Laissez les bons temps rouler. French for “let the good times roll,” this phrase is heard often in New Orleans. It’s the city’s motto, and its occupants- both visitors and residents- live by these five little words. Whether you’re ordering coffee at 8 am, or stumbling back to your room into the wee hours of the night, the streets will be busy, friends will be laughing, and jazz will be heard from every corner.
Where to Stay?
I spent my weekend at The French Market Inn, and couldn’t recommend it enough. The hotel is right in the French Quarter and our room had a perfect view of the Mississippi River. The staff is lovely, the rooms have a an old-school feeling of luxury while still remaining cozy, and there’s a charming courtyard as well as a small pool.
Where to Eat?
While there’s plenty to fill a weekend in the Crescent City, perhaps the most vital activity is to eat everything. Oysters, (shrimp) po’boys, crawfish and alligator sausage were among my favorite Southern delicacies that I tried. This is a nearly impossible list to narrow down, but these were some of my favorite dining experience:
Killer Po’Boy: You just can’t go to New Orleans without biting into a po’ boy. I got the shrimp one, and as I type this my mouth it watering more than a little bit.
Sucre: I sat on their balcony during Happy Hour and loved their $6 appetizers and cocktails. It was also a great way to take in the city from a slight distance before diving in. An awesome wedding parade danced down the street while we there- who knows what fun festivities you’ll get a birds eye view of!
GM Fins: It was a splurge but worth it- I had the most delicious tuna of my life and the waiter gave me a free (insane chocolate bomb) dessert for my birthday! Also, the restaurant is sleek but a tiny bit stuffy- we sat at the bar which seemed to have more of a fun vibe.
Where (and What) to drink?
As with the food, I feel silly even trying to make a list. There are so many places I wouldn’t even know where to start. However, NOLA is the origin to a lot of classic cocktails, making it a great place to try something new. Here were a few of my favorites:
Bar Tonique: It has the look and feel of a casual dive bar, and the dark wood and tattooed, bearded bartender had me second guessing if I was back in Bushwick. But instead of the usual well drinks and beers my Brooklyn dive bars offer, this hipster bartender was a cocktail connoisseur. For $8 I had the most delicious gin fizz, plus another fancy champagne-infused concoction.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop: Said to be the oldest structure used as a bar in the US (and one of the most haunted places in New Orleans), I had to stop by. I was scolded for not getting “the purple drink” by a few new local friends. So apparently, that’s the thing to try.
Tchoup Yard: Located in the Warehouse District, this outdoor bar is an absolute blast! There are picnic tables, fire pits and food trucks- all nestled in ambiance of strung up Christmas lights. What more could you ask for?
The city is fairly compact, and filled with more than enough to do, making it very easy to hop on a plane for a weekend getaway when temptation strikes- which is exactly what I did. You could easily spend your whole visit just eating and drinking your way through the French Quarter (which I did A LOT of), but here were ten of my favorite other things to do.
Walking Around the French Quarter
I could’ve easily spent my whole trip walking aimlessly through this charming (often loud, sometimes smelly) neighborhood. On every other corner, I would accidentally find myself walking into a parade or a ridiculously talented jazz band. And, you can always get your drink to go- so there’s no need to choose between barhopping or sight seeing!
Picnicking in Jackson Square
Jackson Square is located in the French Quarter, across the from Mississippi River, and really is a lovely little park. As always, jazz musicians, street performers and a myriad of artists selling their work all line the perimeter. For a most enjoyable lunch on a budget, I grabbed a blanket and a po’boy, and just took it all in. The people watching here really never gets old.
A trip to NOLA isn’t complete without a classic stop to Cafe Du Monde. And for good reason! Luckily it’s open 24 hours, so there’s no excuse for not fitting it into your schedule. My only regret is that (shockingly) I only went once.
Visiting the Mississippi River
A walk along the pier was a lovely little break from Bourbon Street. If you need more than a few minutes away, hop on the Algiers Ferry for another stunning view of The Big Easy.
Going to a Crawfish Broil
The crawfish boil is sacred in New Orleans, even more revered than the Brooklyn BBQ. Long white tables are lined together, then covered entirely in an epic, deliciously messy feast. If you have the opportunity to join one, definitely take it! I was lucky enough to make a friend during my trip who invited me to hers, but I’ve heard many stories of visitors walking past a boil and being waved over by the host to join- Southern hospitality at it’s finest!
Riding the St. Charles Line
There are three tram routes you can take in New Orleans, with St.Charles being the most historic. It’s the oldest consecutive train line in the world, which is pretty cool. It also runs through the beautiful Garden District, which is definitely worth a visit. I bought the jazzy pass (unlimited rides for 24 hours), which only costs $3.
Strolling through the Garden District
As I mentioned, the charming, tree lined (often with mardi gras beads dangling from their branches) area is definitely worth a visit. Head to Magazine Street for a wealth of great lunch options. I ended up at The Red Dog, and had the most amazing shrimp and grits of my life!
Visiting a Cemetery
I’m not sure if this will ever come up again in my recommendations of places to visit, but this city is in a world all it’s own. Because New Orleans is below sea level, tombs have to be built above ground. It was eerily calming to walk around, and really was worthwhile to visit such a uniquely stunning site.
Spending a night on Frenchman Street
Of course, I couldn’t leave New Orleans without at least one great night of jazz. Every time I asked anyone where to go for the best jazz in town, I was led to Frenchman Street. And for good reason. The block is lined with great jazz clubs- just walk along, listening as the melodies creep through the open doorways, until you find one that feels just right. This is how I found myself at The Spotted Cat, one of the few that doesn’t ask for a cover charge. The neighborhood was also fun to walk around during the day- it had a bit of a funkier, younger vibe than some of the other parts of the city.
In the midst of jazz hopping along Frenchman street, I found a really sweet night market completely reminiscent of the Brooklyn Night Bazaar in Williamsburg (only this one was a bit more chill, and had a gazebo). Towards the back were a series of framed cardboard signs, that I found out were part of an initiative to help the homeless youth in the city. All the signs were purchased from their homeless owners, as well as books for sale- all proceeds going towards helping the cause. I loved that idea!
Taking a Break in City Park
New Orleans is A LOT of fun, and basically a constant (wonderful/exhausting) party. If you need a place to recharge, I highly recommend an afternoon in City Park. Take a nap under some of the oldest live oak trees in the world (they are STUNNING), or get artsy at the very impressive sculpture garden, which is part of the New Orleans Museum of Art.