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Expectation v. reality: 10 things for visiting 20-somethings to do in NOLA

In honor of one of my best friends making the long trek from Minnesota down to New Orleans for a week-long visit, I compiled a list of all the things I wanted us to do. As with anything, reality often falls far from expectation.

1. Swamp Tour

Expectation: I’d kill to see an alligator and this website offers both swamp tours and airboat tours.

Reality: The swamp tour was, in fact, one of the best things we did! We got to hold a 3-year-old alligator (who I named Crocky) and cruise through the Bayou.

 

Me holding a 3-year-old alligator -- the photo that nearly gave my father a heart attack. Apparently they have salmonella.

Me holding a 3-year-old alligator -- the photo that nearly gave my father a heart attack. Apparently they have salmonella.

2. French Quarter

Expectation: I will accidentally stumble upon the debauchery that is Bourbon Street on my first night in town. It’s rowdy, but the Quarter is a must-see.

Reality: We went in the middle of the day, middle of the week to avoid high-density situations. It was slightly touristy, entirely too toasty and we found ourselves ducking into random stores when the heat became too much, having to pretend we were actually interested in those trashy shot glasses or caricatures. It was unbearably hot, but worth it.

Jackson Square

Jackson Square

3. Eat a Po-Boy 

Expectation: It's a New Orleans staple, and I was told within a few days of arriving that I had to have one. That’s how I ended up at a lunch shoveling down a giant fried-shrimp po-boy while everyone else nibbled on salads. No shame.

Reality: We were directed to the popular Parkway Tavern in Mid-city, where the menu reflects how strongly they feel about the po-boy: It’s the only item on the online menu. Once again, we got the golden fried shrimp, and the wait was well worth it.

4. Magazine Street

Expectation: Much to our parents' dismay, Kirsten and I are shoppers. Magazine Street’s endless supply of boutiques and restaurants appealed to me the second I stepped into town in mid-June. I especially like Haus 131 for its affordable, yet stylish clothing.

Reality: Slight jealousy flared when Kirsten walked away with more bags than she could carry and I was left holding a measly map I bought at some kind of stationary store. But despite my lack of luck in shopping that day, we found some adorable boutiques and restaurants down the city’s chic stretch.

5. Run in City Park

Expectation: Take a break from the deep-fried life for a rejuvenating run in beautiful City Park.

Reality: I hate running. We hate exercise. We did go to City Park – for the Sculpture Garden. I must have been delusional when I wrote the run into our agenda weeks ago.

6. Beignets at Café du Monde

Expectation: A classic must-do while in New Orleans, especially since the café is open 24 hours a day.

Reality: Friends of a friend clued me in on a secret many tourists may not know: It’s seat yourself and the line toward the back is for take-out only. Thus we sat ourselves, after doing some of my best hover work – even in the middle of the week it was packed – and ordered up the famous beignets. They were just as good as I had expected.

The beignets were well worth the near heat stroke we risked in walking around the Quarter on a sweltering day.

The beignets were well worth the near heat stroke we risked in walking around the Quarter on a sweltering day.

7. Dat Dog

Expectation: I love hot dogs. I love them so much. Check my bio; it says right there that I adore hot dogs.

Reality: This isn’t your average hot dog shop. I had a brat with olive relish and it was glorious. We also tried chili cheese fries for the first time (I don’t know what had ever stopped us in the past) and there’s absolutely no going back.

Hot dogs & chili cheese fries -- an artsy photo by Kirsten

Hot dogs & chili cheese fries -- an artsy photo by Kirsten

8. Ride the Streetcar

Expectation: I’ve spent weeks crossing the tracks and I recently learned this line is even older than the infamous San Francisco line. It seemed like a vital New Orleans bucket list item.

Reality: We must have looked really stupid getting out of my car on St. Charles and getting directly on the streetcar, since most riders use it for transportation, not necessarily leisure. I made one too many Riding the Bus with My Sister jokes. While it was nice to be able to peer out the windows at the beautiful houses that line St. Charles, riding the streetcar -- for no reason -- up and down one of the city’s main arteries ended up feeling rather unnecessary.

9. The Boot 

Expectation: The Boot was voted the number one college bar in the country according to this list and several others. Being 20 years old in New Orleans is, of course, like holding a dog treat just out of reach of a dog on a leash: cruel, to say the least.

Reality: The Boot is walking distance from my apartment. However, we made the mistake of going on a random weeknight in the dead of summer. There was exactly one other patron in the bar. We decided not to go in and drove to Taco Bell instead. I'm not that sorry though.

10. Drive-Thru Daiquiris

 Expectation: This is something we just don’t have in Minnesota. Or anywhere else in the country for that matter. And it is the BEST idea we’ve ever heard of.

Reality: We never made it to a drive-thru daiquiri shop and it’s probably one of my biggest regrets about the trip. But remember – this isn’t an excuse to drink and drive. It’s simply convenience and to be enjoyed at home. I guess I'll have to save this one for my next New Orleans adventure.

Emily is an editorial intern at Nola Vie. Contact her at [email protected]