Sunday, November 18, 2018

What to Do in New Orleans: A Travel Guide

Earlier this month, James and I spent a long weekend in New Orleans, James’ favorite city in the U.S. We ate delicious food every day, slept in, explored the different neighborhoods and—of course—partied (aka having two drinks for me, haha). A friend who used to live in New Orleans said she loved the city because "the people see everything as an excuse to have a party." And it was so true! Everyone, even parents with little kids, is down to have a good time late into the night. Being able to walk around town with boozy drinks amidst historic buildings, festive balconies, sweeping front porches and giant hanging ferns around every corner makes the city feel like an adult Disneyland. (It's easy to see, too, how New Orleans inspired Walt Disney so.)

Heading there soon? Here’s a list of what to do in New Orleans.

Where to Eat in New Orleans 


Seaworthy


A hip seafood restaurant, Seaworthy has just the right amount of nautical kitsch and a half-off-oysters happy hour from 4-6 on weekdays to make it a great date spot. We sat in one of their green leather booths and ate a dozen gulf oysters, which are said to be more buttery and less briny than their east coast counterparts. And even though we got a variety of different kinds, they all tasted the same to me: slurpy, salty and delicious. For our main, we shared the shrimp and crab roll served on a perfectly toasted bun. They also have a beautiful outdoor patio, which would be good for groups.

Mahony’s

Mahony's was the first place we ate at after getting off the plane, selected mostly for its convenient location on Magazine Street around the corner from where we were staying, and we’re glad we did. The shrimp and grits came with a tomato/onion jam-thing (amazing) and the shrimp in the po’ boy was plentiful and wonderfully spiced. Mahony’s is comfort food at its best with a casual, homey atmosphere to match.

Cafe Du Monde

The best beignets in the city are a hot debate. People seem equally divided between Morning Call and the infamous Cafe Du Monde. Even though Morning Call has better beignets (yes, I said it, ha!), you have to go to Cafe Du Monde at least once. It’s a beignet institution. Compared to Morning Call, Cafe Du Monde’s beignets have a fluffier, yet somehow denser texture and the batter is a bit bland. However, Cafe Du Monde wins for fast, speedy service and a calm outdoor patio. I also liked that they powder your donuts for you, whereas Morning Call serves their beignets naked so you can sprinkle on as much or as little powdered sugar as you want.

Morning Call 


After trying both places, James and I prefer Morning Call beignets for their texture (thinner and with a crunchier exterior) and taste (lightly sweetened batter). Morning Call’s location in the park, full of moss-covered trees, also can’t be beat. Tip: Word has it that Cafe Du Monde plans to eventually take over the Morning Call lease when it’s up, so eat them while you can!

Mr. B’s Bistro



I was in New Orleans for all of three hours before learning all about Mr. B’s BBQ shrimp. A woman I met at dinner told me it’s her signature dish to make to impress her friends. She even gave me the recipe (with the modifications, of course, to halve the pepper and consider using large shrimp vs. jumbo). Since we were in the French Quarter, we dropped by Mr. B's Bistro for lunch, and I got the infamous shrimp. Not quite what it sounds like, the dish comes with shell-on shrimp served in a bowl of rich, velvety sauce. The bib comes in handy :)

Commander’s Palace



Home of the three-martini lunch, Commander’s Palace has a ladies-who-lunch kind of vibe with a unique edge. Because while there's an enforced dress code and they change your water glass out halfway through your meal, they also serve $0.25 martinis to keep it real. You can have up to three per person! James got the grilled fish of the day (perfectly cooked) and I got the BBQ shrimp (my new favorite dish) over a bed of grits.

Tailgate party


If the Saints are playing, go to a tailgate party downtown. If you aren’t invited to one, be brave and try to befriend some nice people because tailgating in New Orleans is an experience. The city turns into one big party, where the food is just as important as the booze. Our friend showed up at 7 a.m. to set up a spit so he could roast an entire goat! It took 6-7 hours to roast and when it was done he chopped up the meat and made tacos with all the fixings for everyone. Unreal. And to think that I usually just bring bean dip.

What to Do in New Orleans


Ride the Algiers Ferry ⛴ 


From the French Quarter, hop on the Algiers Ferry for a short ride across The Mississippi to Algiers Point, New Orleans second oldest neighborhood. The ride’s worth it just to say you’ve been on The Mississippi, but sleepy Algiers Point has a couple of bars, shops and restaurants, too. Congregation is a cute coffee shop if you’re in need of a refreshment (or bathroom). Tip: the ferry is $2 each way; cash only; exact fare. There’s a change machine by the vending machines if you need it.

Look up at the trees







































It’s a bird, it’s a plane... it’s beads everywhere. Along parade routes like Saint Charles Avenue, the tops of trees are still decorated with beads from past festivities. It’s a fun way to experience the spirit of the infamous parades even when it’s not Mardi Gras. (Saint Charles is also a great place to jump on the old-school streetcar for a fun ride.)

Go to a house party


The main reason we were in New Orleans was for a friend's wedding. “I just wanted to have a big house party,” the groom told me. The bride walked in accompanied by a live brass band, the couple said their vows on their front steps, and all the neighbors came. Afterwards, we ate gumbo and meatballs under twinkle lights and danced in their backyard.

Check out a cemetery


It's a thing. We went to one near where we were staying called Lafayette Cemetery, but they’re all over the city. They’re beautiful and old and make for an interesting afternoon.

Stroll the Garden District


Known for its beautiful homes, the Garden District is a pretty place to walk around and admire New Orleans architecture. I loved seeing all the porches with rocking chairs (and was surprised to see people actually enjoying them).

Listen to live music on Frenchmen Street


Frenchmen Street is like Bourbon Street but without the strip clubs and drinks named after military-grade weapons (hand grenades) and natural disasters (hurricanes) and with more live music. There's also Palace Market, a cute night market where you can shop for handmade gifts.

Visit Pat O'Brien's on Bourbon Street


Most bars on Bourbon, peddling Hand Grenades and scantily clad dancers, seem kinda seedy, but Pat O'Brien's has its own charm. Their big outdoor patio with purple up-lit trees make you feel like you’re in the Pirates of the Carribean ride at Disneyland. And they have a dueling piano bar and Hurricane concoctions because that's what you do in New Orleans.

Bar hop on Magazine Street


More relaxed than the Bourbon or Frenchmen Street scene, Magazine is where the locals go to drink. And if you're over here, you can also grab a bite at Mahony's.

Relax at the Ace


Grab a latte at the adjacent Stumptown or get a drink at the bar, find a spot to sit in the well-appointed lobby and chill out. If you want to people watch, don’t forget to grab a bag of freshly made pop corn from the machine in the front.

Shop at Freda


A beautifully curated women’s boutique with clothes, jewelry, cards and knick knacks from brands like Ace & Jig, Caron Callahan and Samantha Pleet. Tip: For dudes, check out the equally beautiful (and equally expensive) shop a few doors down called Friend.

Want more travel inspiration?
Check out all my travel guides, including things to do in Mexico City and an inside look into living in Mexico City.


(Second image via Mahony's Instagram, third image via neworleansonline.com, fourth image via Food Network, all others taken by me)
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