New Orleans is hands-down my favorite city in the US. If you don’t think this city is amazing, you either haven’t been or you didn’t do it right. There is so much to explore: music, food, festivals, the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong. People do come here to party. In fact, I actually think one could make a better (and more affordable) weekend in New Orleans compared to Vegas. However, there is so much more to the Big Easy than its nightlife. The last four days reaffirmed why I’ve come to love this city so much.
Where to Stay:
The Bourbon Orleans Hotel is a fun hotel located smack dab in the middle of all the action. Spending a little extra money to be here is worth it. You are down the street from Jackson Square and right off of Bourbon Street. For the humid and muggy days down south, the courtyard pool is quaint and relaxing to cool down in. Today, tourists from around the world come to New Orleans for its haunted history, ghost tours, and voodoo. Why join a tour when you can be part of the ghoulish history firsthand? Rumor has it, the Bourbon Orleans is haunted. Not to worry – it doesn’t stop this hotel from being a beloved place to stay when you’re spending a weekend in New Orleans.
What to Do:
Jazz. You can’t come to New Orleans and not listen to jazz. It’s impossible. Even if you don’t plan to attend a jazz show or head to a bar hosting a local jazz band (which I don’t understand who wouldn’t want to do that in this talented city), you’ll undeniably hear it. Throughout all hours of the day, people and bands set themselves up and New Orleans comes alive with its music. If you haven’t gone, check out Preservation Hall. There are several shows each night. As long as you get there early (about 30 minutes), stand in line and pay $15 to get in. Reserving a seat online isn’t worth it and you’ll pay twice as much or more. The crowd and band are lively. If you prefer to just wander and take your chances somewhere else, head to Frenchman Street. In almost every building there will be jazz. There are less tourists, more locals, and some superb music.
Wander the French Quarter. During the day this area is crowded with tourists and is safe. While you’re here, stop in and out of some of the art galleries. All the artists have such a unique style and are some of the friendliest people in the city! They love to chat and will give you the local scoop on where else you should go. Many have galleries on Royal Street. One of my favorites is a gallery on the corner St. Philip and Royal – Gallery Nine Forty. Cynthia has such unique creations in here – you won’t be able to leave without buying one of the quirky prints!
Visit a cemetery. I told you to embrace the spooky history! Before you stop reading – walking through a cemetery in New Orleans is just as good as any museum. Because of the swampy, moist ground, the entire cemetery is filled with ornate mausoleums. The most famous cemetery is the St. Louis Cemetery on Basin Street. You can get here either by walking or by taking the trolley (which I’ll get to in a moment). Famous Marie Laveau (the voodoo queen) is buried here. Do NOT come to the cemeteries once it starts to become dark. They can be very dangerous at night. However, during the day they will be crowded and will be safe. Stick to your instincts.
Take the trolley. For a couple bucks you can hop on the trolley (a perfect escape on a muggy day and you need a cool breeze) and take it into the Garden District. The houses are huge and fantastic to gawk at and you also go past Loyola University and Tulane University. Get off St. Charles Ave. and grab a bite to eat at the legendary Camellia Grill. For the best deal, buy a Jazzy Pass to hop on and off throughout your entire weekend in New Orleans.
Get your fortune read. While we’re on the topic of spooky things, an eerily fun activity at night is to get your fortune read. Many of the voodoo shops offer this and some (interesting) people set up tables in Jackson Square to do this. I chose to go to Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo Shop on Bourbon Street. For ~$30 you can get a spiritual reading. I have to say – everything the man said was very spot on pertaining to my life. No matter your beliefs, it is a unique thing to try while you’re in town.
What to Eat and Where:
Beignets at Cafe du Monde. And eat loads of them because nothing in this world can compare. You only have one weekend in New Orleans, but after this stop you’ll wish you had a lifetime.
Shrimp and grits at Pierre Maspero’s. I thought I only so-so liked shrimp. I never thought I’d like grits. Totally wrong. I devoured this like it was my last meal. Washed it down with an Abita Purple Haze and all was well.
Fried alligator at The Royal House. Growing up alligators were my favorite animal, so the fact that we ordered these was a bit disheartening. Almost more disheartening is that I virtually forgot about that the second I popped one of these bites into my mouth. So good. Honestly, it is breaded. Tastes like chicken for the most part and you can still feel like a true Creole.
Po Boy Sandwich at…well, your choice! You’ll find a po boy on almost any menu in the city and the “best” po boy is widely up for debate. Calories don’t count in this city, so try as many as you can!
Muffuletta at Napoleon House. Step aside, Po Boys. You’re not the only sandwich in this town. This Italian sandwich was made famous in New Orleans and consists of various meats, cheeses, and olive salad. Come here and split one as a snack in the afternoon while you sip your Pimm’s Cup.
Oyster Happy Hour at Samuel’s Blind Pelican. We all know restaurants can charge a ton of money for oysters. But do you really need to pay that? Quite frankly, no. Not if you come here. With a happy hour that can’t be beat – from 4-8pm, you pay 50 cents per oyster – it’s a steal. Yes you read that correctly. $6 per dozen. Get here early to claim a spot and take advantage of this deal.
Pralines. Ok so while the pralines here are a Godsend, I will admit they can be ridiculously overpriced. Many stores have unique flavors, so take advantage of as many free samples as possible before you choose some to take home!
Where to Drink:
There is surely no shortage of bars in this city. By 10am, many of them already have weekly drink specials and music is blasting from indoors. To learn more about the best drinks in New Orleans, check out my other post: “Best Drinks in New Orleans.” When you only have a weekend in New Orleans, you can’t waste time!
Other Notable Activities for your weekend in new orleans:
- National WWII Museum
- Steamboat Cruise
- Swamp Tour
- Audubon Park
- Mardi Gras World
So I’ll leave you with this. Can the city be a bit grimy? Sure. That’s why they wash the streets every day. Can the city be spooky? Absolutely. As you wander down cobblestone roads lined with gas lamps, you get thrown back in time. But…will you fall madly in love with the city as you sip a cocktail, rock back and forth to the jazz, and cradle your stomach after your hearty Southern meal? Yes.