My boyfriend and I took a trip to NOLA in November 2016 for a long weekend. It was actually a lovely time to go, it was around the 70s most days, and not too humid. Perfect for walking around the French Quarter and perfect for a bayou airboat trip!
Being completely upfront, I did not go to New Orleans to party or drink, so this entry will not tell you where the best places to drink/party are … I’m not big on either of those things. I’m fairly certain I had two drinks the whole time we were there… and it was pretty odd/hard to get used to people just walking around drinking in the streets, but it did add to the atmosphere. lol I should also point out that not every street in NOLA is crazy insane… mostly just Bourbon. And I’ll be the first to say that if partying and clubbing isn’t your scene, you can still have an amazing time in New Orleans. There is so much history and so much to do! We actually spent probably a total of half an hour on Bourbon Street and spent most of our time elsewhere. That’s what I absolutely love about NOLA, there is something for everyone and within just a few blocks you can have insane debauchery as well as a lovely gourmet restaurant with beautiful street music flowing through the air. If you like good food and tunes, this city is for you, regardless of if you’re a drinker or not. The atmosphere of the city streets at night is unreal… not all the streets are raunchy, some are absolutely beautiful and street music lulls you as you walk under the draping plants from the balconies. It’s a little mesmerizing. There are insanely talented street performers and musicians peppering the streets. Here are two of my absolute faves: Tanya & Dorise, check out their website: Here. Or a quick youtube search will yield some of their magnificence! Their perch, we learned, is often on the corner of St. Louis and Royal. We did pick up one of their cds, so pay the duo a visit if you head down to the Big Easy. Heartbreakingly beautiful music and we were lucky to hear it from our hotel room!
Though more expensive, it is fun and nice to be within walking distance from all the action. We stayed at the Omni Royal Orleans hotel right in the French Quarter… it was beautiful and had a lovely pool and viewing deck on top.
Having only been there this once (thus far), I’ll go through what I think are the “musts.”
If you do any research on the city’s history, it has a pretty gruesome, troubled past. Even if you don’t believe in spirits, the ghost tours are fun and you can learn a lot along the way! Grayline offers some fun walking ghost tours at night and you can also take a tour of the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. I think these are totally worth it for the history itself, but being a sort of spiritual person myself, I totally geek out on ghost/spiritual tours. It was nice that everyone on our tour was respectful, but be advised that you need to be part of a tour to walk through St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 because people suck and chose to vandalize some graves… some ruin it for everyone. There are, however, other public cemeteries in other parts of the city. I found the cemeteries just gorgeous. What a piece of history.
Walk through the French Market and get yourself an eccentric hat! Though, it likely won’t make you stand out, as there are all sorts of characters down town in the squares… regardless of if it’s close to Halloween, so if you’re a weirdo like me, you’ll fit right in. Find some snacks and all sorts of trinkets as you browse… I did see a real gator claw as a back scratcher…
On to food, oh my God, yes, food. Obviously check out Cafe Du Monde for some beignets, but be advised, their coffee is off the chain strong! Prepare to be covered in powdered sugar and wired. I’ve seen Cafe Du Monde completely packed with a line down the block, and I’ve also seen it with many open tables. It’s open 24 hours, so just keep a look out to find an opening and you’ll be able to sit down. Hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to lodge near all the action like we were!
I would almost bet my arm you can’t go wrong with food in NOLA, be sure to try a Po’ Boy (classic NOLA sandwich, I had the plain roast beef, but heard it’s also good with shrimp!) wherever you can. Now I’m not big on oysters, but my boyfriend loves them. The Royal House Oyster Bar is the place to indulge! It’s a lovely atmosphere in the evening and my guy said the oysters rocked. I did try one, but uh, since I’m not big on them, my review likely wouldn’t be stellar lol. The pasta I did have, though, was A-mazing.
Also hit up Stanley’s in Jackson Square for some delicious breakfast food. I had the banana’s foster french toast and my boyfriend had soft shell crab eggs benedict! Yas!
While you’re at it. Teach yourself about the culture and cuisine of this unique city at the New Orleans School of Cooking. I think they have different classes. We chose the one where you sit, listen, and eat, but there is a more hands on option where you actually cook! We learned about, and nommed, gumbo, jambalaya, and pralines [actually pronounced praw-LEAN, not pray-LEAN, like I thought]
On to the bayou! Catch yoself a glimpse of gator! I love nature, so this was probably my favorite part of our trip besides walking around in the music filled streets at night. The airboat ride was fun, but loud, we were provided earphones which helped. It was beautiful! We saw a lot of different critters including a lot of different birds [ a bald eagle! ], gators, and turtles basking themselves.
Now on to the more practical tips: I’m from Chicago and a pretty city/street savvy individual. Be advised that there will be street people trying to shine your shoes, sell you things, etc. It’s best to just not make eye contact and keep walking if you don’t want to get caught up. Some will literally try to push a hat into your hand… just pay no attention. I’m used to this sort of thing so it doesn’t bother me/overwhelm me, but don’t let yourself be stopped. Also, ladies, I’d suggest carrying a zip-able backpack or cross body purse, they’re easier to keep secured and keep track of in crowds.
I will say, though, when it rains, it pours… quite literally in our experience. When we heard it would rain one day, it did not deter us from going out, we thought, naively, oh, a little drizzle, no problem. My boyfriend and I did try to make it out to the mansions by taking the street car, but got caught in a torrential downpour and walked around a nearby cemetery instead. We. Were. Soaked. Through. No matter, because it was warm, but we looked rather like wet rodents upon returning to our hotel! The water stays in the streets a long time, being that the city is below sea level in many parts and the rain water needs to be pumped out! Even in summer, consider taking a pair of closed toed shoes! Yuck! I had flipflops on, and regretted it.
I think it goes without saying, we will definitely be back. Do let me know if you have any suggestions for other places to check out!