A city exploding with culture, music, art, food, history and nightlife, New Orleans is easily one of my favorite cities in the world, and it’s less than a six-hour drive away! Whether you make a little road trip out of it or fly, no matter how far, New Orleans is a must-see city! Just before coronavirus shook the world, I managed to take a trip myself with a friend during the Mardi Gras season. I can honestly say it was the best weekend getaway of my life. If you are looking to go, here is everything you need to know.
Where to Stay?
The Hi New Orleans Hostel located right on Canal street was the perfect choice for our weekend getaway, especially during Mardi Gras. We had the luxury of watching the parade from our front door, literally. This hostel was especially fun with its 24/7 bar on the first floor where guests can mingle, meet new people, and enjoy old school 90’s and early 2000’s tunes blaring from the DJ booth.
What To Do?
When in New Orleans, perhaps the best thing to do is wander with absolutely no agenda because you are bound to run into some fun! This city is always alive and booming with energy. A good place to start during the day is the French Quarter where you can explore the local street vendors and artists in Jackson Square, find live entertainment from comedy, to street dancing, to magicians, to the beautiful sounds of New Orleans jazz. Once you’ve walked the square, roam the surrounding streets and visit all kinds of shops for vintage clothing, unique New Orleans historical voodoo trinkets, lovely antiques, art galleries, and even a hot sauce store where you can try over 100 different spicy concoctions. My favorite store on this last trip was Goorin Bros. Hat Shop, where we tried on tons of cool handmade hats. I ended up purchasing an awesome purple number which hardly left my head for the remainder of the trip.
A last-minute stop to one of the many traditional cemeteries ended up being a highlight for us. There are several cemeteries to choose from, some of which have special historical gravesites, which you can book a tour to visit. We ended up at the St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, established in 1823. It is open to the public and no appointment or entry fee is needed.
If you know anything about NOLA, you are probably aware that it is known for the outrageous nightlife! The party doesn’t stop on Bourbon street, where you can walk for hours hopping in and out of bars blaring live music from traditional zydeco, jazz, country, rock, and hip & hop. Grab a famous frozen daiquiri, which you can find on nearly every block, and walk around before heading into a bar of your choice to dance the night away! You are bound to meet new friends before the night is over.
Looking to have some fun off the beaten path? Spend a night out on Frenchman street, which is equally as fun as Bourbon, but a bit less touristy! This is where the locals go for a night out of fun and dancing. While you are there, check out the Palace Market for some sweet local goodies from all kinds of vendors and grab a bite at one of the food trucks.
A good spot for day-drinking is the historical bar Lafitte’s, which is the oldest bar in the French Quarter, established in the 1770’s. This bar is also said to be one of the most haunted buildings in New Orleans. Grab a beer or frozen beverage and cool off at one of the dimly lit tables. You might even be paid a visit by a ghost of the past.
If you find yourself a bit tired from endless walking or a night of nonstop dancing, spend a day driving around and looking at the many Victorian homes. If you’d like, you can even make arrangements to tour one. During our visit, we toured the Women’s Opera Guild home, built-in 1856.
Where To Eat?
When in New Orleans, eat the foods! Perhaps the most touristy destination, but worth a visit regardless, is Cafe Du Monde, a traditional french coffee and beignet joint in the French Quarter, which has been in service since 1862. Chicory coffee and powdery beignets are a NOLA staple. The line out front moves quickly, so make sure you don’t pass this experience up. If you decide to stop by, they accept cash only so be prepared.
Every time I visit New Orleans I absolutely have to stop at Drago’s for chargrilled Oysters. If you haven’t eaten oysters before or swear you don’t like them, I promise these will change your mind! I have never had oysters as good, and each time I go I find I’ve forgotten just how great they are! Try them. I promise you won’t be mad about the decision.
Of course, crawfish is another must when you are in the Cajun state! Try Boiling Seafood House on Magazine street where you can purchase crawfish, shrimp, and lobster by the pound. Also, check out the great boutique shopping in the area before or after your meal! United Apparel Liquidators is one of my favorite retail shops for designer finds, and there is one just a couple blocks from the restaurant.
If you want a fancy dine-in option for a classy dinner and good wine make a reservation in advance to visit Commander’s Palace, a well-known restaurant for dinner or brunch founded in 1880, complete with vintage decor and elaborate chandeliers. Don’t forget to order the table-side bananas foster. Another favorite dine-in spot of mine is Pêche Seafood Grill.
So if you are craving a weekend full of culture, nightlife and history, New Orleans is the place to be. I promise you will want to go back, again, and again, and again. xxx