Steps away from the Mississippi River, Jackson Square is a very popular place in New Orleans (NOLA). And it isn’t surprising – there is beautiful architecture, amazing trees, fascinating people, and a lot of history here. It is the kind of place you check out in the morning and return in the evening for a totally different vibe! Read on to find out about the kinds of things to expect from a visit to NOLA’s Jackson Square.
Food & Drink
For some reason, the Cafe du Monde super popular. Particularly in the morning, the line outside this place is ridiculously long! It is open 24hrs a day, so I suggest going outside of breakfast hours. Opened way back in 1862, Café du Monde continues to serve chicory-laced coffee and beignets. Honestly, I was not a fan. The place is chaos – organized, yes, but still chaos. Basically, you sit down at an empty table, wait for a server to notice you, and then you wait for them to find you again with your order of beignets and coffee. I strongly suggest not wearing dark coloured clothes because no matter how careful you are, you’ll probably get powdered sugar on your clothes!
For dinner, I suggest Muriel’s, a fairly upscale Creole restaurant. They seem used to solo travellers, as well – I got a nice table considering I was just one person! The food was delicious, the service was friendly, and the ambiance was very pleasant. Fun fact – outside the restaurant, tucked away in an old carriage corridor, there is a table set for two – it is set that way every day by the staff in acknowledgement of the building’s ghosts!
Performers and Artists
Around the square, especially in front of the Cabildo and the Cathedral, there are many artists, performers, fortune tellers, musicians, and dancers doing their thing throughout the day. If you enjoy people watching, this is the place for you. You may even see a pirate or two!
The park is named after General Andrew Jackson and it is his statue that sits in the middle of the park. This statue went up in 1856 in honour of his leadership during the War of 1812’s Battle of New Orleans. The Americans won that battle against the British making Jackson a war hero, which in turn probably helped him become President in 1828.
What used to be a Spanish city council building, the Cabildo is now a history museum. The museum is quite well laid out and the building’s architecture is quite beautiful. I spent a couple hours wandering through NOLA’s history, most of which I enjoyed. Some of the exhibitions were a little…pro-colonial, shall we say…but overall, I enjoyed this museum. Definitely worth checking out.
St. Louis Cathedral
While the current Cathedral ‘only’ dates to 1850, it is still the oldest functioning Catholic cathedral in the United States. While not the loveliest of cathedrals, it is pleasant enough. My favorite part was the stained-glass window honouring Henriette Delille, a black nun from the 19th century, currently on the path to canonization.
Don’t forget to check out the back of the cathedral, St. Anthony’s Garden. It isn’t the garden itself that is of interest but rather the tall statue of Jesus. During the day, it looks like any other Jesus statue. However, at night, because of the placement of a low lamp, Jesus has a rather entertaining shadow. There is a reason why locals call him “Touchdown Jesus”!
Washington Artillery Park
This little park is a great place, day or night, to get a great view of both Jackson Square and the Mississippi River. There is also a pedestrian walkway called the Moonwalk, a nice way to stroll along the river. You may as well make use of it as this walkway is one of the very few parts along the urban part of Mississippi that is not used for commercial port activity. Also, across the street from the Washington Artillery Park and just before you walk into Jackson Square, this is where you’ll find horse-drawn carriages offering tours of the area.