Buskers on Royal Street (Photo: Joshua Brasted)
Who needs reality TV when there’s New Orleans? The city’s diverse feast of humanity is spellbinding. While Bourbon Street is a go-to destination for fascinating characters, here are four more spots guaranteed to offer some of the best people watching in the country.
Along the Riverwalk
While strolling downriver from Canal Street alongside the Mighty Mississippi, you’ll notice plenty of runners and dog walkers. Look (and listen) harder, and you’ll soon see street buskers strumming guitars and blowing brassy notes on slide trombones. You’ll also spy gaggles of tourists enveloped in clouds of powdered sugar, remnants of beignets from Café du Monde attracting pigeons at their feet. The walkway is lined with benches facing the river, take a seat and watch the show.
If you like hip hotel bars, the kind that draw vaguely familiar celebrity types and creatives in town for power meetings and film projects, you’ll love the AC Lounge.
This meeting place in the new AC Hotel New Orleans dates back to 1871, and its massive columned façade makes its presence well known on the edge of the French Quarter. At the bar, head mixologist Alan Wiltshire draws a loyal crowd of local business types for happy hour specials.
Bourbon Street, in front of Galatoire’s (Friday lunch)
Take your place among gussied uptown locals to line up outside of Galatoire’s as early as 10:30 on a Friday morning. You can reserve a spot ahead for the upstairs dining rooms, but locals covet a first-come-first-served seat in the downstairs old school dining room, with its white tablecloths and shiny brass chandeliers.
Friday lunch is a storied tradition at this Creole Palace, a boisterous champagne-soaked table-hopping session that lasts until dinner. Regulars don’t only want the trout amandine, they ask for their waiter by name at a place where the staff has tended to the same families for generations. Even if you don’t have lunch, head to Galatoire’s 33 Bar & Steak next door for a drink. The crowds wait there, so you’ll see plenty of action.
Once the purview of locals in the know, Frenchmen Street has become akin to Bourbon Street light, sans the strip joints. Diverse crowds gather here to listen to the live music pouring out of the buildings, from blues and jazz to funk and reggae. The night art market is also a good look-see — here, you can meet local vendors and real deal artists Thursday through Sunday evenings.