New Orleans. There’s so much to do, see, eat, drink, smell, and laugh at. I only had a few days, but tried to get in as much as I could, and while I barely scratched the surface of my to-do list (because let’s go again!), here are the highlights from my first visit to this wonderful city…
My dad and I set out to New Orleans for a long weekend, but made a lunch detour for beachside oysters at Flora-Bama, a charming dive bar/restaurant on the Florida-Alabama state line.
The cajun oysters were my favorite, but the fried pickles, which they call frickles, were de-lish too!
New Orleans has some incredible hotel options, but I ultimately decided to Airbnb it in the Mid-City neighborhood. Our rental was only a few blocks from City Park, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the streetcar line. Known as “The Heart of New Orleans” this neighborhood is totally walkable, full of great restaurants, and French Quarter adjacent. The architecture of the homes and our amazing host allowed us to feel like part of the city, and not just tourists. After getting settled, we grabbed dinner at Liuzza’s, a neighborhood restaurant with a cool, local vibe. My recommendation: the eggplant po’boy. You won’t regret it.
Saturday morning we walked over to Morning Call for beignets and cafe au laits. The crowd was lively, and I liked the cafe’s proximity to the neighborhood park and playground. I know Cafe DuMonde is the be-all-end-all of beignets, but this place had such a nice energy, and the service was impeccable.
I struggled with the sugar shaker and ultimately gave up, which I regret. When you’re on vacation, indulge in too much sugar. Just do it. Also, I went for the iced cafe au lait be OMG Louisiana humidity is NO JOKE. And this is coming from a Floridian, so I am somewhat of an authority on the topic.
Later, we took the streetcar to Jackson Square, which was cool because there were a bunch of palm readers and artists set up along the perimeter. I dug the hustle and bustle of tourists and vendors. We walked around, took the same photos everyone takes there, and decided to visit The Cabildo, a Louisiana State Museum, per the recommendation of our waitress at Liuzza’s.
If you want the whole history of the great city of New Orleans, The Cabildo is your best bet. Three floors house paintings, historic weapons, garments, and so much more. Plus, I could hear street musicians playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” outside while browsing the collection.
Once we educated ourselves on New Orleans history, we popped in a pub for a beer to wait out a quick rain shower, and then made it to Central Grocery for muffuletta. Apparently, this is the birthplace of the Sicilian sandwich, which is comprised of ham, salami, Provolone, Swiss, and house-made olive salad on a 10 inch sesame loaf. You’re going to want to share it with someone because it’s a monster of a sandwich. But so, so good.
So, a hurricane at Pat O’Briens was on my to-do list. The vibe outside was chill, if not a little bro-ish, and I stayed just long enough to catch a song at the piano bar inside. The hurricane is not my drink of choice, but it’s just what you do for your first visit to New Orleans. It turned my mouth red and I couldn’t tell if I was getting tipsy or on the verge of a sugar-induced cardiac arrest, but nonetheless, I drank it.
We strolled through the French Market and stumbled upon the Creole Tomato Festival, which prompted the question: What’s the difference between a Creole tomato, and just a tomato? I have yet to get an answer… but I did pick up a souvenir (also on the list!), a print from a sidewalk artist that is now hanging in my living room.
My favorite stop of the day was somewhat of a happy accident. We walked by the Hotel Monteleone and the Carousel Bar sign caught my eye. I remembered reading about it before the trip, and so we decided to stop in for a drink.
The bar is literally a carousel that spins around all the while serving up locally inspired cocktails, like the Vieux Carre (pronounced VOO-CAR-AY). I ordered one and a Sazerac because it’s the New Orleans thing to do.
The rest of the evening was spent stumbling around the French Quarter (as one does when visiting New Orleans) taking in live music, browsing tacky souvenirs, and drinking less-refined yet just as strong ceremonial cocktails that bear names like the shark attack and hand grenade.
The next morning we sweat out all that alcohol on a walk through the Besthoff Sculpture Garden. It’s next to the NOMA and completely free!
Later in the day, I wanted to check out The Garden District. I love the architecture of New Orleans, and some of these houses are absolutely incredible, in size and detail. Specifically, I wanted to find the Buckner Mansion from American Horror Story Coven, and I did.
Weezer is on tour right now, and as an early Father’s Day gift, I surprised my dad with tickets to their New Orleans Show. It was pretty awesome and openers Panic! At the Disco and Andrew McMahon didn’t disappoint either. But, more on that later. When we finally made it back to MidCity via the scariest cab ever (it smelled and sounded like a lawn mower), we grabbed midnight beignets at Morning Call. I didn’t skimp on the sugar this time…
The next day we were heading out and stopped for a quick tour of Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Tips for visiting a New Orleans cemetery:
1. Wear shoes you can get muddy. Some of the walkways are unpaved and luckily we beat the rain, but had it been wetter, my sandals would’ve been swallowed by mud.
2. Go to a popular cemetery. There are several on the New Orleans map, but some are in really scary neighborhoods. I would recommend Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 because tourists go there, it’s not in a scary part of town, and Commander’s Palace (another NOLA restaurant staple) is right across the street.
3. Plan ahead. The cemeteries have crazy weird hours so it wasn’t until Sunday that we got our act together and made it over there before closing at 3 p.m. On weekends, the hours can be even shorter, so Google hours of operation prior to making the trip.
The thunder was pretty loud and the clouds were rolling in during our visit, which added to the creepy factor. Soon after we left the sky opened up and flooded the streets. It was kind of amazing that the only rain we encountered was on the way out of town.
Overall, I’d say my first trip to New Orleans was a success. I saw a lot, ate a lot, drank a lot, and I can’t wait to do it again.