As a Cincinnati born and raised girl, I am an absolute hypocrite in critiquing how tourists visit New Orleans. I wasn’t born here, I wasn’t raised here, and I certainly don’t have any family from here. With that caveat aside, I cannot tell you how terrible some of the “trip itineraries” to New Orleans are. If you follow any commercial guide to New Orleans, you’ll be stuck with the other droves of tourists that come and only stay in the French Quarter. If you’re looking for a quick overview to some of the better parts of town (and yes, some of those DO include tourist traps) then look no further. Below is a compilation of some of my favorites dines, bars and sights.
- Don’t stay in the French Quarter.
Trust me. Unless you’re looking for the worst hangover of your life, a stolen purse and Bourbon Street sludge all over your nice shoes, steer clear of staying in the FQ. New Orleans is so much more than that tiny little square of cheap bars and sugary drinks. The city really isn’t that big — an Uber from Oak St. to Bacchanal will cost you maybe $12.00. Save the extra $$ by staying outside of the French Quarter and spend it on crawfish instead. (With that being said, there are a lot of very cute and reasonably priced B&Bs on the outskirts of the FQ that will let you soak in all of New Orleans’ FQ night life without breaking the bank).
Tips: If you’re staying at an AirBnB, RAD! Just please make sure it’s legal! Gentrification, rising rent and short term rentals are driving locals out of the city. Come see us, but please don’t exacerbate the problem. You can do a cross check of your AirBnB with the legal short-term rental listings here.
Some people hate the streetcars, but I loved them! It’s an easy and scenic (albeit not very quick) way to travel from one end of the city to the other. Check the route map here when you’re making your reservations. Pro Tip: Super helpful when you’ve had a night out drinking and don’t want to deal with potentially sketchy and/or awkward and/or expensive Uber rides.
2. Skip Cafe du Monde, Hit up Cafe Beignet
I know, sacrilege. But hear me out. Cafe du Monde is busy almost 24/7. It’s packed with tourists. The beignets are good, the coffee is delish. But, if you’re looking for a lesser known spot on my favorite street, find Cafe Beignet at 334 Royal Street. It’s small, rarely crowded, and is nestled between the galleries and shops of Royal. My recommendation is to stop in after dinner when the streetlights turn on and you can enjoy the cool(er) weather.
3. Eat some Real New Orleans Food
And by “real” I mean darn good, finger-lickin’, sent from heaven food:
Dat Dog: Looking for a quick pick me up? Stop in for some dogs! Dat Dog serves every type of dog you could think of. They’ve made sausages out of alligator, crawfish, chicken, pork and every combination in between. Ask for the “Chef’s Choice” to have one of their master cooks put together your toppings or, look at the pre-made menu, you can’t go wrong.
Pro Tip: The Magazine Street location is my favorite. Frenchman’s location doesn’t give you the true feel of the restaurant. Freret Street is a close second and is also nearby Piccola Gelateria which is, hands down, the best gelato you’ll have outside of Italy.
Cochon Butcher: Perfect for lunch, Butcher is the sister of high-scale dining Cochon. Focused on getting you the perfect slice of pork, you’re going to find amazing sandwiches, pickles and sides that aren’t quite traditional barbeque. I recommend getting the pork belly sandwich or the brisket.
Maïs Arepas: Creole Colombian (and also one of the first places I tricked my now-boyfriend into getting dinner with me at: #trapped), Maïs Arepas is a gem that’s tucked away in the OC Haley Corridor’s many side streets. Get the ceviche, split a bottle of wine, and prepare to be blown away by one of the many arepas this tiny restaurant offers.
P.S. When leaving in your food coma, be careful, because many of the adjacent streets are unmarked one-ways.
Seaworthy: Oh, how I love Seaworthy. The menu is sparse, but it’s divine. Come here if you’re looking for a sampling of oysters and some superb seafood-focused main dishes. I got my mom to try oysters for the first time here, and now she’s obsessed. Tip: Louisiana oysters are much bigger than the rest of the country’s, so if you want to ease in to your oyster-slurping, come here and ask for recommendations. Northeastern oysters are smaller and sweeter. Slap one of those bad boys on a homemade crisp with some horseradish and you’ll be converted, I swear. Skip the specialty drinks here and get something simple (G+T, Hendricks is my drink of choice), I’ve never been impressed with their drink concoctions.
Port of Call: The wait is worth it. Esplanade offers a beautiful tour of old New Orleans homes coupled with ancient oak trees. After a few pre-dinner drinks, hope over to Port of Call for a late dinner. Be prepared for a wait — we’ve waited anywhere from 40 minutes to 2 hours. The good news is that there’s a quick mart and a bar just across the street. Put your name down, head over and grab some drinks and hang out on the sidewalk as the temperatures drop. When you’re finally seated, don’t be adventurous: get the burger and the potato (with all the toppings) and devour one of the best meals you’ve ever had.
The Joint: Oh, Lordy I love The Joint. Situated in the middle of a neighborhood, the Joint is a feel-good, local BBQ joint (ha) that is worth every penny. The brisket is my go-to, and don’t skimp on the sides. The Mac and cheese is drool worthy, and their beer selection is pretty decent for a small restaurant. Head out to the back patio to enjoy the ambiance of the Bywater.
Drip: Right down the street from Seaworthy, Drip is an affogato bar that is simply divine. There are pre-paired flights that you can choose, or make your own! Seating is limited but clears out quickly.It’s the perfect post-dinner treat and you won’t be disappointed.
Creole Creamery: A New Orleans classic that urges you to eat ice cream and be happy. Check in for a midday scoop of homemade, everchanging flavors. Pro Tip: Scoops are big. Get the sampler or kid’s size. You’ll still get a generous serving but won’t ruin your dinner!
HiVolt: Interested in a breakfast that’ll zap your hangover away? Head to HiVolt in the Lower Garden District. They have a huge assortment of coffee and tea, and make all of their pastries from scratch. Blackberry Crumble is a dream.
Pro Tip: If you’re looking for “real” Cajun cooking, you’ve gotta go “down the bayou.” Rent a car and take an easy-peasy 45-minute drive to Lafourche Parish where you’ll find the friendliest, most welcoming crowd in the region. Need some suggestions on where to go? Check out the newest Cajun Bayou food listings here!
4. DO rent a pedicab
Hear me out. It is, by far, the best way to get a glimpse of the city. I took my friend, Abbie, on at $30.00, 30 minute ride and it was one of the coolest things I’ve done in the city. We saw so much, had such a great time with our “driver” and ended up being able to watch the city go by us as we laughed and caught up. At the end of our 30 minutes we asked our driver to drop us off at a bar by the levee so we could drink in the sun.
5. Visit Audubon Park
Nestled under hundred-year-old oak trees, you’ll find Audubon has everything you need for a quick escape from the city. The park has equestrian lessons, ultimate frisbee courses, golfing and biking paths. Take a look around before you start meandering down Magazine Street.
Bonus: Easily accessible from the St. Charles Streetcar and right across from Loyola University.
6. Visit The Presbytère’
Right on Chartres Street behind Jackson Square is a tiny little museum. Go in. There are two permanent exhibits: one on Mardi Gras and the other that documents living with hurricanes. For Louisiana residents, hurricanes are a very real threat to our homes, our families and our livelihood. To understand what makes Louisiana and New Orleans so special, take a look around and learn what it means to live with hurricanes.
7. Do Mardi Gras Right
Listen, I don’t really know if there is a right or wrong way to do Mardi Gras, but there’s the French Quarter way and there’s the Other way. My way: catch a spot on Napoleon and Magazine, right across from NY Pizza (pro tip: they have cheap pizza and you get access to their bathrooms if you purchase a slice. Just make sure they stamp your hand).
Bring a cooler and koozies, beer, tissues (in case the tp runs out) and a backpack to store your throws. Set up camp, but remember that your “spot” isn’t going to be a hard and fast thing. Let people in, don’t be rude and remember that that throw may not be directed at you. Do dress up. Don’t be rude. Do have fun.
Interested in visiting New Orleans? Want some help planning your itinerary? 👇 Drop a comment!