Sampling music, dining and history in New Orleans

By Johanna Jainchill
Louisianas Civil War MuseumFor passengers adding on a few days in New Orleans pre- or post- river cruise, there are a plethora of things to do, see and eat to get immersed in the history of the city and the South.

Attractions

New Orleans is proud of its history, and its museums are top-rate in terms of showing it.

Louisiana's Civil War Museum in the Warehouse Arts District claims it has one of the largest collections of Confederacy-related memorabilia in the U.S. The museum boasts the flags, weapons, uniforms and belongings of Civil War soldiers. Built in 1891, it's the oldest continuously operating museum in the state. See www.confederatemuseum.com.  

The city's Jazz National Historical Park hosts jazz concerts by both well-known musicians and its own rangers. The park also holds educational performances most days of the week, such as recent ones where park rangers performed and discussed the African roots of jazz. Visit www.nps.gov.  

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum in the Central Business District is dedicated to the history and culture of food and drink in the South.

Spotted CatWith the museum moving into a 30,000-square-foot space in 2013, half of it will be dedicated to an exhibit called "Gallery of the South: States of Taste," meant to tell the story of the American South through exhibits on food and food culture. See www.southernfood.org.  

Nightlife and live music

Nightlife options seem endless here, but savvy visitors know to go beyond the French Quarter and Bourbon Street.

The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau has a list of live music options for any night of the week. See www.neworleanscvb.com.  

Frenchmen Street in the Marigny, a neighborhood adjacent to the French Quarter, has a lively street culture, with bands performing on street corners alongside sidewalk sketch artists.

PATOISThere are many places to dance to live music here; a favorite is the Spotted Cat Music Club, where bands play until the wee hours and which offers a free introductory swing dance lesson at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. Visit www.spottedcatmusicclub.com.  

Dining

New Orleans has no shortage of great places to eat; the problem is deciding where to go.

Don't be scared to leave the French Quarter to get some grub. New Orleans' leafy Garden District, with its grand, antebellum mansions and towering willow trees, is worth a visit whether to eat or just meander.

The area is best accessed by St. Charles Avenue's streetcar, the world's oldest continually operating streetcar. With open, wooden windows, mahogany seats with brass fittings and exposed light bulbs, it does feel like it has been running for 150 years.

MothersRight on St. Charles Avenue is the Irish House, which is fast becoming a New Orleans favorite. Chef Matt Murphy notes that the Irish have been a part of New Orleans for 200 years. Recommended dishes include the Molly Malone omelet, filled with shrimp and crab and topped with lemon beurre blanc, and the Full Irish breakfast, featuring eggs with rashers, black and white pudding and Irish sausage. Irish coffee is popular at brunch, and with 12 beers on tap, more than half from Ireland or Louisiana, a cold brew is popular any time of day. See www.theirishhouseneworleans.com.  

Further uptown, Patois puts a creative French twist on seafood and meat. Set on a cozy, neighborhood street corner, it can be difficult to get a table here, so call in advance. Recommended dishes include the rabbit roulade and scallops entrees, and the gnocchi with purple hull peas or moules fritte in a Creole broth appetizers. See www.patoisnola.com.  

Back in the Central Business District, Mother's is famous for its overstuffed po'boys but has long been a New Orleans breakfast institution, as well. The waitstaff there is as used to tourists asking the correct way to pronounce "N'awlins" as they are the locals who have been going there for its 74-year existence. The jovial staff will tell you that its crawfish etouffee omelet is the best you can get in Louisiana, and they might be right. See www.mothersrestaurant.net.  

Steps from Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, GW Fins has gone against the current trend that touts all things local. Instead, this bustling restaurant boasts that it offers seafood from all corners of the world, such as Dover sole from the Netherlands, turbot from Chile and salmon from Canada. Also true to its roots, the restaurant offers local fish from the Gulf, including white shrimp and blue crab. See www.gwfins.com.  

Follow Johanna Jainchill on Twitter @jjainchilltw. 
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