Ghosts, Vampires and Beignets in the Big Easy

Founded by the French and eventually bought by the United States, New Orleans has a history filled with interesting tales. Legends of vampires, ghosts, and an entire plethora of sordid tales. Some of them true, some a combination of truth and fiction (and sometimes horror) and some you would have to decide for yourself…if you dare. The city was built on swampy marshland and cost many early settlers their lives as they battled against fellow fever, malaria and small pox, to name a few. Damn those mosquitoes. The influx of Hatian immigrants in the early 1800s added yet another fascinating layer of traditions, food and music to New Orleans…helping to make it what it is today. With the Mississippi to the South of the city and Lake Ponchatchrain to the North, You may even encounter an alligator on the outskirts of the city. Or at least see one on the menu. So put on your party shoes and come with us to America’s most haunted city……

Getting There

Flights come from all over the country into MSY airport which is a short drive (25 minutes) to the French Quarter. We actually took a road trip from Tallahassee to New Orleans. The drive was around 5 hours.

What to See and Do

Take a ghost tour- In my opinion, you can’t visit New Orleans without taking some kind of spooky tour. As a person who is obsessed with all things scary, this was my kind of place. There are vampire tours, cemetery tours, ghost tours and voodoo tours. The amount of sleepless nights this could provide is countless. We took the Haunted History Vampire Tour and it was AMAZING. Added bonus; you can get “drinks to go” in the French Quarter. This means that you can grab a drink and take it on the ghost tour! Alcohol AND vampires!!! So.. what’s a vampire’s favorite cocktail, you ask? Give up??? A Bloody Mary! Sorry.

Catch a Parade– It seems like there are always parades planned in the French Quarter. Of course the biggest and craziest is probably Mardi Gras…but there are many others to catch if you are lucky. We were there during Easter and really had a blast at the Gay Easter Parade! The hats and costumes were entertaining! Apparently the Easter Bunny brings alcohol and beads to the French Quarter… Visit New for updates on events and parades!

View Art at the NOMA – If there is anything I love as much as scary legends, it’s an art museum! This museum was fantastic. It is located in the city park with incredible sculptures, a lake and bicycle rentals. This is great if you need a little break from the ever so overstimulating Bourbon Street.

Eat Beignets at Cafe Du monde – OK…This is a happening. Down by the river you will find Cafe Du monde. They serve hot, freshly made beignets with powdered sugar 3 for $5.00. A beignet is a French treat that tastes like something that a zeppole and a powdered donut would have if they hooked up and had a baby. You can get them with a glass of milk, coffee or hot chocolate. Bring cash…They do not accept credit cards.

Take a tour of one of the many above ground cemeteries – Creepiness overload. First of all, I am convinced that our guide was a real vampire. Even my son entertained the idea. Bring garlic. Wear it around your neck. We toured the famous St Louis cemetery #1 where people are just dying to get in. The dead are buried in tombs above ground due to the water table in the French Quarter. Dig a few feet down and you hit water …and nobody wants to bury grandma and see her floating down Frenchman Street 3 days after a heavy rainfall. We saw the famous tomb of voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. Apparently people leave all kinds of offerings at her tomb There is only one company that has a access to the St Louis Cemetery #1, the Cemetery Tours New Orleans. There are tons of other great tours of different cemeteries as well though.

I see dead people…..

Visit a plantation– There is a huge variety of plantations to visit a short drive outside of the French Quarter. We chose to visit Oak Alley and Laura about an hour outside of the Quarter. They both offered 1.5 hour guided tours well worth the while. Laura gave a very informative tour of the house and the grounds with a chance to step inside the cabins that slaves lived in. I felt like both plantations gave great insight into the lives of the slaves that lived and worked there. The Oak Alley has a great restaurant on site and you can even stay overnight. The Laura Plantation has a great gift shop and felt a little more personal.

Spend some time on Bourbon Street-It’s smelly and sticky, loud and shady…kind of like a few people I know..but it’s also alive with music and energy, filled with fun and great food and oh, how I love to admire the architecture! And the music? Magical! Find a good bar to consume a few drinks and enjoy the atmosphere. We spent time at the Blacksmith and enjoyed dualing pianos at Ticklers. At one point we were in a bar on stage with hula hoops and then found ourselves on a balcony tossing beads down into the crowds. Then I blacked out. Kidding. One block over from Bourbon is Royal Street. Head there to visit all of the art galleries and do a little shopping.

Visit the Voodoo Museum– It’s a quirky little 3 room “museum” with examples of voodoo dolls, paintings depicting witchcraft and rituals, alters and an assortment of voodoo paraphernalia. Some sites call it a tourist trap, but I feel it’s worth a visit. I purchased several voodoo dolls and plan to use them on people I shall not name. I should have bought a lot more.

Stroll through the Garden District-There is an area known as the Garden District where fantastic houses created in the Greek Revival style can be viewed. You can grab a map that gives self guided walking tour routes and just park on the street, or hop on the Saint Charles Street car ( about 15 min) in the French Quarter and take it to Saint Charles at Jackson.) We saw the house where Benjamin Buttons was filmed along with countless other historic houses.

Where to Stay

Marriott New Orleans-This hotel is in a great location! Rooms were what you would expect from a Marriott. Find parking elsewhere. Their daily rate is criminal. We used Spot Hero to score a garage spot a few blocks away for less than half the price.

Where to Eat

Bayou Bar at Pontchartrain hotel- This was worth the 15 minutes on the St Charles Street car to get to. The food in the bar was amazing….the rooftop for drinks and views? Unbeatable.

The Vampire Cafe- Great place to have a burger or salads. They had creative drinks like, “blood bags” or “witches brew” to choose from and the atmosphere was exactly what you would suspect.

Coterie Restaurant- Wow ! the best breakfast place in the French Quarter!

Ruby Slipper Cafe- So apparently this restaurant is repurposed from an old bank. The last bank that Bonnie and Clyde robbed!! Super cool. It still has the outside bank facade and the inside resembles a bank as well. Hands down, one of the best brunches I have ever had. They had appetizers for breakfast like, “French toast bites” and “bacon wrapped tater tots” . They even had brunch desserts.

Pat O’Brien’s- Home of the legendary Hurricane drink…A cocktail with a lot of rum, among other things.

So, whether you are an Anne Rice fan, love all things haunted or are just a drunk, take a few days to visit the Big Easy. Take a ghost tour, Sample a hurricane, try the food and have a heart attack (well, hopefully not). It’s a great place to go and learn a little history while having a lot of fun! But if you go, don’t call me when something goes bump in the night…that might just be me in the room next door.

Recommended Reads;

Interview with a Vampire- Anne Rice

The Witching Hour- Anne Rice

12 Years a Slave – Solomon Northrop

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