From time to time friends will ask me for a list of my favorite things to do and places to eat in New Orleans when they are planning to travel there. While I’m not an expert and never lived there, I have visited there quite a few times in the past few years – and honesty it’s one of my favorite places to travel. Maybe I’m biased since Lance and I spent our honeymoon there, but I really do think it’s a fun City with a lot to offer!
Here’s a list of some of my personal favorite things to do and places (or things) to eat in New Orleans and the French Quarter. I’ve got a little bit of everything on the list, weather you are planning a trip there for Mardi Gras or just a fun vacation to a new place.
First things first, The Food:
Beignets and coffee at Cafe Du Monde: Their beignets are really delicious! I don’t like coffee so I haven’t tried it, but the word is that their chicory coffee (particularly the Cafe Au Lait) is to die for. It is right down by the water which is a nice place to walk – or take your coffee across the street to Jackson Square to walk around.
Muffaletta Sandwich: These are classic New Orleans sandwiches with ham, salami, Swiss cheese and olive spread – and they are really good (and this is coming from the girl who doesn’t eat ham or salami, like ever). I had a really good one at Napoleon House when we were there last March – but Central Grocery on Decatur has some too and they are more of a to-go type place versus a sit down.
Po-boys: You can get these most anywhere, they are sandwiches served on a French baguette usually with fried seafood like shrimp, oysters, crawfish etc.
Pat O’Briens: We have eaten there every time we have gone and they have a really delightful patio. I also like that you can get a sampler of some of the classic New Orleans dishes (jambalaya, gumbo, crawfish etoufee, red beans and rice). A major bonus is that they supposedly invented the hurricane, so it’s obviously a wonderful place to try one
Port of Call: This place is a bit of a walk from the French Quarter, over on Esplanade, but well worth it. Not really authentic New Orleans cuisine, but the best burger you will ever eat in your life. It’s in a tiny place that looks like a house, so if you go on a weekend you will wait an hour at minimum. Weekdays are a little better, but make sure you get there a little early. Also definitely try one of their drinks while you are waiting for a table…they are strooong.
Oceana Grill: this is in the heart of the French Quarter, they have a little bit of everything and plenty of classic New Orleans cuisine and they have good prices. They have everything from gumbo to po-boys, to red beans and rice – plus plenty of other interesting dishes. If you like alfredo at all, I highly recommend ordering it for dinner, it’s house-made and really good (I added blackened chicken to mine and it was phenomenal).
Pralines: you can find these at lots of little sweet shops. A lot of places that make them fresh will package them up for you so you can take them with you – a definitely must. At Southern Candy Makers you can taste a free sample before you buy which is always win
Drinks: (only in New Orleans does this deserve its own category)
The Hurricane: is a classic New Orleans drink – Pat O’briens (mentioned above) has some yummy ones and is cool place to hang out on the bar side.
Hand Grenade: You’ll see these all over. They are in long neon green cups and you can find them at all of the Tropical Isle bars. Worth trying but quite sweet (Not my favorite, but Lance loved them).
Abita Beer: This is the local beer brewed in Louisiana. I fell in love with Abita on my first trip to NOLA and get excited if I happen to find any here in AZ. They have a few different varieties that are quite yummy but the strawberry is probably my ultimate favorite.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar: one of the oldest bars in New Orleans – lots of candles and a cool ambiance (they serve Abita here).
The Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone: This was the bar at the hotel Lance and I stayed at on our honeymoon. It’s pretty cool!
There is also a cool piano bar on Bourbon Street – I can’t remember the name of it, but you’ll definitely hear it when you’re walking by since they play plenty of familiar tunes
Tip: In case you didn’t already know, you can carry your drinks with you as you walk down Bourbon Street and sometimes into other bars, just as long as they aren’t glass!
Things to do
Walk around in the French Quarter: Lots of cool shops and eateries. One of my favorite shops to stop in is Marie Laveau’s house of VooDoo – they have all kinds of little trinkets and I believe they do Tarot reading too.
Jackson Square: A cool place to walk around and check out – Around the square you can find St. Louis Cathedral, museums and shops. There are also lots of vendors and artists that have stuff set up around the square which is neat too.
St. Louis Cemetery (no.1): One of the oldest cemeteries in New Orleans. Lots of old above ground graves and you can see the grave of Marie Laveau the Voo Doo Queen and Nicholas Cages family tomb. Be warned that it is a bit of a walk – especially when its hot and humid.
The Garden District: If you head down St. Charles avenue you’ll get to the area with lots of old plantation style homes. They are really cool!
Street Cars: These are an easy way to get down to the Garden District or down to Audubon Park, plus its only like $1.25 to ride it. But if my memory serves me correctly, there is no a/c so it might get a little hot if you’re there in the summer.
Live Music: New Orleans is a great place to enjoy local live music. Lots of bars and clubs have bands that play music from all genres. There are also lots of great places to stop in and hear some Jazz.
Swamp Tour: Okay I have mixed feelings about this one…if you have never seen a swamp or alligators then this would be a fun tour to do. However, if you go in the winter (probably before like April) don’t expect to see any alligators – they hibernate! We were told by the salesman that we would see alligators on the tour when we were buying our tickets for a tour in February…there were none (our tour guide even laughed at us when we asked) in fact the only wildlife we saw was 1 turtle…womp womp.
Hang out on an iconic Bourbon Street balcony: I had to include this because a) It’s New Orleans and b) last time I went this was pretty much my favorite thing ever. I’d recommend going early before they it gets too crowded but keep in mind sometimes it’s a little challenging to find the stairs to get up there. From what I noticed, the bars don’t charge you to be up there, but that might not be the case for Mardi Gras.
Audubon Zoo & Aquarium: If you’re looking for a few other kid friendly things the Audubon aquarium and the Audubon zoo are great places to check out. The zoo is inside Audubon Park, which is a gorgeous park that’s worth a trip all on its own.
If you’re looking for some more information about a few of the places I’ve mentioned, check out my New Orleans trip recaps here!