Travel Guides

New Orleans Travel Guide

new orleans city guide / observant nomad

If you missed it, I went on a trip to New Orleans a few weeks ago (part one and part two) where I ate entirely way too much and rolled myself into some bars for plenty of music and dancing. All in all I had a great trip and got to spend some much needed one on one time with my main man. So I thought I’d put together a little city guide in case you ever want to check it out sometime.

Where to Stay

When you’re heading to New Orleans there are plenty of different neighborhoods worth staying in. Most people stay near or inside the French Quarter when visiting, which I say is a good idea for your first time. Especially if you don’t want to rent a car.

But just know, the French Quarter is a a little pricier area to stay in. But if money isn’t a huge concern, check out the Hotel MonteleoneHotel Mazarin or the Dauphine Orleans Hotel. These places are all near, or in The Quarter, and have the charming European architecture you’re looking for.

However if it’s your second time through, or you just want to avoid the people around Bourbon St, check out some Airbnbs in the Marigny area. Maybe stay in a gorgeous place like this? We ended up staying a little too close to Frenchmen St — which I try to avoid. It’s the local hot spot and can be noisy throughout most nights. However do make sure to visit this strip of bars and music clubs during your stay!

new orleans city guide / observant nomad

Getting Around

Getting around the greater area of New Orleans is best done by car. If you’re staying in town for more than a few days, I’d say rent a car. Especially if you want to get outside the city and see some local wildlife or the old southern estates.

If you’re planning on staying in town and want to stick around the Quarter you should be fine walking everywhere or grabbing a cab to somewhere in particular. We ended up using local cabs since there were plenty to flag down. You can download the Curb app before you go to make getting a cab easier.

We stayed right outside the Quarter so we just walked everywhere or took a cab to cut across town to the Garden District. If you’re interested though, there are some wonderful old streetcars that trek through the Quarter, into the Marigny, as well as all the way up into the Garden District. That’s where you can peek at some gorgeous houses and old graveyards.

new orleans city guide / observant nomad

What to Do

Jazz

One of the best reasons to visit New Orleans (besides the food) is the live entertainment and jazz music. You can’t throw a stone in New Orleans without hitting a live band. So you really can’t go wrong with any particular place, but my favorite spots for live music are all on Frenchmen St. My favorite? The Blue Nile. Try to hit up a club on Thursday night since that’s when more traditional jazz ensembles are playing without the cover.

Shopping

I love to shop in New Orleans. There are plenty of cool local art galleries along Royal St. And Decatur St has all the fun touristy shops where you can stock up on Cafe Du Monde coffee and buy a silly magnet for a friend. But along the way I’ve discovered some local boutiques worth visiting too. Here are my favorite shopping spots when I hit up New Orleans:

Southern Candy MakersBoutique Du Vampyre | Hové Parfumeur
MaskaradeMilk StudioLoomed Nola | Faulkner House Books | Greg’s Antiques

Explore

Don’t miss out taking a tour of the French Quarter while you’re there. You can sign up for a carriage ride on the south side of Jackson Square, and they’ll give you a small history lesson during the tour. Or if spooky is your thing there are several ghost + haunted tours of New Orleans you can check out too. When all else fails, simply get lost! the French Quarter is a very contained area of the city and you won’t have a hard time finding a fun place to check out.

We did take a small day trip over into the Garden District where we downloaded a self-guided walking tour of the major mansions and their history. It was very interesting to learn about the architecture and heritage around each estate. I highly suggest going early in the morning. When you’re done hop on over to Sucré on Magazine Street for some gelato, or post up on a patio to enjoy some drinks until the sun sets.

new orleans city guide / observant nomad

Let’s Eat

Morning

Let’s get to the good stuff, cause that’s why you’re reading this anyways, right? Well to start your day off you need to have a big tasty breakfast. It’s only best either because you’re preparing for a day of sipping cocktails or are recuperating from the day before.

For breakfast I can’t recommend Cafe Amelie enough. The food is absolute perfection in your mouth, and I was dying over the shrimp + grits there. If you’re in the Marginy area make sure to stop by New Orleans Cake Café & Bakery for anyone of their delicious homemade savory dishes. And don’t forget to top it off with one of their freshly baked sweet pastries. If you’re in the Garden District try out Surrey’s Juice Bar & Cafe. They kill it at french toast and obviously the freshly squeezed juices.

No trip to New Orleans is complete without a stop at the Cafe Du Monde for some beignets and a cup of chicory coffee. If you end up going in the summer, don’t fret, they have frozen options too. Just try to get there pretty early (or late at night) or you’ll end up waiting in the to-go line for a while. You can always go to the front and take a look around to see if there’s any open (seat yourself) tables too.

Noon

If somehow you wake up too late for brunch, there are plenty of sandwiches or po’ boys to snack on during the day. I had to take Rus to the classic Central Grocery Company for their world famous muffaletta sandwich. Forewarning, there is only one item on the menu, no exceptions. And we ordered a half-order to split between the both of us. The bread is absolutely divine. Each muffaletta is a well balanced sandwich of nutty bread, oily italian meats, and tangy sweet pepper relish.

Or, if you’re not sure what you’re in the mood for but want something upscale done right, it can’t hurt to try Commander’s Palace in the Garden District. An old timey looking blue building adjacent to the walking tour of the local mansions, makes for a nice start or break in the day. Doesn’t hurt that they sell 25 cent martinis at lunch either.

Maybe you just want something traditional to New Orleans or at least something of the seafood variety. We visited Acme Oyster House and at first I was wary of the obviously touristy destination — but let me tell you, it was absolutely delicious. We had chargrilled oysters (which changed my mind about oysters) as well as the crawfish and shrimp po’ boys. The wait wasn’t long at all, so don’t let the line scare you. Totally worth a visit.

Night

Now that your day is wrapping up, make sure to fill up before you head back out in the nightlife of New Orleans. I’d recommend Peche Seafood Grill or Cochon for some delicious meals that are a modern take on traditional cuisine. GW Fins is also a solid option for fancy seafood. If you’re looking for a quick yet filling late night snack, make sure to check out Dat Dog right on Frenchmen St. Over-the-top hot dogs done right.

If you are more interested in finding a bar to hole up in, check out some of my favorites. The Carousel Bar & Lounge in the Hotel Monteleone is a unique place worth visiting just to see the carousel alone. Try to go during peak eating times to avoid the masses and score a spot at the slowly rotating carousel bar top. If you can’t, wander past the bar into the lounge and cozy up with some friends. The Napoleon House is also one of my down-to-earth favorites. It’s an old European style hideaway bar, full of white jacket waiters who deliver proper Sazeracs. It’ll make you feel like you’re in a Hemingway novel.

Well, I hope you find something worthwhile to check out in New Orleans. It’s such a colorful and unique place that I love to visit again and again.

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