To Stay, To Play and To Eat. All must visits in the Big Easy!
Whether you are traveling to New Orleans for Mardi Gras or just a getaway, we picked a few of our favorite places to visit throughout the city.
“In America, there might be better gastronomic destinations than New Orleans, but there is no place more uniquely wonderful.” -Anthony Bourdain
We found an absolutely wonderful Airbnb right in the middle of the French Quarter. We were able to walk everywhere, only using a cab to get to and from the airport. Being right on Royal Street we were able to see the lights of the downtown area from our balcony as well as wake up to the sound of New Orleans music every morning. It was a perfect location, close enough to the craziness of Bourbon Street but also within walking distance of historical landmarks and parks. Even though it was a one bedroom loft that after four days was feeling pretty small (especially with five girls), it was definitely worth being centrally located. besides who sleeps in NOLA anyway? It was also much cheaper than if we would have tried to get two or three hotel rooms.
*Sidenote: When attempting to find a place to stay I was a bit concerned about the safety of Airbnb’s (we have all heard the horror stories) especially with this being my first time to visit the city. So I only looked for places that were owned by Superhosts (see additional information about superhosts here, https://www.airbnb.com/superhost). This way we had plenty of reviews from previous renters that we could base our decision on and ensure that it was safe.
Occasionally, for a variety of reasons, the airbnb selections are slim to none. So if you are willing to splurge a bit, check out the Hotel Monteleone. We stumbled upon this hotel while guiding ourselves on a walking tour of the city (there are walking tours that you can pay for, but we found it much more enjoyable to accidentally happen upon these awesome places). The outside is absolutely beautiful and definitely draws a group of girls like us inside. Upon entering the lobby is one the best parts of the hotel–The Carousel Bar and Lounge. Yes, you read that right–it’s a bar that is also a carousel. My 5 year old self and my 21 year old self were both screaming with pure joy–whimsy meets trendy. Though we didn’t have time to sit down and have a cocktail, I have seen nothing but glowing reviews making this place a definite visit the next time we are in New Orleans. Though the rooms are pretty pricey, my favorite part is that the hotel offers Literary Suites. These are suites dedicated to literary greats like Faulkner, Capote, Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and Eudora Welty. These writers either frequented the hotel, wrote about the hotel, or both. I love incorporating history into anywhere that I travel and having these literary suites is a cool way to connect with a piece of the history of New Orleans while cozying up in a bit of luxury. http://hotelmonteleone.com/
So obviously Bourbon Street is a must when visiting New Orleans. There are countless bars, clubs and restaurants that you can hop to throughout the night and if you’re lucky and it’s near the time of Mardi Gras, there will be a few out of the blue experiences that make the trip to Bourbon definitely worth it. We were fortunate enough to go near the time of Mardi Gras and be graced with the presence of marching bands and giant floats. There was constant music, dancing in the streets and never a dull moment when it came to people watching. Go to Tropical Isle and get your drink alongside a shark or a hand grenade, go to the Cat’s Meow to karaoke and drink out of a bucket, or go to the Famous Door and meet the crazy shot girls and listen to live music, just to name a few.
If drinking and staying out till the wee hours of the morning isn’t your thing, then visiting one of New Orlean’s beautiful parks is a must. Being right in the French Quarter we frequented Jackson Square. It is a beautiful park that has the most amazing street artists I have ever seen. The park runs right along the Mississippi River and is surrounded by historic buildings including the St. Louis Cathedral, the Louisiana State Museum and the Lower and Upper Pontalba Apartments, the oldest apartment buildings in the United States.
Since we had such beautiful weather and all we wanted to do was explore we also ventured over to Louis Armstrong Park. If you want a quiet moment to yourself to take in New Orleans beauty, this is the perfect place. We were, of course, met by music and dancing-people of different cultures, race and religion all joining together to play simply for the love of the sound. This was my favorite part about New Orleans. There are people of every walk of life–and everyone is accepted. All people joining together in harmony and enjoying the essence and history of the city. Kudos, NOLA, we should all be more like you.
If you’re a history and/or literature buff like me, then there is a small house that you absolutely must visit, Faulkner House Books. This was where Faulkner lived that they have now converted into a bookstore. It’s charming, quaint and the perfect place to find a rare novel or get lost in a new story. There is something about walking in the footsteps of someone like Faulkner who had so much to give to American literature that reenergizes me making me feel like a part of history. http://faulknerhousebooks.com/
When you leave there, go right around the corner and have a drink at Pirates Alley Cafe and Absinthe House. This is a quirky bar and cafe to sit down for a bite to eat or grab a drink to go. As the subject of much legend and lore, it is known to have been a meeting place for pirates and scallywags, as well as for men of means who sought out their services. Also, something I found out after doing some reading, when you stand beneath the lamp post outside the bar you are in the closest proximity of Church, State and Bar in the world. http://www.piratesalleycafe.com/
Another great place to stop in for a drink is Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar. This bar, built between 1722 and 1732 by Nicolas Touze, is reputed to be the oldest structure used as a bar in the United States. Legend has it that between 1772 and 1791, the property was used by the Lafitte Brothers, Jean and Pierre as a New Orleans base for their Barataria smuggling operation. With it’s historic significance, we absolutely had to visit! http://www.lafittesblacksmithshop.com/Homepage.html
New Orleans is filled with incredible places to eat. One of our favorites was Muriel’s near Jackson Square. Though there is usually a lengthy wait, it is absolutely worth it. First of all, the food is some of the best food I have had in my life. They have a wide variety of New Orleans staples, but with a bit of extra flare. It’s on the expensive side, but the ambiance makes for a true dining experience. We spent two hours enjoying our bloodys and mimosas, taking our time eating our food and listening to the small jazz brass band that they have playing live music in the dining room. Once you are finished eating, visit the upstairs. This area is set aside for private events including a lounge for after brunch cocktails, the wine cellar, and a beautiful dining area. It is also a good chance to visit the Muriel’s ghosts that are rumored to roam the halls. http://muriels.com/
We brunched every day we were in New Orleans (aka hangover food). The Ruby Slipper was another great place to eat, with a few different locations throughout the city. Though the ambiance was much different than Muriel’s, it was a great casual, easy going place with great drinks and fresh delicious food. http://www.therubyslippercafe.net/
And of course, Cafe du Monde. With this being my first time ever having a beignet, I could have eaten 12. Even though three come in an order, get two orders, your inner fat kid will thank you. http://www.cafedumonde.com/
There are so many things to do, see and eat in New Orleans it is hard to choose just a few. The French influence in the architecture, the history, the cultural diversity, the music, local superstitions and the overall enjoyment of life that the people who live in NOLA have, make it a perfect girls getaway, guys getaway, or just vacation in general. Cheers to the Big Easy, you showed us the time of our lives.
“New Orleans is, on the other hand, a comfortable metropolis which has a certain apathy and stagnation which i find inoffensive.” -John Kennedy Toole