There's nothing I enjoy more than the thrill of exploring somewhere new, whether it's a bustling city or a sleepy island corner.New Orleans has always been a place I wanted to visit. It's eclectic, lively and a short 2.5 hour flight away from my nearest airport, garnering it perfect for a quick weekend getaway. So, last month I got to kick it off the travel bucket list.
The verdict? I absolutely loved it. So here I am sharing my favourite places and recommendations in case you're planning a weekend trip to New Orleans in the near future!
Off The Beaten Path
If you're looking for a more relaxing stay, I would suggest not staying in the famous French Quarter district. The architecture is so beautiful and the atmosphere is electric, but this also means it's loud and the main roads are filled with people and music at all hours of the day. I loved walking through and taking it all in one small dose at a time.
Instead, we opted to stay at The Ace Hotel New Orleans.
The Ace Hotel is located in the Central Business District part of town, and it was the perfect compromise for us. Great neighborhood, a bit more quiet and in walking distance to everything we wanted to see. There was a handful of cute boutiques right around the corner and tons of delicious restaurants nearby. All the action of the French Quarter action was just a short 15 minute walk away. It worked out well for us since we could just dip in and out of the party atmosphere and have our little urban retreat nearby.
If you do end up staying at the Ace Hotel, you have to make your way across the street to get an affogato at Drip Affogato Bar. It's such a cute coffee shop with the most delicious espresso & homemade ice cream creations. Imagine the best espresso you've ever had marrying a scoop of delicious freshly made ice cream... mmm! They also have a matcha version, as well as regular coffee/tea beverages to choose from. It was the perfect pick-me-up every afternoon.
If you're a more exciting person than I am (and I don't blame you for this, I'm in bed by 10:30 PM every night) and would like to enjoy the party scene by staying in the French Quarter, there were TONS of cool Airbnb options available. I was browsing through them before deciding to stay in a hotel, but I definitely liked what I saw.
If you're a history and architecture buff and seek even more peace and quiet, try staying in a historic mansion in the stunning Garden District. The Henry Howard Hotel is a beautifully restored mansion-turned-boutique-hotel that will give you Instagram content for days.
We walked by it a couple of times and it was just picture perfect. The rooms are airy and tastefully decorated in line with the New Orleans vibe.
Walk It Out
If you get nice weather and want to stretch your legs, you can book a walking tour or just go with the flow and wander aimlessly. We opted for the latter and enjoyed a beautiful afternoon in the Garden District. We grabbed breakfast at Seed and then walked all the way down Prytannia Street to the historic Lafayette Cemetery. The Garden District is mainly residential, with beautiful oak-lined streets and old mansions. There were numerous walking tours taking place when we were there, so if you're a history buff I would definitely recommend booking one. They also do night-time tours of haunted sites, which is sure to be a spooky treat. We saw numerous groups of enthusiastic ghost-hunters, with beverages in hand, scurrying around town looking for their next destination. It would be a lot of fun to do if you're traveling with a group of friends.
Another great outdoor adventure lies in City Park. It's a 15 minute car ride away from the French Quarter and worth exploring for a peaceful afternoon stroll among the oak trees. There is an art museum, a lake with paddle boats you can rent, a sculpture garden, a golf course and a botanical garden - no shortage of activities here! You can pack a picnic and relax in this stunning park or grab beignets and coffee at the cafe nearby... a perfect afternoon.
All Day I Dream About Food
I love to explore a new city with my stomach - and boy, New Orleans does not disappoint. I have had some of the best meals of my life here and the food alone is enough reason for me to go back. Here were the greatest hits for us:
- Cafe Du Monde - yes the hype is real, yes there's always a line, and yes it's super hectic. I didn't love the coffee but I happily stuffed my face with beignets two times a day. It's open 24 hours a day and it's cash only so prepare accordingly. DELICIOUS FRIED DOUGH + POWDERED SUGAR = HEAVEN
- We grabbed oysters at multiple locations around town but the stand-outs for me were the fried oysters with hot sauce at Herbsaint and the fresh oysters at Seaworthy. The latter is a super romantic date spot with a great cocktail list and small plates. They had a whole page on their menu dedicated to varieties of oysters you could try. Herbsaint also had amazing gumbo and pasta specials.
- Angeline - one of the best breakfasts I've had in my life. They only do breakfast/brunch on weekends but OMG was it amazing. I still dream about the fried pickles. Other notable menu items include the fried chicken & biscuits, cirspy boudin & oosa valley grits, eggs in hell and the French rolled omelette.
- Killer Po'Boys - a casual fast food type joint that serves up classic New Orleans sandwiches with a twist. They even have a vegan option with roasted sweet potato and collared greens. We came here for lunch two days in a row. Delicious.
- Seed - speaking of vegan, this place serves delicious vegan lunch/breakfast/brunch that will delight you even if you're not a plant based eater. I'm not vegan but I cook mostly plant-based at home and like to explore as many vegetarian/plant-based meals as possible when I'm out and about. The grits and the vegan Po'Boy were so good!
- Peche - if you're into seafood, this place has to be on your itinerary. It's super lively and has a great neighborhood vibe to it. The bar area was BUMPIN' even on a weeknight and their whole fish specials are great to share if you're traveling with a group. The tuna crudo was absolutely delicious.
- Shaya - Israeli food with a Southern twist. One of the best meals we've had on the trip. They have multiple preparations of hummus to choose from, fresh-out-the-oven pita bread that keeps on coming and an unbelievable crispy halloumi cheese appetizer. We also ordered the Persian rice and lamb kofta which were incredible.
- Willa Jean - another great neighborhood joint. We went there for lunch and breakfast during our stay as it was a short walk away from the Ace Hotel. Their salad bowls are amazing if you're into something more light, or you can go all in with their fried chicken and biscuits that my husband raved about for an entire day.
Check Off The Tourist Bucket List
Aside from a mandatory stop at Cafe Du Monde and feasting your eyes on antiques on Royal Street, other "touristy things" that deserve attention include catching a live jazz show at Preservation Hall and spending an emotional few hours walking through the National World War II Museum. I got teary-eyed walking through a couple of the exhibits.
When it comes to live shows, there are plenty of places to catch live jazz. The city is bursting at the seams with amazing music at every corner. There was something so incredibly special about the intimate and historic setting of Preservation Hall. It's $20 cash to get in and there's a show every hour. A couple of things on our list that we didn't have time to do were a boat tour in the bayou and a visit to Laura and Oak Valley plantations. Definitely earmarking those for next time.