Airport – Louis Armstrong New Orleans International (MSY)
Currency – U.S. Dollar ($)
Language – English
Population – 380,000
NOLA! I have been to New Orleans once and would love to go back. I was invited to my friend JAF’s (those are his initials so we call him JAF) bachelor party in February 2016 and had an absolute blast. The city was established by French colonists in the early 1700’s and is filled with tons of European history and culture.
The food is amazing, there is a lot of great live music, and of course, there’s the annual Mardi Gras holiday which generally falls in late February. If you’re heading to town, keep reading so you know where to go for the best meals, activities, and of course, drinks on the famous Bourbon Street!
From New York, New Orleans is a quick 2 and a half hour flight, and Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is only 30 minutes from downtown. I took the Airtrain to JFK airport ($8 instead of $50) and used TSA Precheck to skip the security line.
Tip – I often board planes ASAP to avoiding checking my carry-on. Ever since airlines implemented checked bag fees there has been a spike in carry-ons, limiting overhead space.
Check Out the Live Music!
For those into live music and something less wild than the infamous Bourbon Street, check out Frenchmen Street in the French Quarter. This stretch near Canal Street is lined with bars and restaurants equipped with the space and design for large and small bands alike. While the city is famous for its jazz music, we found a wide range of performers, from singer-songwriter acoustic guitar types to blues and even rock bands. I found the diversity of each band’s membership to be very unique – both old and young sharing in a common love for the music.
d.b.a. was hosting a Jazz Poetry band on Sunday evening (following an all-you-can-eat crayfish boil in the afternoon). The venue was refreshingly spacious (compared to some of our earlier destinations on Bourbon Street) and had a great selection of beers on tap and whiskeys. We also visited The Spotted Cat Music Club for some great live music. Be sure to check out the nearby outdoor Art market next door with ample seating for people-watching and casual conversation. I highly recommend this area of town for a change of pace from the craziness only a few blocks away.
Gator Airboat Ride
One of the highlights of the weekend was our guided airboat alligator tour of the wildlife and marsh of outer New Orleans. For those looking to escape from downtown, just 20 minutes away you can experience a full wildlife tour by boat and see a variety of gators, snakes, birds and more.
Our airboat driver made this experience incredible by sharing his knowledge of the region’s wildlife and not backing down when we had our alligator encounters. After spotting our first gator I was excited to snap a picture and continue.
However, our driver was able to lure the alligator in, proceed to snap its mouth shut and pull it onto our boat! Check out this awesome video below for the live action of us versus the gator:
We also saw a variety of other beautiful wildlife including a bald eagle resting atop a tree in the distance. The ride was a blast and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a break from the delicious food, live music and fun bars to see some wildlife and explore New Orleans further.
Oak Alley Plantation
I highly recommend that you visit this beautiful plantation during your trip to New Orleans. Oak Alley offers live oaks and lovely grounds to explore. It is located approximately one hour from New Orleans and is definitely worth the visit. You can also tour the mansion and utilize the guides on site to help you enjoy your experience.
New Orleans is known for its delicious Cajun fare including gumbo, étouffée and crawfish. Also noteworthy were the oysters, red beans and rice, and famous beignets at Café Du Mond.
Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar – Located in the French Quarter, Felix’s offers a variety of delicious seafood and Po’ Boy sandwiches. The Po’ Boy is a traditional sandwich served on New Orleans French bread. I thoroughly enjoyed their special shrimp and oyster Po’ Boy after a medley of oysters which included raw, spinach and buffalo style.
Jacques-Imo’s – For those looking for authentic New Orleans cuisine, check out this Uptown restaurant known for its dishes like fried grits, rabbit and its famous Shrimp and Alligator Sausage Cheesecake.
Café Du Monde – For a delicious morning start, head over to Café du Monde, which is French for Café of the World. Located on Decatur Street in the French Quarter, have a seat and try their delicious beignets, a deep-fried choux pastry, which comes in three. I recommend getting a hot chocolate or coffee to do some dipping!
Tip – given Cafe Du Monde’s popularity, I would recommend going mid-week if possible
Mother’s – On our final day, we stopped by Mother’s, a cafeteria-style restaurant famous for their “World’s best ham”. Open since 1938, their cafeteria décor and homey atmosphere made for a great cap to our weekend trip. I indulged in the famous ham platter and tried their special Po’ Boy sandwich as well.
Lastly, for those adventurous eaters out there, make sure to try turtle soup during your NOLA stay. I gave it a whirl during brunch at the Court of Two Sisters. This venue offered a great buffet with lots of options, a beautiful courtyard to eat outside, and of course, an opportunity to try crayfish and the turtle soup.
Bonus: Advanced foodies can also check out:
The Ribs at Cochon
Muffuletta from Central Grocery and Napoleon House
Rabbit Gumbo and Shrimp & Grits at Coop’s Place
Banana’s Foster at Brennan’s (they invented it!)
The Blue Crab Beignet and mac & cheese at La Petite Grocery
Wine, cheese, outdoor seating and live music at Bacchanal Wine
For those looking for rowdier evening activities, definitely check out Bourbon Street. Our first night in town we each grabbed a “hand grenade” (frozen drinks comprised of gin, grain alcohol, melon liqueur and more!) and walked the street, popping in and out of bars and clubs. Make sure to get some beads and enjoy the show!