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 went to the ultimate New Orleans house party. 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 how New Orleans inspired Walt Disney, too.)
Of all of the cities in my Travel Guides, New Orleans stands out as a city that feels like an adult Disneyland.
Heading there soon? Here’s a list of what to do in New Orleans.
Where to Eat in New Orleans
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.
Cafe Du Monde
The best beignets in the city are a hot debate. Many travel guides will have you believe the best beignets are from the infamous Cafe Du Monde. But while Cafe Du Monde is an institution, Morning Call has better beignets by far (yes, I said it, ha!). 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.
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 🙂
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
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.