You can’t go wrong with a weekend in New Orleans. The music, the food, the drinks, the party – they all created an electricity in this city that can’t be ignored. We fell in love with New Orleans the second we stepped out of our car. The city has a certain energy that is invigorating and makes you want to create something. Honestly, I stepped away from the blog for about a month, then went to New Orleans, and was filled with creative energy. Now here we are! So this won’t be my only post about New Orleans and obviously things will be updated as we (definitely) go back again.
Vibes: Eclectic, Gritty, Artistic
Cost: Generally low costs, though things in the main tourist areas (French Quarter) can be pricey
Transportation: Generally very walkable and a cheap street car will take you uptown to downtown- we did not need a car except to get to the lower 9th ward.
Safety: Generally pretty safe though you’ll need to watch the areas you stay in at night. Watch for scams in any major city hub!
Where to Stay: Our favorite neighborhood is Bywater but we also had a great time in the Warehouse District
You can’t go to New Orleans without visiting Bourbon St. As someone who often stays away from tourist spots, Bourbon St. is truly electric. That being said, I put it in the early part of the itinerary because (at least for us) one night was enough on this iconic street. Although it has a captivating energy about it, it’s also kind of a black hole. It’s a place where you wake up the next day and you have to talk to your partner to figure out what exactly happened the night before. Here were our favorite places on Bourbon (and in the French Quarter):
Cafe Beignet – we loved it here. Great music at both locations, nice prices, would recommend (highly). Skip the overcrowded Cafe Du Monde and check this out instead.
Marie Lavou’s Voodoo Shop– A must see glimpse into the idea of Voodoo.
The French Market– A cool place to check out local arts, food and trinkets
Old Absinthe House– a touristy place but we had a great Sazerac! Fun Fact: The Sazerac was first created in New Orleans and some say it was the first cocktail. That is obviously highly debated, but it is a fun story. This was also on my Atlas Obscura list, so it was a must.
Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar– Supposedly the oldest “bar” in the country (but really, its the oldest structure that is a bar). It was fun and kitschy, but honestly it was really fun!
Molly’s– $5 Moscow mules, you know I’m here for that – or check out their famous frozen Irish coffee!
For dinner, you have to sample the New Orleans fare. To me, that means cajun seafood and charbroiled oysters. These are my French Quarter recommendations:
Felix’s Bar– often voted best charbroiled oysters- great location.
Coop’s Place, which came highly recommended. The food was great, the price point was fine ($12-20/pp) and the drinks were flowing. If you’re a beer person, you have to try Abita, a local brewery. Coop’s Place had Abita’s Andy Gator beer (an 8% beer) for $4 on draft, so that’s hard to beat.
Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish House– Honestly, we wandered into this restaurant dying of hunger but we were thoroughly impressed. We would absolutely come back here.
Napoleon House– For an upscale dining experience, the Napoleon House is steeped in history and old New Orleans charm. It’s an iconic spot that is a must see.
If you get in a little earlier, we would recommend you check out Frenchman street. It is only a couple blocks from Bourbon Street and while it is a little rough around the edges, the live music can’t be beat. None of the bars we went to had a cover charge and all of them had amazing music. Pair that with a late night hotdog at Dat Dog (just trust me on this one) and you have a great first night!
Saturday- Take in the Local Flair
Here are a few local attractions that have been our favorite so far!
The New Orleans Museum of Art is a great place to take in some of the local art scene, mixed with some of the classics. Its a large museum so be ready to spend a few hours here, especially if you go to the sculpture park right outside the museum. It’s quite a walk from the French Quarter, but the mid-city area is beautiful. We took the trolley car up to the museum and walked back down. Which is a great option because the food in mid-city is some of the best.
On your way back down to the French Quarter, these are some of the best Mid-City eats to consider for lunch:
Neyows Creole Cafe– while all of these came highly recommended, this one was a required stop. This is THE place for charbroiled oyster in my opinion. And depending on how you want the rest of your day to go, they have a rum punch with a dozen or so shots in it. We skipped on the rum punch but we did get some great mojitos and a moscow mule here.
Parkway Bakery- Often ranked as the best po-boys in New Orleans, this is a great stop for anyone in the mid-city area. Unfortunately it does get busy here and when we went, we were way too hungry for the hour + wait so we skipped it. It’s on our list for next time though!
Willie Mae’s Scotch House– for some of the best southern cooking you’ll probably ever eat, head to Willie Mae’s. Not only is it a James Beard Award winner, it is a local staple and has been around since the 50s.
Once back in the French Quarter area, I would take a minute to walk around Jefferson Square, the French Market Co-Op and catch some music at any of the amazing bars on Frenchman Street. We were drawn to BMC Balcony Music Club because of it’s Johnny Walker special ($6 for JW Black!) and we had a great time. We probably could have picked any of the clubs honestly, they are all pretty great. The Spotted Cat was recommended to us, but it was too busy (and had a cover), but we’ll definitely check it out next time.
Sunday- A Lazy (and Boozy) Bywater Stroll
We set out for the Bywater neighborhood in the morning on a quest for the best king cake in New Orleans. We had heard talk about the Bywater Bakery, even though they’re the new guy in town. Since we wanted to stick around our neighborhood, we gave it a shot. OH MY GOD. It was the best thing I have ever eaten. I don’t say that lightly. We have sampled french pastries all over Paris, and it is still ranked AT LEAST in the top 5- and honestly, rivals them all. We went back on Monday to get a slice before heading home, it was that good. We got the Chantilly cream king cake, which I know is not traditional, but it is their speciality. They have many flavors and I’m sure they are all amazing, but we can’t bring ourselves to try any others as the chantilly cream is truly special.
After our morning fix, we headed to the Bacchanal Wine and Spirit shop, which doubles as a restaurant. The idea of this place is you pick your cheeses, your wine and any meats you want then the chef creates a cheese board with breads, jams, pickles and crackers that compliment your cheese selections. Then you take your bottle of wine outside and enjoy their patio with live music. For Bruce and I, life can’t get much better than this. It’ll cost you some money for the lunch (about $45) but totally worth it for us, especially if you consider that a bottle of wine is a few drinks for each person!
Since it was football Sunday, we had to catch the Saints game at a local bar, especially because it was playoff season. Bruce spotted a brewery and we went for it. We ended up with Parileauex Beer Lab, which was a great place to hang out for the afternoon, with a great crowd for the game. We also had great Central American food from a pop up restaurant in the brewery itself, but you can also bring in your own food. In a fun turn of events, the couple next to us were from New England and got an extra pizza by mistake when they ordered delivery. We were hungry and they offered us the extra one! It’s always good to make friends on vacations
If you don’t happen to meet people with an extra pizza, check out Pizza Delicious for some great pie in the area.
AirBnB or Hotel in New Orleans?
This is a place where I think the AirBnB wins out. By choosing an AirBnB, you get to be right in the middle of the action. To get a hotel in the middle of it all, it would cost you at least one arm, and probably the leg too. The first time we stayed in the Warehouse District and we always had to walk through Bourbon Street to get back (and therefore got stuck in the black hole), so the second time we decided to stay in the Bywater district. If we get back, I’ll definitely stay in the Bywater district again! If you want some more info on AirBnB vs. Hotels– check out comparison here!
We could honestly live in this beautiful, city of jazz. Did we miss one of your favorites? Drop the recommendation below!