There is so much more to New Orleans than Mardi Gras and bar-hopping on Bourbon street. Ask any local about their city and you’ll be inundated with suggestions for things to see, local delicacies to try out, and great bars to visit. Their love and enthusiasm for the ‘Big Easy’ is definitely contagious.
When to Go?
Visit New Orleans anytime during the year except for July and August when it tends to get very hot and muggy. The city gets crazy for Mardi Gras so if that’s not your thing avoid travelling around February.
How to Go?
If you’re travelling from outside the US, flying is your best option and you’ll most likely arrive at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY). If you’re setting out from the neighboring states driving might be more convenient plus a car will also help you get around if you want to venture out of the city from time to time.
It’s definitely worth catching a bus and visiting the Garden District, an area that was originally developed in the late 1800’s and is considered one of the best-preserved collections of historic southern mansions in the United States. Just walk down Magazine Street, filled with quirky shops, cafes, and restaurants or wonder around the area where many famous people such as Sandra Bullock, Trent Reznor, or Anne Rice resided.
Not only is Frenchman Street a much, much cooler version of Bourbon Street (think a street lined with bars but without the stench) when it comes to bar-hopping, it also houses the Frenchmen Art Market. It’s a hip local arts and crafts market selling all sorts of goodies such as paintings, jewelry, and hand-made soap from Thursday through Sunday night.
You simply can’t avoid the ‘gators’ when you’re in New Orleans so you might as well hop on a tour to one of the most popular swamps and get up close and personal to one of these babies. There are many tour operators around but most of the tourist agencies will recommend Cajun Encounters.
Only in New Orleans could cemeteries be tourist attractions. Since the city is built on a swamp locals buried their deceased above the ground in elaborate stone crypts and mausoleums. Not only will you come across some very impressive artwork embellishing the tombs but you can also find unusual tombs such as the one for the renowned voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, at which both locals and visitors tend to leave personal artifacts in hope of good luck.
If you can’t do a city trip without a visit to the museums make sure to head to the Warehouse/Museum district which should tickle your fancy. For the art lovers Ogden Museum (of Southern Art) should do the trick while the history buffs will love the National WW2 Museum.
Eat and Drink
Complimenting southern food is really just stating the obvious and it’s practically impossible to only mention three good places to eat in New Orleans – but here you go.
You simply can’t visit this city without eating jambalaya, a dish with chicken, Andouille sausage, rice, shrimp, celery, and spices (to name but a few ingredients). One of the best places to do so is Coop’s Place, a no nonsense diner in the city center.
Cochon serves down-to-earth gorgeous food mostly of the pork variety (hence the name) so if you don’t mind waiting for a table for up to one hour (!!!) make sure to drop by when you’re in the Warehouse district. If you’re lucky you might be seated at the ‘chef’s table’ where you’ll have a front row view of the magic that’s taking place in their kitchen.
Bywater is one of the must-see districts of the city and not only for its mellow and very friendly atmosphere but also for the hidden cafes and restaurants such as the Who Dat Coffee Café that serves amazing breakfasts (with fresh fruits on the side) or Cake Café with its impressive selection of cakes and cookies.
Bywater is also a great place to stay if you’re on a budget as a lot of locals rent out rooms and small apartments in this part of the city. Make sure to check out Airbnb for the latest listings and discounts.
If you’d rather stay in the heart of the city and prefer to splash out the Ritz Carlton New Orleans will be your best bet. Otherwise the city has a wide array of 5 star hotels if that is your heart’s desire.
If you’d rather save on accommodation why not try AAE Bourbon House Mansion in the Garden District, with plenty of things to see, do and eat in the area.
Here are additional options for where to stay in New Orleans.