Our recent trip to New Orleans was the first time I had been. When looking at the weather to plan what to bring, it said mid 60’s-70 degrees. I quickly realized that 70 degrees in Denver is VERY different that 70 degrees in New Orleans. The humidity literally hit me across the face the moment I stepped off the plane and I knew that I had packed all wrong. The good thing is the heat doesn’t bother me and I would much rather be hot than cold.
Any-who, we went to New Orleans with my sister and her boyfriend who had a conference and wanted to tag along. Our objective: sip some great cocktails, nosh on some great eats and listen to some great jazz music. I’ve listed 9 things we loved while visiting New Orleans.
1. Bourbon Street and the French Quarter
Whether you enjoy the crazy bar scene or not, you have to at least take a walk down Bourbon Street. We were trying to compare it to any other place we have been but, the fact is that there is simply no place like it. What we imagined it to be did not necessarily match our expectations. I pictured it as a similar to the strip in Vegas. Like Vegas, it’s legal to walk the streets with an open container of alcohol. However, Bourbon Street is MUCH more narrow than the sidewalks of Vegas among other things.
As you walk down the brick and stone sidewalks, you will see bar after bar with neon lights and signs for their drink specials. Many people try to grab your attention to get you into their bar. Street performers are everywhere. You might see children playing 5 gallon bucket drums or people dressed as statues posing in the same position for hours. As the night goes on, the street gets more crowded and there are many people on the second floor balconies who throw beads down. I asked our waitress at the Cafe Beignet in Music Legends Park about the whole flashing for beads. She said she has no idea where that comes but no one does that. Needless to say, we did not see anyone showing their boobs for beads… sorry boys.
Frenchman Street is a short walk from Bourbon Street but found it to be less crazy and have more live music. The bands don’t seem to start until the evening but it is still fun to walk down during the day. There is definitely different feel to Frenchman Street. I heard that it used to be where more of the locals go but has changed to a more popular tourist destination over the past few years. We walked down it one night and walked through several of the craft bazaars they have. There you can browse and purchase many pieces of art from local artists. There are some very talented people who create great pieces!
Things to consider before you go:
- Comfortable walking shoes. Depending on where you are staying, you may have a little bit of a walk to get to Bourbon Street. I would not recommend heels or even wedges because of the uneven walking surfaces. I would not recommend sandals or open toed shoes either. The sidewalks can be very dirty and wet. There can also Mardi Gras beads all over and easy to slip on.
- Go in the morning or early afternoon. If you are hoping to avoid the crazy crowds and drunk people, definitely go when it’s still light out and earlier in the day. As it gets later, people get drunker, crazier and it’s definitely is more busy. One good thing is that after a certain time, the road is blocked off and you can walk on the street without worrying about cars.
- Watch your purse or bag- as with any busy tourist area, be cognizant of your wallet, purse or backpack. Even though there is a good police presence in the area, don’t allow yourself to be a victim of a crime of opportunity. Put your wallet in your front pocket and make sure your purse or backpack is zipped up. Be cautious of people coming up and talking to you or asking you strange questions as they might be trying to divert your attention while someone else pickpockets you.
I don’t want to scare you into not visiting because it is a very fun and unique place to see. We did not have any problems and we walked Bourbon Street several times.
After walking down Bourbon Street,take a walk south towards the Mississippi River. There is a great boardwalk to stroll down and it is much less crazy than Bourbon Street. There are many great restaurants where you can find some great traditional Cajun food.
2. Steamboat Natchez
If you are looking for a fun daytime or evening activity, try taking a riverboat cruise on the Steamboat Natchez. They have several options for tours which you can find on their website here. We did a Sunday Morning Brunch cruise but chose the option for the boat ride only without brunch. They also offer dinner cruises and heard from several people are very fun.
Unfortunately, the day we went was rainy and cold. The majority of the inside space of the boat is for the dining room. Those seats are reserved for brunch (or dinner) so we sat outside. On a nice day that would have been great, however it was pretty cold. The outside decks have quite a bit of seating and tables that is covered so we were able stay dry. The best view is up top on the top (third) deck.
About the boat
The boat has 2 other bars that are located indoors. One is on the 3rd deck with only about 4 tables. The other is on the bottom deck and is a little larger but still only about 5 or 6 tables. There is some room to stand if you just need a quick warm up. They do off warm beverages such as coffee and hot chocolate. An even better place to warm up is the engine room down on the bottom floor towards the back of the boat. Here you can see how a steam engine works and watch the men in action. There are a few bathrooms on board and you may purchase food and drinks even of you did not purchase the meal with your ticket.
Where it goes
The boat ride takes you from Jackson’s Square in the French Quarter, down the river about 7 miles, turns around and heads back upstream to just past where you boarded and near the Crescent City Connection Bridge. It returns you to the same location at Jackson’s Square. The Sunday brunch tour is 2 hours long. A guide takes along the rivers you pass several docked ships, a sugar plant, oil refinery as well as other points of interest.
I would recommend doing the riverboat ride with the brunch or dinner if you are wanting a guaranteed seat inside. It’s really the only way to see the jazz band also. Otherwise, you can listen to them playing from the speakers outside on the deck. Although we didn’t eat on the boat, many people said the food was great. Definitely reserve your tickets ahead of time on their website here several days or even week in advance since they do book up. Even of you cannot get a reservation to have a meal on the boat, I would say it’s still worth going.
3. Carousel Bar
Located inside the Hotel Monteleone, the Carousel bar is one of those unique place you must stop in just to see if nothing else. The seats around the bar as well as the bar counter itself, slowly rotate while you sit. The movement is very slow and before you realize it, you are on the opposite side of the bar. Not only is it a nice lounge and fun place to visit, they make great cocktails. The bar seats fill up quick so you may have to stand and wait for a little while, but those are definitely be best seats in the house.
4. Street Car
When your feet get tired of walking, try riding one of the iconic streetcars. These trolleys can get you to most of the tourist destinations in New Orleans. Tickets are inexpensive at $1.25 for a single ride or $3 for a 24 hour pass. There are also options for a 3-day pass for $9 and even a 31-day pass for $55. You may purchase your single ride or 24 hour ticket directly when you board the streetcar. Note that you must have EXACT cash to purchase this way.
The easiest way we found to navigate the streetcars is just the Google maps app on our phone. Just click on the transit option at the bottom once you have entered both your FROM and TO location. Then click on the small train icon to pull up the stops on your route. It makes navigating an unfamiliar city much easier!
By far the best food we had in New Orleans! It may be on the top end of your budget but if you’re willing to spend the extra, it will definitely be worth it. We were recommended the restaurant August by our friend, Daniel, and were honestly, a little hesitant because of how expensive it looked. We decided what the heck, we’re on vacation and tried it anyway and so glad we did. If you love french food, definitely stop in here. Dishes we would recommend are the potato gnocchi, the oysters, and the “breaded” flounder. For dessert, definitely try the “dirt cake”.
6.Cafe Beignet/ Music Legends Park
“Dirt Cake” and August in New Orleans
We found this little oasis on Bourbon Street and spent most of our time here. What we love about the Cafe Beignet at Music Legends Park is you can still be a part of the Bourbon Street scene minus the craziness. They have plenty of seating outdoors, both covered and uncovered, and there is always live music. The food is great and they have a full bar right there with the best waitresses. What else can you ask for?
7. 21st Amendment
One of the must have drinks to try in New Orleans is a hurricane and while many will tell you to go to Pat O’Briens, we found a better one. The 21st Ammendment
bar has great drinks and the best hurricane we found during our trip. This bar is smaller than others and has a great atmosphere. Like many of the bars in the French Quarter, they have live music. It’s located just off of Bourbon Street making it a little less crowded when we were there.
Another must try drink while in New Orleans is a Sazerac which is a whiskey cocktail. Not my first choice but my husband said the 21st Amendment made the best Sazerac he had while in red Orleans.
8. WWII Museum
The National World War II Museum in New Orleans is rated as one of the best war museums in the U.S. If you enjoy WWII history, this is a must see in New Orleans. Like many museums, there is quite a bit of reading. However, they have many displays, videos, personal stories and interactive areas. It is very educational and makes for a great rainy day activity. Buy your tickets online here beforehand and pick them up when you arrive to skip them sometimes long lines.
The best part of the museum is the Boeing Center which is the home to several aircrafts that are suspended from the ceiling. You can get a close view of these pieces of history from the viewing bridges on the 3rd and fourth floors. Be sure to take a look at rh Boeing B-17 and P-51 Mustang.
If you are looking for some great seafood, try Bourbon House on Bourbon Street. They have a great menu of delicious Southern food as well as a great whiskey menu which kept my husband entertained for hours! (no exaggeration!) The food is delicious! I wish I would have taken more photos of my meal for you to see, but it looked so good when it got to the table, I just dug right in.
We went on a Sunday night and it was really busy. Luckily, we made reservations and didn’t have to wait. I would recommend making reservations if you planning on eating at Bourbon house for dinner. We used Open Table to make our reservations. Definitely stop in, even if it’s only for a cocktail at the bar.
Overall summary of New Orleans Favorites:
•Bourbon Street– A must see in New Orleans…Go during the day
•Frenchman Street– Lots of live music that starts in the evening
•Steamboat Natchez– A fun tour of the Mississippi River
•Carousel Bar– A fun bar that rotates while you sip great cocktails
•Streetcars– Easy way to get around NOLA
•Restaurant August– The best food in New Orleans…seriously.
•Cafe Beignet at Music Legends Park– Perfect place for a cocktail, beignet and live music on Bourbon Street
•21st Amendment– Makes the best Sazerac and Hurricanes
•The National WWII Museum– Very well done and a fun activity for a rainy day
•Bourbon House– Great seafood and traditional Southern food
•Hyatt Regency New Orleans– We stayed here. A little walk to Bourbon Street but a great hotel
•Napoleon House– The best Muffuletta in New Orleans. We went twice!