New Orleans, also known as NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) is one of those cities that is near and dear to our hearts. There is no other city in the world quite like it. My husband and I traveled to New Orleans for the first time in 2014 and we haven’t stopped visiting this amazing city since… We have such beautiful memories of our visits, and we have been back to New Orleans at least 5-6 times.
You can live in any city in America, but New Orleans is the only city that lives in you. — Chris Rose
The city is located on the banks of Mississippi River near the Gulf of Mexico. NOLA is a 6 hour road trip from Houston, so this a perfect long weekend destination for us. The city is nicknamed the “Big Easy” and it is known for its round-the-clock nightlife, vibrant music scene and some of the best street performances you will ever see. New Orleans is also very famous for the raucous costumed parades and street parties that happen during Mardi Gras. We have never been to NOLA during Mardi Gras, and I expect that to be an experience in itself.
New Orleans is known for its food and history as a melting pot of French, African and American cultures. New Orleans is a city full of history, culture, art, and music — and this is a city that likes to party! Any given day in The Crescent City can be quite an experience. And remember, when you’re in NOLA, you eat even if you aren’t hungry!
What to see?
The French Quarter, or the Vieux Carré, is a historic neighborhood that stretches 12 blocks to the Mississippi River. Some of the best streets that you should check Bourbon Street, Royal Street, Commerce Street, Prosperity Street, Magazine Street and Ferdinand Street. Jackson Square is another popular area that is filled with local artists and performers.
Plantation Tours — Laura Plantation and Oak Alley Plantation — Louisiana’s plantations offer a fascinating look at lifestyles of the past and a crucial period in the history of the United States. It is truly amazing to take a glimpse into the past, and discover what life was like for the plantation owners, women, slaves and children who once called this centuries-old, sugar cane farm their home. Laura Plantation is a restored historic Louisiana Creole plantation on the west bank of the Mississippi River near Vacherie, Louisiana. It is significant for its early 19th century Créole-style raised house and slave quarters. They are located ~1 hour from New Orleans.
Where to stay?
We highly recommend getting a hotel in the heart of the French Quarter, so you can be in the center of the action of Bourbon Street and the thriving nightlife scene. Listed below are hotels we stayed at that we recommend.
- Maison Dupuy Hotel
- The Saint Hotel, Autograph Collection
- The Westin New Orleans Canal Place
Other hotels that we recommend are — Audubon Cottages, Hotel Le Marais, Omni Royal Orleans, Hotel Monteleone, Royal Sonesta Hotel and The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans.
You might also like… Los Cabos
What to do?
NOLA offers an abundance of great music and great street performances!
- Street Performances: You never know which performer you’ll get to watch on any given day. We make it our routine to walk the streets of NOLA every day to check out performances in and around the Jackson square area, Bourbon street and other popular streets in the French Quarter.
- Take a Swamp Tour: The guided swamp tours take you into the bayou to explore the wetlands and wildlife of South Louisiana, and see alligators in action.
- Ride a Streetcar: For a fun and inexpensive way to get around town, hop on the streetcar. For $1.25 one-way, you can travel to the Garden District or the French Market while people watching and enjoying the views of the city.
What to eat?
Now where do we start? New Orleans is known for its signature foods such as —gumbo, jambalaya, po’boys, muffuletta, chargrilled oysters, seafood, beignets etc.
New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin. —
- Commander’s Palace: This restaurant is located in the middle of the tree-lined Garden District, and has been a New Orleans landmark since 1893. We had our first date at this restaurant back in 2014, and we went back to celebrate our anniversary in 2018. This is one of the most amazing restaurants we have been to – the ambiance is beautiful, the staff treat you like king and queen, the food is delicious and it is truly a magnificient dining experience!
- Charbroiled or Chargrilled Oysters at Drago’s Seafood Restaurant, Felix’s Oyster Bar and Acme Oyster House: Drago’s is the granddaddy of New Orleans chargrilled oysters. The oysters are covered with butter, garlic, cheese, pepper, and oregano and grilled to perfection. We had both fresh and chargrilled oysters at all these locations, and they are all great.
- Beignets to die for at Café DuMonde and Cafe Beignet: You cannot go to New Orleans and not have a beignet from Café Du Monde. It has become our routine to have beignets for breakfast and a midnight snack. The beginets are warm, delicious, covered in powdered sugar, and it’s best when you have them with a café au lait. This is the ultimate New Orleans treat that you cannot miss!
- Best fried chicken in the country at Willie Mae’s Scotch House: We found out about Willie Mae’s during our second trip to NOLA, and it is one of those things that is on our to-do list always. This is a family owned restaurant since 1957 and was rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina. They serve the most delicious fried chicken and soul food in a very humble setting. Keep in mind that the lines are long, so be prepared to wait at least 1-2 hours. They are closed on Sundays and you have to get in the line before 3 pm.
- Best Muffuletta at Napoleon House and Central Grocery & Deli: NOLA is known for it Muffuletas. It is a huge sandwich made of sesame-crusted bread and stuffed with ham or salami, cheese and olive salad.
- Street Hot Dogs on Bourbon Street: You can never go wrong with a warm and delicious hot dog in New Orleans, especially when you are out on Bourbon street late in the night.
This is just a small list of restaurants to wake up your appetite… Every street and every corner has something delicious to offer. Here are a few other restaurants with great reviews — Mother’s Restaurant, Ruby Slipper, Cochon, Atchafalaya, Brennan’s Biscuits and Buns in Banks, Cafe Amelie, Brown Butter Southern Kitchen and Bar, R&O’s Po Boys, Aunt Sally’s Creole Pralines, Domilise’s Po-Boys and Bar etc.
Where to drink?
The Hurricane is one of New Orleans best known cocktails and the frozen daiquiri is a Louisiana staple. You’ll find a bar serving drinks in just about every block in New Orleans. You can’t blog about NOLA without recommendations on places where you can get amazing drinks. You’ll find people walking with a drink their hand as early as 10 am in the morning. It’s 5 pm somewhere in the world, right?
- Fat Tuesday
- Bar Tonique
- Arnaud’s French 75 Bar
- Latitude 29
- Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar
- Cane and Table
How to save money?
- Parking is very limited in the French District, so you’ll either have to park in a garage or valet park your car at the hotel, which can get very expensive. If you’re in NOLA for the weekend, your best bet is to find free parking on the street. We typically find a great parking spot on a late Friday evening and renew parking via the ParkMobile app until the parking becomes free on Saturday evening. Trust me, this option is a lot cheaper than the others. Keep in mind that you don’t need a car in NOLA, so this works out great.
- Groupon always has great deals on hotels and tour packages!
- Invest in a New Orleans Pass or the Sightseeing Pass to get discounts and keep in mind that both include swamp tour experiences at no additional cost.
May we recommend?
- Bring small bills to tip the amazing street performers. The talent you see on the streets of NOLA is nothing like you’ve seen before!
- Be careful when you go out at night. The streets of NOLA are packed until 2-3 am in the morning, and you’ll be safe as long as you hang out where the crowds are.
- Be adventurous and try oysters, alligators and crawfish when you are here. The broiled crawfish and charbroiled oysters are delicious!
- Walk around and check out street performers! You’ll enjoy this as much as we do.
- Pack Comfortable shoes — this is one of those cities that you’ll explore on your feet! Be prepared to get 20-30K steps per day, and that means absolutely no guilt when you eat all the delicious food this city has to offer.
New Orleans is one of the world’s most fascinating cities! We promise you that it is impossible to go to New Orleans and not fall in love with the music, the food, the people, and the city itself!
As they say in NOLA, “Laissez les bon temps rouler” or let the good times roll!
Always remember… Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer!