Have a ball in New Orleans without the football

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

The original Cafe Du Monde coffee stand opened in New Orleans in 1862. Today, it is open 24 hours a day.

Oh, wait? There’s a big football game happening in the Big Easy this week?

If you got dragged to New Orleans on a whim -- or came willingly with the promise someone who knows someone who knows someone could maybe get you on a list to one of the exclusive VIP parties and they failed to come through -- there’s still much fun to be had.

Trust me.

Here are 10 suggestions -- some of them free, and you’ll need those if you used your mortgage payment to cover three nights at a hotel in a prime location -- for off-the-field fun you can find that has absolutely nothing to do with football.

1. Café du Monde

Head over to this famous bakery to grab a beignet. Located in the Dutch Alley, you can see pastry chefs whipping up batches and batches through the kitchen window. It’s been around since 1862 and is a New Orleans landmark. Make sure you order a café au lait to go along with your beignet. 800 Decatur St. (504) 581-2914. www.cafedumonde.com.

2. Magazine Street

Check out Magazine Street for shopping, dining and sightseeing. It’s set along a 6-mile stretch in the Garden District and Uptown, and is located just outside of the French Quarter. Here, you’ll find great stores, art galleries and some of that down-home New Orleans comfort food. www.magazinestreet.com.

3. Jackson Square

Named for Andrew Jackson -- there’s a statue of him at the center of this area -- you’ll find all sorts of artists and fortunetellers happy to sell you wares or tell you who will win Sunday’s big game. And history buffs might love to know you’ll see the former city hall here where the Louisiana Purchase was signed. 751 Decatur St. www.jackson-square.com.

4. Po-boy

Don’t even think about leaving New Orleans without getting a caloric fun-fest, better known as a po-boy. So what’s in a po-boy? Tucked inside crusty French bread you’ll find gulf oysters or shrimp and oodles of mayonnaise. Locals suggest heading to the Parkway Bakery & Tavern. (Even President Barack Obama has been spotted there.) 538 Hagan Ave. (504) 482-3047. www.parkwaypoorboys.com.


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Take a streetcar to get a different view of the city.

Any visitor to this area would be remiss if she failed to treat her ears to good, live music. Sounds almost go hand-in-hand with po-boys here, and just like those sandwiches, you can find great music on almost every corner. It’s best to head to Bourbon Street, which is within walking distance of the French Quarter. You’ll find tons of jazz bands and trios performing at any number of clubs. But start at The Blue Nile. 532 Frenchmen St. (504) 948-2583. www.bluenilelive.com.

6. Streetcars

Hop on a streetcar for a fun tour of the city. It’s only $1.25 for adults, and there are two lines to choose from. Might I suggest hopping aboard the vintage streetcars on the River Front Line, the more popular of the two. If you plan on doing this more than one day, it may be better to get a one-, three- or five-day unlimited ride pass ($5, $12 and $20). www.norta.com.

7. Ghost Tour

Don’t be scared. Check out the New Orleans Ghost Tour, which is going on from now until July 31. Tours are scheduled at 3, 6 and 8 p.m. daily. They take place in the French Quarter, and involve a walking tour complete with great theatrics. There also is a New Orleans Vampire Tour that starts at 8:30 p.m. in Jackson Square right in front of the St. Louis Cathedral on Chartres Street. Oooh. Spooky. (504) 861-2727. www.hauntedhistorytours.com.

8. Get Lucky

Eh -- you’re already spent a good chunk of money getting to New Orleans and paying for a hotel, why not spend a wee bit more and try to win some of it back? Harrah’s Casino boasts 113 table games, 20 poker tables and 2,100 slot machines -- something’s bound to go your way, right? 228 Poydras St. (504) 533-6000. www.HarrahsNewOrleans.com.

9. Embarrass Yourself

After you’ve heard some great music in New Orleans, create some not-so-great music (or possibly get discovered? Hey, it could happen). The Cats Meow is a fantastic place to go and get your karaoke on. You might want to sip on a hurricane for a bit of liquid courage. Their 3-for-1 happy hour is perfect for that. 701 Bourbon St. (504) 523-2788. www.catskaraoke.com.

10. The French Market

The historic scene of the French Market is not to be missed. You’ll find six blocks of shopping and some of the best food in the city. Make this a stop for authentic old New Orleans cuisine or a hearty breakfast. The Farmer’s Market is the place to go for local spices and delicious pralines. Stop by Loretta’s Authentic Pralines for a sweet potato cookie, original King Cake and, of course, the aforementioned pralines. 1100 N. Peters St. www.frenchmarket.org.

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