We kicked off the month of February with a long weekend in New Orleans! While it was planned as a primarily food/nightlife trip, we were able to get in a bit of sightseeing as well. Today I’m sharing all the tips on best places to explore in the Big Easy!
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The biggest issue you’ll have in New Orleans from a food perspective is how to consume everything you’ll want to during a short visit. You won’t, but it’s fun to try. Share as much as you can or get tasting portions if available.
The holy grail of NOLA dining seems to revolve around a handful of longstanding institutions. I highly recommend that you try to take at least one meal in one of these establishments.
It goes without saying, advance reservations are must. But don’t fret if you can’t get in to one of these locales. There are dozens of not-as-legendary but equally delicious and atmospheric restaurants to choose from in this foodie town!
- Antoine’s – The oldest continually operating restaurant in the US and $0.25 martinis at lunch? Check and check!
- Arnaud’s – While we didn’t dine here, we did pop in for an eponymous drink at their fabled French 75 bar and it was cozy perfection. They also have a small Mardi Gras museum featuring two dozen costumes. Free to the public.
- Brennan’s With lavishly decorated dining areas and multi-course meals, it’s no wonder this place hits so many “tops” lists! Also open for breakfast if you are trying to squeeze in lots of dining experiences in a short amount of time.
- Commander’s Palace Winner of too many awards to list, this was our choice for a “grande dame” dinner NOLA, style. With multiple wait staff for each table, the service is legendary. The pecan roasted gulf fish and bananas foster were hits at our table. Oddly, the world-famous bread pudding didn’t really do much for either of us – go figure. Check out the Netflix film Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table to get you in the mood for a visit here!
- Galatoire’s Located right on Bourbon Street and filled with all the Creole classics!
Other Great Dining
Other places that we tried and would recommend include:
- Cafe du Monde (of course) – while open 24 hours, I like it for breakfast best!
- Cafe Amelie – gorgeous patio and the best shrimp and grits!
- Central Grocery – for an original muffaletta and some olive salad to take home.
- The Gumbo Shop – great place for tasting portions
- Cafe Sbisa – service was slow the night we were there but the court bouillon was delicious!
- Numerous locals recommended Drago’s at the Hilton for oysters, Mr. John’s Steakhouse for steak and both Clancy’s and Shaya in the Garden District. Sadly too much food, too little time…we’ll visit these on a return trip!
- Carousel Bar This ended up being one of our favorite stops. The place is hoppin’ and if you can snag a seat at the bar or a good table, the people watching is unparalleled.
- Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar Built in the 1700’s, an atmospheric spot to grab a quick pint!
- The Dungeon One of the quirkier places in the French Quarter, we met the owner by accident during the day and he gave us a quick tour. Tiny establishment that’s known for it’s rock and metal music.
- While most visitors are familiar with the legendary jazz venue Preservation Hall, it’s worth it to explore some of the other fantastic music spots in the city. BMC (Balcony Music Club), Blue Nile and Spotted Cat all border the French Quarter in the Marigny area. While Tipitina’s is out a bit beyond the Garden District.
There are so many quirky little gems in New Orleans, where do I even start? We focused our shopping primarily in the French Quarter but there are a whole slew of other places to be found on Magazine Street in the Garden District. Art lovers, be sure to stop at the many galleries along Royal Street. The Mask Gallery was a favorite!
- Krewe Eyewear – Never one to pass up a new pair of sunnies, this independently owned gem has a great selection of unique but wearable styles ranging in price from $200-400. And did I mention they have a FREE replacement policy!?! Megan Markle, Blake Lively and Gigi Hadid have all been spotted in Krewe eyewear.
- Smoke Artisan Perfume Looking for a distinctive scent? Check out these unisex, natural and ethically sourced scents made by Kathleen Currie. The Glitter Box on Royal Street is probably the most convenient place to check out Smoke but a full list of stockists is included on their website.
- Silver Lotus Records Go old-school and check out the fantastic array of vinyl at this tiny shop on Dumaine! Super friendly and knowledgeable owner.
- Fleur des Paris Milinery Need an Easter or Derby hat? Stop in at the largest millinery shop in the US on Royal Street. They’ve got some pretty fantastic handbags as well.
- Garden District Ride the streetcar out to the Garden District and use the walking tour guide map available at the entrance to Commander’s Palace. These houses are just BEYOND!
The St. Charles Streetcar Lafayette Cemetery Typical Garden District Home
- Mardi Gras World If you aren’t in NOLA during Mardi Gras season, Mardi Gras World gives you a great opportunity to see some of the fabulous float creations close-up. Hour-long tours start every half hour 9:30-4:30 and include a piece of King Cake. Call 504-361-7821 for a free shuttle ride from downtown.
One of the many floats! Mid-construction but float bound.
- The National World War II Museum Honestly, this site wasn’t on our radar but once in NOLA, several people contacted us saying we really had to go. So we did. The exhibits provide an immersive experience of the European and the Pacific theaters via an assortment of artifacts, first-hand testimonials and mini-documentaries. I’m not particularly a history buff but enjoyed 3 full hours here. And that was just the main museum. They had two additional exhibits that sounded great: Beyond All Boundaries, an hour long, 4D cinematic experience and Final Mission: USS Tang Submarine Experience, an interactive re-creation of the sub’s final patrol battle. History buffs, check out this list of the world’s best WWII museums.
Warbirds Exhibit Photo: National World War II Museum
- Ghost Tours are a super-popular option in New Orleans! And with good reason. Not too many cities boast as horrifying of a history as the Big Easy. Case in point, check out the story behind LaLaurie Mansion. Do your homework when choosing a ghost tour. It can pay to request specific guides. In my experience activities like this can be 100% made or broken by the person delivering the tour.
- Looking for more to do? Check out an Air Boat Tour, a River Cruise on the Steamboat Natchez or a explore one of the following plantation homes: Laura, Oak Alley, or Whitney.
We stayed on free night certificates (earned with our IHG Mastercards) at the Intercontinental New Orleans as we’re not using them in Cozumel this winter as we typically do. The hotel was comfortable, quiet and very well located; just a short walk to the French Quarter/Marigny and on the St. Charles streetcar line to the Garden District.
Any well-reviewed place around the French Quarter should be suitable. As New Orleans is a partying town, pay attention to reviews that concern noise. If you’d like to check out some more distinctive/boutique options, try Hotel Monteleone, the Royal Sonesta, Hotel Maison de Ville, Hotel le Marais, and Hotel Mazarin.
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