Guide to New Orleans, Louisiana

December 16, 2019

 

 

Ready to let the good times roll? Head to New Orleans to raise a ruckus in a city that really knows how to party.

Thanks to its a storied past, this swampy city is fabulous mix of French, Spanish, African, and American cultures among others. Add in a little bit of voo doo, some Creole and Catholic traditions, and big dose of jazz for an experience you’ll never forget.

You’ll eat to excess, drink to excess, and have the time of your life. NOLA wouldn’t have it any other way!

Do and See

French Quarter
Touring around this historic district is number one on everybody’s list thanks to the famed Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral (oldest in the US!), and the crowds slurping down hurricanes on Bourbon Street. I loved walking around to take in the architecture and make food and drink stops throughout the area.

Besthoff Sculpture Garden
Carve out a couple hours to stroll through the sculpture garden in City Park. From traditional bronze statues to giant, oversized beads hanging from a tree branch and a large scull seemingly floating in one of the ponds. It’s free and open seven days a week.

Saint Louis Cemetery #1
Take a tour of this cemetery located at the edge of the French District to learn it’s dramatic history and the peculiar way people are buried. Bring an offering for voodoo queen Marie Laveau and legend has it that your wish will be granted. Tours are required for entry. Avoid lines by booking a tour online ahead of time.

Garden District
Hop on the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar for a trip through a fancier part of town. The Victorian mansions and oak-shaded boulevards will transport you to another era where southern belles were courted by true gentlemen. Any Real World fans out there? Try to find the Belfort Mansion where the cast lived back in the day.

Listen to Live Music
Live music explodes from every area of the city. Try to catch a performance street side or head to Pat O’Briend’s to sing along with the dueling pianos. If you’re smart, you’ll get tickets for Preservation Hall or one of the many other venues in the city (check out this expansive list of performances).

Visit a Museum
Get a little history in with a tour of one of the city’s museums. The Presbytère Museum, the National WWII Museum, and New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum are all popular destinations with good reason. While at The Presbytère, I teared up while going through the Katrina exhibit and enjoyed taking in the Mardi Gras costumes on the second floor.

Audubon Zoo
Although you’ll enjoy popular animals like the elephants and giraffes at this expansive zoo, the real stand out is the Louisiana Swamp area where you’ll get a bit of culture along with the area’s animals (two words: white alligators). There’s also a small waterpark where you can cool off for an additional charge.

Food

Cafe du Monde & Cafe Beignet
Try beignets from Cafe du Monde and Cafe Beignet to see which doughy goodness you like best. Both chains have cafes all over the city but the locations in the French Quarter have the most traditional vibe.

Herbsaint
Everything is heavenly on this chef-inspired menu that takes local dishes to the next level with seasonal and sustainable ingredients. The atmosphere is slightly upscale yet still warm and inviting. Perfect for a special night out!

Willa Jean
Nobody cooks and bakes better than Chef Kelly Fields at this restaurant in the downtown area. Go in for a coffee and pastry or stay for a while to enjoy a delicious southern meal.

Killer Po Boy’s at Erin Rose
Order a bloody mary at this dive bar and then pop back to the Killer Po Boy’s counter top for a shrimp po boy. The drink goes well with the banh mi-inspired sandwich as well as the raucous nature of your fellow bar mates.

Drink

Carousel Bar
Grab a seat at this rotating bar for a classic cocktail that won’t disappoint. It’s a magical experience that makes you feel like a kid again and a great way to start a night out in the French Quarter.

Cane and Table
Tucked away in a corner of the French Quarter, this charming restaurant serves up Caribbean-inspired cuisine and cocktails. The food is tasty and hearty but the real stand out is the creative cocktail menu.

Bacchanal
Purchase a bottle of natural wine and the makings of a cheeseboard in the front shop to enjoy in the huge backyard patio. The vibes are friendly and the live music entertaining. You’ll never ever want to leave!

Lobby Bar at the Ace Hotel
Feel hipper than hip at this lavishly designed bar with French deco influences. Cocktails are creative, bright, and nice. Once you’re done, check out boutiques next door for a fun souvenir (DNO Downtown and Freda were highlights for me).

Arnaud’s French 75
Attention Francophiles! You’ll want to make time for a stop at this famous bar. Enjoy a French 75 (or really any of the delicious cocktails) as you take in the classic French decor.

Tips and Tricks

New Orleans is a surprisingly walkable city so don’t forget comfortable shoes. Most of our touristing was done by foot with a few Lyft rides thrown in for good measure.

If you’re going in the late spring or summer, expect hot and humid weather that causes massive amounts of sweating. Be sure to drink plenty of water and wear light clothing made from breathable fabric. It also helps to go into an air-conditioned store for a quick brown to help get your body back to a normal temp.

So many people warned me about the hurricane drinks that I ended up avoiding them all together. If you go for one, make sure it’s the only one. Apparently they pack a mighty punch!

P.S. Some tips for packing light and six things I take on every trip.