Living in a Tourist City

A scene from the basketball obstacle course. I went through it once. I was horrible.

Last week, I volunteered with the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation during the SEC basketball tournament. The volunteers were stationed in an open area outside the Superdome,called Champions Square. There, amidst games and activities hosted by several different organizations and sponsors, the GNOSF volunteers helped facilitate what were deemed “interactives,” — a marketing word for basketball activities: free throw contests, dunking contest, etc. I co-ran a little obstacle course, in which participants tipped the ball out of some sort of basketball-holding-contraption, dribbled a basketball around some poles, threw the ball off a taught net and then took a lay up. The woman co-running the obstacle course with me was a chatty, bright spot on a cloudy day. I was also eager to be very accommodating to the families, making conversation with moms and dads as their kids were occupied. “Where are you staying? Need any recommendations?”

Kentucky fans spill out of the Dome, after beating LSU.

Most of the people we encountered were Kentucky fans. In fact, all last week blue shirts clogged up downtown.  I heard a few people complain about their presence, mostly about traffic they caused, but I  surprised myself with how much I wanted to play a good host. (A rival SEC fan base!) I kept thinking, “OHH I hope they have a good time, spend money and come back.”

My volunteering experience got me thinking about what’s it’s like to live in a city that attracts tourists regularly. Tourists in D.C. annoyed me constantly. I encountered them on the metro where they disrupted Washingtonian metro protocol: stand on the right of the escalator; walk on the left. MOVE TO THE CENTER OF THE METRO CAR. Peace be with you if you are stuck behind someone attempting to feed their paper metro cards into the machine.

My beloved Gators, pulling out a close one over Alabama. (Not pictured: losing to Kentucky the next day.)

Still, these tourists brought money and attention to the capital city. Why did they annoy me more than tourists to the Crescent City? Is it because tourism is the number 1 source of income to the New Orleans economy and GNOSF’s mission is “to attract and manage sporting events that have a positive economic impact on the Greater New Orleans area.” They make it clear that attracting sporting events to the city creates a windfall of financial beneficiaries. The complaints I’ve heard (thus far) about tourists in New Orleans is that they cause traffic and that they make drunken spectacles. (However, it’s hard to argue that New Orleanians themselves don’t do the latter.) Am I a victim of southern hospitality, or am I just grateful for the cash these people bring in?

What about you? Do you live in a city that receives thousands of tourists? Do you welcome them?

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Tips for tourists and New New Orleanians: Bring Cash

The other day I ate two slices of delicious pizza at Pizzacare* on Tulane Ave, in Mid City. The employee paused with confusionwhen I asked if they accepted credit cards. “Yeah,” she said, cocking her head. “We do.”

I was a little offended. This is New Orleans! It’s always best to have cash on hand! When I first lived here eight years ago a lot of businesses didn’t take credit or debit cards. Things have changed, but it’s still common to have a barista refuse my plastic and gesture to a gray ATM in a darkened corner that charges a $2 fee. It’s no secret that NOLA is slow to adapt and this service-industry is full of bars and restaurants wary of credit-card surcharges. Although the exchange at Pizzacare means I could put another notch on my New Orleanian bedpost because I am becoming more accustomed to the city, I did make me realize that I needed to blog about cash carrying for all my New New Orleanians!

Businesses that Only Take Cash
(not an exhaustive list! Please comment if you have any additions or corrections!) 

Bars
BJ’s Lounge (Bywater)
Bullet Bar (St. Roch)
Henry’s Bar (Uptown)
Hi Ho Lounge (Marigny)
Iggys (Marigny)
Spotted Cat (Marigny)

Restaurants
Boo Koo BBQ at Finn McCools (Mid City): However, if you order drinks from the bar you can ask for cash back.
Guy’s Po Boys (Uptown)
Johnny’s Po Boys (French Quarter)
Slim Goodies (Garden District)
Surreys (Garden District and Uptown)

Coffee Shops
Byrdie’s (Bywater)
Mojo coffee (Garden District)
Neutral Ground Coffee House (Uptown)
Rue de la Course (Carollton)
Still Perkin (Garden District): They require a $5 minimum and are very strict about it. Recently, I bought an underwhelming, over priced cookie to make $5. I almost returned it, but I didn’t have the guts.
Zotz (Carollton)

Sweets
Creole Creamery (Uptown)
Hansen’s Snoballs (Uptown)
Plum St Snoballs (Carollton/University)
Cafe du Monde (French Quarter)
Laurel Street Bakery (Uptown)

Just Started Taking Cards
Camilia Grill (Carollton/French Quarter): I think this happened a few years ago, but I’ll consider it recent, since this is such a long-standing establishment.
Fair Grinds (Bayou St. John): $5 minimum

Tips

  • Fancy restaurants take cards. They want your money. This includes most places in the French Quarter.
  • Cash is also useful for the few places that charge covers. I’m specifically thinking of DBA, in the Marigny.
  • The Crescent City Farmers Markets take cards. However, you have to visit a special booth and use your card to purchase special tokens to give the vendors. It’s a $1 surcharge for this service.
  • Many places have a credit card minimum. Some are jerks about it. Some are not.

*Note: apparently it’s pronounced Pizza-car-eh, which I learned last week.