The Ultimate New Orleans Travel Guide
New Orleans or “The Big Easy”, is a fascinatingly diverse city, and one of the most unique in the world. NOLA is a melting pot of cultures, with French, Spanish, and West African influences, which means you’re in for BIG flavor when it comes to the food scene (and I’ve always thought the best way to get to know a city is to eat your way through it, don’t you guys think?!). From live jazz music, vintage shopping, partying on Bourbon street, street performers, avant garde art galleries and some of the best seafood around, there is something for everyone in NOLA! It is the perfect location for bachelor/bachelorette parties, group trips and couples getaways, but I would not necessarily say it is kid friendly.
From January until March is Mardi Gras season, and if you’ve never experienced this bucket list time I would highly recommend it, but you’ll need your hotel or airbnb reservations WELL in advance. After March, the crowds tend to thin and the weather warms up, so April-May is a great time to visit before the summer heat and humidity, as is early fall!
WHERE TO STAY IN NEW ORLEANS
The French Quarter is definitely where you’ll be spending a lot of your time, so if you want to be walking distance to the heart of the city I’d recommend a historic hotel like the Ritz Carlton or an airbnb in this classic neighborhood, like this renovated historic home steps from Bourbon Street!
If you’d prefer to be a bit farther away from the loud and rowdy party-goers opt for Mariginy (just outside the French Quarter and still within a 10-15 minute walk of everything) or the trendy Warehouse District!
WHERE TO EAT IN NEW ORLEANS
If all you did on your trip to New Orleans was hit the food scene, you’d still never run out of things to do! In New Orleans it is not uncommon to get a late start to your day, owing to the fact that you were probably out late the night before (in normal times at least). Therefore, most people skip breakfast and instead just snag a coffee to leave room for the necessary experience that is “Brunch”. Most people don’t realize the very idea of brunch was born in NOLA, when a popular old breakfast spot would stay open a little longer to allow for a “second breakfast” for dock workers, and when the World’s Fair of 1884 was held in New Orleans, everyone loved the concept so much that the term “brunch” was coined. Brunch tends to lead straight into nightly activities, that’s just how it’s done around here.
WHERE TO GET THE BEST COFFEE IN NEW ORLEANS
If you’re a hit the ground running kind of person, start at one of the local and loved coffee spots for a caffeine fix, because trust me you’re gonna need it! Here are some of the best coffee spots by neighborhood: Orange Couch (Mariginy) for the best oat milk cappuccino and funky modern vibes, SpitFire (French Quarter) for gourmet espresso in a tiny storefront, HiVolt (Garden District) for specialty drinks and small bites, French Truck (Warehouse DIstrict/French Quarter) a spot you can could on for espresso and pour overs with multiple locations around the city, Cafe Beignet (multiple locations) or Cafe Du Monde (French Quarter) for world-famous hot coffee and fresh beignets.
THE BEST BRUNCH SPOTS IN NEW ORLEANS
Brennan’s– Where bananas foster was created… need I say more?! YUM. Ok I will say more, their menu features multiple kinds of benedicts along with french classics like fish almandine and Croque Madame! Get a french press to balance cancel out all the champagne and you’ll be all set for a fabulous start to your day!
Commander’s Palace– One of the oldest establishments in the city, known for its vibrant turquoise exterior, Jazz brunch and classic turtle soup. Gentlemen bring your coats!
Flamingo-A-Go-Go- This is your go-to spot in the Warehouse district for bottomless mimosas and bloody Mary’s, you can sit out on their back patio and enjoy the people watching as things go from cordial to comedic.
Willa Jean– Old school country meets modern chic, with menu items from “griddled banana bread and whipped butter” to “the hangover bowl” and of course your classic avo toast, there’s only one way to wash it all down…Enter frozen seasonal Mules, maple whiskey sours and build your own mimosa bars.
Apolline– A cozy cottage serving up NOLA classics like shrimp and grits! Plus bottomless mimosas for $14?!?
THE BEST DINNER SPOTS IN NEW ORLEANS
Some of the oldest restaurants in America reside in New Orleans–which have in turn created some of our favorite dishes that are now considered classics like Bananas Foster, Gumbo, Oysters Rockefeller, Po-Boys and more! Here are the spots that do it best!
Gri Gris– A neighborhood favorite for southern comfort classics like shrimp and grits and chicken and dumplings.
Saint Germain– A Parisian inspired wine bar and bistro, head there for drinks and snacks or for a reservation only 5-course tasting menu experience!
Sylvain-Iconic southern with a modern twist served tapas style, located right off of Jackson Square. I love that one of their menu items is “ Champagne and Fries”.
Campere Lapin– A James Beard award winner with a carribean inspired menu. You can’t go wrong with any of their seafood dishes!
Restaurant August- A contemporary creole restaurant that uses locally sourced ingredients, where you can homemade potato gnocchi with blue crab and truffle!
Galatoire’s– Founded in 1905, this 5th generation family owned spot is still serving up the French/Southern dishes it started on like Escargot, Oysters Rockefeller, Bouillabaisse, and Gumbo.
WHERE TO DRINK IN NEW ORLEANS
Star your drinking (if you haven’t already) somewhere classy like the French 75 Bar in Arnaud’s! This is the bar that created the classic French 75 cocktail! Or maybe Bar Marilou, an over the top speakeasy where you can do a Prix-Fixe pairing of two small plates and two cocktails for $45. Once you’re feeling all warm and fuzzy, head to bourbon street to see the night life NOLA is known for, you can’t go wrong at any of the following bars:
Pat O’Briens: Have you really even been to NOLA if you haven’t had a Hurricane at Pat O’Briens? Their iconic patio location on Bourbon street is a MUST stop!
The Old Absinthe House: dating back to 1806, this famous copper bar has served absinthe to figures like Mark Twain and Franklin Rosevelt.
Cats Meow: If you’re in the mood for a little karaoke.
Rita Tequila House: With over 135 tequilas on the menu, this is my kinda place. Plus…tacos.
Tropical Isle: To snag “the world’s strongest mixed drink ” dubbed the Hand Grenade.
WHAT TO DO IN NEW ORLEANS
There are plenty of things to do (besides drinking) in this historic city!
Visit the NOLA Museum of Art
Check out The National WWII Museum in the Central Business District
Go to a Saint Football game!
Browse The French Market–Crafts, art, snacks all centrally located in the french quarter.
Ride around on the Trolley
Tour the Garden District
Wander around the Art Galleries
Get out of town and do a Plantation Tour
Tour Mardi Gras World to see the epic floats!
Take a creole cooking class!
What are your favorite things to do in the city? Comment them below!
and check out these other blog posts:
Cocktail recipes from around the world
The ultimate napa valley travel guide
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