you go to browse a huge selection of music you'd have a hard time finding anywhere else. Cash-only, it sports volumes of vinyl and cassettes across blues, jazz, punk, world, and indie, all for a reasonable price -- $50 or under, priced, as owner Matt Knowles says, so that people will go home and listen to it. He scours record shops in Jamaica and New York, seeking the best stock for this treasure-filled spot. Whether a new release, an obscure discovery, or a classic album, your next favorite record is here somewhere.
One of the highlights of Frenchmen Street, this outdoor art market attracts local artists who sell beautiful prints, jewelry, apparel, and buttons. This is where diverse, all-ages crowds know to come for mementos instead of falling into the bead-and-novelty-T shops on Bourbon. Or simply browse the wares and take a respite during your stroll through Frenchmen. Especially on nice-weather nights, its open-air pavilion is worth seeking out for its mellow string lighting, benches for resting your weary feet, and chalk to scratch out some art of your own.