The Best of the Big Easy
Updated: Feb 11
Looking for the perfect black-travel destination? Look no further, New Orleans has got you covered. The music. The cuisine. The festivals. It celebrates its breathtaking, diverse culture at every turn, all while keeping its reputation of being gentle, easy-going and relaxed; so fondly known as ‘The Big Easy’. But what makes New Orleans worth visiting anyway? We answer your questions in this article, so here’s what you need to know.
HISTORY OF THE CITY
First occupied by the Native Americans, as most of the Americas, this city is probably the most culturally diverse in America today. It was founded in 1718 as a French colony by Jean and Pierre Le Moyne, ceded to Spain for a few years then back to France in 1800. It was sold to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
Slave labor was greatly relied on for the growing of tobacco and indigo for export, and in 1840, it had the largest slave market in the US. Many Africans were shipped directly from West Africa bringing with them their untainted culture, as opposed to their counterparts who stopped by the Caribbean islands first.
Most Native Americans left for the swamp areas surrounding the city and those who stayed liaised with the French, Spanish and Africans resulting in a mixed race with a collage of cultures; The Creoles.
NOLA has held great significance to African-American culture, here are a few places you just have to visit while there.
The first public gatherings of people of color, both free and enslaved took place here during the 19th century. They would celebrate the culture of their homeland through music, religion and cuisine. Congo square served as the birthplace of Jazz, second line and Mardi Gras Indian traditions.
Backstreet Cultural Museum
The museum is home to many priceless artifacts and memorabilia relating to African-American culture in New Orleans including Jazz funerals, Mardi Gras and other traditions only found in New Orleans.
Amistad Research Center
This is an independent archive holding the largest collection of manuscripts on African American history in the US. It is the focal point of research by historians, nonfiction authors and those pursuing information about their family’s history.
Founded as a Native American trading spot long before European colonization, it is the oldest of its kind. Today it hosts annual events including the French Quarter Festival and the French Market Creole Tomato Festival.
One of the very few medical schools for African Americans in the country, and the only private hospital in New Orleans to grant black doctors staff privilege. This made it the only private hospital where black people could be admitted under the care of their own physicians at the turn of the 20th Century.
St. Peter AME Church
The oldest black congregation in New Orleans, African Americans were permitted to worship in Jefferson City until after the Civil War. In 1877, the white congregation sold the property to St. James AME. The Church is listed on the National Landmark Register.
New Orleans African American Museum
The NOAAM is dedicated to preserving and promoting the history and art of African American communities through education. It showcases exhibits of original African beadwork, costumes, musical instruments, divination objects among other artifacts.
ENTERTAINMENT & ACTIVITIES
Founded in 1961 to protect, preserve and perpetuate traditional New Orleans Jazz,Preservation Hall is a must visit to have a taste of real, authentic Jazz music.
Admission fee is $10 and they are open every Wednesday to Sunday from 8pm-11pm
New Orleans school of Cooking
Learn how to make authentic Creole-Cajun recipes from the best chefs in town. The morning class features four food items, and the afternoon class three.
Prices start at $28 and they are open every day.
Contemporary Arts Center
A multi-disciplinary art center that encourages collaboration among diverse artists, institutions and communities through exhibitions and programs. It is mainly dedicated to the art of today.
Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors.
Open Thursdays to Sundays from 11am to 4pm
Aquarium of the Americas
The great Maya Reef comes alive in their walk-through tunnel. Penguins, Southern sea otters and sea turtles are a favorite for visitors.
They’re open Monday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm.
Louisiana Children’s Museum
One of the nation’s Top 10 children’s museums; kids will love to explore and touch the many exhibits in this large converted warehouse, dine in the five-star, role play Kids’ Café then anchor the news in the WWL-TV KidWatch Studio
MARDI GRAS IN NOLA
Recognized as one of the top 20 events in the US, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a huge deal. Loosely translated as ‘Fat Tuesday’, Mardi Gras refers to the two week carnival celebration right before ash Wednesday, which is when Lent begins. In New Orleans it is celebrated by much partying, wearing of costumes and multiple large parades in different areas of the city every day.
NOLA offers quite a variety of cuisine and depending on your appetite and mood for the day, here’s a number of black-owned restaurants and the different fares they offer for you to choose from.
From the famed rice dish, Jollof, to groundnut sauce, to Apricot lamb; enjoy a wide array of West African dishes at Bennachin Restaurant (which is named after one of their specialties) The service and cuisine will warm your heart back to the motherland.
Address: 1212 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
Neyow’s Creole Café
New Orleans is famous for its multilingual, multicultural heritage. This diversity is found in its unique Creole cuisine which is a tasty mix of African, Native American, French and Spanish recipes put together. This is what you find in its most authentic form at Neyow’s Café. Locals have been accused of wanting to keep this place to themselves because it is a bit off the beaten path but don’t let that fool you, it is well worth it!
Address: 3332 Bienville St, New Orleans, LA 70119, USA
If nothing else, taste their Gumbo then I dare you to leave without temptation to order a full course. Located at the Lower Garden District, this restaurant will keep you coming back for more every time you’re in New Orleans.
Address: 1901 Sophie Wright Pl, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA
Sassafras Creole Kitchen
Seafood? Yes please! Done best at the Sassafras Creole Kitchen; they also serve Cajun-Creole dishes according to your taste.
Address: 2501 Leon C Simon Dr, New Orleans, LA 70122, USA
14 Parishes Jamaican Restaurant
Up for a taste of The Caribbean? This colorful, arty, family-owned eatery will sure get you there. They serve homeland dishes like beef patties and jerk chicken with a Jamaican touch of sweet plantains and cornbread. Your buds will have a real treat!
Address: 234 Loyola Ave, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA
The Praline Connection
We’re in the South after all. Soul food is a must-have, and there’s no better place than the highly recommended Praline. Known for their comfort food, it’s perfect for warming you up as you make a connection (pun intended) with the person on the opposite side of the table.
Address: 301 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA
Sweet Soul food
Their vegan comfort food is served outdoors, perfect for a sunny day.
Address: 1016 N Broad St, New Orleans, LA 70119, USA
If you love fine dining, then Galatoires is perfect for you. It’s not black-owned but this century-old restaurant located in the French Quarter serves French-Creole cuisine in upscale space with comfort food and great desert.
Address: 209 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA
Cafe du Monde
I would not be doing NOLA any justice if I didn’t mention this one. It is a landmark and an attraction for many tourists from all around the world. It is famous for its café au lait and beignets. It’s open all day every day apart from Christmas and though you might find a queue most mornigns, trust us when we say it’s well worth it!
Address: 800 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
We know this might be a lot to take in and a lot to do (not to mention how overwhelming it can be to plan for a trip.) So we’ve put together a list of Black-owned tours you could choose from. The benefit that comes with having a tour company plan for you is that they do pretty much all the heavy lifting, and it’s so much more cost-effective because you only need to pay once at the beginning and that avoids going off budget or surprise expenses once you’re there. All you need to do is enjoy the ride.
These tours offer great insight from the devastating realities of slavery and resistance, to the achievements, success and general experience of people of color today. You will leave NOLA with an understanding of why it is such a unique, cultural hub.
BLACK-OWNED TOURS IN NEW ORLEANS
Hidden History Tours, Know NOLA Tours, 2nd Line Tours/Experience, All Bout Dat Tours/Black Heritage & Jazz, Black Hops Crawl, Island of Algiers Tours, LLC, The New Orleans Music Company, Tours by Judy Treme and Mardi Gras Indian Cultural Tours
Have you tried any of these places and is there anywhere you would like us to add to the list? Talk to us in the comments. Sonder Travels specializes in group travel. Let us plan your next girls’ trip. Visit www.sondertravels.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.