Spanish moss dripping from undulating oaks, flickering gas lamps casting shadows on centuries-old buildings, the clip-clop of mule-drawn carriages, the clickety-clack of the streetcar.
“I really, really love it there,” New Orleans newcomer Solange Knowles told Vogue in 2016, not long after she and husband Alan Ferguson married and moved here. “It is one of those things you can’t put into words, you can’t put your finger on what is so magical about it.”
Indeed, many have fallen under the Crescent City’s spell over the past 300 years, and continue to. Here we’ve highlighted a few of the places, spaces and moments that make the city so captivating.
That Voodoo That We Do So Well
Legendary voodoo queen Marie Laveau’s tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 ranks as the second-most visited gravesite in the U.S. (after “the King of Rock and Roll,” of course). The tomb’s location, next to that of former mayor Ernest N. Morial, is symbolic of Laveau’s historical significance and lasting impact on the city. Visitors will find it marked with Xs (allegedly for wish fulfillment) and surrounded by offerings.
On June 23 at 7 pm, Laveau devotees gather at Bayou St. John, where she once performed rituals. The annual St. John’s Eve head-washing ceremony takes place along the Magnolia footbridge, and is conducted by modern-day voodoo priestess Sallie Ann Glassman. Wearing all white, participants invoke Laveau’s spirit as the sun sets; rhythmic drumming and dancing continues late into the night. Glassman also performs the ritual June 21 in the lobby of the International House Hotel.
Rituals are also conducted along Rosalie Alley (N. Rampart, between Piety and Desire streets), where voodoo icons and imagery cover the fence boards. The tucked-away street also houses Rosalita’s Backyard Tacos, a pop-up by chef Ian Schnoebelen and wife Laurie Casebonne, whose home abuts the alleyway.
Gris-Gris to Go
Herbalist Christiane Wurmstedt also once lived in a house that backed up to Rosalie Alley, hence the name of her Rosalie Apothecary. The friendly shop specializes in medicinal herbs, extracts and essential oils, as does Maypop Community Herb Shop, where the majority of products are likewise locally grown and wild-harvested.
A few blocks away, you’ll discover Glassman’s Island of Salvation Botanica, which offers all manner of potions and notions, from chicken-foot charms to spirit-calling sticks gathered from the banks of the Mississippi River, along with psychic, tarot and crystal ball readings.
Owned by self-professed warlocks Brian Cain and Christian Day, Hex: Old World Witchery claims some of the top psychics in the world, specializing in palmistry, clairvoyance and past lives. The French Quarter boutique also stocks crystals, stones and candles, in addition to a large selection of herbs and roots.
City Park has been enchanting visitors since the 1850s. In addition to acres of magnificent live oaks, the gorgeous green space is home to the New Orleans Museum of Art and its outdoor sculpture garden, where weekly yoga classes are held. Sunrise yoga is also offered at Crescent Park’s Piety Street Wharf, just outside of the French Quarter.
“Whenever I go to another city, I like to find a place where there is stillness,” says Stephanie Osborne, founder of Meditate New Orleans, who conducts weekly meditation sessions at the Terrance Osborne Gallery, as well as guided corporate events. “A place that I can retreat to once or twice while away. It allows you to reconnect and become centered.”
One of New Orleans’ best-kept secret retreats is in full view, though often overlooked. In front of the Port of New Orleans terminal building, almost directly under the Crescent City Connection Bridge, you’ll spot a little-known-of swing set that affords amazing views of the mighty Mississippi and quiet refuge in the heart of this magical city.