AOK Guide to New Orleans

guide to new orleans

Another 2018 weekend getaway is in the books! I swear, the more I travel the more I want to travel. I love being home, don't get me wrong, but there is something so exciting about experiencing different cultures and exploring new cities. One of my favorite parts of traveling is planning the trip - it fills me with anticipation and excitement! The best trips live up to those expectations.

New Orleans was one definitely one of those trips that left me wanting more - I could have stayed longer and already want to go back! However, my stomach and digestive system demanded I return home to detox. NOLA was filled with European influence (more than any other city I've been to in the U.S.) and southern charm. It is really unique and unlike any place I've been before. Parts of the French Quarter are a little junky, but they are trashy in the cutest and prettiest of ways - color everywhere! The only disappointing thing about The Big Easy was the, don't get me wrong! Every meal we had was very good - a solid A all around - I think I just had overly high expectations. Everything was enjoyable, there just wasn't much that totally and completely blew my socks off. Does that make sense?

Regardless, C and I both totally and completely loved our time in New Orleans. We visited in early March and the weather was chillier than I anticipated (in the 50s and 60s most of the time) but I think that was a good thing. On our last day, the southern humidity made its debut and I quickly realized I wouldn't want to be there in the dead of summer.

the french quarter

Travel Tips 
• No need to rent a car, everything is very walkable! If you're in the French Quarter, the Streetcar will take you west to the Garden District/Magazine Street. Uber/Lyft is also easy to catch (but don't bother trying to grab one in the French Quarter at night, it is faster to walk).

• Avoid visiting in the summer when the humidity is high

Check restaurant dress codes - several require jackets, dresses, etc!

• Plan to visit Bourbon Street in the daytime if you're not a partier.

• Bring your stretchy pants and walking shoes. The food is no joke and you'll spend a lot of time walking if you're exploring the Quarter.

The open container laws allow you can take cocktails with you when you're walking around the street, but ONLY if they are in a plastic cup. No cans!

doors of nola

Favorite Eats
Cafe du Monde - I mean, duh! You can't go to NOLA without a beignet and cafe au lait! Note: it is CASH ONLY! There is a to-go line and a line to sit down; the tables are seat yourself, so a lot of times you just have to hover over people until they get up to leave (which I hate) but it seems to move quickly. We stopped by around 10 a.m. and were able to sit down right away. We tried another local beignet place (Cafe Beignet) while we were there and Cafe du Monde was a clear winner - still, though, just kinda tasted like funnel cake to me.

Cochon Butcher - this was the only meal that truly blew me away... And it wasn't even cajun! Cochon is a separate, nicer restaurant; Cochon Butcher is a quick sandwich counter located in the alley behind the main restaurant. C ordered a "Pig Mac" which is basically a big mac but with pork. I ordered a cuban and MY GOSH it was the best one I've ever had. We both agreed it was our favorite meal of the trip.

Elizabeth's - we came for the praline bacon! Who doesn't like candied bacon? This little diner serves all meals, but their breakfast came highly recommend. It isn't a "cute" restaurant by any means, you're not gonna get a good Instagram here, but the food was good. I ordered the French Toast Burrito which was exactly what it sounded like, sweet and savory perfection.

Galatoire's - everyone told us we had to go here and I'm glad we did - it was such a fun experience! They do have a dress code, so be aware of that. It is on the pricier side, as well, as it is a true southern specialty since 1905 with French-inspired cuisine. We ordered the Oyster's Rockefeller (they looked disgusting but tasted great) as an appetizer and split the Shrimp au Vin for dinner. I'd recommend arriving early and going on a weeknight (not a Friday or Saturday) to avoid a long wait. We went on a Thursday around 6 and were able to get right in.

District Donuts - you know I have to find good donuts when I'm on vacation! If we're being honest, these donuts were just so-so. They were a little too dough-y for me and the flavor wasn't anything special. However, their breakfast sammies were amazing and so was the coffee! C's favorite breakfast of the whole trip was the Miso Praline Bacon sandwich.

Coop's Place - we stopped by this little French Quarter dive for some authentic cajun cooking and that's just what we got. Heads up, this is a total hole in the wall, but the food is true to it's roots. We ordered jambalaya and red beans and rice and weren't disappointed in the least. I would recommend arriving early (before noon) as the line can get long.

Willa Jean - I saw this on the TV show Best Thing I Ever Ate and knew I had to stop by! They serve milk and cookies. Yep, you read that right.  A whole basket of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies with a glass of vanilla infused milk. The cookies were good but Chick-fil-a's are better. However, they give you a scoop of cookie dough and that made the experience worth it! They also serve breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, all which looked tasty. I wouldn't make this a priority, but its worth a stop if you are nearby.

Cafe Amelie - OK, mixed feelings here. Cafe Amelie was absolutely adorable and their courtyard and patio was gorgeous! The shrimp and grits was mouthwateringly good. However, the service was horrid - absolutely horrid - and the rest of the meal was just so-so. I can't necessarily recommend this because the service was so blatantly bad, but the ambiance was incredible and that shrimp and grits, man......

cafe du monde
Cafe du Monde

beignets at cafe du monde
Cafe du Monde

cochon butcher
Cochon Butcher

elizabeth's new orleans

southern belle dress in new orleans
Shop My Outfit Here

galatoire's nola

Galatoire's New Orleans

Galatoire's Oysters Rockefeller
Oysters Rockefeller at Galatoire's 

Coop's Place NOLA
Coop's Place

Willa Jean Cookies and Milk
Willa Jean

Favorite Drinks
•  Bacchanal - my best friend recommended this and I'm so glad we went! It is a really unique hang out spot. Upon entering, you pick out a bottle of wine (they also offer cheese and meat) - when you pay, they uncork the wine and cut any charcuterie items for you. You grab your glasses and an ice bucket and go on your way! There is a HUGE backyard patio with a music stage, as well as an upstairs balcony to sit/stand and hang out. They offer real food/meals, as well, but we just did wine! It was so lively - obviously a great weekend spot for friends to gather. Best part, it is really chill because it isn't in the middle of the Bourbon Street party!

Arnaud's French 75 Bar - this bar was originally "gentleman only." Today, it puts emphasis on classic cocktails and premium spirits. We went for pre-dinner drinks and ordered the French 75, the namesake! It feels really upscale and fancy inside - don't go here in your travel/tourist outfits! Definitely wear your nice dinner clothes. It is in the French Quarter, but not on Bourbon Street. It made me a little claustrophobic, but it was still a fun experience.

Finnegan's Easy - my favorite Hurricane in all of NOLA! It is in the French Quarter and right by Bourbon.

Tropical Isle - home of the Hand Grenade! I was told the drink tasted like a watermelon fruit roll up.......not sure I agree, but it was still good. I liked that they offered a "skinny" version and it came with a commemorative grenade cup. There are several locations up and down Bourbon Street.

• Blacksmith Shop - the oldest bar in all of New Orleans located in the French Quarter. Their Hurricane was really good, and they had a cute courtyard patio. Also, it's haunted! Guests are said to get a lot of paranormal activity on pictures taken here. I wasn't lucky enough to do so, but it was fun to try.

bacchanal nola
Bacchanal Wine

arnaud's french 75 bar

hand grenade on bourbon street
Tropical Isle

tropical isle bourbon hand grenade
Hand Grenade

Favorite Sights & Activities
• The Garden District / Saint Charles Avenue / Buckner Mansion - we LOVE strolling around neighborhoods away from the tourist traps. The Garden District is full of southern mansions - it felt very Hart of Dixie! Saint Charles Avenue is LINED with mansions for miles. I'd recommend renting a bike to see them all or taking the streetcar! The Buckner Mansion, from American Horror Story, is just a block away from Saint Charles Ave and is worth a walk by - it is massive and so beautiful!

• Jackson Square - right in the heart of The French Quarter! The square is lined with shops, is caddy corner from Cafe Du Monde and is the location of the Saint Louis Cathedral which looks like a Disney Princess castle. There is a lot of history here and it makes for some great photo-ops. There are street performers, artists and even horse-drawn carriages!

• Take a Ghost or VooDoo Tour - so many people recommended doing a Ghost tour and I'm glad we did! I'm not a huge tour person, but it was fun to hear the haunted history of NOLA. Some of the buildings we walked by a million times were the scenes of murders - who knew. There are a ton of options to choose from, but we landed on the Haunted History 5-In-One Tour because it talked about ghosts, VooDoo, Vampires and more, PLUS they gave you a drink coupon!

See a Cemetery - we stopped by the Lafayette #1 Cemetery when we were exploring the Garden District. I don't think it is necessary to do a tour, but they do offer them. All cemeteries in New Orleans are above ground due to flooding and the entire city being at sea level. So basically, all coffins are "buried" in above ground tombs. It is really kinda eerie, but cool to see.

Oak Alley Plantation - we needed to kill quite a bit of time on our last day so we decided to rent a car and head to Oak Alley Plantation. It was about an hour - hour and a half away. Several tour companies will pick you up and take you out there, but their time slots didn't work with our flight schedule, so we just grabbed a rental car, instead. The plantation was GORGEOUS and so full of history. I could have taken a million pictures! It felt very southern, which I loved. They even served mint juleps! You get access to a guided house tour along with your entry ticket and are allowed to wander the rest of the premises on your own. It probably wasn't worth the cost of entry PLUS the rental car, but it was still a neat experience and was really eye-opening to what life was like in the 1800s. Plus, I mean, the pictures!

garden district nola
The Garden District

the garden district homes
Feeling very Hart of Dixie in the Garden District

french quarter nola

french quarter nola

new orleans cemetery
Lafayette Cemetery #1

oak alley plantation
Oak Alley Plantation

oak alley plantation

oak alley slaves quarters
The Slave's Quarters at Oak Alley

oak alley plantation
Living my best southern life!

Where to Shop
• The French Quarter - the quarter is filled with boutiques and gift shops every where you turn! Every other store has praline samples (YUM). It was easy to find a cute coffee mug and Christmas ornament to add to my travel collection. Just outside the quarter there is a mall with high-end stores, as well.

• Magazine Street - Magazine is miles long but it is lined with restaurants, bars, boutiques, and shops that are less touristy than the ones in the Quarter, as well as some brand name stores like West Elm and Free People. I found so many things I wanted to buy!

magazine street new orleans

southern style outfit

Where to Stay
We stayed just outside the French Quarter at the Best Western Plus Saint Christopher. It was a nice enough hotel, the entry and lobby were very charming, the service was great and the rooms were average. There are a lot of cute hotels in the Quarter, but I would recommend staying on the outskirts/edge of it as opposed to in the middle, simply for transportation purposes. Driving in and out of the Quarter is a bit of a struggle as the foot traffic is really heavy. I'd also love to stay in the Garden District in the future for a quieter, more low-key experience.

new orleans hotel

Next Time
Here are a few places we had on our list that we weren't able to make it to. All the more reason to go back, right?!

Frenchman Street for Jazz clubs
Peche and Mr. B's for dinner
A Swamp Tour
A Muffuletta from Central Grocery 
Gracious Bakery, Stanley's and Commander's Place for breakfast / brunch
Drago's for Charbroiled Oysters
• Willa Mae's for fried chicken

visiting new orleans

There ya have it! The Big Easy is a place everyone should experience! I did see a girl puke on the sidewalk, so there's that, but I'm still suffering from some post-vacation blues and would go back in a heartbeat. Have you ever been to NOLA? What did you enjoy? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

We don't have a trip planned for April due to life just being TOO crazy and weekends being overly full, but we are planning a few local day trips that I'm excited to share soon. Our next big trip will be for our anniversary over Memorial Day weekend - I'll be busy planning it in the mean time!

Thanks for following along on my adventures!

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