The annual RT Booklovers Convention is one short week away, and you're probably scrambling to pack, tweak your schedule and make sure you have everything you want to see you do in New Orleans figured out (or maybe that's just us?). Author HP Mallory, whose release this month — Ghouls Rush In, takes place in the Big Easy — is here to help with a comprehensive list of things convention attendees must see and do during their stay in NOLA!
As an author and lover of all things that go bump in the night, it’s probably fitting that New Orleans would cement itself firmly in my heart as one of my most favorite places. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Big Easy more than four times, including my most recent trip to do research on my upcoming release, Ghouls Rush In.
So, if you’re wondering what to do during your stay, I’ve made it easy for you by listing my top five must-see attractions and destinations in New Orleans:
HP snapping photos in a cemetery
1. GHOST TOURS
A trip to New Orleans isn’t complete without taking one of the many ghost tours available to you. Even if you aren’t a ghost enthusiast (aka my husband), you’ll love the historical information you’ll learn on each tour. There are lots of Civil War anecdotes, stories about past New Orleans residents such as the Axeman of New Orleans (my book, Ghouls Rush In, incorporates this true murder mystery) and you’ll also learn why all the cemeteries in New Orleans are above ground — and the answer isn’t flooding!
I’ve really enjoyed the tours offered by Haunted History Tours (call 888-644-6787 for tickets and scheduling). If you find ghosts aren’t really your “thing,” this company offers all sorts of variations including voodoo, vampire, cemetery and history tours.
2. GARDEN DISTRICT
The Garden District is one of the most beautiful areas of New Orleans and unlike the lively French Quarter, it’s quiet and serene. Once you step foot onto the grand, tree-lined streets and take in the numerous plantation style homes, you’ll swear you just time-traveled back to the late 1800s. And just wait until you see the gardens!
Originally developed in the mid-to-late 1800s, you’ll find mansions in various architectural styles including Italianate, Greek Revival and Victorian — just to name a few. The most awe-inspiring homes are located in the area around 2nd, Prytania and Coliseum streets. I was so impressed by Prytania Street that I decided to use it as the location of my heroine, Peyton Clark’s, home in Ghouls Rush In!
The Garden District is bounded by St. Charles Avenue, Jackson Avenue, Magazine Street and Louisiana Avenue. The best way to reach it is by jumping on the historic St. Charles Streetcar and, once there, just walking around and admiring the incredible architecture and the stunning gardens.
After your stroll, stop at Commander’s Palace for lunch or one of their famous lime daiquiris. This historic restaurant is smack dab in the middle of the Garden District and with its turquoise-and-white Victorian facade, turrets and columns, you won’t be able to miss it. Built in 1880, Commander’s Palace is a landmark and it’s definitely worth a visit. Oh, and if you purchase a drink and find it’s empty a few seconds later, that’s just the ghost of Emile Commander, the original proprietor of Commander’s, saying hello!
If you’re a history buff like me, you absolutely can’t miss the spectacular cemeteries of New Orleans. And, if you took my advice and walked around the Garden District, ending up at Commander’s Palace, you’ll be right across the street from my favorite of them all, Lafayette Cemetery, located between Washington, 6th, Prytania and Coliseum Streets.
Of course, no cemetery tour would be complete without visiting the most famous of New Orleans cemeteries, St. Louis Cemetery #1. This cemetery is walking distance from the French Quarter and is located on historic Basin Street. The burial place of the famed Queen of Voodoo, Marie Laveau, people make pilgrimages to her tomb (which, coincidentally, might not actually be her tomb—there’s conjecture over whether another neighboring tomb is) to make offerings to her spirit. You’ll notice lots of “X” markings scrawled on the otherwise white tomb that attest to the power she is believed to possess, even in death.
Also check out Nicolas Cage’s enormous and gaudy pyramid tomb!
A kitty pays a visit to an above-ground tomb in Lafayette Cemetery
4. THE FRENCH QUARTER
When you’re ready for some bawdy night life, the French Quarter, and more specifically, Bourbon Street, is for you! The French Quarter, also known as the Vieux Carré, is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans with most of the buildings dating to the early 1800s. It’s also a great place to listen to music and dance the night away.
Some of the attractions of The French Quarter include historic Jackson Square, a public park the size of a city-block. Also be sure to check out St. Louis Cathedral, built in 1724 it's the oldest active Roman Catholic Cathedral in the US. Or check out the Wax Museum on Conti Street to relive New Orleans history!
If you’re looking for a more kitschy experience, just walk down Bourbon Street, where you’ll find all sorts of ways to pass the time. Pop in to the historic Old Absinthe House for a drink and then visit Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo where you can pick up an array of voodoo odds and ends!
If it’s culture you’re after, check out Royal Street where you’ll find lots of art galleries, boutiques, jewelry stores and antique stores.
One of my most favorite aspects of New Orleans is the cuisine. I could just eat, eat and eat some more in this city — fitting into my jeans be damned! I’ve listed just a few of my most favorite places to eat as well as what you’ll find on the menu:
Killer Po’boy’s: Not fancy but a fun place to try a Southern staple! Go for the pork belly po’boy!
811 Conti Street
Le Croissant D’Or: Great for breakfast! Croissants, pastries and sweets, oh my! They have sandwiches too. And one killer Napoleon!
617 Ursulines Ave
Café Du Monde: Beignets, Beignets and more beignets. Oh my gosh! You have got to come here to try this New Orleans traditional powdered sugar doughnut.
800 Decatur St
Arnaud’s: The first time I ever tried turtle soup was at Arnaud’s and I was pleasantly surprised! You’ll find all sorts of New Orleans traditions like shrimp creole, gumbo, crab cakes — the list goes on! Come here for a dinner you won’t forget!
813 Bienville Street
That’s it for my list of things to see, do and eat in New Orleans! I hope you enjoy my suggestions and also find some new traditions of your own!
- HP Mallory
And there you have it! Thanks, HP, for all your suggestions! If you have time for a break from all the RT Convention activities, you might want to take HP up on one of her fabulous ideas. Happy sightseeing!