Entertainment, On A High Note

New Orleans: An experience like no other

Eric Gross, Flickr

There’s nowhere quite like New Orleans, Louisiana. From the one-of-a-kind cuisine to the intriguing voodoo history, New Orleans is truly like nowhere else in the world and just a hop, skip and a jump from Nashville, it serves as the perfect weekend getaway.

Just one of the many things the Bayou city is known for are the alligators that call it home, so a ride with the New Orleans Swamp Tour was the perfect opportunity to get a taste of swampland. Our tour guide Reggie couldn’t have provided a more fun or engaging tour, telling guests all about the history of the area, from the famous alligator hunts to his own Cajun roots, as we passed under beautiful Spanish moss trees. Of course everyone on the tour was thrilled by the prospect of seeing an alligator or two and our wishes were granted when Reggie tossed marshmallows to numerous baby alligators who popped their heads out of the water to grab the treats.

But the real surprise came when Reggie pulled out a baby alligator he kept on board and passed him around for everyone to hold and pet (apparently, an alligator’s favorite spot to be pet is between the eyes and on their belly). As we made our way back to shore, Reggie revealed that the creators of the Disney film “The Princess and the Frog” actually took his tour before shooting the film and loved his personality so much that it was used as inspiration for the quirky Cajun firefly, Ray. Based on his enthusiasm and lively character, it’s easy to see the comparison.

The French Quarter in New Orleans is home to Bourbon Street and some of the most haunting ghost tales in the city. PHOTO BY DEBORAH LEE SOLTESZ, FLICKR

The French Quarter in New Orleans is home to Bourbon Street and some of the most haunting ghost tales in the city. PHOTO BY DEBORAH LEE SOLTESZ, FLICKR

From the famous VooDoo Queen to the haunted cemeteries, history buffs and the general population alike are fascinated by the stories that live within the walls of the city and we experienced just that with the Haunted History Tour that takes visitors to several haunted locations in the French Quarter. Just like Reggie, tour guide Jack provided an engaging atmosphere with his husky voice perfect for telling ghost stories and insight into the city’s most haunted locations.

From the haunting and horrifying tale of Madame LaLaurie to Julie, the Octoroon Mistress who died on the rooftop of her former home downtown after spending the night in the frigid cold, waiting for her lover to take her hand in marriage, the two-hour walking tour is a thought-provoking way to gain insight into some of the city’s most fascinating and frightening history. And seeing as it gained the approval of a New Orleans native, it’s clearly a top-notch experience.

Lafayette Cemetery is also an interesting location to explore, which offers the opportunity for free, self-guided walking tours. Located in the beautiful Garden District, Lafayette is home to several tombs dating back to the 1800s and has been used as a film site for shows like “NCIS: New Orleans” and “The Originals.” It’s equal parts fascinating and eerie to walk past grave sites that are almost 200 years old, many of which belong to those who died from the yellow fever plague that took over the city in the 1870s, including those of the Sercy family whose three children died within two days of one another.

Lafayette Cemetery features several tombstones from the 1800s and served as a filming site for "CSI: New Orleans." PHOTO BY SBMEAPER1, FLICKR

Lafayette Cemetery features several tombstones from the 1800s and served as a filming site for “NCIS: New Orleans.” PHOTO BY SBMEAPER1, FLICKR

The Garden District is also where some of Hollywood’s biggest names call home, including Beyonce, Sandra Bullock and John Goodman, who all own real estate in the historic area, in addition to the eclectic blue house featured on season three of “American Horror Story.”

And of course no New Orleans experience would be complete without a stop on Bourbon Street. Much like Music City, music pours out of the bars on this famous street, with impressive live cover bands bringing these historic buildings to life. Complete with the signature New Orleans drink, the Hand Grenade, the NOLA experience was certainly an enjoyable one, filled with plenty of music, friends and the unparalleled spirit of one of the best cities in the US.