Strange, unusual, bizarre, and fun: New Orleans offers all this and so much more
New Orleans is a magical city. When you visit the French Quarter, you’ll be thrown in to nearly half a dozen cultures. French, Spanish, Cajun, Creole, and Southern are the most dominant, but New Orleans certainly offers up many more.
Just mixing these cultures would be enough to make a fascinating city but New Orleans really ups the ante. Here you can find pirates, Voodoo, vampires, ghosts, above-ground tombs, prostitution, murder, and more.
Are you taking a trip to the Crescent City? No vacation here is complete without experiencing at least some of these quirky things to do in New Orleans! If you’re looking for a quirky, strange, unique, or eccentric trip, this list is a great place to start… but trust me, you’ll surely stumble upon something interesting just by wandering the French Quarter!
If you’re looking for more information on New Orleans, like where to stay & where to eat, check out my New Orleans guide here!
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Learn About Voodoo, and Maybe Even Get a Reading
Voodoo isn’t just scary dolls that are used to wish harm on someone. In fact, Voodoo is a religion with regional variants, specific deities, and trained practitioners.
You can learn all about Voodoo at Voodoo Authentica, located conveniently in the French Quarter.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, I recommend that you get a reading! I got a Tarot Card reading a couple years ago and it was a very unique and memorable experience. The readings are done by appointment only and they fill up fast, so if you’re interested, sign up sooner rather than later!
Take a Ghost Tour
You might secretly be cringing at the idea of taking a ghost tour because it sounds cheesy. Anywhere else it probably would be, but ghost tours in New Orleans are fascinating.
Well, New Orleans has a quirky, eccentric, and storied history that spans centuries. Ghost tours in New Orleans relive the real ghosts of the past – meaning the tour is about the terrifying characters that once graced the French Quarter. These tours take you to the places where murder, medical experimentation, and other horrifying events happened. And, if you believe in ghosts, you may even be lucky enough to see a spirit!
I’ve been to New Orleans probably a half dozen times and I have taken a ghost tour nearly every time. You really cannot visit NOLA without one of these tours.
Drink Absinthe Where Real-Life Pirates Enjoyed It
Absinthe no longer has hallucinogenic properties, so don’t worry about imbibing too much and being greeted by the Green Fairy.
For a truly unique New Orleans experience, head down Pirate’s Alley (just behind the beautiful church in Jackson Square) and enter Jean Lafitte’s Absinthe House.
You may be wondering: who is Jean Lafitte?
Jean Lafitte is a famous French pirate who ruled the Gulf of Mexico in the 19th century. New Orleans was an important landmark in his smuggling operation – one reason why this dark row is called “Pirate’s Alley.”
Be sure to bring cash! This bar doesn’t accept cards.
Once you get seated, peruse the Absinthe menu. Regardless of what you order, it will be prepared in the traditional style with water poured over a sugar cube into your liqueur.
While you sip your spirit, imagine that you, too, are a pirate in this dark corner of the French Quarter.
Take a Bicycle Tour Through the Lower Ninth Ward
The Lower Ninth Ward was famously decimated during Hurricane Katrina (and nearly immediately again by Hurricane Rita) when multiple levees failed and flooded this poverty-stricken neighborhood with a torrent of water.
I took this tour during one of my first trips to New Orleans and it was absolutely fantastic. I enjoyed being able to see the real-life effects of Katrina, something that is so much more jarring when seen in person versus on TV. But the tour operator is very clear – this is NOT disaster tourism. Rather, it is meant to highlight the strength of this community.
If you’re interested, check out Ninth Ward Rebirth Bike Tours.
Take a Tour of an Above-Ground Cemetary
New Orleans is famous for their above-ground tombs, and for good reason: the tombs are elaborate and able to house multiple generations of the dead.
The cemeteries are both creepy and fascinating and absolutely worth checking out. The most famous cemetery in New Orleans is Saint Louis #1, located just north of the French Quarter.
You can’t enter without a tour guide, so definitely sign up for a tour. You’ll learn about Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen; Nicholas Cage’s tomb, and more!
Interested in Prostitution, too? Take a Combo Tour!
One of my favorite New Orleans tours is through Two Chicks Walking Tours. They have a “Dead Sexy” tour that combines Saint Louis #1 with the history of Storyville, New Orlean’s famous prostitution block.
It’s a great two-in-one experience and really captures the quirkier side of New Orleans!
People Watch at Jackson Square
Jackson Square is the area right in front of the beautiful church adjacent to the Mississippi River in the French Quarter.
On any given day, you’ll be able to find artists, street performers, and Tarot card readers. Occasionally, you’ll also find political activists, too!
With Cafe du Monde just down the street, I recommend grabbing a bag of beignets, a cafe au lait, and sitting in the park to people watch. You’re sure to see something interesting!
Drink in the Street – At All Hours of the Day
Don’t be thrown off when a bartender asks you, “for here or to go?” when you place a drink order.
Be it a jack & coke, a Pimm’s cup, a Hurricane, or an Old Fashioned, NOLA lets you take your drinks to go and imbibe in the street. One specialty NOLA beverage is the “Mango Mango daquiri” – a surprisingly strong frozen fruity cocktail that comes in a yard glass. They’re especially tasty on the warmer days!
Cops typically line Bourbon Street, but don’t be surprised if they tip their hat to you if you raise your drink to them.
Drink on a Carousel
One of my favorite bars in the world is located in the Hotel Monteleone, suitably named the Carousel Bar.
Bartenders stand in the center of a functioning carousel and patrons lucky enough to snag a seat get to enjoy their high-end cocktails while the carousel rotates. Thankfully, it’s a slow rotation – completing one revolution only every 15 minutes. You won’t get motion sickness on this carousel!
As I mentioned, seats are really hard to come by. If you see one, snag it – they don’t last long.
The bartenders at the Carousel Bar are excellent so I recommend asking them to surprise you. I did that when I visited NOLA with my parents and we got 3 different, beautifully crafted cocktails that we never would have known about if we ordered on our own.
Drink by Candelight and Wait for a Ghost
Jean Lafitte is a famous character around New Orleans and it extends beyond his Absinthe bar. If you continue to the end of Bourbon Street, where the French Quarter gets a little bit quieter – and a fair bit darker – you’ll find Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar. This bar is reputed to be the oldest structure used as a bar in the United States. In fact, it was constructed nearly 50 years before the United States was even formed!
Most of the building is lacking electricity so you can enjoy your drinks by the light of candles. I recommend you venture towards the back of the bar and linger by the piano. If you’re lucky, you may even see a ghost!
Even if you don’t see a ghost, don’t visit without enjoying a Purple Voodoo drink. This slushy drink tastes like a grape icee – you won’t taste any of the Everclear hidden in it!
Drink at a Real-Life Vampire Speakeasy
What is more New Orleans than a speakeasy?
A vampire speakeasy!
Located off central Bourbon Street, Potions is a speakeasy accessible only by secret code. This ultra-cool bar is never overrun because they strictly limit the number of people inside. Taste a Love Potion #9, a Broken Mirror, and so much more in this themed bar.
Strange, unusual, and quirky: these are some of the most unique things to do in New Orleans
Meander around the French Quarter long enough and you’re bound to stumble upon something surprising. I love how dynamic and interesting this city is – there’s a reason it’s one of my favorite cities in the entire world.
If you’re looking for quirky things to do in New Orleans, this list is a great place to start. But trust me, you’ll be bound to find something strange just by being in the Crescent City!
If you’re interested in New Orleans, I’m sure you’ll love Savannah. Savannah is famed to be even more haunted than New Orleans and is a great place to spend a long weekend!