New Orleans is a rainy city, and the skies can open up at any moment. Not to worry, there’s plenty to do in the air-conditioned indoors while you wait for the downpour to go away. Here are our top 10 suggestions for how you can stay dry and entertained.
1. Head to a Museum
The French Quarter boasts quite a few museums, with many focusing on the city’s past and the history of Louisiana. Some, like the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint, are free; others you can visit for a small fee. For example, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum ($10) features a permanent collection of 19th-century surgical instruments, books and patent medicines.
Hermann-Grima House and Gallier House are two historic homes that are considered some of the most well-preserved historic structures in the French Quarter. You can tour both and learn about what life was like in New Orleans in the 19th century.
The Historic New Orleans Collection is spread over 10 historic buildings in the French Quarter. The Royal Street location (533 Royal St.) houses the main museum with a permanent exhibit on state history, plus rotating exhibits on history and art. Admission is free.
Consider heading to Jackson Square for two museums and a historic cathedral. Catch a mass or free concert (or just admire the interior during the quiet hours) at the St. Louis Cathedral. It’s flanked by the Cabildo and the Presbytère, which are run by the Louisiana State Museum and house several excellent exhibits, including one on the history of Mardi Gras at the Presbytère.
2. Ride the streetcar
You can catch the historic St. Charles Avenue line on Canal Street and head Uptown to take in the breathtaking views of the Garden District, or ride the Canal line to Mid-City and Bayou St. John, ending at the cemeteries or the City Park and the Art Museum. If you want to explore the Marigny and the Bywater, take the Rampart line; or stay close to the Quarter by exploring the edge of it, where it meets the CBD, by riding the Riverfront line. You’ll be passing Harrah’s Casino, Woldenberg Park, the Aquarium of the Americas, the Canal Place mall, and the Riverwalk Marketplace, ending up at the Convention Center. It only costs $1.25 one way, or you can get passes for a day or longer.
3. Hit the casino
Have some fun and maybe score some extra cash at the New Orleans Harrah’s Casino. It’s centrally located at the foot of the French Quarter on Canal Street, only a block away from the Mississippi River. It houses over 2,000 slot machines and nine delicious restaurants, including two steakhouses and the Grand Isle Seafood Restaurant.
4. Go shopping
The whole stretch of the historic French Market is covered, from the flea market to the food vendor section, and it’s a treasure trove of souvenirs (edible and otherwise), crafts, and unique Louisiana finds. Nearby, the strips of shops called the Shops at the Colonnade, some with Decatur and some with N. Peters addresses, are also worth a visit if you’re shopping for unique gifts and local specialties like pralines.
Nearby, the revamped multi-story historic landmark Jax Brewery hosts retail stores, cafes, restaurants, and a small museum dedicated to the brewery. Another option is to head down Royal Street, which is lined with local boutiques and antique and vintage stores for every budget.
Heading out of the Quarter and into the CBD, Canal Place and The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk are a short walk away from each other. Both are self-contained, multi-storied indoor malls that could keep you shopping and eating for hours. The Shops at Canal Place is home to Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany and Co., Anthropologie, and dozens of other upscale retailers, while The Riverwalk mall is an outlet with more than 75 retailers and restaurants, including Nordstrom Rack and Café du Monde.
5. See a movie
The state-of-the-art IMAX theater, located next to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas at the Riverfront, usually has two or three nature-themed 3D films on rotation; tickets are included with the Aquarium admission. Or, support New Orleans’ independent theaters and head to the beautifully restored Broad Theater, a short ride away, or to the historic Prytania Theater Uptown. Both have bars!
6. Visit the Aquarium or the Insectarium
Speaking of the Aquarium, the sprawling compound on the riverfront will keep you and your family enthralled with its walk-through tunnel, otters, penguins, sea turtles, a stingray touch pool, and an expansive replica of an offshore oil rig submerged in 400,000 gallons of water.
On the other side of the French Quarter, the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, located in the U.S. Custom House on Canal Street, is packed with bug-centric interactive exhibits. Sample a cricket chocolate chip cookie at the cafeteria, or let the butterflies land on your head in the spectacular butterfly garden.
7. Support an independent bookstore
New Orleans proudly boasts a number of impressively stocked independent bookstores, and some of the best ones are located in the Quarter. A former home of William Faulkner located in the historic and picturesque Pirate Alley, just off Jackson Square and behind the Cabildo, Faulkner House Books mostly offers local-interest books and the classics, including rare editions, and, of course, the works of William Faulkner.
The bi-level Beckham’s Bookshop specializes in used, antiquarian, and rare books, as well as CDs and vinyl. A gem of a place, Beckham’s has been around since 1979 at this location. It’s crammed floor to ceiling, and is beer- and dog-friendly. You’ll find it right across the street from the House of Blues. The charming Dauphine Street Books and Crescent City Books are both great spots if you want to browse an eclectic, well-curated selection of both new and used books, including maps and out-of-print editions.
8. Take in a show
The two of New Orleans’ historic performance venues, the beautifully renovated Saenger and Joy theaters, are both located on Canal Street and feature year-round performances. You can catch a Broadway musical, a comedy show, or a musical act at the Orpheum Theater or the Civic Theatre. Just off Jackson Square, Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré has called its St. Peter Street location home since 1922.
9. See some live music
Check out WWOZ’s Livewire Music Calendar to find out who is playing on any given day/night while you’re here. For more à la carte adventures, you can just head to Frenchmen Street, right across from the French Quarter in the Marigny, and wander from venue to venue. There’s a good deal of street music on several corners usually. The Bombay Club, Preservation Hall, and numerous bars, clubs and restaurants around the French Quarter are guaranteed to have some live music, even on weeknights.
10. Eat and drink, of course!
Some of the best restaurants in the country, if not the world, are located steps away from your hotel. So get out there and explore all the delicious possibilities, from the iconic Creole grand dames to the New Orleans staples on the budget. Also, all year round, the French Quarter offers incredible happy hour deals you won’t want to miss, including the hotel’s own, The Bombay Club. And what could be better than holing up with a drink and watching the rain?
Here are more of our quick guides to the French Quarter’s destinations and nightlife near the Prince Conti Hotel. Rain or shine, happy exploring!