New Orleans, I've only had the pleasure of visiting this city once before and it was an entirely different experience. I had previously visited in the middle of Mardi Gras' weekend. While I did enjoy the endless parades and festive atmosphere, it glanced over what actually makes this city a unique and surprising destination.
Along the sidewalks and spilling out into the streets are vendors, performers, artists, and slick talking shoe shiners. Every opportunity for tourist dollars is ready and willing all hours of the day. Poets for hire, soulful bands with CDs for sale, and a couple of those wise cracking shoe shiners may have made off with a few dollars of mine. Words for the wise; you can say, “No” to the shoe shiners but by the time you're mid conversation it's already too late!
Jackson Square is located right next to the Mississippi River and is a great walking area day or night. There are dozens of artists and craftspeople with pieces ranging from souvenirs to large canvases.
There was not one but two hip hop dance troupes putting on crowd interactive shows. Their set-ups were quite professional with full music queued to skits, microphones, and a vinyl dance floor. One of the troupes had DVDs and the customary tip bucket being passed around as they let the crowd know they also took credit cards.
During the evening hours in the Square so many different physics set up tables that if you didn't like what one foretold you could move along to the next (maybe with a heftier tip) for a better fortune.
Don't bother checking any live music schedules or really making much of an itinerary. The French Quarter offers a variety of live music at a nearly 24/7 rotation. There are so many open air bars and clubs that walking up and down the street might be a problem if you have an ear for great musicianship. It doesn't hurt that EVERY. SINGLE. BAR. offers plastic to-go cups. So grab your drink of choice and wander along.
For the darker and historically fascinated travelers the city offers free entry to many of its crypt style cemeteries. Some crypts date back to the early 1800s and are family plots with generations still being laid to rest within the last few decades. I often find the methods of cities with unique issues to bury their dead fascinating. New Orleans has a very high water table so a hole even a few feet deep will begin to fill with water, literally making coffins float.
The people of New Orleans are incredibly warm, welcoming, and hospitable. Every other person you pass on the sidewalk will ask how your day is or give a general hello. They're also pretty hecking proud of their city and being a part of it. Walk down any of the neighborhood streets and brightly colored houses and Mardi Gras decor pop out up and down the block.
It's hard to believe but parts of this lovely city are still trying to recover from Hurricane Katrina which decimated New Orleans in 2005. You can find a handful of houses with spray painted symbols on the face from rescuers sweeping the area for survivors back then. The spirit of the city and the people who love it have made such progress from that point. In 2018 the city accommodated over 18.5 million visitors. With the help of tourism the city's residents are ever renovating and rebuilding, eager to show the rest of the world the New Orleans they all love.