Situated along the Mississippi River in southeastern Louisiana, New Orleans is often referred to as the United States “Most Unique City”, and for good reason! Nola lets the good times roll with several fun-filled annual festivals and celebrations like Mardi Gras and the Jazz & Heritage Festival that have an international draw. The birthplace of jazz also has an abundance of unique architectural styles that reflect the cities heritage and multicultural roots.
Experience all that Nola has to offer by visiting each of its distinct neighborhoods to peel off another layer. Catch a buzz and grab an Abita or a Hurricane to wander the infamous French Quarter. Keep it classy for high tea and hop on a streetcar along St. Charles Avenue in the dreamy Garden District. Experience the supernatural at the Voodoo Museum or one of the cities above-ground cemeteries. Whether it’s the fabulous creole cuisine, vibrant music scene or its supernatural personality the Big Easy leaves people of all ages and backgrounds wanting more.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Fly to the Louis Armstrong International Airport (MSY), located 11 miles west of downtown New Orleans. Allow 30 minutes drive time to reach your accommodations (if located near the French Quarter/CBD).
Best times to visit are mid-March to May before it gets too hot and muggy.
Sometimes the best way to get adjusted to a city is simply to jump on in! Start your Nawlin’s experience in the French Quarter, the city’s oldest neighborhood that embodies every bit of that Nola charm.
The French Quarter is one of the few places in the United States where possession and consumption of alcohol in open containers are allowed on the street. What does that translate to? One big party. Named for the former ruling dynasty of France and known for its drinking establishments, Bourbon Street or “Rue Bourbon” is home to a number of notable bars with interesting histories.
Don’t let Bourbon Street’s party animal reputation make you lose sight of the French Quarters otherwise well-kept demeanor.
Beginning in Jackson Square, you can’t help but notice St. Louis Cathedral.
Cross the street where horsedrawn carriages are a’plenty to the stairs that lead you to the Mississippi River. If your little heart desires, you can catch a steamboat along the Mississippi River. The Natchez cruises the entire length of the city twice daily.
Turning back to St. Louis Cathedral, look to your right and see the infamous Cafe Du Monde with its incredibly long lines and across the street to see the French Market.
Reach Canal Street and you’re in New Orleans “downtown” area, the Central Business District.
The CBD is home to many luxury hotels, stunning churches, professional offices and shopping malls. Sports Fan? See where Beyonce blacked out an entire stadium during Super Bowl XLVII. Mercedes Benz Superdome is also home to NFL’s New Orleans Saints.
Streetcars have been a part of New Orleans public transportation system since 1835. The longest and oldest continually operating streetcar line is the St. Charles Avenue line. Hop on and enjoy St. Charles Avenue where enormous oak trees shade some of the South’s most beautiful plantation style mansions as you make your way into the Garden District.
The Garden District is an exquisitely refined area that every bit lives up to its name. The antebellum mansions alone made me long for a life that involved me calling one of them home.
If you want to stroll past unique boutique stores and antique shops then Magazine Street is up your alley.
Take advantage of an opportunity to walk on the paranormal side through one of the cities distinct above ground tombs. These above ground cemeteries are an attraction in and of themselves. The oldest of which is Saint Louis No. 1.
Second Line: Let the good times roll and soak up some culture by watching or participating in a Second Line parade. Descendants of the famous jazz funerals, the “first line” is composed of the hosts and those that follow them to join in are the “second line”. The term second line by its very nature invites crowd participation. While they range in size and reason, they always include a brass band and generally bright suits with parasols, hats, bonnets, and banners. A Second Line parade is essentially a moving block party so, in most cases, start dancing and singing and tag along.
Live Music: As the birthplace of jazz, you don’t even need to go into an establishment to hear live music. Chances are you don’t have to travel too far within the French Quarter for the music to reach your ears.
Afternoon Tea: Sip up local tradition and experience New Orleans’ more refined side with a proper afternoon tea. Commanders Palace in the Garden District? Hotel Roosevelt in the CBD? The charming Windsor Court Hotel? There’s no shortage of lovely locations to gather for afternoon tea.
Parades/Festivals: Chances are if you’re there on a weekend, there will be some type of parade. Click here for a list of New Orleans finest festivals and parades.
Le Meridian: I was in New Orleans for a wedding and opted to stay at the Le Meridian on Poydras Street. Location was perfect with great amenities including bicycle rental. Le Meridian was modern, chic, and, comparative to the places around it, fairly inexpensive. Also, for any VanderPump Rules fans – this is the hotel the cast stayed in for Katie and Tom.
Windsor Court Hotel: Stay at the Big Easy’s most gracious luxury hotel and experience the cities finest hospitality, the old New Orleans way. Their recent $22 million restoration takes you back in time and the location can’t be beaten — walking distance to street cars, the French Quarter (5 minutes), and the Shops at Canal Place (3 minutes).
Hotel Monteleone: Standing tall in the heart of the French Quarter, Hotel Monteleone has been standing tall on Royal Street since 1886. Hotel Monteleone is on the premier haunted hotels and one of the last family owned and operated hotels in New Orleans.
Felix’s Oyster Bar: Literally the bomb.com. Acme Oyster House across the street is a fierce competitor with twice the wait. Plus, all of the locals I talked to recommended it. We ordered the Jambalaya, Fried Crawfish Tails, Gumbo and several rounds of oysters. My favorite meal of the trip, hands down.
Cafe Du Monde: Established in 1862 (Civil War period) and known for its beignets and cafe au lait. It is a custom for anyone visiting for the first time to blow the powdered sugar off a beignet and make a wish. Arrive early to avoid long lines!
Central Grocery: The third generation, old-fashioned Italian grocery store founded in 1906 by Salvatore Lupo is home to the original Muffuletta. This place is a must and the muffuletta is perfect for lunch.
Galatoires: Located on Bourbon Street, this fine-dining century-old institution serves French-Creole fare. Galatoires is an upscale space and if you are in New Orleans on a Friday, they’re most known for their Friday Lunch (jackets required).
Commanders Palace: This iconic eatery which has been a landmark since 1893. It’s old-fashioned ambiance and refined Creole fare. While I’m sure this place doesn’t disappoint for a meal, Commanders Palace is best known for its Jazz Brunch. Reservations are highly recommended.
Pat O’Brien’s: One of the French Quarters most famous establishments, known for inventing the red “Hurricane” and for having the first dueling piano bar.
Carousel Bar: Grab a drink for a spin around Carousel Bar in Hotel Monteleone. The hotel has long been a haunted favorite of southern authors like Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. In fact, while at the Carousel Bar, Truman Capote used to boast that he was born in the Monteleone.