Spending the 4th July in the Big Easy

Updated on July 4, 2017

Independence Day weekend is renowned for being a big deal in the United Sates, and nowhere is that more apparent than New Orleans.

As a tourist from the UK, I couldn't wait to sample to a city known as the Big Easy, the Crescent City, or 'NOLA' to the locals.

New Orleans is as vibrant and cosmopolitan as the brochures suggest, and they certainly know how to throw a party.

The famous Bourbon Street is heaving with revelers. Mardi-Gras face masks, beads, and a cocktail sold exclusivity in New Orleans, "The Hand Grenade," were a must have.

Bourbon Street is a street in the heart of New Orleans' oldest neighborhood, the French Quarter
Bourbon Street is a street in the heart of New Orleans' oldest neighborhood, the French Quarter | Source
Source

Food was high on the list of priorities, and New Orleans certainly doesn't disappoint on the culinary front.

Known for its famous pots of 'Gumbo', and Muffuletta sandwiches and soft sugary 'Beignets', it's no wonder that Louisiana is rated as the sixth highest for adult obesity in the U.S (The State of Obesity, 2013).

We settled on 'Bubba Gump Shrimp', the restaurant inspired by the classic Tom Hanks film, Forrest Gump, which is located on Decatur Street, which is a seven-minute walk from central Bourbon Street.

Bubba's is a family-friendly chain for seafood & American fare served in a fishing-boat-themed setting
Bubba's is a family-friendly chain for seafood & American fare served in a fishing-boat-themed setting | Source
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Nice and full and looking to join the party-goers, we headed for 'Tropical Isle' on New Orleans Avenue, a small bar with live music, it's also the home of the Hand Grenade, which are priced at a hefty $15 (£9.90).

The cost sounds steep, but this isn't a drink to be taken lightly, a yard glass comprising four different spirits, is meant to be sipped and savoured rather than “downed”.

We made some new friends who directed us towards Pat O's piano bar in the French Quarter, a beautiful courtyard that leads to the piano room with live music and another alcoholic speciality, The Hurricane.

The bar is free to enter with drinks ranging from $5-8.50 (£3.30-5.60) when seated a waitress will take your order, and you pay a 'tab' at the end of the evening, which is easy forget after a few Hurricanes.

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A bar known for boozy Hand Grenade cocktails plus live music, bar bites & balcony viewsThe Hand Grenade ingredients are: gin. grain alcohol, melon liqueur and rumPat O'Briens Bar is an outdoor hangout with a flaming fountain, connected to the bar which includes live piano music
A bar known for boozy Hand Grenade cocktails plus live music, bar bites & balcony views
A bar known for boozy Hand Grenade cocktails plus live music, bar bites & balcony views | Source
The Hand Grenade ingredients are: gin. grain alcohol, melon liqueur and rum
The Hand Grenade ingredients are: gin. grain alcohol, melon liqueur and rum | Source
Pat O'Briens Bar is an outdoor hangout with a flaming fountain, connected to the bar which includes live piano music
Pat O'Briens Bar is an outdoor hangout with a flaming fountain, connected to the bar which includes live piano music | Source

The 4th July was the following day and was very different; there were still people in the bars of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter but much more subdued than the previous night.

Families and couples made up the majority of the nightlife, and like us, headed down to the banks of the Mississippi to mingle, watch live music and the spectacular fireworks display.

4th July fireworks display on the New Orleans waterfront
4th July fireworks display on the New Orleans waterfront | Source

After the display, more food at the quirky Margaritaville restaurant, owned by singer-songwriter, Jimmy Buffet (now closed). The food was, of course, delicious, big portioned, and excellent value for money.

A huge, sloppy cheeseburger with fries set me back $10.00 (£6.60) a side of Gumbo $4.99 (£3.30) and a pink lemonade $2.99 (£1.95).

Karaoke followed at The Cats Meow on Bourbon, a ten-minute walk from Margaritaville via Dumaine Street and just around the corner from Pat O's Courtyard.

After murdering Bon Jovi's 'Living on a Prayer' with some Puerto Rica students we'd met the night before, it was time to head back to the hotel.

Many buildings in the city have a steel facade with balconies overlooking the streets
Many buildings in the city have a steel facade with balconies overlooking the streets | Source
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NOLA can be somewhat of a rabbit warren at night, as beautiful as the 'Moorish Revival' style buildings are, they do look very, very similar.

The 45-minute search for the Holiday Inn that was actually just over five minutes from our location wasn't ideal but didn't put a dent in what had been a great weekend and the chance to experience one of the highlights of the U.S social calendar.

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    • rbenjamin profile image
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      Ryan Benjamin 10 months ago from Nottingham, UK

      Thanks for your comment Ryan, on this and my Memphis Hub, nice to know I'm striking some kind of chord. It's been a few years since I was last there and it's a shame to hear the violence has increased.

    • Fullerman5000 profile image

      Ryan Fuller 10 months ago from Louisiana, USA

      Being from Louisiana, I have made several trips to the Big Easy. Sometimes during the fourth and other major holidays. I will advise this now, New Orleans has definitely become a more violent city over the years so my best advice is to travel in groups. Otherwise, you hit NOLA pretty much on the spot. Such a unique city and delicious food. I suggest café du mon for some authentic beignets and coffee. Napoleon house for an awesome spinach and artichoke dip in a bread bowl and central market for the original muffaletta

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