Music, history, art, food and fun are the five words that come to mind when I think about New Orleans. It’s a major tourist destination, especially if you are looking to party! There is always something going on throughout the year, from Mardi Gras to Halloween celebrations. These are some of the reasons New Orleans has been on my bucket list for so long. I’ll be sharing with you below, my guide for visiting New Orleans!
Where to stay
There are really 3 main, popular tourist areas you can choose to stay in: the French Quarter, the Garden District and the Central Business District (Downtown). All three areas are unique in their own way. So choose where to stay depending on what type of atmosphere you prefer.
The French Quarter
The French Quarter, being home to Bourbon Street and Frenchmen Street, is one of the most popular destinations in NOLA. It’s full of restaurants, bars, music and unique shops.
The Central Business District (Downtown)
The Central Business District is where you’ll also find great restaurants and bars, as well as theatres, high-scale shopping, a casino and an aquarium. You can also stay here and still be close to the French Quarter.
The Garden District
The Garden District is a must visit on your trip. You’ll find streets full of beautiful historic mansions, cafes and boutiques. You can spend hours walking around the neighborhood in awe. This area has a more upscale feel from The French Quarter and Central Business District. It’s also the home to Buckner Mansion, aka American Horror Story: Coven’s ‘Miss Robicheaux’s Academy.’
What to do
A lot of activities will involve walking so I recommend packing comfy shoes! Also, don’t forget, you can walk around with a ‘to-go cup’ of your alcoholic beverage of choice!
Walk around the French Quarter
Of course you have to visit Bourbon Street if you’re in New Orleans. It’s literally lined with tons of fun bars and clubs. You can occupy your day / night bar hopping and being lured into bars with 3 for 1 drink specials. The two spots I personally found to be a lot of fun for dancing were Bourbon Vibezz and Bourbon Bandstand.
If you want to do more than just party, the French quarter is also filled with very eclectic shops, art galleries, and beautiful architecture. You can find artwork for sale by local artisans in Jackson Square or visit the popular St. Louis Cathedral that looks like a giant white castle. There are also a bunch of street performers on every block, from dogs doing tricks to little kids playing the drums on buckets.
Live music on Frenchman Street (French Quarter)
If you want a more local experience, your best bet is to head over to Frenchmen Street. Every bar or block you walk down you will experience some really talented musicians playing some great jazz music or singing live. You will also find local artisans markets here, selling everything from hand paintings to metal sculptures. It was cool to see all the unique personalities shown through the artist’s eyes.
Walking Cemetery Tour
Since most of the city is below sea level, above ground burials are the norm here. This makes for unique and eerily beautiful cemeteries. They do also have underground cemeteries as well (Charity Hospital & Katrina Memorial Cemetery). One of the most popular cemeteries is the St. Louis Cemetery #1, where the famous Voodoo queen, Marie Laveau is supposedly buried. Some other cemeteries you may also want to visit are St. Roch Cemetery No. 1, St. Roch Cemetery No. 2, and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Check out more here!
You can book a Cemetery Tour through Viator, your hotel or in person. My husband and I opted to do our own self-guided tour we found online. It also guided us through the rest of the Garden District. I recommend you try it out yourself if you like to be on your own time schedule. It also saves you some cash, which is a plus.
Ride on a Streetcar
If you want to take it up a notch on the tourist level, this cute form of transportation is a fun and inexpensive way to get around. For only $1.25 (one-way), you can get to and from the Garden District and French Quarter while taking in the city views.
Although this wasn’t on my list of things to do personally, you can take a swamp tour! You can learn about Louisiana’s important ecosystem and wildlife on a guided tour. You can even get a chance to take a photo with an alligator.
If shopping is your thing, I’ve listed some great spots to get your shopping on!
- The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk: Over 75 retailers and restaurants located along the Mississippi River. You can find stores such as Forever 21, American Eagle and Levis.
- French Quarter:
With endless options you can discover anything from art galleries on Royal Street, everyday stores like Sephora, H&M, and Urban Outfitters on St. Peters, or souvenir shops scattered throughout the French Quarter.
- Magazine Street: You will see blocks of clothing stores, antique shops and boutiques mixed between restaurants and bars.
- The Shops at Canal Place: Canal Place is the spot to go if you’re looking for a high-end retail experience. Here you’ll find stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Michael Kors and Tiffany & Co.
- French Market: This outdoor market is located on the outskirts of the French Quarter; you can discover anything from fresh fruits and veggies at the Farmer’s Market to handmade crafts at the Flea Market.
Where to Dine
Eating a beignet should be on the top of your list while visiting the Big Easy! It’s a fluffy, fried, sugar coated, classic New Orleans pastry. Café Du Monde is known to have the BEST beignets. There are multiple locations, but the original Café Du Monde is located in the French Market. Be prepared to wait in line for one of these yummy treats, since they are so popular!
This is another option for those delicious beignets. Café Beignet also has multiple locations.
Really popular for breakfast / brunch – I’m talking about 1-2 hour waits. Do yourself a favor and download the ‘Nowait – Get in Line’ app. You can join the wait list while you are still getting ready in your hotel and waltz right in when your time is up.
This restaurant is popular with the locals and offers fresh, locally sourced French-Creole cuisine in a quaint setting. I recommend the gumbo, Trout Eugene and my husband’s favorite, Veal and Crab.
Located on Jackson Square in the French Quarter attached to the historic Le Petit Theatre. Tableau serves local ingredients and classic Creole dishes. I recommend the gumbo for sure!
Besides beignets, pralines are a cherished tradition in Louisiana. Pralines aren’t the healthiest treats, being that they are made of pecans, butter and sugar, but they do make a great gift to bring back home. My favorite flavor was the banana foster one!
What to Drink
- PJ’s Coffee (skip Starbucks)
- Hand Grenade
- Rum Punch
- Anything with Rum or Bourbon!
Hope this helps you plan your trip to New Orleans! Let me know in the comments below if you plan on going or have gone already!
For more photos from my trip visit my Instagram page!
*All photos are mine, unless otherwise stated