I recently checked off my first travel goal of 2019 by spending a long weekend in New Orleans. The city is so unique and has a lot of offer, and I’m pretty impressed with how much I was able to do.
So, how do I recommend spending 72 hours in the Big Easy?
The First Step: Booking
I can’t speak for the rest of the year, but New Orleans is a popular destination in the early spring (February-March) due to Mardi Gras. Therefore, it’s best to book accommodations early. My friend and I stayed in an Airbnb in Mid-City, which is north of the French Quarter and much quieter. Public transportation from the airport doesn’t seem to be a real option, so we split an Uber. (Make sure you include this in your budget.)
Our Airbnb was close to a trolley stop, so we took it down Canal Street to the French Quarter on our first night. Bourbon Street is probably the first place people think of, so that’s where we started. It was crowded, of course–way too much for me. People were spilling out of bars and clubs, and hotel guests were tossing beads from their balconies down to people in the streets below, which seems like a total health hazard. We wandered around for a while, taking everything in, and caught the end of a krewe parade. (In New Orleans, krewes are social organizations that plan balls and/or parades during Carnival.)
A trip to New Orleans is not complete without seeing a live show! A great place to go is Frenchmen Street in the Marigny neighborhood, which is full of restaurants, bars, and music venues. On our last night in the city, we had dinner at Snug Harbor. The food was good, but the best part came when we went into the attached room next door for the live show. Charmaine Neville and her band were fantastic, and even though I was forced to sing on stage, I had a great time.
Something I noticed is that bars don’t really play bounce music downtown, or else we just went to the wrong places. That was my only disappointment with the nightlife, since bounce is New Orleans’ music.
Exploring During the Day
New Orleans has amazing nightlife, but get out during the day and explore the city! The trolley makes getting around easy enough if you don’t have a car, despite not always running in a timely manner, but we also used Uber a lot. My biggest advice is to not spend too much time in the French Quarter and neglect other neighborhoods and attractions.
On the first day, we did a free walking tour in the French Quarter, which I highly recommend. I learned so much about the city and the relationship between the Spanish, Native Americans, French, Africans, Creoles (Europeans born in the former colonies; later meant to describe people of mixed heritage), and Americans (those who moved into Louisiana after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803).
The best part about the French Quarter is the architecture. Every building has a story, and it’s perfect for a photo shoot. It’s easy to think that the style is French colonial due to the name of the neighborhood, but it’s actually Spanish colonial and developed during Spanish rule in the late 1700s.
After the tour, we explored Louis Armstrong Park in the Tremé neighborhood, where the city’s black population lived historically.
I also took a walking tour of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, the oldest cemetery in New Orleans. You’ll find the tombs of Homer Plessy (from Plessy v. Ferguson), famed voodoo queen Marie Laveau, and Dutch Morial (the first black mayor of New Orleans). Although it was rainy, I absolutely loved the tour. There’s two other St. Louis Cemeteries and some others throughout the city. For example, I wanted to see Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 in the Garden District, but I didn’t realize that cemeteries close so early in the day–around 3pm– and I missed my chance.
Regarding the Garden District, I spent an afternoon in this neighborhood, which was originally full of plantations. The land was later sold to Americans in the 19th century who didn’t want to live with the Creoles in the French Quarter. The streets are full of mansions and well-kept homes. The main street to visit is Magazine Street, full of independent shops and restaurants.
My main goal was to see the Buckner Mansion, where American Horror Story: Coven was filmed. I’ll confess that it’s the only season of the show I’ve watched, but it’s so good. The mansion is actually a private home, so you can’t take tours inside. I had to settle for awkwardly taking pictures next to a group of construction workers outside.
Besides neighborhoods and historic places, we went to Harrah’s Casino, where my friend tried his luck at a slot machine, didn’t stop while he was ahead, and lost his $5. I can admit how thrifty I am, so the thought of potentially losing money doesn’t sound fun. But to each his own! There’s also riverboat cruises and major cruise ships that dock in New Orleans.
For our last day, I went to the New Orleans Museum of Art. Located in City Park, the museum opened in 1911 and is the oldest fine arts museum in New Orleans. It has an impressive collection of European and American art, such as a portrait of Queen Marie Antoinette by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun and one of President George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, as well as art specific to Louisiana.
So Much Food
New Orleans is a classic food city. I’m not a travel foodie at all, but even I wanted to try as many local dishes as possible.
I also had a good shrimp po-boy from Verti Marte, a very small but very popular corner store. By the end of the weekend, however, I just wanted soul food that I can’t get (reasonably) in D.C., so we went to Neyow’s Creole Cafe, where I had the best-priced meal of my trip. Notice that I didn’t mention going to Cafe du Monde because I’ve been there before. Their beignets are decent but definitely not worth waiting in a long line for.
Overall I was happy with everything I ate, but I was surprised because the food in New Orleans was not as cheap as I thought it would be. This could be because the areas we went to were more touristy. There’s also a lot of dishes with seafood, which is usually is more expensive.
Thanks for catching up with me! I hope this will help give you some ideas about what to do in New Orleans. If there’s anything I missed on my trip, please share your thoughts with me!