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 get away.
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.
Wake up early to 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.
As you’re strolling, head toward the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. There are free walking tours you can take through Free Tours by Foot, but wandering the cemetery on your own is also a great way to spend a bit of time.
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’re feeling hungry, head to either District Donuts or the Commander’s Palace. District is perfect for a quick breakfast- killer donuts and great coffee. And, Commander’s Palace is a classic restaurant, known for its soul food and 25 cent martini lunches.
Head to the French Quarter for lunch and some daytime wandering.
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.
If you’re still hungry, head to Cafe du Monde for a fluffy beignet snack.
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.
One of my top picks for a quick lunch in the French Quarter is 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.
Need to take a break? Stop by the Carousel Bar & Lounge, it’s less crowded in the afternoon. Loved the whimsical nature of this sloooooowly spinning bar. Great place to sip a Sazerac and escape the madness of Bourbon Street.
Late afternoon, my favorite thing to do in New Orleans is hop in an Uber to the Bywater neighborhood.
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.
Beyond spotting a few colorful homes, the reason I love coming to the Bywater is Bacchanal Wine. 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.
Time to head back to the French Quarter for dinner and drinks, and some more wandering- there’s no shortage of stunning homes.
There’s no shortage of phenomenal places to eat in the French Quarter. One of my go-to’s for a great dinner is Tujague’s- authentic creole cuisine, phenom Sazeracs and bacon-wrapped oysters. Need I say more? PS. The grasshopper cocktail is a good choice for an after-dinner drink.
Post-dinner, enjoy a few drinks in the French Quarter. 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.
Napoleon House is known for their Pimm’s Cup, Pat O’ Brien’s does the classic hurricane, and Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is rumored to be the oldest bar in the US- get the purple drank.
End the night by either staying in the French Quarter, or head to Frenchman Street for a bit of Jazz and blues. Nola is a mecca for Jazz and blues, no trip would be complete without soaking up live music.
More to See & Do
Of course, there’s so much more to see and do in New Orleans- one day only scratches the surface. If you have more time-
What is ‘A Perfect Day’? Often, I’m asked for my top recos for cities near and abroad by friends who only have a few days to explore a destination. ‘A Perfect Day’ are my top recos for exploring a city if it’s you’re a first time visitor & short on time.