In September, Rebecca (my college and current roomie) and I traveled to New Orleans, LA. It was our first time in the historic city, and I’m more than certain it won’t be our last. We both took a Thursday off of work to make it a long weekend, and I’m so glad we did! The sights, sounds, people, and food are so incredible. There’s literally nothing like NOLA culture anywhere else. I wanted to share some of our favorite spots and must-dos, especially if you want to pack the entire city into one weekend!
Let me start by saying that Rebecca and I did A LOT of research on food before we left for NOLA. We looked at blogs, articles, Yelp, and consulted with a lot of locals during our time there so that we could hit the best spots possible. Atchafalaya is a local favorite for brunch and was definitely one of ours too. First off, how cute is it?! The interior is even better – high ceilings lined with art. We both ordered shrimp with cream cheese grits and iced coffee. They also have a popular Blood Mary self-serve bar.
Although it’s a super touristy spot, we couldn’t NOT go to Cafe Du Monde for beignets and coffee. We actually went twice – it was where we began and ended our trip! Expect a line – every time we passed the cafe there was a line at least 15 people deep – but they get people in and out quickly since it’s an outdoor cafe. It’s located in Jackson Square so it’s a great spot to pause and enjoy the sights and sounds of the city, especially after so much walking!
NOLA is known for their charbroiled oysters so we had to stop by Drago’s to try some. I’m not a huge oyster person and neither is Rebecca, but we couldn’t eat these fast enough! I guess anything covered in garlic and butter will be amazing. We also got these at a restaurant called Felix’s and they were even better!
We ventured out near Holly Grove for dinner at Jacquis-Imos our second night (pronounced sha-ki-mo. Yeah, we murdered the pronunciation on this one until we got there and heard the waitress say it.) It was definitely my favorite restaurant and meal during our trip. The atmosphere is very cozy and casual, and the food is five-star quality.
I had the mahi and Rebecca had flounder, both were delicious!
On Sunday, we popped into Gumbo Shop for our last dinner. This is a restaurant we chose on a whim and were so glad we did. The Jambalaya is a must! There’s a super cute outdoor area you can eat in, which we passed on because it was SO hot that day.
Jackson Square – I don’t think you can visit NOLA without going through Jackson Square. Beautiful churches, shopping, local artists, outdoor markets, not to mention Cafe du Monde! There’s so much to see, taste and hear. The best part about it was the bands playing on every corner. No matter where you are in the square, you’re surrounded by incredible musicians playing brass instruments and drums. It’s really an experience you can’t get anywhere else.
This is St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest Catholic Cathedral in continual use in the country!
The French Quarter – This area is pretty all-encompassing of NOLA’s culture. So many of the best restaurants, shopping, and music is here. Very often we would stop to take a break from walking and listen to a band playing on the street. Something I couldn’t and still can’t get over is how much music brings people together in this city. Young, old, businessmen and the homeless would sit on the curb together to listen to a brass band or a solo violinist. As someone with a musical background, I couldn’t get enough of it.
The architecture is also incredible. I wish I could have taken a photo of every single building!
Garden District – The one area I wish we could have spent more time in. After brunching at Atchafalaya, we roamed the streets of the Garden District, one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the city – and definitely the most photogenic. There are old Antebellum homes everywhere you turn, many with well-manicured gardens and dramatic entryways. We spotted this beautiful home and couldn’t help but stop to take a few (actually A LOT) of photos. I mean, look at those trees! It’s a picture-perfect street corner.
They may seem touristy, but they’re SO worth it. When you’re in NOLA, take as many different walking tours as you possibly can! We did a cemetery and ghost tour on a whim and absolutely loved both. We had an amazing tour guide for our cemetery tour that was a NOLA native, so he educated us on much more of the city’s history than just the cemetery. I didn’t take any photos on the ghost tour, since the majority was at night, but that was definitely my favorite. Our guide was hilarious and she stopped halfway to let us grab a drink at one of the oldest working bars in the country. For both of these tours – we stopped at Pat Obrien’s first for their famous Hurricane drinks, and took them right across the street to meet our tour guides.
Frenchman Street is an absolute must if you plan on going out at night. I think Rebecca and I were both in awe when we stepped out of our Uber the first night to an actual party in the street. Seriously, we were greeted to a huge brass band playing on the corner, and dozens of people dancing in the middle of the street as cars attempted to drive through. It was so surreal and one of the coolest things we experienced. There are tons of jazz bars, clubs, and amazing open-air art markets strewn with tea lights on this street. It’s an odd but amazing mix of calm and craziness.
Visiting the NOLA Riverwalk to see the Creole Queen and Natchez are a fun activity, especially if you have children. I will say this – try to go in the morning if possible, it’s unbearably hot in the afternoon. We began our walk at the French Market and walked all the way down to Drago’s in the Spanish Plaza for oysters.
The number one experience we had was taking an airboat tour through the bayou. We booked with Airboat Adventures, and honestly I’d go back just to do this again. Tip – pay a little extra for a small boat. It’s only 6-8 passengers as opposed to 15-27 for the large. They take you out farther and for a longer period of time. Our tour guide was amazing, a native who knew a great deal about the swamps and city. He drove us out – and these things go FAST – into the bayou, weaving in and out through the paths. He would stop regularly to talk about the area, and let alligators swim up to the boat to feed them.
At the end of the tour, our guide brought out a baby alligator and let us all take turns holding it. I think my expression here says, “This is awesome” and “PLEASE DON’T BITE ME!” Jokes aside, it was amazing!
How beautiful is this Spanish moss? It was everywhere and created a canopy above the trees.
I could honestly go on forever about this trip. We saw, tasted, and heard so much culturally-unique parts of the city. Not to mention the natives are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. They have so much love for their city, it radiates off of them and makes every experience that much better as a tourist. It’s truly a place like no other in the country, and we both plan on going back soon. If you have any questions about my trip, please don’t hesitate to reach out!