One great pastime in a city with so many things to do is shopping. New Orleans is rife with cool, funky, quirky, elegant, kitschy, and memorable retail goods, from masks and outlandish costumes perfect for your next gay Mardi Gras celebration to magnificent antiques culled from vintage Louisiana estates. Here are some pointers on where to satisfy your shopping cravings in New Orleans.
The city's retail scene relates directly to its rich heritage, those aspects of New Orleans that define it: dining, music, art, architecture, history. You won't find the kind of high-end fashion scene here that you might in larger cities, nor are there a ton of shopping malls with fancy chain retailers. But that's just fine with most fans of retail in these parts, who appreciate the fact that you can often chat directly at independent shops in this city with owners, managers, and buyers.
Fortunately, top shopping areas like the French Quarter and Magazine Street have generally spurned chain development and favor unique owned shops, many of them stocking one-of-a-kind New Orleans products.
You'll find most of the city's coolest shops in three key neighborhoods: the French Quarter (along with, to a lesser extent, the adjacent and tres-gay Faubourg Marigny district), the Warehouse District (on the edge of the Central Business District), and - most famously - Magazine Street, which snakes through Uptown, from the Garden District to Riverbend.
What to look for?
New Orleans is loaded with great food items, from praline candies and hand-dipped chocolates to alligator jerky and Creole and Cajun spices. Antiques and art a hugely popular, high-ticket item - many of the shops specializing in these items are along Royal and Chartres streets in the French Quarter or Magazine Street Uptown. True bargain hunters, by the way, should drive an hour north across Lake Pontchartrain to the North Shore town of Ponchatoula, where many New Orleans antiques dealers and designers shop for steeply discounted wares.
Note that New Orleans shops tend to open mid- to late morning and stay open from early evening, or even as late as 9 or 10 p.m. in many cases. This is a late-to-bed, late-to-rise kinda city, not exactly shocking when you consider the festive gay New Orleans nightlife scene.