Everything to Enjoy in New Orleans, Louisiana
It’s Time to Get Jazzy in New Orleans
New Orleans makes it possible to go to both Europe and the Caribbean without ever leaving the United States. This is something that President Franklin D. Roosevelt said many years ago and I couldn’t agree more. New Orleans is a city filled with an expanse history, rich culture, jazz music, beautiful architecture, amazing food, charming courtyards and adventure.
During President’s Day Weekend in 2015, my friend Courtney and I did a long-weekend girls’ trip to “The Big Easy” since it had been one of my top bucket list cities for the United States. We traveled to New Orleans in late February to escape the cold Northeastern weather and avoid the humidity the Gulf area tends to carry during the summer months. It was also a perfect time to go there as the famous Mardi Gras celebrations were coming to an end and the rise of St. Patrick’s Day parties were commencing.
I always love reminiscing on past trips that I loved! Get ready to discover all of the best things to do during a long weekend getaway to New Orleans.
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Flights: New Orleans is the perfect city to visit if you are traveling through the United States; looking for a southern escape or are celebrating a special event. If you are traveling domestically to New Orleans, you can find decently-priced flights through Skyscanner! You could also do a road trip to New Orleans, but it is recommended that you rent a car so that you don’t use up miles on your own vehicle.
Hotels: There are a plethora of different hotels to choose from in New Orleans. There is also a wonderful selection of Airbnb options as well. If you are planning a trip to New Orleans, I highly recommend staying in the French Quarter, Business District, Warehouse District or Garden District because they are the safest and offer the best dining options and adventure.
Best Places to Go Out:
The Columns Hotel (Garden District): The Columns Hotel is the perfect place to begin your night in New Orleans. Located in an elegant Victorian house that was built in the 19th century, you could sip your favorite drinks on the outside porch that overlooks the famous St. Charles Street or enjoy your beverage inside at The Victorian Lounge.
The Spotted Cat (Faubourg Marigny): During your time in New Orleans, you HAVE to go to a jazz bar on Frenchmen Street. Located east of the French Quarter, this three-block section of New Orleans features some of the city’s most popular live jazz music venues. You could even enjoy music on the streets (what I love most about New Orleans). The Spotted Cat is a great place to go and everyone is so friendly!
Pat O’Brien’s Bar (French Quarter): Located in the heart of the French Quarter, Pat O’Brien’s is one of New Orleans’ most popular bars. It has a heavy Irish influence and features five bars, a piano lounge and a courtyard restaurant.
A visit to Pat O’Brien’s Bar or New Orleans in general is not complete without trying the famous Hurricane drink. This delicious concoction features Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane Rum, their secret Hurricane Mix, crushed ice and garnished with an orange and cherry. While we were at Pat O’Brien’s, their staff were super friendly and even offered to give us the famous Hurricane glass that we drank in to take home as a souvenir.
Le Bon Temps Roule (Garden District): Located in New Orleans’ Garden District is the famous Magazine Street that is filled with colorful homes, cute shops, great cafés and restaurants as well as fun bars. Courtney and I stopped at a neighborhood bar called Le Bon Temps Roule, where we were able to enjoy local music, delicious craft beer and the company of people’s dogs! (Yes, it is a pet-friendly bar.)
Places to Eat:
Café Amelie (French Quarter): Located on the charming Royal Street in the French Quarter is Café Amelie. This beautiful courtyard restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy a weekend brunch. I enjoyed a delicious breakfast Po’ boy, a traditional Louisiana sandwich that usually consists of seafood on a French baguette.
Café du Monde (French Quarter): If you are looking for a mid-afternoon snack, I highly recommend making your way to Café du Monde – the original French Market coffee stand since 1862. This famous New Orleans café is known for its beignets, which are a French donut (similar to an Italian zeppole that you get at street fairs and carnivals); café au lait; freshly-brewed coffee and live jazz music. You can either sit in the café and leisurely enjoy your treats or take it to go. The line to actually sit in Café du Monde is fairly long, but it goes quick!
Bacchanal Wine (Bywater): During an evening in New Orleans, you cannot miss out on the experience that Bacchanal Wine offers. This hidden gem is a laboratory and garden where food, music and culture collide to create one of the most magical nights you will experience when you are visiting New Orleans. Please note that Bacchanal Wine is further east and located in a more secluded area than the main New Orleans’ attractions, but it is totally worth the adventure there.
When we arrived, we walked through the wine shop to the beautiful courtyard in the back. Walking to the courtyard was like walking through Disney World! Christmas lights surrounded us and the best live jazz music was playing in the background. When we sat down, an amazing jazz band called The Roamin’ Jasmine started to play. I have to say that they were probably one of the best jazz bands I heard during my time in Louisiana. During your getaway in New Orleans, make sure to check out their schedule and catch them playing. You will not be disappointed!
Not only was the wine at Bacchanal amazing, but so was the food too! I had clams in a potato leak parsley sauce with a fresh piece of French baguette on the side. It was delicious!
Remoulade (French Quarter): When you are in New Orleans, you definitely need to try some authentic Cajun and Creole food. (Cajuns were French colonists who settled in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Canada who made their way down to Louisiana. Creoles were individuals born in New Orleans with French, Spanish, African and/or Caribbean ancestry.) For lunch one day, Courtney and I stopped at Remoulade on Bourbon Street. I had delicious seafood gumbo as an appetizer and then a traditional jambalaya with chicken, gulf shrimp, honey ham and Andouille sausage. On the side, I tried crawfish pie (a New Orleans staple). It was the best!
Muriel’s (French Quarter): If you are looking to enjoy a fancy dinner during your time in New Orleans, Muriel’s is the place for you. Located in Jackson Square, embrace the history at Muriel’s and savor award-winning contemporary Creole food! (If you are looking to be even more adventurous, book your table with Muriel’s ghost. I go more into this below when I talk about the ghost tour.)
Surrey’s Café and Juice Bar (Garden District): Located on Magazine Street, in the heart of the Garden District, is Surrey’s Café and Juice Bar. It is here where you could enjoy a lovely Cajun breakfast on the porch and get wonderful views of the colorful homes on Magazine Street.
Arnaud’s (French Quarter): Another wonderful restaurant to eat at during your time in New Orleans is Arnaud’s. Celebrating 100 years on Bourbon Street, Arnaud’s is a beautiful restaurant offering classic Creole cuisine that will leave you dreaming for days. Besides offering great food, Arnaud’s also has Dixieland Jazz, romantic dinners and craft cocktails.
Things to Do:
Stroll through Jackson Square: As you are exploring New Orleans, head over to the historic Jackson Square, which is located in the heart of the French Quarter. Jackson Square faces the iconic Mississippi River and is surrounded by historic buildings, including the St. Louis Cathedral, Louisiana State Museums and the Lower and Upper Pontalba Apartments (the oldest apartment buildings in the United States).
In addition, Jackson Square has been a place where local artists tend to gravitate and create beautiful paintings, portraits and caricatures. They display their work on the square’s iron fence. What is awesome is that you can even purchase these colorful paintings to display in your own home!
Grab a Drink at a Piano Bar on Bourbon Street: No matter what time of the day it is, the bars on Bourbon Street are always open. With New Orleans’ liberal policy on open containers, you could grab a drink at a bar and stroll the streets with your cup or bottle. As you are making your way around Bourbon Street, make sure to stop in one of the piano bars! Not only could you listen to beautiful music played by professional pianists, you could also enjoy a voodoo daiquiri.
You heard that right! Since daiquiris and voodoo are big staples in New Orleans, I wanted to make sure I got one when I was in the city. There have been many misunderstandings of the practice of voodoo. Most people think voodoo is bad, but it actually isn’t! Originated in Haiti by West African slaves who were forced to convert to Roman Catholicism, voodoo refers to an assortment of cultural elements: personal creeds, folk medical practices, stories and songs.
Visit the Mardi Gras Museum: Right around the corner from Bourbon Street is the Germaine Cazenave Wells New Orleans Mardi Gras Museum. It is free and you can walk through and view lavish Mardi Gras costumes. The museum also features vintage photographs, Carnival masks, jewelry and more.
Get Some Goodies at the French Market: Spanning six blocks in the French Quarter of New Orleans is the famous French Market. Founded as a Native American trading post, it is the oldest market of its kind in the United States. It is at the French Market where you could get fresh produce, beautiful flowers, clothing, jewelry, home décor and so much more. There are also food stands and a farmers market where you could buy delicious King Cake (a New Orleans favorite)!
Say Hello to the Alligators: One of the most fun and thrilling adventures during my time in New Orleans was the bayou tour where we had the chance to see alligators. We found a great tour where they picked us up on a bus at our hotel and took us to the bayous of Eastern Louisiana/Western Mississippi.
During the month of February, Louisiana is around 70 degrees. After you arrive at the bayou, there will be an airboat waiting for you. I remember being extremely excited and happy to go on a boat in the sun and was also excited to see an alligator in person for the first time!
The tour was approximately two hours and we rode all throughout the beautiful bayous that feature Spanish moss and exotic wildlife. As we got deeper into the bayou, we started to see the alligators. They were either chilling in the water or hanging out in the brush. We were able to get close enough to take a few pictures, but not too close! There was even a point where our tour guide grabbed a baby alligator from the brush and we were able to pet it. I was obviously freaked out at first, but then realized that the babies don’t bite… yet!
Get Spooked Out By Doing a Ghost Tour: On our last full night in New Orleans, Courtney and I signed up to do a ghost tour around the French Quarter. The tour was around two hours long and we got to see some of the most haunted places in the United States.
The first stop on the tour was the Old Ursuline Convent, which is the oldest building on the Mississippi River. Catholicism is deeply rooted in New Orleans and it was the Ursuline Nuns who were the first women to brave the New World. They turned the Convent to a place where young girls from France would come over to become wives to men who had settled in the area. The girls would reside in the convent before finding their husband. There have been folklore stories of these girls arriving in caskets and becoming vampires. Some of the girls have boarded the ships and did not arrive in the New World. It is unknown what happened to them.
Our next stop on the ghost tour was to the LaLaurie Mansion, otherwise known as one of the most haunted houses in America. The origin of the ghostly tale dates back to the early 1800’s when Dr. Louis LaLaurie and his wife Delphine moved into their Creole mansion on Royal Street in the French Quarter. This horrifying house recounts the brutal execution of slavery by Madame LaLaurie. For close to 200 years, there have been reports of paranormal activity coming from the LaLaurie Mansion.
After hearing the gruesome story behind the LaLaurie Mansion, we all needed a drink. Our next stop on the ghost tour was to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, the oldest and most haunted bar in the United States. Located on the corner of Bourbon Street and St. Phillip Street, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop went through two big fires and the building is known to be the base for Jean Lafitte and brother Piere’s Barataria smuggling operation. While you are on the tour, you can grab a drink and sit down.
We toured a few other smaller places before ending at Muriel’s restaurant in Jackson Square. Prior to Muriel’s becoming a fine-dining restaurant, this house held slaves before going up for auction. Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan ended up purchasing the home. He later lost the house in a poker game and committed suicide on the second floor that once served as the slave quarters. This area is where Muriel’s Séance Lounge is situated today. It is said that Pierre is still with the restaurant today in spirit. The Séance Lounge is where he spends the majority of his time. There are other spirits roaming around the restaurant, but Pierre is the restaurant’s main resident. The ghosts are harmless and you can even pay $50 to eat at the “ghost” table. Our tour guide informed us that when you eat at that table, the spirit makes sure you have the best meal of your life!
Admire the Adorable Homes on Magazine Street: As I have mentioned a few times throughout this blog post, Magazine Street in the Garden District is full of colorful and charming homes that you will want to admire for days! In addition, Magazine Street also has cute shops to buy souvenirs, adorable outfits and even Mardi Gras beads!
Get Lost in Audubon Park: Situated at the end of the Garden District is the famous Audubon Park. It is here where you could take a stroll through beautiful Spanish moss. There is also a golf course, zoo, aquarium and botanical gardens. Across from the park is Tulane University and Loyola University of New Orleans. They are both beautiful universities that you could also take tours through.
Enjoy a Steamboat Ride Along the Mississippi River: If you are walking on Decatur Street, definitely head over to the waterfront to enjoy the view of the steamboats sailing by. If you have the time, definitely take a steamboat tour or even enjoy a brunch or dinner cruise along the Mississippi!
Take the City Streetcar: Another fun thing to do in New Orleans is take the tram (streetcar) around the city. It is a great way to see New Orleans and it is definitely the most affordable way to get around. There are three different lines for the streetcars (St. Charles, Canal Street and the Riverfront). Each will take you through the most charming areas of New Orleans.
I hope you all enjoyed reading about my time in New Orleans and discovering the perfect things to do during a long weekend getaway. If you have any questions about my time in New Orleans, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, contact me via social media or leave a comment below.
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