New Orleans is probably one of my top ten favorite cities I’ve visited in America. It’s such an eclectic city full of so much history and beauty. Plus, it’s a completely different world from day to night, and don’t even get me started on Mardi Gras. While I don’t know if my anxiety could handle living there full time, I sure do love visiting.
When most people think of New Orleans, they think of Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras, and the wild nightlife, but The Big Easy has so much more to offer than bars and booze.
WHERE TO EAT
New Orleans is full of incredible restaurants. If you’re a fan of spices and flavor, you’re likely to enjoy every meal you eat in New Orleans. In the French Quarter, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. Restaurants display their menus so visitors can view their offerings before committing to eating there.
CAFE DU MONDE
This spot is famous for a reason. They only serve two things: coffee and beignets, and because their menu is so small, you know they do those two things right. Beignets are the perfect start to your day, and Cafe du Monde is located in the French Quarter, so you can do a little people watching while you sip on your coffee. Odds are there’s also some street musicians playing nearby, so you can enjoy a little mood music while you dive in.
If crowds aren’t your thing, and you still want to enjoy some good coffee and beignets, I highly suggest checking out Cafe Beignet. They have three locations in the French Quarter. I randomly discovered it while I was wandering around by myself. While I only had an order of beignets, they also have full breakfast and lunch menus, as well as an assortment of drinks, including coffee and tea.
ROYAL HOUSE OYSTER BAR
If you’re looking to enjoy some oysters in NOLA, Royal House Oyster Bar is the place to go. I’ve eaten here twice, and both times, I walked away satisfied. I’ve had the Oysters Rockerfeller, Oysters Royale, and raw oysters on the half shell. Raw oysters are my favorite. They also have an extensive drink menu.
MULATE’S NEW ORLEANS CAJUN RESTAURANT
Their tagline is “The Original Cajun Restaurant,” and while I didn’t have my favorite meal at Mulate’s, I’d say it’s worth the stop. While you’re waiting on your food, you can enjoy music from the live zydeco band and even show off your dance moves on the dance floor.
This is a staple of New Orleans and for good reason. They’ve been around since 1933, and it’s impossible to have a bad time while you’re at Pat O’s. The food is delicious. I would recommend the shrimp creole. I ate every last bite. They of course have an extensive drink menu, but you can’t leave without having a Hurricane.
SURREY’S CAFE AND JUICE BAR
This was a random find on my last trip to New Orleans, and I can’t recommend it enough. We ate at the Surrey’s on Magazine Street for brunch. Everyone was super friendly, the decor was very eclectic, and the food was delicious. I’m one of those people that doesn’t mind having to wait for a table at a restaurant because I take it as a sign that I’m going to enjoy some good food. There was a bit of a wait when we went for brunch, but it wasn’t too bad.
At the end of a long night on Bourbon, you’re going to want something to eat, and you’re going to want it fast. Lucky Dogs is pretty much on the corner of every street on Bourbon, and they taste even better after a night full of drinking.
If you’re looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, stop by Southern Candymakers and try an assortment of different candies, but don’t leave without getting yourself some pralines. They also serve ice-cream, perfect for your long walk around the French Quarter.
TEA WITCH CAFE
Tea Witch Cafe was a pleasant surprise on our walk back to the car after brunch at Surrey’s. We were intrigued by the name, and decided to make a stop in. We spoke with the owner, Tru, who is beautifully passionate about what she does and what she serves. She gave us a rundown of some of the favorites, and I chose a tea called “Fear-Less” that helps with anxiety. She also sells her teas online, and I’m already scheming on getting some.
THINGS TO DO
There’s no shortage of things to do in New Orleans no matter what your interests are. New Orleans has a plethora of museums for history buffs, countless restaurants for foodies, tons of shops for shoppies, beautiful landscapes for those that love nature, and so much more.
WANDER THE FRENCH QUARTER
If you only have a couple days to spend in New Orleans, it’s likely that you’re going to spend most, if not all, of your time in the French Quarter. There’s so much to do on these streets. There’s a variety of different stores and shops to stop into. There are many art galleries. There’s definitely no shortage of restaurants. In and around Jackson Square, you’ll find many artists selling their artwork, and around nearly every corner, you’ll hear bands and musical artists doing what they do best. Plus, you have to take a walk around the St. Louis Cathedral. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
THE NATIONAL WWII MUSEUM
I spent several hours enjoying the displays at the National WWII Museum, and it still wasn’t enough. I 100% plan on going back one day. There’s a reason it’s the #1 thing to do in New Orleans and the #2 museum to visit in the US and in the world, according to TripAdvisor. Your journey starts on a train where you’re assigned a person whose story to follow on your journey through the museum. You’re given a card and a dog tag number, and there are interactive stations throughout the museum where you can listen to firsthand accounts of people who fought in WWII. You can also view artifacts, maps, and get a look inside some of the aircrafts used in the war.
The entire experience is absolutely incredible, but be warned that you’re going to need to carve out several hours of your time if you want to do this museum right. The good thing is that you can collect digital artifacts at each of the stations you visit using your dog tag, and when you get home, you can look at those artifacts and learn more about the person you were assigned to. Everything about this museum is so well done, and I can’t wait for my next visit to New Orleans so I can go back.
GO ON A BIKE TOUR
This is still one of my favorite things that I’ve ever done in New Orleans. I know it’s super touristy of me, but I love taking tours when I visit cities, but not just typical walking tours. I loved the idea of a bike tour even though it had been so long since I had ridden a bike.
I took the Mardi Gras, Mansions, & Movie Stars bike tour with FreeWheelin’ Bike Tours, and it was such an incredible experience. We rode our bikes through the Garden District, an area that I probably wouldn’t have explored if it hadn’t been for the tour. You can read about my full experience here.
CELEBRATE MARDI GRAS
If you’re visiting New Orleans in January or February, you can’t leave without embracing all of the Mardi Gras celebrations. New Orleans turns into a completely different city when it’s Mardi Gras season, so if you visit NOLA for the first time when it’s Mardi Gras, you have to come back for another visit when the holiday is not being celebrated. It’s a whole different experience. But if you’re in the Big Easy for this infamous holiday, be sure to sport your purple, green, and gold, go to the parades, catch some beads, and dive into the whole experience. You’re sure to have a night to
forget remember. If you’re not visiting New Orleans during Mardi Gras season, there are plenty of museums to visit.
HAUNTED GHOST TOUR
I had always wanted to go on a haunted ghost tour, and what place is more perfect to do that than New Orleans? There are a plethora of different companies to choose from when it comes to ghost tours, but I highly recommend going on a tour with Ghost City. Our tour guide was Randy, and he’s been studying the history of New Orleans for several years. He’s super enthusiastic and knowledgeable about everything he shared.
We chose the Killers & Thrillers East Tour aka the “Bad Bitches of New Orleans” tour, which highlights violent women of New Orleans. We heard stories about Mary Jane Jackson, Maria Laveau, Delphine LaLaurie, and a few others.
GO BAR HOPPING ON BOURBON STREET
If you go to New Orleans, you have to go to Bourbon Street at least once. After that, it’s up to you. Honestly, it’s very dirty, so wear comfortable shoes that are either easy to clean or you’re not particularly attached to. There are no open container laws in New Orleans, so people get trashed everywhere around Bourbon Street. It’s nuts, but if you have the right mindset, you’ll have a fun time.
This is probably one of my favorite bars in the French Quarter, located right off of Bourbon Street. Erin Rose is a small, Irish pub with friendly bartenders (shout-out to Jacob!) and a fun, diverse crowd. I’ve visited twice, once during the afternoon (they have some awesome drink specials from 10 am to 2 pm) and more recently super early in the morning (we’re talking 3:30-6 am). While we were enjoying our drinks at the bar, a man, that we affectionately dubbed “Gumbo Man” wandered in and sold us some gumbo. I don’t know if it was my stomach or the booze talking, but that gumbo was pretty dang good.
The Beach is a great choice if you’re looking to do some dancing. They play a variety of music from old school Lil John to the new Chainsmokers. They have a multi-level stage area for girls to go up and dance and a VIP area with private seating and a view of the dance floor. There’s also several cocktail waitresses walking around aggressively trying to get you to buy shots. One got a little sassy with me when I backed up because she was trying to shove a tube in my mouth. Whoops.
Saints & Sinners
Saints & Sinners is owned by Channing Tatum, so naturally I had to check it out. They have a diverse drink menu, but I wanted to see whether I was a saint or a sinner, and the “Saint” appealed more to me, so I enjoyed one of those. It’s blue, sweet, and delicious. They also have a full restaurant menu.
The Famous Door
I’ll forever remember the Famous Door because it’s the bar where I got carded twice. I got carded at the door, of course, and then when I was inside and standing near a door with a drink, a cop looked at me skeptically and asked for my ID. That aside, I had a fun time here. They had a live cover band playing, and everyone was on the dance floor having a good time.
ATTEND A FESTIVAL
There’s always something going on in New Orleans. When you’re planning your visit, be sure to see if there are any festivals going on. On my last trip to NOLA, we stumbled upon a Fried Chicken Festival in Woldenberg Park, which is pretty much the dream. They had all sorts of food vendors, a variety of drinks to choose from, and multiple stages showcasing musical talents. We stopped and heard a band that did a mash-up of “Let’s Get It On” and “Thinking Out Loud.” They were awesome.
WHERE TO STAY
There’s no shortage of places to stay on your visit to New Orleans. My suggestion is obviously to stay close to where all the action is. The two hotels I share here are both near the French Quarter and very close to the parade route if you happen to be traveling to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
HILTON NEW ORLEANS RIVERSIDE
If you’re looking for a place to stay that’s smack dab in the middle of everything, I highly suggest the Hilton New Orleans Riverside. We stayed on the 22nd floor and had a lovely view of the Mississippi River on our right and a view of the boisterous city on our left.
The Hilton New Orleans Riverside is located, of course, right along the Mississippi River and right next to the Riverwalk Shopping Mall. It’s also within walking distance of the French Quarter, so during the day, there’s no need for an Uber.
INTERCONTINENTAL NEW ORLEANS
If you’re looking for something a little fancier, the Intercontinental New Orleans has it all. They are a full-service hotel, complete with turn down service and a chocolate on your pillow. They are located right near the French Quarter, and if you’re visiting for Mardi Gras, there’s no need to leave the hotel to enjoy the parades. They are located right along the parade route. They also went through a major renovation just a few years ago, so everything is even more luxurious.
Have you ever traveled to New Orleans?