The Big Easy is full of surprises

New Orleans is known for its toe-tapping beats and flavourful eats, not to mention the infectious party atmosphere and anything-goes attitude of Bourbon Street. But there’s oh so much more waiting to be discovered in this eclectic, exuberant and sometimes down right wacky city. With a history as rich and surprising as a steaming pot of Jambalaya, it’s fair to say that NOLA is one of the ultimate melting pots of cultures. Antebellum Southern Charm melds with French, Spanish and African influences – the result? Some pretty unique, often strange but always unforgettable customs and experiences that are unmistakeably New Orleans.

New Orleans Topdeck jazz

1. Jazz funerals

New Orleans is one city that sure does love a parade, so why expect that its residents would mark a loved-ones passing with anything else? With its roots in West African culture, these processions are basically a celebration of life in the moment of death by way of a brass band filling the air with joyful sounds as they wind their way through the neighbourhood. These processions are used to celebrate a variety of occasions, not just funerals, so don’t be surprised if you happen upon one. You’re even allowed to follow behind some of them if the mood takes you…

2. The Birthday Dollar

From funeral festivities to brilliant birthday traditions, New Orleans knows how to party. Happen to be in NOLA on your birthday? Well then, you’re in luck! Pin a dollar bill to your collar and in return you’ll be met with a flurry of birthday wishes and maybe even a couple of dollars added to your lapels, ideal if you’re heading to Bourbon Street for a birthday bash you won’t forget (or won’t remember depending on how many ‘Mint Juleps’ you have).

New Orleans Bourbon Street Sign

3. The Museum of Voodoo

Since the 1700s, New Orleans has been a hot-bed of Voodoo practices. Learn more about the beliefs, mysteries and history of the religion at the somewhat spooky Museum of Voodoo located right in the heart of the French Quarter. Authentic artefacts and spine-tingling stories are sure to tickle your spooky side.

4. Cities of the dead

New Orleans is a spooky city, a badge it wears with pride. It is also a place that has a unique affinity for the macabre. As you can see with the Jazz Funerals, death is viewed differently here and is very much out in the open. Give yourself the creeps with a visit to one of the city’s infamous above-ground cemeteries.

New Orleans house topdeck

5. The Pharmacy Museum

Delve into history with a visit to the Pharmacy Museum and thank your lucky stars that you didn’t need medical treatment in centuries past. Built on the site of America’s first licensed apothecary (that’s pharmacy to you and me), today the museum houses medical relics and tells the tale of some, erm, questionable practices. This one probably isn’t for the squeamish.

6. Boutique du Vampyre

Vampires have captured people’s imaginations for centuries, from Dracula to that slightly OTT Twilight obsession every tween girl had. There’s just something about those pale, toothy suckers that really intrigues us. Now, we know New Orleans loves anything creepy and kooky and so it’s hardly surprising that its home to a museum dedicated to all things Vampiric – Boutique du Vampyre. This cool exhibit is a great way to find out more about vampires without traipsing the streets with bulbs of garlic…

New Orleans tours Topdeck Music Violin Street Performer

6. Steam Calliopes

Steam Calliopes or Calliophones such as Steamboat Natchez are another sight you only see (or hear) in New Orleans. At around 11am most days you will hear the melodious peals of the steam pipe organ wafting from the Mississippi River which have the uninformed (i.e. not you) asking “What’s that?”.

Natalie Baker
Born in the USA but raised in London, Natalie is a lover of all things travel. Her favourite city is Paris – which isn’t surprising given her slightly OTT love of pastries. She is also an animal lover and proud mum to 5 furry babies.