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See & Do

Be a Tourist with These Itineraries

Read through our suggestions of the city’s best summer deals for foodies, families, couples, and friends.

french-market
The historic French Market. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Embrace the slower pace of summer in a way that’s also easy on your wallet: Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown encourages locals and visitors to the city can take advantage of summer deals and lower prices from restaurants to museums to exercise, cooking, and mixology classes. There’s also a little friendly competition. Use #BeaTouristNOLA on social media while you’re out and about in the city for your chance to win weekly prizes.

If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve compiled suggestions below. Be a tourist in your own hometown with these staycation ideas.

Commander’s Palace. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

For Foodies

With around 1,400 restaurants, New Orleans is bursting with opportunities to get engaged with the local food landscape. And while it’s never a bad time to be a food tourist in the city, now is a pretty convenient time.

Start the day by taking a morning stroll through the French Market, which claims the title of oldest public market in the United States. Black and white photographs hang from above, showing the Market in earlier times. Today, the upriver end of the market features food stalls with local favorites like oysters, pralines, coffee, and hot sauce for sale. Buy a little something, like beignets and café au lait, or just take in the sights, sounds, and smells.

Then, head over to the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, which highlights the food, drink, and related culture of New Orleans and the American South in general. Adult admission is typically $10.50, however for the month of August, those who show their Louisiana IDs receive half off adult admission. Students, military personnel, and those aged 60+ are $5.25, and those under 12 are free.

Take advantage of COOLinary Restaurant Month for lunch. COOLinary takes place at restaurants across the city through the month of August and offers special, prix fixe lunch and dinner menus for the chance to eat one’s way through a delicious, multi-course meal at a lower price than normal. Enjoy a meal at the classic old restaurant stomping grounds of New Orleans, like Antoine’s, Arnaud’s, and Commander’s Palace, more casual favorites like Dick & Jenny’s and Pizza Domenica, and trendy newer establishments like Primitivo and Rebellion Bar & Urban Kitchen. Lunch is offered at a particularly sweet deal at numerous COOLinary participating restaurants: $20 for a two-course meal.

End the day with a cooking class or demonstration. For those foodies who really want to get their hands dirty, the New Orleans Cooking Experience is offering $15 off the adult price for a cooking class through Sept. 14. Classes include both Cajun and Creole recipes, unlimited wine, personalized instruction, as well as a seated dinner at the end of the class. The New Orleans School of Cooking offers both cooking demonstrations as well as hands-on cooking classes. Classes are taught by experts and include a sprinkling of history as well.

Lagniappe: The Louisiana Seafood Festival runs September 2-4 and is offering “buy one get one” admission for Friday. The festival, which takes place in City Park, includes live music, celebrity chef cooking demonstrations, a beer garden, and some pretty amazing food vendors (think Galatoire’s shrimp remoulade, Jacques-Imo’s shrimp and alligator sausage cheesecake, and Drago’s charbroiled oysters).

Historic French Quarter architecture bumps up against the modern Central Business District from this vantage point on Royal Street. (Photo courtesy of David Mora)

For Couples

The old charm of many New Orleans neighborhoods offers the perfect date backdrop for couples. When life is getting hectic, take a little time to slow down and enjoy it with your partner.

Take a stroll down Royal Street and pop into the dozens of art galleries to see the wide array of local art. Craig Tracy’s features photos of his elaborate body painting work, often with a painted backdrop to create a full scene. Rodrigue Studio, named after the late local painter George Rodrigue, features the emblematic Blue Dog.

Enjoy a slow, mule-drawn carriage ride through the French Quarter, something many locals have never done. Make an advanced reservation, or spontaneously board a carriage pretty much any time of day on Decatur Street in front of Jackson Square. In addition to experiencing an “old school” mode of transportation, the driver provides local historical details.

Cellar Door is offering a 20 percent discount through September on dining and cocktails. Outside of the French Quarter, the building that now contains Cellar Door is perhaps the oldest surviving structure in Downtown New Orleans, dating back to circa 1830. Its most notable use was as the Swoop-Duggins House, a local brothel. Treat yourself and your partner to a cheese and charcuterie board, fried chicken skin cracklins with avocado cilantro de crema, or karaage chicken wings with Steen’s cane syrup sake glaze. The drink menu is also quite extensive: Old Fashioneds, Sazeracs, and plenty of wine, beer, and liquor selections.

Do your staycation right by booking a downtown hotel, like the the Renaissance New Orleans Arts Warehouse District or the Pere Marquette French Quarter. These special packages, with rates starting at $154, include breakfast for two (restaurant or room service), champagne and strawberries delivered to your room, and a late checkout at 3:00 p.m. Sound romantic?

Lagniappe: Get moving with a pay-what-you-can community swing class with the NOLA Jitterbugs. Class takes place Fridays at 8:00 p.m. at the Rhythmic Arts Center in the Marigny (2358 St. Claude Ave).

Take the streetcar (or a shuttle bus if applicable) to City Park for $1.25 one way. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

For Families

As locals know, New Orleans is not just for the adult crowd. Fun, family-friendly activities during daytime and early evening hours abound. Honestly though, adults might enjoy these activities more than their kids.

Start the morning in City Park, one of New Orleans’ greatest outdoor assets. After breakfast at Morning Call, rent a boat to paddle (or pedal) around the Big Lake. Available boats include canoes, kayaks (single and tandem), and pedal boats. The Big Lake also offers front row seats to observing ducks, geese, and swans in their natural habitat (please observe from afar and let them glide, fish, or preen without disturbing them).

After the park, hop on the red Canal streetcar for a fun ride. Grab seats and open the window to feel the warm breeze as the streetcar groans and glides along the tracks. Streetcar rides are $1.25 per person per trip, or $3.00 per person per day. Pay with exact change on board, or download the new smartphone app, RTA GoMobile.

Downtown, take care of lunch and dessert. First, head to Central Grocery for muffulettas. Then, drop by Southern Candymakers (334 Decatur St.) for a free praline sample and to watch their master candymakers at work. Through Aug. 31, enjoy 15% off of a $50 or more candy purchase.

Ready to cool down? Cool Zoo at the Audubon Zoo is a kids’ splash park. It includes Gator Run, a lazy river, as well as an alligator water slide, and more. Special deals apply now through Oct. 2; the water park will begin weekend-only operation beginning Aug. 15. Best of all? The new elephant habitat is visible from Cool Zoo.

Once everyone is dried off, take in a Dixieland Jazz show at Preservation Hall (726 St. Peter St.), an all-ages performance venue (alcohol-free). Preservation Hall was at the heart of the traditional jazz music revival in the mid-1900s. Evening sets begin as early as 6:00 p.m. and feature a changing selection of local musicians. Reserve front row (or second row) tickets in advance ($35-50), or manage the cost ($15-20) and stand in line prior to the show.

Friends can maximize their time together during a scenic fitness class with the Sweat Social. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

For Friends

If going to the same old bar or friend’s house is starting to get old, refresh your stock of ideas and surprise your friends with some fun and exciting activities.

Time is precious so finding an activity that will in essence “kill two birds with one stone,” like working out, is a genius solution for busy friends. The Sweat Social offers workout classes technically geared towards travelers, however anyone can sign up. Now through Sept. 12, the Sweat Social is offering 25 percent off of workout classes. Classes take place in the early mornings, with many at Woldenberg Park, or the Moonwalk.

After the workout, make plans to go on a 30-minute aerial tour with the Flight Academy of New Orleans. Fly over the French Quarter, the Mississippi River, the Port of New Orleans, and the Superdome to view the city at a different angle. Now through Oct. 30, buy two regularly priced tickets for the Big Easy Aerial Tour and get the third free.

Get a group together for a cocktail making, wine tasting, or bourbon and whiskey tasting class at Drink Lab (343 Baronne St.). Learn muddling techniques from mixologists or develop a more refined palate. Pick up bartending techniques or discover cocktail history and legends. Classes last two hours, and most include snacks or lunch. Classes are offered Wednesday through Saturday.

Ever considered a ghost tour? Ghost City Tours is offering a 20 percent discount through Sept. 30. The company also provides a New Orleans Haunted Pub Crawl, which focuses on not only local ghost stories but also local alcohol traditions and history. What’s the worst that can happen? A chance encounter with a local haunt at a local haunt?

Emily Ramírez Hernández is the child of New Orleans natives whose families have been in the city for generations. Emily's earliest memories of New Orleans include joyful car rides over bumpy streets, eating dripping roast beef po-boys at Domilise's, and catching bouncy balls during Mardi Gras parades with cousins. An urban planner by day and freelance writer by night, when she is off the clock she enjoys biking around town, belly dancing, and catching nerdlesque shows.

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Dumaine Street in the French Quarter. (Photo: Paul Broussard)
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