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A Complete Guide to Your Next New Orleans Trip

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

New Orleans is the favorite American city of anyone who has been there. Its culture and food are rich, there is music on every corner, and the people are an incredible mixture of resilient and welcoming. For better or for worse - from the moment you touch down in the Big Easy you're inevitably and irrevocably lost in the vibe. It's all too easy to forget about your problems and enjoy yourself.


There's a wide range of atmospheres in this city. Younger visitors typically enjoy spending way too much time in the chaos of Bourbon Street, while tourists in the more mellow stages of their life might prefer a fine dining experience somewhere like Commander's Palace.


I wrote this blog as part of my process for planning our 5th triennial Saint Patrick's Day trip in New Orleans. We have 40 people going this year. And we've never had a problem keeping everyone in the group entertained. Because New Orleans has something for everyone.

New Orleans Skyline

Table of Contents for skimmers:


 

The Neighborhoods


New Orleans map


The French Quarter


The French Quarter was all of New Orleans for about 70 years, before the surrounding “suburbs” developed and it's now considered the downtown area of the city. Beautiful, historic, and with most of the main attractions, the Quarter is a great place to stay and where you’ll inevitably find yourself spending most of your time.


Bourbon Street


Bourbon Street is not actually a neighborhood, but a street inside of the French Quarter. This 13-block area is lively, particularly entertaining, and enjoyable to walk through around 9:00 PM, after everyone has recovered from the night before, hopped up on Hurricanes and living their best lives, but before 11:00 or so, when the pukers come out and sway the vibe. But honestly sometimes it's like that during the day, too:

After the initial novelty of Bourbon Street goes away, the lines are still long, drinks and food are expensive and low-value, and it's touristy. Bourbon Street has an important place in every NOLA trip but don't make the rookie mistake of spending too much of your time here.


Frenchman Street


Again, not a neighborhood, but a street in the 7th Ward. Frenchman is how you imagine Bourbon Street would be before you actually go to Bourbon Street. The party is here, but so is the heart of the real New Orleans - the music, the art, the vibes - with 80% less trash. You can see better music here, the lines aren’t crazy, the bathrooms are less flooded, and it's an all-around better way to spend your night. And sometimes Luke from the OC is there for a bachelor party:

Luke from the OC

My recommended ideal NOLA evening would incorporate the above 3 areas, as so: Dinner in the French Quarter, a post-game stroll through Bourbon Street, and the night cap and music by Frenchman until bedtime.


Treme


Considered by many to be ground zero of New Orleans culture, Treme is recognized as America's oldest African-American neighborhood. It's known for its jazz clubs and soul food, as well as the HBO series, Treme, which I haven't seen.


Garden District


Magazine Street is the main draw here, but the Garden District also has historic mansions, the Leafy Lafayette Cemetery, boutiques, antique shops, and fine-dining restaurants. Anne Rice has a beautiful house here that's worth a stop if you're walking by.


 

The Restaurants

  • Note that many of these are visited on the food tours so that's a good way to try them before you commit

  • Here is my NOLA Yelp list in case you’re walking around trying to find somewhere.

Antoine's restaurant, New Orleans

History: New Orleans’ oldest restaurant was founded by a French immigrant in 1840, and has managed to survive the Civil War, both World Wars, Prohibition, the Great Depression and Hurricane Katrina.


The Experience: The rooms are decorated uniquely and extravagantly, with photographs of notable musicians, politicians, military personnel, sports figures, royalty, including George Bush, Bill Clinton, Franklin Roosevelt, Pope John Paul II, Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise, Kate Hudson, Jimmy Buffet, Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby, etc. If it's not too busy the staff will take you on a quick tour by request.


Culinary Specialities: Birthplace of culinary classics such as the Rockefeller Oysters, Eggs Sardou (poached eggs over artichoke bottoms with anchovies, topped with hollandaise sauce), and Pommes de Terre Soufflées (marvelous puffed potatoes that Antoine’s helped popularize).


The Menu:


Not super cheap but standard pricing for an upscale NOLA restaurant, with entrees ranging form $30-$50 (see menu). They do have $38 3-course Jazz Brunch menu 10:30AM - 2:00PM on Sunday and a $45 3-course Coolinary Dinner menu every night


Tujagues restaurant New Orleans dining room

History: Pronounced like “Two Jacks' ', this historical restaurant claims “the birthplace of brunch.” Their founders are obviously French, hailing from Bordeaux. At 160 years of age, this restaurant has also survived decades of war, depression, fire and plague to bring you uninterrupted culinary pleasure. In the mid-20th century Tujagues became a clubhouse for politicians and the general fancy population of the town.


The Experience: Tujaques is an upscale, elegant dining experience with an authentic, 160-year type of atmosphere. It's also known to be haunted, which levels it up, depending on what you're into.


Culinary Specialities: Their signature dishes have traditionally been the spicy shrimp remoulade and boiled beef brisket, but more recently, the the chicken bonne femme has made a name for itself as an off-menu special order. So if this sounds interesting make sure you ask your server to hook you up. More recently they have added some other signatures, as well: blackened fish and jambalaya.


The Menu: They have an al a carte brunch menu, a 3-course Coolinary menu for $45, and a 5-course dinner menu is about $70. I’m not sure if they do al a la carte dinner or not.


Country Club New Orleans outside view

History: As far as I can tell, there is no real history to this place other than its in New Orleans and is over 40 years old.


The Experience: I've only been for the drag brunch experience and it's super fun. Like a drag brunch experience. If you’re uncomfortable being seduced by a overtly gay men dressed up as women you won’t like it, if you’re not, you will.

Culinary Specialities: The drag brunch was great, with basic southern breakfast items, but I don't think there are any “specialities” here.


Menu: Drag Brunch Saturday and Sunday 10:00AM and 1:00AM


St Roch Market New Orleans

More like a fancy food hall, this place is great if you want casual dining with lots of options, without having to sacrifice quality. Local chefs create innovative and varied food in 11 restaurant stations, centered around award-winning craft cocktail bar, The Mayhaw.


Cafe Du Monde New Orleans

History: The Original Cafe Du Monde Coffee Stand was established in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market, a traditional coffee shop, and hasn’t veered too far from its roots. It's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week - closing only for Christmas Day and the occasional Hurricane. The workers are ready to serve beignets and cafe-au-lait-all-day for the earlier-risers, as well as the late-nighters.

Cafe Du Monde New Orleans Beignets and coffee

Culinary Specialties & The Menu: The menu consists of dark roasted Coffee and Chicory, Beignets, White and Chocolate Milk, and fresh squeezed Orange Juice. The coffee is served Black or Au Lait. If your French is rusty, Au Lait means that it is mixed half and half with hot milk. Beignets are square French -style doughnuts covered with powdered sugar. In 1988 Iced Coffee was introduced to the cafe. Soft drinks also made their debut that year but nobody cares about soda.


If you need to bring something back to someone and they’re a coffee drinker or a pastry enthusiast this is the spot.



Commander's Palace is located across from the Lafayette Cemetery in Garden District and has been a New Orleans landmark since 1893.

Commander's Palace New Orleans Restaurant

It's super not cheap. But if you have cash burning a hole or a new SO that you want to impress, this is the go-to destination for Haute Creole cuisine and whimsical Louisiana charm, and the tasting menus are impressive. They've won seven James Beard Foundation Awards and is a NOLA culinary legend.



This place is a little off the beaten path (in the 9th Ward) and I think we ran into it by accident the first time we went there but we definitely seek it out now. They don't have much info on the website but they describe themselves as "an experience laboratory where food, music & culture collude with Holy Vino to create the most unique evenings you will ever experience in New Orleans Ninth Ward."


This is how I describe it: You walk into what looks like a run down liquor store from the outside -

Bacchanal Food Wine & Spirits New Orleans Restaurant exterior

and then on the inside it looks like a cute-but-dusty artisanal wine and spirits shop -

Bacchanal Food Wine & Spirits New Orleans Restaurant interior

you pick out some drinks and some cheeses and they “plate it" (make it into a cheese board) with olives, pickles, toasted bread, chutney, mostarda & seeds. Then you go outside, where it gets even cuter -

Bacchanal Food Wine & Spirits New Orleans Restaurant back patio

and watch live music and hang out. Great place to chill out before a big night, or after a long weekend.


Some restaurants that I came across and plan to try when I go in March but haven't been to yet:


The Vessel - Restaurant in a church.

Brennan’s - Famous for the Foster Freeze

Court of Two Sisters - Jazz Brunch buffet 7 days a week 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM

The Bower - Don’t remember where I found this one but it looks good

N7 NOLA - French wine bar that was a horse carriage stable, then a tire shop

Lolas - Came across this on a food show - cute, chic southern outdoor seating vibe

Gris Gris - New Orleans Magazine's "Best Balcony", "Best Happy Hour", and "Best Brunch," and the chef is a badass-looking vet dude

Paladar 511 - Really cool-looking open kitchen concept

 


The Bars



The famed Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop was built between 1722 and 1732 by Nicolas Touze, making it the oldest bar in New Orleans, and also one of the oldest surviving structures in New Orleans. It's known to be haunted, but regardless of the paranormal activity, it's got that look and feel. The entire place was legit candle-lit until about 8 years ago when they hooked up some wires, but they still use candles as the only source of lighting - they're just electric candles now. There is a piano in the back, that is often the center of the energy there, after hours when aspiring or professional pianists get that liquid courage.

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop New Orleans Bar

History: Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop gets its name from Jean Lafitte, a pirate, born either in France or the French colony of Saint-Domingue. By 1805, he operated a warehouse in New Orleans to help disperse the goods smuggled by his brother Pierre Lafitte. After the United States government passed the Embargo Act of 1807, the Lafittes moved their operations to an island in Barataria Bay, Louisiana. By 1810, their new port was very successful; the Lafittes pursued a successful smuggling operation and also started to engage in piracy.


Lafitte went from pirate to hero during the War of 1812 when he helped Andrew Jackson defend the city of New Orleans from capture at the hands of the British. Walking around the city, you’ll notice landmarks, buildings, and I think even a park named after him.


Haunted: Apparently Lafitte still spends a lot of time at the shop. When spotted, he is usually on the first floor near the indoor fireplace, but he’s never interacted with anyone. He just stands in the dark corners, staring at people until he is noticed, and then disappears into the shadows. There is also a female ghost upstairs and, in line with stereotypes, she's more talkative - known on occasion to whisper people’s names into their ears. Lastly, people have seen pairs of red eyes staring at them from corners of the bar. According to the experts these are not ghosts but "demonic hauntings."


The Menu: They have regular bar stuff here but no one cares because they have the Voodoo Daiquiri - the only alcoholic drink that I would still drink if it didn't have alcohol in it. It's $10, 20-oz, tastes like a grape popsicle, and will freeze your brain but warm your heart.



Yes, it's Tujague again. We usually end up here 3-4x per trip so you'll learn how to pronounce it at some point.

Tujague's New Orleans Bar

History: The Tujague’s bar holds title to more than one of the NOLA superlatives, laying claim as one of the oldest bars in New Orleans, the oldest stand-up bar, and with its behind-the-bar mirror said to be older than the United States itself.


The Menu: The mirror is amazing but Tujague’s bar is better known by me for the masterpiece that it introduced to the world: the Grasshopper - a minty, creamy, more-like-a-dessert drink that will blow your mind. Read more about the history here, or just do a food tour and learn IRL.


Tujague's New Orleans Bar bartender pouring a grasshopper


"The only carousel that you have to be 21 to ride." Very charming circular 25-seat bar that has been spinning around in the center of the venue for 70 years. It's inside Hotel Monteleone and they have live music from 5:30 - midnight most nights and when it's not super crowded it's a great place to post up for a drink.


Bayou Beer & Wine Garden New Orleans Bar

These guys are off the main drag, in Mid City, and you'll definitely feel like you're going the wrong way at some point in your journey there, but they're fun patio spaces to hang out and eat crawfish and charcuterie (drinking foods), and if you're looking for a lot of wine and beer options, or an atmosphere where you can move around and play lawn games. Last time I was there they had a cornhole tournament going on.



 

Tours & Points of Interest


Food Tours: The food tours in New Orleans are great. They’re usually 4 hours, about $100, and full of history, and seriously full of food (some alcohol).


Haunted Tours: These are fun. New Orleans’ dark history is real, whether you believed in ghosts or not, so if nothing else it's a dark history tour. They usually run about $80 and take place at 10:00 PM.


Big Daddy’s Garden District Tour: This tour was a big hit at one time but has lost some of its mystique, as the original tour guide has aged and his zest for life and energy levels have suffered. Still available on request, and I think it would fit in well with the self-guided bike tour day that we usually do.


Lafeyette Cemetery Tour: This is the cemetery from the film Double Jeopardy with Ashley Judd. I think Christopher Walken also took acid here in a movie about hippies going on motorcycle rides but Vendetta is all that comes up when I search "Christopher Walken New Orleans." It's also in His Honor. If you haven't done the official tour 5x like me you should put it on your hitlist, but it's also another good candidate for a bike tour day drive-by.


Swamp Tours: This is kind of a whole day, but definitely recommended if you’re here for more than just the weekend, or can fit it in with a plantation tour. You take one of those fan boats into the swamp and can hold baby alligators.

New Orleans Plantation tour - woman holding baby alligator

Plantation Tours: Highly recommended if you haven't done these a few times. Oak Alley was Brad Pitt's house in Interview with the Vampire and it's the one you think of when you think of NOLA plantations:

New Orleans Plantation tour - Oak Alley

The guides surprisingly don't mention the movie on the tour. Probably because there's more important history at a plantation than Brad Pitt.


Either way there are many plantations to choose from. The architecture and landscape are beautiful and the history is grim. They're a little way out of town (you'll need to rent a car or do a group tour with a bus - ew), and should be combined with a swamp tour if you’re doing going all that way. Also stop by some random food places to get a little more authentic country cajun-style food experience and mingle with the nice country folk.


National WWI Museum: This is a good museum. Its $30, centrally located on Magazine Street. Tickets can be purchased online, and it can be visited in under and hour and a half.


French Market: This market is open from 5:00 - 10:00 PM daily, and is in the French Quarter right near Cafe Du Monde. It has casual street food and trinkets (junk). You'll probably run into it at some point and you should stop in for a snack, a drink, and a gander. If you're into chess pay the guy in the red hat $5 to beat you in 3 moves or less.

Frenchman Market New Orleans

Frenchmen Art Market: This market is tiny but the only place I've ever bought anything in NOLA besides food, alcohol, and hot sauce from the Pepper Place. Their vendors are actual artisans with one-of-a-kind art and jewelry. And it's adorable. They're open until 12:00 AM every night, except Sundays, when they're open until 1:00AM so it's perfect for after hours when you're out on Frenchman.

Frenchman Art Market New Orleans


 

Recommended media to prepare for your trip

  • Interview with the Vampire: My favorite movie of all time, seriously

  • Double Jeopardy: Good movie but you just need the cemetary scene, linked here

  • His Honor: Actually such a good series!

  • Treme: Haven't seen it but heard great things

  • Beasts of the Southern Wild: Great movie, not about New Orleans but the Southern Bayou. Sad because people actually live in the poverty portrayed in the film but also hilarious because of the dialogue. The main actress, Quvenzhané Wallis became the youngest Best Actress nominee in history for this film.

  • Vendetta: Hadn't heard of it but its Christopher Walken and takes place in NOLA

  • Add any others in the comments

Lastly, here is my Google Maps New Orleans list with all the above mentioned spots. If you use Google Maps you're good, if you use Apple Maps switch over for the weekend. This way even if you're out wandering around these places will be readily available and you'll know if you're near them.


Leave any questions, comments, or places I should add below!

2件のコメント


Mar V Versher
Mar V Versher
1月06日

Hotel (1967 movie) about the St. Gregory Hotel closing in New Orleans is pretty good. Your recommendations are of interest but you did not mention Dooky Chase. The fourth generation has taken the reins and worth a visit to eat and take in the history.

いいね!
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I can't believe I've never even heard of that movie! Next time I go I'm going to watch Hotel, stay at the St. Gregory, and go to Dooky Chase. Thank you for the recommendations, there's just so much in this city it's hard to do it all but I appreciate having people help out!! 😍

いいね!
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