NOLA for Dummies Rookies

St Louis Cathedral

Special thanks to my friend LeslieAnn for the great photo!

My beloved city has been getting a lot of press lately. Camera crews are everywhere preparing for the Super Bowl. Talk shows are broadcasting live from the French Quarter and media credentials have been issued to reporters from over 200 countries. 

And as soon as the Lombardi trophy is handed to the game’s victor, we’ll shift gears into our biggest tourist event, Mardi Gras. After that, festival season kicks in, with event after event booking our weekends until the summer heat drives us indoors.

All this press will surely make a few of you yearn for a trip to the Big Easy. So I’ve prepared this little primer for traveling to New Orleans. Read it carefully before packing your bags.

Let’s Talk

First, let me address the name of our fair city. It’s New Or-luns. Not New Or-leens (unless you are singing a certain song where things must rhyme), and not N’Awlins. If you’re insecure with the pronunciation you can just say NOLA. We will respect you for trying, but we will love you for getting it right.

While we’re on the subject of word pronunciation, here are a few more you may want to practice.

The tiny, lobster-like crustaceans we love to eat are called crawfish (rhymes with draw fish). Not craa-fish (like in “Hey fish”).

Following that same pattern, the delicious sugary treats made in the French Market are called pralines (praw-leens, again, first syllable rhymes with draw), not pray-leens.

The nuts inside the pralines (remember, praw-leens) are called pecans (pa-cahns), not pee-cans. A pee-can is something completely different. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

And street names. Ahhh, street names. Don’t even try to pronounce Tchoupitoulas if you’re not from here. Just point and ask for help.

It will also behoove you to know that here, we ride in street cars, not trolleys or cable cars. And ordering a sandwich dressed means it will come with lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles. When you’re ready to leave and you haven’t finished your drink, ask for a Go-Cup. Yes, they’ll pour your beverage (even an adult one) in a disposable cup and you can take it with you. Just don’t drive with it. That we take very seriously.

Cocktail Culture

Here in the birthplace of the cocktail, we love to raise a glass. (Please don’t judge. It’s just our way.) Locals don’t maintain a tourist’s pace every day. That would be deadly. But be prepared for a prevalence of adult beverages during your stay, and know what you’re getting yourself into.

For a list of 10 Classic New Orleans cocktails and where to get them, click here.

My suggestions: Make sure you try a Sazerac, the original cocktail. It’s a rye whisky drink with a fun history that you can read about here. It was developed by an apothecary in the 19th century, so you can claim it’s for medicinal purposes. They’re served all over town, but the legendary Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel is the place to go for the real thing.

I’d also recommend trying a Pimm’s Cup, a refreshing, relatively low-alcohol beverage best enjoyed at the Napoleon House. Skip the Hurricane and Hand Grenade, unless cheap liquor in large quantities is what you’re after.

Another pioneering bit of New Orleans cocktail culture is the daiquiri machine. These sweet and potent concoctions are kind of like an alcohol-laced slurpee. Daiquiri bars will boast more flavors than Baskin-Robbins, with machines lined up behind the bar to entice you. They’re great on a really hot day, but I’d skip those in favor of something a little more sophisticated.

The cocktail has become such a revered part of our history and culture you can now take a walking tour through the French Quarter bars and restaurants that have become famous because of their libations. Wear comfortable shoes and designate a driver if your hotel isn’t within walking distance.

When you have to “go”

Finding a restroom in a drinking and walking city sometimes presents a problem. During special events it’s nearly impossible. So city planners and event organizers will put out banks of portable toilets for the public to use.

Let me make this perfectly clear: If you are unwilling to use a Port-O-Let, you should stay home. When the number of tourists exceeds the population, there’s no avoiding it.

Watch your step

After a night of revelry in the French Quarter, a certain blend of “liquids” accumulates along the edge of the streets. We call that liquid Party Gravy. Never, ever step in the Party Gravy. Most of the time it’s harmless, just spilled drinks and the leftover puddles from our tropical showers. But sometimes people get a little carried away when they’re here, and forget their good manners. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Don’t discuss your footwear with strangers.

Unless you actually want to pay someone to shine your shoes, do not engage the shoe shiners. They will ask you in a somewhat polite manner if you’d like your shoes shined. Once you make eye contact and speak to them, they set the hook. Then it will go something like this:

“Want your shoes shined?”

“No, thanks.”

But he will not give up.

“Well, then, I betcha I can tell you where you got them shoes.”

“Sorry, no thanks.”

Still he will persist.

“I betcha five dollars I can tell you the exact street where you got them shoes.”

If you pause and make eye contact, you have accepted the bet. Certain that the dude has no idea where you purchased your shoes, you will engage. The shoe shiner will then announce that you “got them shoes on your feet” and that “your feet are on Bourbon Street.” There will then be a loud confrontation where he demands his $5. If there isn’t a cop within 20 feet you will pay the creep the $5 to get away.

Pace Yourself

No one comes to New Orleans to eat a turkey sandwich. Our food is rich and plentiful. And when it’s chased with a cocktail or two, you get easily fall victim to over-indulgence. Know your limits, and then only exceed them by a little. You gotta have fun, right?

If you decide to trek down to NOLA, give me a shout. I’ll tell you everything you need to know to make your visit memorable. And maybe even join you for a cocktail.

Have you been to New Orleans? If you have, did a shoe shiner ask you where you got your shoes?

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Disclaimer: This amusing description does not even come close to what New Orleans has to offer. It’s a great destination, full of history, culture, and energy. For more comprehensive information on travel to New Orleans, click on of these links. Then pack your bags and head on down!

New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau —


Louisiana Tourism – the official tourism site of the state of Louisiana —


29 thoughts on “NOLA for Dummies Rookies

  1. Pingback: Bellman, there’s a naked man in the hallway.

  2. Transitioning Mom

    NOLA’s been on my bucket list for years, and she’s just been moved up the list! (Even with the “party gravy” warning.) Oh, and a NOLA visit wouldn’t be a visit without a meet-up with you! One of these days, I warn you, I mean tell you. 🙂

    1. Lisha @ The Lucky Mom Post author

      Of course there would be a meet-up!! I’d even fluff up some pillows for you, my dear!

      It’s a fabulous place to visit — and to live! Just not in August. It’s miserable in August.

  3. Donnell Jeansonne

    Love this. I’ve stepped in the Party Gravy. I was totally pushed. I think. I was too drunk to remember. Anyhoo, we should probably also advise people to be wary of those mysterious liquids dripping from the balconies. Is it a plant being watered? Someone’s drink spilled? Or something more ominous? We’ll never know. Also, from a law enforcement standpoint, do not show your body parts for beads. It is illegal. You will go to OPP. It’s not fun. 🙂

    1. Lisha @ The Lucky Mom Post author

      I’ve totally done it myself, too. How do you think I learn such valuable lessons. As I recall, I paid $3 for a bottle of water to wash my foot off. And that was the last time I wore open-toed shoes to the Quarter! And flashing, OMG. That just has to stop.

      I have a (kind of) long story about that. Many years ago (probably the early 1990s) we were in the Quarter for Mardi Gras. At the drag queen show if memory serves. This cute, young thing was taunting the guys on the balcony for beads and finally says “I’ll never see any of these people again. What the hell.” Then she lifts her shirt. Well, Mr. Wonderful has my camera, and he snaps a photo of her at the ‘right moment.’ The next week we’re back in Texas dropping off film at the Fotomat. The prints come back — and there’s the most beautifully-focused, artistically perfect shot of this chick and her boobs. (I’m surprised we didn’t get a visit from the constable it was so good.) So it sat in a photo album for years, and he showed it off from time to time. Fast-forward about 6 or 8 years and we’re back in Louisiana, sitting in the dome at a Saints game. The woman in front of us looks sooooo familiar, but we can’t quite place her. About the time the game ended we both realized who she was. My husband wanted to go ask her if she’d like a 4×6 glossy of her “finest moment.” And that was all before the internet!

  4. Christine

    I have never been to New Or-luns (I gotta practice that), but it is on my bucket list! I can’t tell you how much I loved reading this, and pronouncing everything as instructed. This makes me want to go and experience your city. Right. Now. Well, probably not as the same time as the Super Bowl, but close. 😉

    1. Lisha @ The Lucky Mom Post author

      The best months to visit are April and October. No one in their right mind would come here in August. My favorite festival for new visitors is the French Quarter Fest in April. Miles of free music, food (and beverage) vendors, beautiful lush parks… You could even drive the Beast and park it in my driveway!

  5. thetwistingkaleidoscope

    Brings back great memories! Don’t forget all the crazies who conglomerate in Jackson Square; the friendly people next to you at the parade, the ones who open a giant cooler of hot CRAWfish and offer you a plate; and the dude who lets down giant rubber spiders from his apartment to scare kids (and later throws them beads to make up for it). Gosh, I miss LA so much after reading this!

    1. Lisha @ The Lucky Mom Post author

      I know what it means… *cue the song…* to miss New Or-leeens. Remember, Mr. Wonderful was once on active duty, too. And Fort Hood, Texas is just no substitute for NOLA. Your Mister could join the La. Natl. Guard and stay put for a while like mine did. I have a lovely house for rent!

  6. Thalia Powell

    WOW!!! I feel like such a tourist…I have had the daquaris from the drive thru, the hand gernade and never heard of the Sazerac or Primms Cup! I think I say the name righ and have learned about crawfish and pralines. Looks like I need to come down again and see all that I missed! Not to mention some fabulous friends!!!!

  7. renée a. schuls-jacobson

    I loved my years in NOLA, and you know it holds my heart. I even know how to pronounce Tchoupitoulas. CHOP-it-TOO-lass. The best thing in N’awlins are always thrown in lagniappe. The people are beautiful, resilient, wise, devoted. It is the best city in our country. But yeah, stay out if the Street Gravy. Dem plastic beads ain’t worth it, darlin’. And you forgot the magnolias blooming and those oak trees, dripping with Spanish moss in City Park. So much to love. 🙂 And you are there: one if the best parts of all!

    1. Lisha @ The Lucky Mom Post author

      I’ve still got my fingers crossed that you visit again this year! Since your last time down City Park has had some major improvements. A Great Lawn, fabulous swings, and Wi-Fi!! We could blog from under that Spanish moss!

  8. Jordon

    Ok…so explain to the America Rookie from Ireland….what’s the big easy? and I think I could probably try to say some of those things….but then I’d sound American…and that doesn’t mix to great with an Irish accent..It’s given me a fun idea for a ‘tips for a visit to Ireland blog post’!:)

    1. Lisha @ The Lucky Mom Post author

      The Big Easy is a nickname for New Orleans. (Like New York is called the Big Apple…)

      I’ve been to Ireland, and it’s a lot like New Orleans! Lots of churches and pubs and very nice people. 🙂 And while our football is a bit different than yours, we take it just as seriously.

      Let me know when you do your post and I’ll hop on over and check it out.

    1. Lisha @ The Lucky Mom Post author

      Well, it takes time to do it all! Y’all should try to come in for French Quarter Fest this year. Much less expensive than Jazz Fest, although the lineup for JF this year is outstanding!! Billy Joel’s coming back… remember that last time?


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