New Orleans… check! I am so, so excited to be writing this post. New Orleans (Louisiana) is a city that had been on my bucket list for a long time, topping the list as one of the top three cities that I wanted to visit in the United States. So, when actually going seemed like a real opportunity I booked us a hotel immediately.
NOLA or the Crescent City, how it is also known, has a wide hotel offer in all the different districts that make up the city, but for tourists I would without a doubt recommend booking a hotel where the real action and magic of NOLA takes place, the French Quarter or Le Vieux Carré. We stayed at the Bourbon Orleans, a nice hotel located on Bourbon St. and Orleans St., just in front the Cathedral, a block away from Jackson Square, and a 6-minute walk away from Canal St. I really don’t think there is anything with a more convenient location than that.
Our first day of the trip had to start with the obvious: breakfast at Café Du Monde – because you can’t visit NOLA if you don’t indulge yourself with an order of beignets and a hot chocolate, right?
I must say that my boyfriend was the most excited with this stop… he has a sweet tooth, so this was the perfect way to start out our visit for him. We were lucky because we found a table right away, so if you just can’t find one, just order it to go and go to Jackson Square to enjoy them.
If you do find a table, once you finish, still go to Jackson Square and admire the cute gardens with a view to the old and beautiful St. Louis Cathedral.
Depending on the time of the day, you would find many bands playing the beloved New Orleans jazz on Chartres St. just between Jackson Square and the Cathedral. It is so worth it to sit around for a while and just listen to these musicians! I very much enjoyed it.
Since you are around, please go and take a walk along the Mississippi river riverfront.
Surprise! You will find more live music there, so just relax…
Sit on one of the benches, enjoy the breeze, admire the view, and listen to the great music. If you are lucky, like me, you can get some of the musicians to sing a song especially for you!
Walk a little more around the area… visit the French Market; admire the beautiful and famous balconies all around the neighborhood. You will keep finding music almost in every corner, which makes it a very pleasant walk.
Now you may want to head southwest to the modern Warehouse/Arts district… or so we did. Take Bourbon St. – so you can see its daylight vibes. Once you cross Canal St. it is as if you were in a totally different city.
You will find a mix between new and well-kept high buildings and old warehouses turned into parking lots, art galleries, or hotels. We decided to go and have lunch at Emeril´s. It is a high-end restaurant located in the Warehouse District. I very much recommend it… from the service to the food, everything was great, but if you had to order only one dish, make it the iron baked escargots. Delicious!
At this point the sun and the hot are cruel, so going to the Audubon Aquarium or to the WWII National Museum would be a great idea.
On Friday night, we did my favorite activity of the whole trip. We went to the Irvin Mayfield´s Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta hotel. This playhouse came up from the association between Grammy-winner, Irvin Mayfield and the Hotel that resulted in a place with great food and awesome music. The band is fantastic; they play beautiful music while constantly involving the audience. I would totally go back and fully recommend it.
To get there, walk along Bourbon St. On your way to or from the Playhouse, you can just stop in one of the bars and have a drink or stop below one of the balconies and wait for a necklace to be thrown at you – if some stranger hasn’t put one on you just yet – or even despite some stranger putting one on you already.
The next day we decided to go to the Garden District. To keep living the New Orleans experience, we took the trolley to take us there. The Garden District is famous for its well-preserved mansions from the nineteenth century. History has it, that the rich Americans that came to live in New Orleans and did not want to mix with the creoles or African-Americans living in the French Quarter had their mansions constructed in this neighborhood. The place is cute and impressive. It is full of huge houses, each with a different bright color, many of them with big gardens.
Fun fact: Beyoncé has one of its own houses located in this neighborhood.
If you are starving – I mean, starving – and like the typical American breakfast, I recommend you go to Coulis in the Garden District… the orders are huge. I particularly liked the ultimate French Toasts.
Are you done admiring the mansions?
Good… take the trolley again and go further down to Audubon. Hop off at Loyola University and then, if you walk a couple of steps further you will be at Tulane University campus, so walk around and see two of the best-known universities in the USA. And just across the street you will find the Audubon Park and Zoo. Beautiful, beautiful park…
You can walk around for a while, but if you are too tired, you can just sit next to one of the fountains or lakes and rest for a little while.
I personally was very distracted with a bunch of children running like crazy after Pokémon’s, which was kind of fun.
Audubon Park is beautiful, but the New Orleans City Park is also a must. Since it is in the other side of town, we rented a four-hours bike ride and went riding along the city park and some other areas of New Orleans that we had not had the chance to see so far.
However, I definitely recommend you take this time to also go through Frenchmen St. in the French Quarter. It has a little heavier environment that the rest of the city, but if you enjoy every type of music, you just have to go there.
During our second day, we dined at one of the best restaurants that I have ever tried: Coquette, on Magazine St. A relatively new restaurant with local and European fusion flavors and that is constantly changing its menu.
I didn’t find this restaurant in any travel guide around the web, but I am so glad a followed a friend´s recommendation and went there. Kudos to the bartenders! They were so kind and professional.
On our third day, we booked ourselves a tour along the Mississippi river in the Louisiana famous Natchez steamboat. Very cool experience.
During the ride, we got to see part of the area that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and got a thorough explanation of how such catastrophe happened due to a levee failure. It was very informative about the US and Louisiana economy too.
Of course, there is also time and space to do some shopping… so if you still have energy, go to one of the shopping malls or outlets that are between the French Quarter and the Warehouse/Arts District… you can get there by walking by the riverfront… options are limited, but you may still find something.
Finally, we finished our New Orleans feast at an awesome fast food place called Dat Dog. Hot dogs however you want them… isn’t that awesome? Great place and a very cool environment.
There are so many other things to do in New Orleans… like to take one of the Cemetery or Voodoo Tours, which was on our plans, but I am too much of a coward, so I backed down from those. I had also planned to go to one of the sugar plantations in the state of Louisiana, but… my bad! I should have reserved ahead of time.
Let me know how was your experience in this great, colorful, and mysterious city!