“There’s certain things in life that I love. One is architecture. And music, culture, food people. New Orleans has all of that.”
New Orleans is a city bursting at the seams with Caribbean vibes and Cajun attitude.
In Nola, it’s all about the details. Strings of beads are draped on cast-iron balconies year-round, an assortment of cultures, and live music bring Bourbon Street to life. There’s savory beignets for breakfast and steamed crawfish for dinner. It’s the perfect place to spend a long weekend.
During my trip, I spent the majority of my time exploring three neighborhoods: the Garden District, the French Quarter and the Bywater (Upper 9th Ward).
The Garden District
The Garden District is just a short streetcar ride from the French Quarter, but it feels like a world apart.
- Wake up early to stroll the Garden District. With ginormous houses and beautiful trees on every block, it’s a lovely way to spend a morning.
- Tour the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Back in the day, when someone asked where your family was, they meant where they were buried. Based on your answer, they knew what part of the city you lived in and where you were from. I’m glad we spent time wandering these resting grounds, the graves are beautiful in a haunting way. If you’ve got time to take a walking tour, reserve a free one with Free Tours By Foot.
- DISTRICT. Donuts. Sliders. Brew. is a great for breakfast. We had their Vietnamese coffee, which was just sweet enough, and tried the hibiscus, cinnamon roll & raspberry with champagne cream doughnuts- all solid options.
- Commander’s Palace is a well known restaurant, recognized for its classic soul food and popular because of its 25 cent martini lunches. I’ve heard their brunch is great, but we chose to have dinner here. Truly great southern food- would recommend the seasonal salad, black truffle parmesan grits, crabmeat ravigote and bread pudding soufflé.
- I only spent one morning in the Garden District, and came back one night for dinner, but there’s a lot more to see in this neighborhood.
The French Quarter
The French Quarter is one of those places you just have to visit at least once in life. As the heart and soul of Nola, history of a past era is evident on every block. Balconies with baroque ironwork and hanging plants, charming parks with beautiful gardens. And, there’s no shortage of great restaurants, bars with live music, courtyard cafes & quirky museums.
- Cafe du Monde: Fluffy beignets for breakfast. A definite must-visit
- The Ruby Slipper: Come early for breakfast to bypass the crowds. Highly recommend the brandy milk punch, BBQ shrimp & grits and southern breakfast
- Cane & Table: Great rum drinks, everything we tried from the menu was delicious
- Central Grocery Co.: Home of the original muffuletta- the olive spread is what makes their muffulettas so great. Grab a bag of Zapp’s Voodoo chips to have with your sandwich- I don’t usually eat chips, but these are ah-may-zing
- Green Goddess: Come for brunch al fresco, try the sweet potato biscuits, truffle manchego cheese grits and beet burrata kale
- Tujague’s: Authentic creole cuisine, the Sazeracs and bacon-wrapped oysters are amazing. Grasshopper cocktail is a good choice for an after-dinner drink
- Sucre: If you have room for dessert after all the southern food you’re bound to be enjoying, the macarons here are pretty great
- Napoleon House: Best known for a Pimm’s Cup
- Carousel Bar & Lounge: Come in the afternoon when it’s less crowded. Loved the whimsical nature of this sloooooowly spinning bar. Great place to sip a Sazerac and escape the madness of Bourbon Street
- Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop: Rumored to be the oldest bar in the US. Get the purple drank, nuff said
- Pat O’Brien’s: Classic New Orleans, enjoy a hurricane in the back courtyard
- Molly’s at the Market: Near Cafe du Monde, order a frozen Irish coffee to enjoy with your beignets
Interesting Attractions in the French Quarter:
- World Famous N’awlins: Stock up on spices and seasonings
- Magnolia Praline Company: Good place to pick-up a few sweet souvenirs
- Jackson Square: Cute park, good spot for people watching on a sunny day
- French Market: The oldest documented farmers market in America, browse the market stalls if you have time
- Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo: Potions, charms, spells, candals and voodoo objects from around the world
- Preservation Hall: May not have made it to Frenchman Street during my visit, but the tunes played at Preservation Hall felt so charged. Nola is a mecca for Jazz and blues, no trip would be complete without soaking up live music
- River Walk: Hadn’t planned on strolling the river walk, but we were nearby one morning and decided to check it out. It’s pretty, but if you’re crunched for time, I wouldn’t go out of the way to see it
Bywater was once a crumbling neighborhood, but it’s rapidly gentrifying. With lots of eclectic bars and coffee shops, it’s an interesting combination of history with hipster. I spent an afternoon wandering the Bywater and really enjoyed the colorful houses and low-key vibe restaurants offered- a nice reprieve from Bourbon Street.
- St. Roch Market: When you walk into the St. Roch Market, the first thing you notice is the bright, white space. Recently renovated, the local market turned food hall is iconic (est. in 1875). Today, with 13 vendors, it’s a great spot for lunch or dinner. The market’s coastal vendors offer a range of fresh and prepared foods. Everything, especially the pickled okra and jambalaya, looked delicious- it’s the kind of place with something for everyone
- Bacchanal Wine: This was one of my favorite places we visited in New Orleans, we ended up spending hours here. Buy a bottle of wine in the front shop and take it out back to linger over a few glasses. This is how I envision Saturdays in the south: backyard vibes, twinkling lights, chilled rose, live jazz music, fresh bread & cheese.
- Elizabeth’s: Off the beaten path, Elizabeth’s is a popular brunch spot, known for its down-home country cooking. We needed a break from the heat while wandering around the Bywater and stopped in for praline bacon & fried green tomatoes. Everything from the eclectic atmosphere to the food was perfection- the praline bacon ended up being a trip highlight. Next time I’m in New Orleans, this’ll be on my brunch list for sure