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That Girl Away

The Ultimate Guide to New Orleans

My friend’s post on Instagram reminded me that during this week 5 years ago we were in New Orleans together, painting the town red and whatnot. It inspired me to put up an Instagram post about it and I thought I’d write a little bit about it here because it was such a lovely time.

I’ve written about graveyards and Frenchmen Street and food and ghost tours in New Orleans before. I know. I’ve also written about how Bourbon Street is amateur hour.

I went in early February, on a whim, because I had a Delta credit that I needed to use up in less than three months, my employer was pretty chill about taking days off, and I wouldn’t have to pay for board because one of my best girlfriend’s was going to be there for a business trip.

So, a free hotel room, paid time off, and almost-free airfare? I would’ve been crazy not to go!

I double-checked with everyone in my life that I wasn’t needed anywhere and then I clicked confirm on the airline’s website.

BAM.

The Ultimate Guide to New Orleans

I was going to explore a new city! Nothing makes me more excited, to be honest. I made a list of the restaurants that I wanted to eat at and the sights that I wanted to go to which included the World War II museum, the Art of Dr. Seuss Museum, Louis Armstrong Park, and a few of the big graveyards.

I had a full plate, to say the least. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that a central theme of this trip was going to be eating and imbibing. Sigh. How times change (at least on the imbibing front).

There is some excellent food in New Orleans which is worth the trip alone but the culture and history of New Orleans are also amazing.

The Ultimate Guide to New Orleans

Join me on a trip down memory lane so I can tell you all the places you should visit, eat, and drink if you find yourself in NoLa soon:

To see:

  • The National WWII Museum: In case you’re wondering why this museum is in New Orleans of all places it’s because according to their website, the LCVP, or Higgins boat, the landing craft that brought US soldiers to shore in every major amphibious assault of World War II. Andrew Jackson Higgins and the 30,000 Louisiana workers of Higgins Industries designed, built and tested 20,000 Higgins boats in southeastern Louisiana during the war. Dwight Eisenhower once claimed that Higgins was “the man who won the war for us.” This museum is really detailed and quite big. If you love history, you’ll love killing a few hours here.
  • The Art of Dr. Seuss: This is a small gallery of a collection of Dr. Seuss’s art. How could you go wrong?
  • Gallier House: When I was in NoLa, there was a Tennessee Williams exhibit, but I’m sure the exhibits are always excellent so you should check them out.
  • Louis Armstrong Park: There is a fantastic gate at the entrance of this park, dedicated to the jazz giant himself. It’s a huge 32-acre park that’s just across from the French Quarter. I sat there for a while one afternoon while I needed to take a break from walking and relax. There are street musicians all over, as you could probably guess.
  • The Presbytere Museum: In the heart of Jackson Square in the French Quarter, you’ll find this huge art museum. They have two permanent exhibits, Mardi Gras: It’s Carnival Time in Louisiana and The Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond. I remember the latter the most and I found it really interesting to learn about just how terribly the government handled the catastrophe that was Hurricane Katrina.
  • St. Louis Cemetery No. 1: This massive cemetery is creepy even during the day. The likes of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau and Homer Plessy (think Plessy vs. Ferguson) are buried here. I’d highly recommend going and getting lost.
  • The Spotted Cat Music Club: Even if jazz is not your thing, you still must see some jazz while you are in New Orleans. The Spotted Cat is a well-known club on Frenchmen Street and it’s pretty chill even on a Saturday night.
  • Take a Streetcar to See the Mansions in the Garden District: After you visit the cemeteries, make sure to stop by the Garden District to see the huge mansions and Tulane’s campus.
  • Old US Mint: The best part of this is the building itself. This old factory began printing coins for the United States in 1838, which is pretty cool and ceased production in 1909. The building was used for various parts of the military and the government finally gave the building to the Louisiana State Museum and now it houses various, rotating exhibits, as well as the New Orlean Jazz Museum, the Louisiana Historical Center and a state-of-the-art performance venue.

Where to Eat:

  • The Ruby Slipper: I wrote all about this little gem of a restaurant in this post. Even though I wouldn’t eat what I had again, I’d still definitely recommend this spot for brunch.
  • Herbsaint: We had dinner on our second night in town. It was DELICIOUS. Located in the French Quarter, it’s classy and delicious (and pricey).
  • La Barra at Tacos and Tequila: I went to La Barra after spending a while in the WWII Museum and I needed a snack. What’s a better snack than tacos? That’s correct: nothing.
  • Sylvain: I can’t remember who or what brought me to Sylvain, but I grabbed brunch after a hot yoga class that I went to the morning after our ghost tour while Kristen was working. It was delicious.
  • Three Muses: The best restaurant on Frenchmen Street (remember, go to Frenchmen Street instead of Bourbon Street). The food was out of this world, but make sure you make a reservation before going because it’s usually packed.

Where to Drink:

  • Pat O’Brien’s: A trip to Pat O’Brien’s is an absolute requirement when you visit NoLa. It’s the birthplace of the “Hurricane.” It’s pretty basic, nothing special, but it’s usually pretty crowded because of its reputation. We visited O’Brien’s both before and after the ghost tour. It’s a great place to start your night.
  • Cajun Mike’s Pub ‘N Grub: Kristen and I went here to grab a drink right after I flew in and arrived at the hotel after she finished up with work for the day. It is a true New Orleans dive bar.
  • Happy’s Irish Pub: This was our second stop on that first night. It was also a dive. I believe in this watering hole the bartender was from Brooklyn. Small world! If you want cheap beers, this spot is as good as any.
  • The Jimani Lounge and Restaurant: I came here for a drink on day two after The Presbytere. It’s your typical Irish sports bar. The fact that they call themselves a “lounge” is laughable.
  • Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop: When we gave Bourbon Street the old college try, we wound up here. It’s one of the oldest drinking institutions in the country, serving drinks since the 1700’s. It’s located in a historic building that, yes, you guessed it, was once a blacksmith shop! Go here early in the night before the obnoxious Bourbon Street crowds descend.

Where to drink in New Orleans: Pat O'Brien's

Us at Pat O’Brien’s at the beginning of a night we definitely weren’t able to remember.

Where to Snack and Caffeinate:

  • Cafe du Monde: How can you not go here if you’re in New Orleans? This place is an institution. Coffee and beignets for everyone!
  • Croissant d’Or Patisserie: This French bakery in the French Quarter is a solid spot to grab a croissant and a coffee, while you’re walking around, just as the name says.
  • Wink’s Buttermilk Drop: Wink’s makes little round pastry balls, similar to Dunkin Donuts’ munchkins but WAY WAY BETTER. They were inexpensive, delicious, and located right in the heart of the French Quarter. This spot is unfortunately closed. However, Buttermilk Drop Bakery in New Orleans is still open and you should totally go there.
  • Evan’s Creole Candy Factory: This is THE place to go if you want Pralines. They make their own and I had 400 samples when I was walking around the shop. It’s right in the French Quarter, too.
  • Still Perkin: After I’d spent a lot of time in the cemeteries and looking at all the mansions, I stopped into this adorable coffee shop in the Garden District.
  • Bittersweet Confections: I’m all about the cupcakes, always. I stopped in Bittersweet Confections to try their cupcakes. The cupcakes are beautifully decorated and pretty solid. Not the absolute best, but it’ll do if you need a cupcake fix.

Beignets from Cafe du le Monde, New Orleans

Thank you for taking that trip back in time with me. Have you ever been to New Orleans? Let me know where you went in the comments in case I missed it so I’ll have it on my list for next time!

The Ultimate Guide to New Orleans - Mardi Gras

A lovely fellow dressed up for Mardi Gras.

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