Now that the holidays are over I always start thinking about places I can travel to escape the late winter blues and one of the happiest places I can think of is New Orleans! The year we spent living there was full of more parties and festivals and parades than most of my life combined. Fun is built into the fabric of that place along with stunning architecture, a rich history, the best people and THE BEST food. Whenever I try to tell this to people who haven't been I realize how many misconceptions there are about it, so I'm here to change minds and hearts and get you on that plane to NOLA by sharing this New Orleans travel guide. You aren't gonna regret it! In fact, it's going to change your life.
This is in no way an exhaustive list, I could truly go on forever about all there is to see/do/eat in NOLA, but this New Orleans travel guide includes my no fail, must-do, FAVORITES. I'll break them down by neighborhood/proximity. Here we go!
The Ultimate New Orleans Travel Guide
The French Quarter
The French Quarter is what makes NOLA famous! It's home to Bourbon Street, live music, Cafe Du Monde and the St. Louis Cathedral. I recommend taking half a day to wander to the streets (Royal is my fave). You won't believe the colors and architecture, flowers and ferns covering the wrought iron balconies, and all of the sites and sounds. Every time I'm there I can't believe it exists in the US. It truly feels like another country or world of its own! If you must stroll down Bourbon, make it quick, since there is soooo much more to see! I also recommend skipping the Cafe Du Monde in the quarter since its so crowded and there are other wonderful locations that are much more relaxing. Instead, opt for getting a candy apple at Mister Candy Apple. Be sure to stroll the French Market and and pic up a few fun souvenirs from the vendors and artisans there! And, for even more live music, make a visit to Preservation Hall, a storied institution of New Orleans jazz.
Mid Town New Orleans is home to City Park, a massive park that is 50% bigger than Central Park! You could spend all day wandering the grounds, taking in the thousand year old live oaks, and exploring all the park has to offer (Botanical Gardens, playgrounds, Storybook Park, an amusement park and so much more!). To get your beignet fix, we love the Cafe Du Monde in City Park. You can't beat the setting and you'll skip all the chaos of the French Quarter location. One of our favorite parts about City Park is the free sculpture garden in the park that is part of the NOMA which is also located in the park. There is nothing better than a morning of beignets and strolling through the garden. You won't forget it! Finish off the day with a visit to our favorite BBQ place in NOLA, Blue Oak BBQ, just minutes from the park. You can eat on the patio all year long!
We were lucky enough to live in Uptown and I could not be more in love with the area. Riding the street car along St. Charles Avenue is a must do! Hop on around Oak Street and ride it past (or hop off at) Audubon Park (feed the ducks along the walkway or stop at Audubon Zoo!), Tulane University and see the many stunning southern mansions that line the street. Then, hop off at the iconic Commander's Palace in the Garden District for a taste of NOLA that you can't get anywhere else! Better yet, visit Commander's on a Saturday morning for their Jazz brunch where a jazz brand will serenade you while you dine, complete with a second line around the restaurant! Or, if you're looking for somewhere more casual, I still dream about Turkey and the Wolf's grilled cheese with collard greens! Or, you can hop back on the street car and head back to Oak Street where you can wander the shops and eat at Jacques Imos, a super eclectic, beyond delicious cajun restaurant and try their famous alligator cheesecake! Finish it off by heading over for a NOLA snoball at Plum Street Snoballs where they make all of their syrups from scratch!
Magazine street is a major thoroughfare through New Orleans that follows the curve of the Mississippi River for 6 miles! The street is full of art galleries, unique boutiques and top rated restaurants. There is so much to love on Magazine, but some of my favorite stops include Creole Creamery, Lionheart Prints, Fleurty Girl Boutique, Picnic Provisions, District Donuts, and Tito's Ceviche.
Aside from its French and Cajun influences, what makes New Orleans a world of it's own is the swamp. Heading out on a swamp tour is a must, particularly in the warmer months when the gators are just waiting to greet you! We did Cajun Pride Swamp Tours several times and they were always a hit. Or, if you'd rather interact with the swap first-hand, visit the Barataria Preserve, party of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park. You can walk along a boardwalk for miles, right through the swamp, and see all kinds of wildlife, including plenty of gators!
New Orleans is so full of interesting neighborhoods, iconic events and amazing food that I feel like I need 20 more posts to talk about my favorite pizza in Biwater, the experience of visiting Mother's Downtown, magical evenings watching the paddle boats the Mississippi River, and of course Mardi Gras, but for now, this is a great start to getting a taste of New Orleans. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
We hope this New Orleans travel guide is helpful! Have you visited NOLA? What were YOUR favorite parts?