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 weekend.
I’ve written about my last trip to New Orleans and the neighborhoods I explored in detail. Today, I’m talking about my top five reasons to plan a trip to the Big Easy. New Orleans may be famous for Mardi Gras, but I promise there’s so much more to do, see and experience in this unique city.
The one thing arguably missing from this list? Going to Frenchman Street to hear live tunes. Nola is a mecca for Jazz and blues, no trip would be complete without soaking up live music. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time for it during my visit, but it’ll be at the top of my list the next time I’m in the Crescent City.
5 Things to Do in New Orleans
Soak in 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.
While you’re in the area, stop by Jackson Square, a cute park and good spot for people watching, and the French Market, the oldest documented farmers market in America. Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo with potions, charms, spells, candles and voodoo objects from around the world is worth checking out as well.
If you’re into history, join a French Quarter walking tour with Historic New Orleans Tours, Inc.
New Orleans is a city I travel to with the intention of eating well. You may not be eating every meal in fancy restaurants, but the old-fashioned food that’s been around forever is so good. You just can’t leave until you’ve had beignets, a po’boy or muffuletta (or both!), gumbo, grits and Oysters Rockefeller.
A few of my favorite places:
- Commander’s Palace is a well known restaurant, recognized for its classic soul food and popular because of its 25 cent martini lunches
- 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
- 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
Wander a Historic Graveyard
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.
Walking through a cemetery, you’ll notice the graves are above ground. Cemeteries were designed this way because of the city’s lack of elevation.
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.
Stroll the Garden District
The Garden District is just a short streetcar ride from the French Quarter, but it feels like a world apart.
The French lived in the French Quarter, but the Americans lived in the Garden District, which is why the architecture is so different. With ginormous houses and beautiful trees on every block, it’s a lovely way to spend a morning. Keep an eye out for some of the neighborhood’s famous houses, including the homes of Sandra Bullock, Ann Rice and Nicolas Cage.
Drink a New Orleans Cocktail
Not only will you eat well in New Orleans, you’ll also drink well 😉
Numerous cocktails were invented in New Orleans- the Grasshopper, Sazerac, Hurricane, the list goes on and on. There are few things I love more than a good drink and good place to enjoy it, which Nola absoluetly nails.
A few of my favorite places:
- 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
- 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
If you want to learn more about the cocktail process, take a behind the scenes tour of local distillery, Old New Orleans Rum.
Bonus: Go on an Airboat Adventure
I didn’t have time for this on my visit, but it’s something that’s high on my list for my next trip to Nola or Florida. In New Orleans, air boat tours are close to the city, and from what I’ve heard- pretty incredible. With Airboat Adventures, you’ll hop on a fan boat and get up close and personal with alligators and the exotic wildlife.
If you’ve been to New Orleans, what was the favorite thing you did on your trip?