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Arts & Culture

GoNOLA Top 5: A Pop Culture Tour of New Orleans

There’s nothing a New Orleanian loves more than to talk about New Orleans — where they’re from, where they went to high school, if they left, when they came back. When they moved here, what neighborhoods they’ve lived in, where they live now, where they might live next. The food they have eaten and plan to eat while they are eating their current meal. The music they’ve always loved while listening to new local offerings. It’s an all-consuming conversation, and these days, one being had by many outside of the city, starting with filmmakers and culture-shakers in Hollywood and beyond.

Spotted a bunch of Big Easy spots in your favorite television shows, movies, music videos or song lyrics of late? New Orleans has become a popular spot for the Hollywood crowd, and its iconic architecture, history, and characters have always fueled musical genius. Which means whether you’re a local or a visitor, a pop culture tour of New Orleans is the perfect way to see the city you love from the destinations that made big screen, literary and musical history. Here are some suggestions for some of the best places to start.

Pop Culture Destinations in New Orleans

1. The “Curious Case of Benjamin Button” House — In case you’ve missed the entire twenty-first century, Brad Pitt has a house in New Orleans, as well as an entire housing organization dedicated to providing quality, environmentally-friendly homes called Make It Right. No, we’re not about to tell you where his house is (although ask any local and you’ll find out). This is about cultural references or representations of New Orleans, and I can’t think of a better one linking the star to his adopted love-town as the film “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”  Visit the house where most of the film was shot at 2707 Coliseum in the Garden District, then take a wander through the neighborhood, filled with several famous folks’ homes, including Anne Rice and Sandra Bullock.

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Ignatius Reilly immortalized on Canal Street (Photo by Sally Tunmer)

3. “A Confederacy of Dunces” Statue — Moving right down the line of classics, “A Confederacy of Dunces” is arguably the most iconic book set in New Orleans. Without a doubt, Ignatius J. Reilly is one of the most memorable characters in this, a city that often feels like it births nothing but. You can find a reminder of both with the Ignatius statue on Canal Street between Bourbon and Dauphine, right under the clock of the old D.H. Holmes building, now the Chateu Sonesta, where Ignatius waits at the beginning of the book “studying the crowd of people for signs of bad taste in dress.”

4. Tom Waits, “I Wish I Was in New Orleans” — 

Well, I wish I was in New Orleans, I can see in my dreams
Arm-in-arm down Burgundy, a bottle and my friends and me
Hoist up a few tall cool ones, play some pool and listen
To that tenor saxophone calling me home

Yes, Burgundy Street still exists, and no, we don’t pronounce it BUR-gun-dy. It’s Bur-GUN-dy, thank you very much. And you will thank me very much when you take a stroll down this New Orleans street, arm-in-arm with a favorite pal or special person. A word to the wise: get out of the French Quarter and experience the charm, architecture, and classic Latin-meets-Creole vibe of the Marigny neighborhood. Special spots to dine and sip along Burgundy in the Marigny and Bywater: Ruby Slipper, Who Dat Cafe, Marie’s Bar, Maurepas Foods, Bon Castor and Bud Rip’s.

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Burgundy Street in the Marigny (Photo by Sally Tunmer)

2. House from “A Streetcar Named Desire”  Am I telling you to look for a streetcar? No, although they’re beautiful and worth seeking out, not to mention riding. But if you want to really get your “Stelllllaaaaaaaaaaa!” on, check out the spot where Stella and Stanley lived in the legendary Tennessee Williams play, “A Streetcar Named Desire.” 632 Elysian Fields is the couple’s fictional address from the play, but it is, in fact, an actual location in New Orleans, and today is home to a lovely bicycle rental shop called A Bicycle Named Desire, which still retains the magic of the literary history within its walls.

5.  Professor Longhair’s “Go To The Mardi Gras — What would musical culture be without Professor Longhair? Not much, at least not in our eyes. You may not be in town to go to the Mardi Gras, but you still can get in the true spirit of the song, “Go To The Mardi Gras,” by visiting St. Claude Ave. (“Down on St. Claude and Dumaine /You know, you’ll see the Zulu King”), where at the intersection referenced, you’ll find one of the best craft cocktail bars in the city, Bar Tonique, as well as a new fine dining restaurant earning a lot of buzz, Marti’s Restaurant. Further down on St. Claude Avenue, you’ll find a smorgasbord of new, alternative art, theater and pop-ups, along with ageless dive bars.

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