New Orleans, Louisiana is a place I have always wanted to visit. Rich in culture, decadent food, and a lively atmosphere, it just can’t seem to be matched by any other city. Well, I was fortunate enough to go at the beginning of Mardi Gras this year and it was everything I thought it would be and more!
First Stop: Bourbon Street. Alright, I’ll get this out of the way first. I’m sure everyone knows their fair share about Bourbon so I’ll just sum it up. Cheap drinks, occasional nudity, music and dancing everywhere. You have to go. Whether just once or you choose to never leave, day or night, it’s a crazy experience that you’ve got to have (and hopefully you’ll remember).
The best way to recover from a night out is with a hearty brunch. Head on over to Willa Jean which is about a 30 minute walk from Bourbon Street. It is amazing here! As soon as you walk in you have a euphoric moment- the floor to ceiling windows allow light to just pour in over the dozens of freshly baked sweets on display. It’s one of those places where you want to order everything on the menu but you don’t want to be THAT person. I haven’t even gotten to the best part… the drinks! They have a huge selection of green juices, frozen cocktails, and mimosas. I got the menu and decided to do a bit of morning double-fisting; a green juice and a vodka creamsicle frozen cocktail cuz why not? And then the oyster benedict. Perfectly poached eggs, perfectly fried oysters…need I say more?
Walk off brunch and hit the streets of the French Quarter. Tip: Wear shoes that are comfortable and that you don’t mind getting wet, dirty, or ruined. Just walk and get lost. The buildings are a sight to see and they have so much character and just ooze of old city charm. While you are walking don’t forget to stop in at Cafe du Monde for beignets. Their menu is pretty simple just beignets and beverages but that’s just about all you could ever need. Tip: They are open 24 hours. If you go late at night you avoid the inevitable wait.
After a day of exploring and eating, finish the day by eating some more because it’s New Orleans! Head to Drago’s for some of the best seafood you have ever tasted and a specialty… charbroiled oysters. Think oysters, cheese, butter, a perfect blend of N.O. seasonings, and a hint of smoke from the grill to create the most decadent mollusk you have ever tasted!
For another full day of excursions, take some tours. I would suggest the Free Tours by Foot company. They offer donation based tours with some extremely knowledgable guides. You can sign up for a cemetery tour, a haunted tour, or even a voodoo tour given by someone who actually practices. I find the cemeteries in New Orleans to be quite interesting so I opted for the cemetery tour.
Specifically, I chose the tour of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Built in the late 1700’s so much history is buried here in the above ground vaults. Not only did I learn about the people buried here, but I learned about the traditions of burial in the New Orleans culture. The tour was a little over an hour but I could have stayed for many more exploring each vault laid here.
Next Stop: Magazine Street and the Garden District. For some of the best shopping in New Orleans, head to Magazine Street. You won’t find big designer stores but you will find some of the cutest boutiques, coffee shops, and little trinket shops. Tip: It’s impossible to walk all of Magazine Street. It spans for miles so find a starting point and walk until you can’t anymore (the rain stopped me). My starting point was for a sweet treat at District: Donuts.Sliders.Brew. Now, I have never met a doughnut I didn’t like, but this Mardi Gras donut with a cream cheese center was probably the best thing I have tasted…EVER!
After stuffing my face for the 90th time on my trip, I hit the pavement to explore the Garden District, where some of the most opulent homes of the 1800’s sit. There are a ton of tours provided of this area but since I kind of stumbled upon it, I chose to explore myself. So I did what any tourist would do: I took out my phone, Googled “Best Homes in the Garden District,” then followed my GPS. I saw several breath-taking homes and took myself back in time as I read about and stared at each one.
New Orleans was everything I imagined it to be and much more. I ate a ton, explored even more, and made memories to last a lifetime. I hope these tips help guide you along your journey in The Big Easy. Enjoy!