For those who have never been to New Orleans before, planning out that first visit can seem like a daunting task. Thinking of the fantastic, irresistibly joyful things the city has to offer can make people feel like they have to do and see (and taste and hear) it all in one go. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with diving right into the deep end of America’s most idiosyncratic city, as long as you know how to swim! This New Orleans survival guide will help anyone stay afloat in the Crescent City.

Hydrate

The St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, LA

Any New Orleans survival guide worth its salt should start out with this piece of advice. The city is HOT and the city is HUMID and it will take its toll if a tourist isn’t careful. Couple the sweat-inducing climate with the omnipresence of adult beverages, and the potential for problems multiplies. Nobody wants to be that tourist who taps out before 5 p.m. and spends the night recovering in the hotel. Drink water throughout the day and try to match alcohol intake with a glass of water in between every drink.

Relax

This may seem like more of a general tip for people on vacation rather than specific to surviving New Orleans, but some folks have a tough time unwinding. Down in New Orleans, people move at their own pace, and that can sometimes be frustrating for folks from up north who are used to a little more go, go, go. Just know that New Orleans has been operating at its own speed for three centuries, and isn’t going to turn into New York because some visitor thinks the line at the snowball stand is moving too slow. The city has no plans to speed things up, so might as well slow down and enjoy the pace.

Listen

No doubt, one of the biggest draws in the city is the music, the unique blend of sounds that make up the rhythmic beating heart of New Orleans. Listen to music, but don’t forget to listen to the people you meet, too. For one thing, New Orleans is home to a collection of characters too strange for any work of fiction, and for another, the locals know where all the best parties are! Be open to the friendly and outgoing people of the city, and reap the rewards.

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