Last Saturday I visited New Orleans, Louisiana with one of my cousins who live in nearby southern Mississippi. Even though the city is known for sensory overload, I did not let that stop me from visiting a destination I have not visited since I was a kid.
The first thing my cousin and I did was tour the World War II Museum. It is a must visit for an in-depth view of the Second World War from an American perspective as well as an international point of view. My cousin has visited the museum several times and explained in detail the different exhibits on display.
I had no idea how small the U.S. Military was at the beginning of the war. Another interesting fact I learned that some of the forces related to the D-Day invasion were held back until after the Allied Forces advanced onto the beaches of Normandy. My favorite part of the museum was the maps on display showing how the military campaigns progressed throughout the conflict. It was also exciting hearing recordings of soldiers sharing their story of what they experienced while in battle.
Afterwards, my cousin and I walked down Decatur Street and saw parts of the French Quarter and Jackson Square. Along the way, I saw street performers and different artists painting the nearby scenery and making character drawings of the tourists. I even heard jazz music.
For lunch, we got a muffuletta from Central Grocery, which is an Italian market where that particular sandwich was invented and had a nice picnic lunch. For those who have never eaten a muffuletta, it is a giant Italian sandwich that was created by immigrants from Italy who lived in New Orleans in the early part of the 20th century that features several different types of meats, Swiss Cheese and olive dressing. While some restaurants serve the sandwich hot, Central Grocery serves it cold.
After getting a picture in Jackson Square, we went down to by the Mississippi River and saw the Riverboat Natchez play music on a steam pipe organ on the top deck of the ship. Even though it was warm that afternoon, the wind off the water provided a nice breeze for those needing a break from the crowded French Quarter.
Our final stop included stopping by Café Du Monde for beignets, which are pouch-shaped pieces of fried dough topped with powdered sugar. The dish goes well with chicory style coffee. It was an excellent choice for dessert.
Overall, I handled New Orleans well. The only time I felt like I was getting sensory overload was in the long line at Café Du Monde as many tourists crowded into a small space and the person in line behind me was talking loudly into his phone.
If you have Aspergers and plan to visit New Orleans, it is essential to prepare before going. The big thing to remember is not to visit the city alone. Some sketchy people can take advantage of you if you are not careful in the French Quarter and many people in the city do not know how to drive. Here is a website that lists what is socially and not socially acceptable when visiting New Orleans.
While walking, hecklers will try to get your attention and money. Because they may have been drinking, these particular people can be very loud and very rude. It is best to ignore these people and if they ask you a question, do not talk or look at them but instead, keep walking.
Despite being the most prominent draw of the French Quarter, I did not walk down Bourbon Street. It is very narrow with people bumping against each other who may have had too much to drink from the many bars that line the street. For those with sensory issues, it is best to avoid Bourbon Street.
Many tourists visit New Orleans every year, and the sidewalks can get very crowded. It is essential to identify areas where one can get away from the crowds to decompress. Jackson Square is an open-air park that has plenty of open space and benches where one can people watch and de-stress.
Restaurants are often bustling to the point there is usually a wait. It can also get very loud inside the eating establishments. If you can, find a place that will let you take your order to go and have a picnic away from the crowds. For example, Café Du Monde has a walk-up window on the side of the building for to go orders.
The final verdict is that I would go back to New Orleans if given the opportunity. However, I would go during the week when there is likely to be fewer tourists. I also might spend less time in the French Quarter as I feel that one visit was enough for me.
I would like to visit the Aquarium of the Americas and the Audubon Zoo. Both attractions have been certified sensory inclusive by Kulture City, a non-profit that helps people on the Autism spectrum. Also, there is also a seafood restaurant my cousin enjoys eating at in New Orleans that he wants me to try someday.
If one can get past the party atmosphere, New Orleans is a very visually pleasing city with its historic buildings and cemeteries that tell a story of past citizens. The jazz music one hears while walking around is very upbeat and gets one into a good mood. I am glad I did not let my fear and anxiety stop me from making a day trip to New Orleans.
Have you ever visited New Orleans? If so, comment in the section below.
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