So, New Orleans, huh? I’m guessing you want to experience the antique French facades, the sounds of a distant trumpet forever playing in the background, the leftover beads hanging like Spanish moss over trees, and the smell of spices boiling in a pot of gumbo somewhere nearby? I don’t blame you! New Orleans also called NOLA also called Naawlins (obviously, the most proper way to pronounce it) is a melting pot of cultures, cuisines, and celebrations. This city serves other-worldy energy that reverberates in the air and can’t be replicated anywhere else in America. It’s by far my favorite place to visit in the United States.
How to Get To New Orleans
You can either fly in or drive in. If you fly in, expect to pay $35 to Uber into the city. If you drive in, expect to pay a $30-35/day to valet your car at any hotel in the French quarter. You can also bus in using the Megabus system.
Pro tip: If you drove in, instead of paying $35/day to valet your car, drive outside of downtown a bit, down Magazine St. into Uptown and find some FREE street parking on one of the inland streets. Then pay $6 to Uber to your hotel if you’re staying in the French quarter. Actually, better yet, take the super cute street trolly that runs directly from uptown to downtown for $2, make sure you have exact change. Fuck that $35/day. You’re welcome.
The Language and What to Pack
The English dialect in Louisiana is significantly different from the rest of America let alone the rest of the South. So if English is not your first language, don’t be alarmed if you don’t understand some people in this state. It is the only place in America where I actually thought someone was speaking another language, but turns out he was just from rural Louisiana.
What to pack is determined upon the season you’re coming to visit. In the summer its sweltering humidity will make you want to wear the least amount of clothes as possible. In the winter, it does get pretty chilly dropping down to freezing. Whatever the season is, New Orleans is always enjoyable. Scroll down to the Life and Culture section of this blog to read about unique holidays celebrated in this city that you may want to plan your trip around (or avoid).
In general though, you can be anything you want in New Orleans, dress however you want in New Orleans, and be welcomed anywhere in New Orleans. But my constant rule is always dress better than you usually do when you travel. Some bars are in hotels and do have a dress code so you don’t want to look out of place.
Where to Stay in New Orleans
Admittedly, I don’t know the answer to this question. I’ve been to Nawlins 4 or 5 times but have always stayed with a friend or come on a business trip in which all expenses were paid for. With that said, staying in the French quarter is ideal if you only have a weekend. There are plenty of AirBnBs in the city as well as boutique hotels that are constantly popping up in the area. New Orleans is not a cheap city, so be ready to drop some coins.
If this is not your first time in New Orleans, I recommend staying in Uptown. Staying and living in Uptown is a refreshing change from the shit show that is the French Quarter. The streets are quieter (but still rowdy), the shotgun houses are adorable (said to be named shotgun because when all of the doors are open, you can fire a shotgun and the bullet will go cleanly through all of the rooms and out the backdoor), brunch is within walking distance on every corner, and there are plenty of boutique and eclectic second-hand shops to stroll through. Definitely my favorite area to stay in while in the city.
What to Do in New Orleans
Listed are my top 8 must-do’s to maximize a long weekend in New Orleans in order of importance. (But be prepared to hate yourself for not wanting to stay longer). Warning: These recommendations may or may not be basic as fuck cause everyone does them. But guess why? CAUSE IT’S GOOD AS SHIT.
The number one thing you MUST do in New Orleans is eat. No, I mean EAT. Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, a girl who was born and raised in Hawaii hated seafood. She hated seafood so much she never ate a single fish for the first 22 years of her life. Despite her living in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on an island that is famous for seafood, she just couldn’t get herself to get past the mahi-mahi. Then one day she went to New Orleans and tasted crawfish etoufee for the first time and magically she fell in love with seafood and has eaten it ever since. The end.
That girl was me.
The moral of that story is if you have never had or never liked seafood ever, that’s fine. But erase that from your mind for one weekend. The seafood in New Orleans is something else. It is more comparable to crack-cocaine than to actual food. You’re going eat seafood and you’re going to eat all of it and you’re going to enjoy it. Even those who love seafood, but hate oysters, and maybe have no interest in eating an alligator, yo’ FUCK THAT NOISE. Try the blackened oysters and alligator sausage. I promise you won’t regret it. If you do, leave a comment at the end of this blog post telling me I’m a piece of shit. I believe in it that much.
Regarding restaurants in New Orleans, I can’t possibly list all the yummy places to eat here. Also every place I’ve ever stopped in has been scrumptious so fuck me, I can’t help you here. I will list a few places, but most importantly dishes that are famous in New Orleans are listed in BOLD and must be eaten at least once, if not twice, while you’re in the city.
Bistro B’s is expensive but that BBQ Shrimp will have you feeling the Itis within 15 minutes after consumption. (For those that don’t know what “The Itis” is, it’s the tired feeling you get after eating a meal in which you need to find napping place ASAP.) In addition, all of the deserts on the menu are 1st class.
Mother’s Restaurant will have a line out and around the door in the mornings, but it’s worth it. The shrimp omelettes are awesome. Again, the Itis is sure to hit soon after consumption. (If you haven’t noticed, I measure the goodness of a restaurant as how fast I need to go to sleep after. There will be lots of eating and sleeping on this trip, be warned.)
Ignatius Eatery has THE BEST crawfish etouffee ever in life. The End. End of Story. They win.
The Gumbo Shop has THE BEST gumbo and also bomb ass bread-pudding.
Oceana Grill has THE BEST blackened oysters and alligator sausage.
You’ll also want to stop and try a Po-Boy at some point on the trip.
If you have other recommendations, leave them in the comments of this blog post so I can eat at all of demz.
So after you eat and take your nap, it’s time to get rowdy. New Orleans is the best because it is one of eleven U.S. cities that allows public intoxication. The rest of the United States for some reason won’t allow you to walk and drink at the same time. Apparently that’s just impure. I’m all about a roadie (a drink on-the-go) in New Orleans so you’ll see me politely sipping on my Blood Mary to and from any place we’re going.
The most famous street in New Orleans is Bourbon St. It’s just blocks on blocks on blocks of bars and bars and bars and the streets slightly reek of vomit. You have to go at least once and sing karoke at a bar, taste some absinthe. Basically, if you haven’t vomited at least once on Bourbon Street, you’re basic and not doing New Orleans right. Be sure to stop at a Daiquiri shop and try the sugariest, most dangerous drink of your life.
Yes, it tastes like a slurpee, but no, IT IS NOT A SLURPEE, and shouldn’t be chugged. I had a girlfriend who straight up passed out before noon after downing one of those things. They taste good, but remember they still have alcohol in them! Also be sure to grab a grenade. They come in very long or small sizes and are served in green glasses that are SURPRISE in the shape of grenades.
While on Bourbon, try to find La Fitte’s Blacksmith Shop and Bar. It was constructed in the 1700’s and is the oldest bar in all of the United States. Jean Lafitte was a French pirate from Haiti that contributed significantly to various battles near Louisiana. This bar still has wooden tables and is dimly lit to keep the original ambience of how it was when La Fitte and his men would frequent this bar.
If you’re feeling classy, head to the Hotel Monteleone. Within the hotel is the most gorgeous, sexy bar I’ve ever been to in the United States. Usually a live jazz band is playing at night with only the lights from the moving carousel that was turned into a bar lighting up the space.
Pat O’Brien’s is a dueling piano bar and is famous for inventing the hurricane, a drink made out of rum when imports of scotch were low during WWII. Another bar sure to have a line out the door and sometimes charge a cover. This bar operated as a speakeasy during the Prohibition era where you had to say passcode: “a storm’s brewin” in order gain access to the alcohol within.
Frenchmen Street is like Bourbon, but for locals. Although I think everywhere is packed with tourists at this point.
- Shop on Magazine St.
Like previously mentioned, there are a ton of cute boutiques on this street.
- Visit a Plantation
Louisiana has an interesting history in regards to slavery. Because of its temperature and strategic access to a port, sugar cane plantations were a big time business on the outskirts of New Orleans. Their owners had vast wealth and lavish estates that still exist in its entirety. While there are a ton of tours to choose from, I highly recommend Laura Plantation.
The tour is 75 minutes long and details the history and everyday life of what it was like back then. This plantation is particularly interesting because it was owned by Creoles meaning they were part Black and had slaves from Senegal. Basically “free Blacks” enslaving other Blacks. The children’s children children of those slaves still live on the property today and you can still see their houses.
Hours of operation are 9:30-5PM. Cost is $20 for adults and $6 for students so BRING YOUR STUDENT ID! Even if you’ve graduated, who cares.
- Visit a swamp
I’ve admittedly never done this. But the swamps look cool and many of my friends have done it and really enjoyed it. Maybe one day I’ll get around to it. But it is one of the things that New Orleans is famous for.
- Do the bus tour
Hella basic, I know. I hate bus tours too. But the first time I came to New Orleans was shortly after Hurricane Katrina (which if you don’t know was a national disaster and where water rose well above the roofs of houses.) The bus tour points out water marks all around the city, explains to you the rich history and architecture of the area, stops at an above ground cemetery which are actually very beautiful, and takes you around the city in a hop on-hop off fashion all for around $25 (at least that’s what it was 5 years ago when I went for the first time). It’s a half-day tour and very informative, I recommend it. There are multiple small kiosks throughout the city where you can purchase a tour.
- Get your palm read in the Jackson Square
Jackson Square is where the artists and weirdos hang out. You’ll find local artists displaying their work (all the prices are negotiable) and usually has some sort of band playing nearby. If you’re lucky, you can catch a wedding taking place at the church within the square. Not far away is the boardwalk near the ocean. Most importantly, this is where you can get your palm and tarot cards read. 100% totally fake. I know this because I’m still waiting on my sugar daddy that bald gypsy man promised me, but nonetheless an extremely fun experience. REMEMBER TO NEGOTIATE YOUR PRICES.
- Eat a beignet
I know, I know, I faked you out by putting this as the last thing to do when really it should be #1 and technically is under “EAT” but I had to give beignets their own category because there are just so many places to have one of these. You should go to all of them.
First and most famous are the beignets at Café du Monde. But they always have a line that wraps around the corner. There is an original Café du Monde on Decatur St. which is open 24/7 except for Christmas Day and there are a bunch of replicas around the city. Café du Monde is famous for inventing chicory coffee when there was a coffee shortage during the American Civil War. Try it once, move onto the next beignet shop.
Morning Call is also a 24/7 cash only coffee shop known for chicory coffee and beignets. The atmosphere is so cute 1950s-like on a beautiful sprawling lawn with mossy oak trees and a large pond.
Aside from those two, there are many many, many others that you can find yourself.
Life and Culture
The time of year you want to plan your trip is very important. There are a few celebrations that take place in New Orleans that you may want to plan your trip around or try to avoid.
- The most famous is Mardi Gras. It’s a festival that starts January 6th ending on Fat Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (usually in February or March) and is a week of debauchery. There are parades of floats that throw out beads. The more you flash them your tits the more beads you’re sure to get.
This is also a time when balls are held. Balls in New Orleans date back to the 1800’s where the balls were part of the city’s social order, marked by notions of rank, tradition, and exclusivity. They were usually expensive and a way for the elite to present their children to society. Now, they’re just for fun and are run by social clubs such as Krewe of Zulu, Krewe of Rex, or Krewe du Vieux. See which Krewe fits you, and hit one of those balls, and pray that it’s a masquerade ball.
Kings cake is a Mardi Gras tradition in which a round sweet bread cake with a hidden baby inside is sold and eaten at social gatherings. Whoever gets the piece with the baby in it has to buy the cake the following year.
- Jazz & Heritage Festival features an endless amount of music, local and regional delicacies, and one-of-a-kind handmade arts and crafts. I’ve been once, highly recommend it. There are 12 stages with jazz, gospel (which actually is highly entertaining), Cajun, sydeco, blues, R&B, rock, funk, African, Latin, Caribbean, and folk musicians from around the world.
- My favorite time to visit New Orleans is October. New Orleans has some eeriness about it for sure. You can feel in the air that some crazy shit has happened in this city. For example, one of the most famous legends is that of Madame Laulaurie whose house is still on display. She was considered a hallmark of Creole society and extremely wealthy, but when a fire broke out in the house the firemen found a torture chamber in her attic. Full of naked, dead and living chained slaves, with limbs cut off, lips sewn shut, fingernails removed, stomachs sliced open, I’ll let you read more about that here in the newspaper.
Voodoo Fest & Endless Night Ball take place during this time. Make sure to bring your costumes. Not to mention the plethora of costume contests and people dressed up on the streets. It’s insane.
New Orleans is the nicest city I’ve ever been to. Not by looks, but in hospitality. Every single person treats you like you’re in their home, tells you good afternoon, gives you a compliment, asks how you’re doing. I’ve never met an unhelpful person that wasn’t in a good mood looking to greet the day.
Haitian Creole and Louisiana Creole are two different things. When people say they are “Creole” in Louisiana it means they are native to Louisiana and that their descendants lived there before the Louisiana Purchase (when Napoleon sold the United States the territory) and describes a person’s ancestry. Although it’s true both white and free blacks from Haiti after the revolution fled to Louisiana, Haitian Creole is a language. Cubans, Haitians, Spanish, Irish, Germans, Italians, and French all flooded into Louisiana and contributed to the “Creole” culture
Louisiana operated off of a three-tier system for hundreds of years based on color. There were pure Whites, mixed-race, and enslaved Blacks. Whites and Blacks intermarried regularly and mixed-race people often won cases in courts against Whites. Social status was more based on wealth than on race. It was quite different from the antebellum South where Whites were White and Blacks were Black and there were no rights for those in-between. You can still see remnants of that system today.
New Orleans is usually referenced as the birthplace of Jazz with greats such as Fats Domino and Louis Armstrong being produced in this city. The streets are full of it.
I guess I should also mention that the city of New Orleans is 60% Black. I only say this because I had an aunt refer to it as “dirty,” but we all know what that means. She just meant Black people live here *INSERT ENORMOUS EYE ROLL*. You can look up more demographics here. The population of New Orleans makes the city what it is: glorious. So if you’re a racist, you should avoid this city all together. With that said, I should mention the city and its surrounding parts are not the wealthiest. Areas of South Louisiana are called “Cancer Alley” due to all of the petrochemical refineries that line the Mississippi River from Lake Charles to west of New Orleans. The public schools are heavily segregated and often low performing, and the city is often ranked in the top five most violent cities in the country. However, I’ve had two friends come here as public servants via Teach For America and never left. Actually one left, and then returned because she missed it entirely too much. So despite the statistics, NOLA is addicting af.
All in all, Louisiana is a melting pot of culture and cuisine. It’s rich in history and operates completely different than the rest of the United States. You are sure to always leave New Orleans fat and happy. Laissez les bon tempz rouler!
Disclaimer: Most of the photos used in this post were taken by my favorite New Orleans transplants @taylordeeee and @jakezhesnake, since I’m mostly useless every time I come to the city between my food comas and intoxication and don’t take any pics. This post is dedicated to them for always showing ya girl a good time.