With Super Bowl taking place today, I find myself reminiscing my trip to New Orleans which took place this time one year ago. I spent a week working downtown and then extended for a long weekend in the French Quarter. I absolutely love New Orleans and have since started donating money to Tulane to ensure my children are accepted (not really, but I will be forcing it on them…when I have them…someday). If you are a person who thrives in a place saturated in culture and character in everything from the architecture, to the food, the music, and the lifestyle in general, then…You must. Go to. New Orleans. It was my first time and most definitely won’t be my last. Below are my tips for your time in The Big Easy; a town made up of good music, good food, and strong drinks which, no one can argue, is a recipe for a very good time.
1. If you’re anything like me and don’t like to sweat or be hot, you must go in the winter when the highs are in the 60’s and lows in the 40’s. There is no need for anything more than a light jacket and scarf to keep you warm in the evenings, so bundle up and venture out.
2. My beau and I rented an adorable apartment in the french quarter right at Bourbon and Esplanade (perfect.location). It was tiny, but quaint, cozy, and charming…absolutely perfect for two. We went out to dinner the first two evenings and then on our final, walked (romantic stroll) to a market (adorable) in the neighborhood (pretended it was ours) to get groceries and then cooked a delicious meal (roasted veggie orzo/ vanilla ice cream with fresh blueberries and strawberries for dessert) and sipped wine. Heeaaveeennn.
3. Go to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop and get the “purple drink”. That is literally all you have to say to the bartender, “the purple drink”. It’s a delicious frozen (not too sweet, trust me) beverage which they are famous for. Our condo was right down the street so every time we would head out, we stopped by for a to-go drink (gotta love legal drinking on the street) and would walk around. This bar is the oldest in New Orleans and after dark they have NO lights…it’s only lit by candles, but has a cool, grungy feel. A must.
4. Walk up and down Bourbon, obviously. Great for day drinking and there is live music and people at all hours, constant action.
5. One afternoon we took the St. Charles Streetcar to the Garden District. It’s a pretty long process, so I recommend taking it only one way, but it’s a nice way to cover some ground and it’s historic, so do it. Once we were dropped, we walked down some residential as well as Magazine Street looking at shops and historic homes. We cabbed it back to the Quarter (under $10) after we hit the end of cute shops and restaurants on Magazine.
6. Rent a bike-Bikes are great way to explore, plus New Orleans is flat which makes the biking much more enjoyable (this is pleasure not exercise, friends). We rented bikes from a little antique store on Frenchmen Street. I don’t remember the name, but there are plenty in the area. If you are coming from the Quarter I recommend doing this;
Ride down the tiny side streets that make up the Quarter and head to the Hilton (not in FQ, but close bike ride) and go to Drago’s restaurant inside the hotel. This stop is purely for one thing and one thing only (not the atmosphere), this stop is for the charbroiled oysters. The restaurant is a typical hotel restaurant with no ambiance whatsoever, so stop in, pull up a seat to the bar, and eat those buttery, garlic, cheesy, oysters with fresh bread (gotta soak up the butter) and taste pure goodness in your mouth. The rest of the menu isn’t worth hanging around for, so throw back the oysters, have a cold beer, and get back to the bike tour. **I used my iPhone GPS for all directions
Post “most amazing oysters you will ever have”, head to the Garden District. It takes around 20 minutes to get there from the Quarter. So strap on that smelly helmet and take a cruise down St. Charles Street taking in all the beautiful, southern mansions as well as Tulane’s campus.
7. Frenchmen-Great street in the Quarter filled with restaurants and bars. We had dinner at Coops Place, which is a super casual place with a great vibe and delicious Cajun food. After dinner we went to DBA which is cool bar with AMAZING music. Must stop in. Walk up and down Frenchmen day and night, there’s music and food to last you days.
8. French Market-A MUST. Do this one sober/slightly sober morning or afternoon. There are tons of vendors and you can get GREAT food and yummy bevs while strolling. One afternoon we bought a bunch of craw fish and had a local lady teach us how to properly eat them (head and all). On our last morning we stopped in at Cafe Du Monde, picked up beignets and coffee to go, and then walked over to Jackson Square to enjoy them (makes for a really nice morning).
9. Parasol’s-Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives this supppppper dive bar serves up amazing sandwiches. You order/eat your food upstairs, but place your drink order through a window that overlooks the bar below (you know you want to do it).
10. On our last afternoon we went to this amazing dive restaurant/bar on a residential street in the quarter which happened to be about four buildings down from our apartment. Port of Call is a perfect end of the trip meal, when you will be over all of the Cajun food. This is what you HAVE to order, cheeseburger, loaded baked potato, and a monsoon (bev). This is HUGE and can absolutely, 100% be split between two people. If you think you will order something besides what I instructed, don’t even go. But go. Seriously.
Carousel Bar in Hotel Monteleone (start your evening here, pre dinner drink)
Pat O’Briens courtyard (hurricanes, duh)
Cats Meow-Bourbon Street (karaoke)
Blue Nile-Frenchmen (live music)
Coquette-Magazine Street (dinner)
Mother’s Restaurant (amazing food, super famous)
Oh! And you must, must, must find “Big Al” Carson at The Funky Pirate on Bourbon. He is a big, big man with a whole lotta soul. Stop in and listen while cruising Bourbon.
In a nutshell, get ready to eat, drink, and jam your vacation away. Enjoy this enchanting town and immerse yourself in the French/Cajun culture that makes this city so undeniably charming.