* Do Festivals, Big or Small: Yes to Jazz Fest, Mardi Gras, or French Quarter Fest, but also the smaller fests in New Orleans and nearby towns. If one is on while you’re visiting, seek it out.
* Dress Up. Or Down: At better restaurants, men wear jackets—including seersucker when in season—and un-ironic hats. Women can and do wear dresses (not just LBDs) and heels. It’s required at the finest spots, optional but frequently done at the more moderate bistros (where jeans are also okay). Dressing down might mean cosplay, wacky wigs, whatever. You can get away with it here, where every day is Halloween.
* Frequent Dive Bars, if that’s your thang. For those whose thang it is, this town is siiick with good ones.
* Tour the Swamps: Don’t discount this because you think it’s too touristy (New Yorkers still go to Broadway, right?). It’s an absolutely authentic, ecologically and historically fascinating, unique-to-the-region experience.
* Ride a Bike: New Orleans is flat and compact, and you can see a lot on two wheels that you might otherwise miss.
* Cheer the Saints: In the Dome, if possible—ain’t nothing like it, nowhere. Or at least from a barstool, like everyone else who ain’t in the Dome.
* Eat Takeout from Corner-Grocery Back Counters: Traditionally done while leaning against a building or sitting on the curb (or on someone’s stoop, which we probably shouldn’t encourage).
* Argue about the Best Po’ Boy: Which requires trying a few.
* Go to Church: Despite the reputation for decadence, this is a pretty pious city. Going to church is a wonderful way to get some faith on, hear some astounding gospel, and mingle with the welcoming locals.
* Check Out Freebie Concerts: Spring through autumn, free shows bring the locals to Armstrong Park near the French Quarter (Thurs; www.pufap.org); City Park in Mid-City (Thurs); and Lafayette Square in the CBD (www.wednesdayatthesquare.com).
* Stroll the Galleries: There are openings with wine and low-key revelry the first Saturday eve of each month on Julia Street and second Saturdays on St. Claude Avenue (secondsaturdaystclaude.com), but any time will do.
* Eat Indulgent, Unhurried, Fancy Lunches: Especially on Friday.
* Chat: Discuss. Debate. Banter. In restaurants, bars, or shops. With people you’ve just met. We’ll give you topics: football, and city politics/ineptitude. Barring your expertise in those arenas, trading anecdotes about your observations as a tourist, discussing a recent meal, or asking for recommendations about your next meal (or other activity) gets the convo started.
* Eat with Your Hands: Specifically, peel shrimp and crawfish (in season), best done outdoors; and slurp oysters, best done standing at a bar and jiving with the shucker.
* Loosen Up: If a wailing trumpet catches your ear, follow the sound 'til you find it. If the swing band playing in the middle of Royal Street moves you, give your partner a whirl (and drop a few bucks in their hat). If you track every calorie and swear by the FitBit, lose count for a few days. And if you’re lucky enough to happen upon a second-line parade passing by, don’t even think of watching from the sidewalk. Jump in, join the street spontaneity, and high-step it down the street. In other words, if there’s something you wouldn’t dare do, now might be your opportunity (assuming it’s legal). You needn’t lose all sense of propriety—just a little. It’s New Orleans—it’s what you do.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.