Today is Mardi Gras – New Orleans’ day of days. Tourists will throng Bourbon St, hoping for the chance to give or receive those festive beads and indulge in several hedonistic hours.

But all too often, visitors to the Big Easy miss out on the local businesses that have put New Orleans back on its feet. Luckily, we at Airbnb are blessed with a bevy of NOLA insiders who have shared the skinny on their favorite local haunts.

For culture:

  • The Besthoff Sculpture Garden, on the grounds of the New Orleans Museum of Art (Noma). It’s free to enter, and you could spend hours wandering through the beautifully designed park. You may even stumble upon an outdoor yoga or pilates class.
  • The Canary Collective, a design studio that holds periodic art exhibits that showcase NOLA’s most creative offerings.

For the outdoors:

  • Audubon Park, across the street from Tulane University. The live oak trees and delicately landscaped golf courses make this one of New Orleans’ most beautiful spots. The golf clubhouse also has a great back porch. overlooking the course and the trees.

For brunch:

  • Dante’s Kitchen, which will satisfy your gravlax-and-eggs cravings. This is great Louisiana comfort food. Don’t pass up on the Bloody Mary.
  • Commander’s Palace, where Sunday jazz brunch is a spectacle. Try the turtle soup, and don’t miss the bread pudding soufflé. It will change your life.

For lunch:

For dinner:

  • Dick & Jenny’s, a former po’boy station that’s been turned into one of New Orleans’ favorite fine-dining spots.
  • Ignatius, a casual eatery that does amazing Creole and Cajun dishes.

For drinks:

  • St Joe’s Bar, a tiny establishment that does a spectacular blueberry mojito and White Russian.
  • Delachaise Bar, a cozy, higher end restaurant-bar that does amazing meals. Sit outside and soak in the evening or hang out inside where the vibe is classy, old-school New Orleans.
  • The Columns Hotel, a beautiful old mansion that has been turned into a hotel-bar. It’s classic New Orleans.

For music:

  • Maple Leaf Bar, a NOLA institution that’s been featured in Ellen Gilchrist’s short stories and Beyoncé’s music videos. Do not miss the Rebirth Brass Band on Tuesday for the most amazing of all New Orleans experiences.
  • Tipitina’s, a classic New Orleans music venue, where bands like Galactic got their start.
  • F and M Patio Bar, a restaurant and bar where you just might find yourself dancing on a pool table late at night.
  • DBA, close to Bourbon St but a local favorite. It’s one of the best places to catch a live band.
  • Le Bon Temps Roule, a restaurant that converts into a great dive venue at night. Where else can you discover a new band while sitting atop a piano drinking whiskey?

For a souvenir:

If you want to see a more local (and, we think, more fun) side to New Orleans, you might consider staying in one of our friendly neighborhood NOLA spaces.

Thanks to Airbnb team members (and Louisiana locals) Andres, Monroe, and Emily for providing their tips. That’s Monroe in the picture, wearing Andres’ beads.