New Orleans, most notably known for its epic Mardi Gra celebration, has earned quite a wild reputation, but it’s sooo much more than that. There’s alot to learn & experience- from the cultural traditions to the food & history. The city is a blend of Creole, French, Cajun all intertwined and represented throughout every inch of the city. Music flows down every street you turn, every dish is a work of art and you are left in awe from the historical architecture.
We spent a couple days here and squeezed in as much as we could. You can definitely get a good sense of the city in 24 hours so it’s the perfect place for a weekend getaway. Below is my guide and recommendation for your next stop in New Orleans. Feel free to comment down below with any questions or find me on my Instagram where I post daily content!
Drive or fly? You choose! Louis Armstrong International Airport is very well connected with tons of flights daily and it is only 15 minutes away from the city center. Ubers are accessible & safe to take from there. Minimum airport fee to and from is around $35 each and dependent on high-demand periods.
Since we were on our cross country road trip, we drove. I don’t think there is a single person out there that enjoys driving into and around busy cities. The annoying traffic, complicated parking signs, confusing one way streets, & worst of all, parking is a shitshow. I recommend going directly to your hotel parking lot or a reliable lot and pay up that awful price and just leave your car there for the entire duration of your trip.
Driving your own vehicle around the city will give you a HEADACHE. Don’t even try it. I suggest using New Orleans public transport! Riding the street cars (only $3 per person for the whole day! You can hop on/off as you wish) adds to the whole experience and on top of that, you’d be supporting a local business. New Orleans is a small-scale city, so if you stay somewhere centrally located, it’s pretty accessible by foot!
Fun Fact: St. Charles street car is the oldest continuously operating street car line in the world!
WHEN TO VISIT
February- May is when the celebrations are in full swing and the weather is ideal. You’ll be visiting with thousands of other people so be mindful of the crowds. If you’re looking to save $$, travel here in the summer. The summer heat and humidity can feel oppressive, which is why hotel rates will be much lower. If you’re not interested in the celebrations, I recommend coming in December and January when the weather is chilly, but manageable. Way less tourists & you feel like you have the city to yourself.
WHERE TO STAY
I did a ton of research on where to stay and debated on whether or not I wanted to be on Bourbon street… and thank god I didn’t. I recommend staying right on the edge of French Quarter so you get some peace and quiet at night. Magnolia Hotel was the perfect location. It’s steps away from the French Quarter so we were able to walk everywhere! It’s removed from the French Quarter craziness/sketchyness. Magnolia hotel is sophisticated, clean, cozy & modern. The bed was comfortable, staff was friendly & professional & covid protocol was implemented. The only downside is parking. There are ONLY 6 free parking spaces right in front of the hotel, but there is a lot you can park at across the street for $30 a night. I know.. so pricy, but that’s how it is in every city.
WHERE / / WHAT TO EAT
Yes, we’ve all heard of Cafe Du Monde, but Cafe Beignet is where the locals go! Beignets are basically a French “donut”- deep fried pastry covered in powdered sugar. The beignets here are chewier (my preference, if you prefer airy, pillowy ones go to Cafe Du Monde!) and they serve more on the menu. IF you’re craving beignets late at night and it’s closed, know that Cafe Du Monde is open 24/7 and going there would be more of an experience.
Known for its iconic dish, THE banana fosters. Who doesn’t want bananas that are flambéed tableside with brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, rum and served with New Orleans Ice Cream Co. vanilla bean ice cream?? It’s the most ordered dish on the menu and for good reason. You can thank me later.
Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar and Fish House
The world is your oysters!! If you’re looking for an authentic “New Orleans” meal, this is the place to go. From the outside, it doesn’t look like much, but don’t let it fool you! The raw oysters were super plump & clean. The charbroiled oysters were soooo juicy (currently drooling as I’m thinking back to this meal). Man, now I’m wishing I ordered more! The best part is that it’s super affordable for quality seafood!
Central Grocery Company
We came here because of alllll the hype on the muffuletta sandwich. The muffuletta recipe is over 100 years and the store dates back to 1906. The muffuletta is pretty much an italian sandwich packed with meat (salami, ham), cheese (swiss, provolone), & olive salad. My advice: get a half sandwich. The portion size is huge and a half will fill up 2 people! It’s the perfect place for a quick to-go meal and you can easily bring it over to Jackson Square & and enjoy it outdoors.
Being raised in Santa Monica, I am spoiled with a shop called Bay Cities with the same Italian deli like supermarket so the flavors tasted oddly familiar and I have to say it did not beat it. Bay Cities trumps this place.. BUT if you’ve never had something similar, then it’s a pretty darn good sandwich!
Did you know New Orlean’s signature candy started out as one of America’s earliest street food? It also emancipated black women to make a living during a time when civil rights weren’t even in the picture. The candy is a symbol of a rich black culinary heritage and city tradition. Leah’s Praline is a family owned business since 1944. They use locally sourced ingredients such as Alabama pecans and Louisiana sugar. New Orleans praline has origins that can be traced back to its French heritage, however Louisianians adjusted the traditional recipe to include almonds and cream. There is a wide variety of toppings to choose from and let me tell you, pralines are not cheap! To be honest, I don’t have too biggest sweet tooth so it tasted a bit tooooo sweet for my liking. But definitely go here for the experience, treat yourself to a sweet treat & support a local business!
908 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Legend has it, that the name poor boy, also referred to as po’ boy, comes from the Great Depression era when a sandwich was created to be given free of charge to transit strikers. It’s a must whenever you visit the South. Po’ Boys use French bread and dress it up with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and your choice of meat- shrimp, roast beef, etc. I can’t ever say no to oysters so I go with the fried oyster poboys & it hits the spot every time.
Established in 1905, this family owned restaurant has the best traditional Creole/Cajun dishes. Come here for a nice wholesome bowl of gumbo. P.S did you know the word gumbo originated from the African word okra? Suggesting gumbo was originally made with okras! It’s a melting pot of Louisiana cooking & its one of my favorites! Other dishes I would recommend to try are jambalaya (comparable to Spanish Paella), etouffe, & red beans and rice.
FRENCH TRUCK COFFEE
Chicory, the root of a blue flowered plant is a widely used as an ingredient in NOLA coffee. During the Civil War, Louisianians used chicory coffee as a substitute when the naval cut off the port- leaving people with a coffee shortages. Chicory coffee is commonly used during economic crisis and New Orlean continues this tradition.
WHAT TO DO // SEE
The oldest neighborhood in the city of New Orleans. The French claimed Louisiana in the 1690’s. The streets are named after French Royal houses and Catholic saints to pay homage to France’s ruling family. You can spend all afternoon wandering through the streets and I’d say THE most instagrammable spot in the French Quarter is at the corner of Royal and St. Peter. (location of the photo above!)
TBH, Bourbon street brings out the binge drinker in all of us… HA jk.. This historic street is located in the heart of French Quarters. The entire street embodies the life of the party with neon lights bursting, loud lit music blasting, and beads decorated/ thrown everywhere. At night, it’s packed with Bachelor/ Bachelorette parties, sketchy looking people. Now, it’s certainly not my type of scene, but still fun to observe every once in a while. It’s a VERY entertaining place to people watch 😉 trust me on that.
For solo female travelers, I DO NOT recommend coming here at night by yourself. Always have a buddy or come here in the daytime.
LOUIS ARMSTRONG PARK // CONGO SQUARE
If you need to get out of the French Quarters and go for a nice stroll to work out all the delicious food you’re having in NOLA, this is a great option to walk to. This park is filled with a historical oak trees dripping in lush Spanish moss, a pond filled with adorable ducklings, & lots of benches for you to sit back and relax.
There is an area inside the park called the Congo Square that holds a lot of historical significance. During the 18th century, enslaved Africans were only allowed to congregate and gather in remote public squares on Sundays. This particular square (located right outside the French Quarters) was a place where they could celebrate their African roots and dance together during the oppression.
Take the St. Charles street car for $3 per person and go on a scenic ride to the Garden District. It’s a fun 15 minute “Disneyland” trolley ride! Sometimes the French Quarter can feel a bit overwhelming, so it’s nice to spend an afternoon away from it admiring the charming historical homes in the residential area. P.S if you’re into American Horror Story: Coven, Miss Robicheaux’s Academy filming location is actually at one of the homes in this area, the Buckner Mansion. You can even stay there for a night!
LAFAYETTE CEMETARY NO.1
While you’re visiting the Garden District area, take a moment to step back in time and check out this cemetery. Walking around a cemetery can feel eerily and creepy, but it can also be quite interesting. If you’re someone who is intrigued by ghosts and spirits, this is the place to go and see if you can encounter some of the ghostly energy. Each cemetery has its own “charm and personality” so do your own free walking tours at the various cemeteries in NOLA to observe the different tombs & styles.
JACKSON SQUARE // CATHEDRAL ST. LOUIS
Centrally located in the French Quarters, this is an iconic spot to visit in NOLA. Admire the beauty of the Cathedral sSt. Louis while you soak in some vitamin D at Jackson Square. Aside from the beauty, its a great place to wander around, sit in the courtyard and people watch. Grab some beignets, muffuletta and have a picnic at the square!
TIPS ON AVOIDING TOURIST TRAPS
With over 10 million tourists a year, you are bound to be bombarded with tourist traps and scams here. My best advice is to NOT engage ever or politely decline. Don’t pause when someone approaches you- just keep on walking!
- The Infamous Shoes
This scam makes me laugh! You will 10000% have someone approach you and say “I bet I can tell you where you got your shoes” or “Where did you get your shoes?” Once you respond to their question, you’ve just participated in the bet… So be prepared to pay up! The answer? Buddy you got dem on your feet on Bourbon street (or whatever street you’re on) in New Orleans! HA!
David and I knew about this going into the city, so the moment a man approached him about it David walked away. He actually followed us for a bit and even started to BEND DOWN to touch David’s shoe. Totally crossing the boundary, so be careful!
- Tell me your first name and I bet I can spell your last name!
Someone will most likely come up to you and say, “Bet you $10 if you tell me your first name, I can spell your last name.” So you give them your first name, and then they will LITERALLY spell out “L-A-S-T N-A-M-E” hahah! If you want to play along, go ahead! But remember, you’ll have to pay up at the end!
- Can I borrow your cell phone?
Someone will come up with a fake storyline, “my cell phone ran out of battery, can I borrow your phone?” or “I left my phone at home and need to make an urgent call.” What do you think happens when you hand it over? Hmm.. They run away with it and you’re left phoneless. Nowadays, theres a good excuse to not hand your phone over, um COVID-19, so politely decline and say you’re in a rush.