New Orleans is as awesome as you have heard. We went with a group of friends, which I think is how you’re supposed to experience New Orleans. But in our true fashion, we went and saw a lot of stuff on our own as well.
If you like weekend trips, check out my other Weekend Trips!
We went to New Orleans at the end of May. It was hot! And humid as hell. We stayed in the French Quarter at Dauphine Orleans Hotel. It’s on the edge, at the perfect spot if you want to be close to the action, but not up all night from the noise.
The French Quarter
The first thing we did was explore the French Quarter, of course. The French Quarter has lots of Creole Cottage- and Townhouse-style homes.
The style is iconic and I love it. Living in NYC, you get so used to tall, skinny, all-glass buildings. This style was a welcome culture change. The French Quarter also has tons of art vendors, a great music scene, ridiculous gimmicky night life, beignets, breweries and everything you want for a weekend trip.
You could easily enjoy New Orleans without leaving the French Quarter. But where’s the fun in that?
The Garden District
We jumped on a classic streetcar to check out the Garden District.
Our destination was District Donuts Sliders Brew, but the journey there was a big part of why we chose District Donuts. This area has incredibly beautiful homes. Each home was different, which I loved, and colorful. They had huge wrap around decks, or intricate woodwork, or custom shaped windows. Walking through that area, I thought, I could live here. I didn’t take pictures of people’s houses because I felt weird about that. But the donuts were great!
We also had coffee here with chicory. I’m a big fan!
Another area that is a must is where Tulane University is. The streetcar adventure there goes by mansion after mansion. Homes much bigger and more spread out than in the Garden District. The buildings on Tulane‘s campus are not that interesting, but the campus itself is very nice. They have a tree full of mardi gras beads (these are also all over the neighborhoods, but nothing this extensive).
This tree made the trip to Tulane’s campus worth it. I just thought it was very cool.
Across from Tulane University is Audubon Park. The park is huge and has a well-established walking path.
It was soooo hot. Along the way, we got slushies because we may have actually died if we didn’t. A woman in a truck sold them and they were cheap. Life savers! We really liked this park, despite the heat.
Food & Fun
The best part of New Orleans to me is the food. The food was fantastic. I was worried as a vegetarian, but had no problem at all. You have to eat the gumbo, the jambalya, the beignets, the crawfish, red beans and rice….they’re all good. Neal ate all of them with pleasure. I couldn’t find veggie jambalya, but that’s forgiven. Just like everyone else, we recommend the Gumbo Shop.
If you’re feeling adventurous, I suggest taking an uber to the Sneaky Pickle. It’s all vegan.
It looks extremely sketchy, and the looks of the neighborhood don’t help–it was beaten by Katrina and it’s still not back to pre-storm. It’s also an impoverished area, but I thought it had some character. The houses were similar to the Garden District, but smaller. Most importantly, the food here is amazing. I can’t recommend it enough. Our uber driver on the way back took us through the neighborhood instead of the main road. He told us about the race and class dynamics. He was very interesting. When we got back to the French Quarter, he pointed to the famous flea market and said “They used to sell slaves there.” It was a somber reminder of the not-so-distant past.
Speaking of the Flea Market, it is, in my opinion, not worth the trouble. It’s easy to get to, but you’re swimming through crowds and the goods looked like all junk. There’s probably some good stuff you can find in there, but I feel like you have to be a local to do it.
You have to go to Preservation Hall if you’re in New Orleans. It’s a great place to watch jazz. You do sit on the floor, though. There’s also lots of piano bars with dueling pianos. They are so much fun! You can also check out Lafitte Blacksmith Shop Bar, which is famed as the oldest building being used as a bar in the United States. It’s dark and the drinks suck, but cool!
Want to do something kind of different? Take a Graveyard Tour! We toured St. Louis Cemetery. New Orleans is known for its approach to burying its dead.
It is so hot in New Orleans that bodies decompose very quickly. So they shove someone in, and in a few weeks, they can put someone else in!
In each square, they can fit 250 people. It’s an economic way to ensure generations of families have a place to rest. Nicolas Cage bought a grave stone in this cemetery! I thought this was pretty cool.
There are so many other things to do in New Orleans! You should spend a night on Bourbon Street, check out other neighborhoods, go to museums, etc., etc. There’s also something called “Sproca-Cola,” a drink with Cola, espresso and chocolate milk… But this is a good start if you only have a weekend. Don’t forget to eat everything and enjoy the unique culture. Drink lots and lots of water. Neal actually fainted while we were waiting in line to get food. We will absolutely go back.
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