There’s no wrong time of the year to visit New Orleans!
For all you revelers about to hit the Big Easy for Mardi Gras, New Orleans Bourbon Festival or Jazz Fest, here’s a little list of must-see/drink/eat/do things you can’t miss while in the Crescent City, curated by Yes Louisville Content Coordinator, Lori Mangum!
Lori is a NOLA-loving Louisvillian who calls the Big Easy her second home. When she moved away after grad school (kicking & screaming) she joined a Carnival Krewe (HAIL NYX!) to give her great excuses to visit several times a year for, well, FOREVER! This is by no means a list of everything awesome, but she thinks it’ll get you started. So, throw care to the wind, embrace the beads & as they say in NOLA…
Laissez les bon temps rouler!
1 Parkway Bakery & Tavern
New Orleanians will go to the mattresses about the best po'boy sandwich in town. You can get a good one pretty much anywhere you go. Even gas stations deliver on delicousness in this department.
But, my all-star po'boy is at Parkway Bakery & Tavern, a neighborhood go-to since 1911!
Uber to Mid City or if you're feeling adventurous, hop on the Red Line Streetcar from downtown & ride it up to Jefferson Davis & walk toward Bayou St. John (straight off the car as you exit). Walk about six blocks & you'll run right into it!
Every time I'm in town I make a trip to Parkway for a Golden Fried Shrimp po'boy, sweet potato fries, & a Barq's Root Beer. Get it dressed (lettuce, tomato, mayo, pickle) or leave anything off you don't love. Top it with some Crystal Hot Sauce & some of their house-made remoulade sauce for an extra special local experience.
Read about the history while you wait in line (there's always some kind of line) & sit inside or out depending on your preference & the weather. Just be prepared to make a mess...& love it!
2 The Ruby Slipper Cafe
Let's be honest, livers take a hit in NOLA, no matter when you visit or why. So, you need a good breakfast spot in the morning (with killer mimosas/bellinis) to help you bounce back!
When I roll out of bed the morning after parading down the Avenue with the Mystic Krewe of Nyx I'm craving caffeine & The Ruby Slipper.
With SIX convenient locations around the city, you're guaranteed to be close enough to one to stumble in for recovery brunch.
My usual order is a the Chicken St. Charles (Fried chicken breast served over a buttermilk biscuit, topped with two poached eggs, finished with a pork tasso cream sauce) & an order of grits, washed down with a Peach Bellini.
They have breakfast, lunch & brunch options w/ cocktails & coffee galore! Enjoy!
3 St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
New Orleans is famous for its cemeteries, affectionately called "Cities of the Dead". In NOLA we can't bury folks the way we do in the Bluegrass, so families invest generationally in crypts, vaults & other higher options for honoring & laying to rest loved ones.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the burial place of famed VooDoo Queen Marie Laveau & other historical figures & well worth the visit. You need to tour with a guide to get the best experience & respect the policies of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. A full list of approved guides is on the site below!
4 Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro
New Orleans oozes musical history. Satchmo himself helped birth the jazz movement in the dives of the Quarter & many famous venues like Preservation Hall are still brimming with tunes every night.
My favorite place to catch some local music is Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro on Frenchmen St. This intimate, reservation-only venue features some of NOLA's best, from the Marsalis family to Trombone Shorty & more, you'll never be disappointed.
Every guest has a seat, too, so no crowded sweaty strangers pushing you around, & servers keep your glass as full as you'd like it all night.
5 Gumbo Shop
NOLA is a foodie's dream! There are HUNDREDS of restaurants in the French Quarter alone & you'll be hard-pressed to get bad food anywhere you go. If you're looking for GREAT authentic cajun & creole cuisine at budget-friendly prices, look no further than the Gumbo Shop!
Located less than a block from Jackson Square & St. Louis Cathedral (which you also MUST walk around & through), the Gumbo Shop features traditional favorites like Chicken Andouille Gumbo, Red Beans & Rice, Crawfish Etouffee & MORE! Enjoy a fresh fruit puree daiquiri while you wait!
6 Cafe Du Monde
The original Cafe Du Monde Coffee Stand was opened in the French Market in 1862. They've grown to nine locations, but that classic Decatur St. spot is still an essential stop on any trip to the Crescent City. They're slinging beignets & cafe au lait 24 hours a day, so come hungry & don't wear black...trust me.
It's CASH ONLY, so come prepared. If the line is too wild for you, go to the back side & order them to-go! Take your tasty treats to the top of the steps & eat them overlooking the Mississippi River & St. Louis Cathedral.
7 The Columns Hotel
One of the most picturesque places to grab a cocktail is The Columns Hotel on St. Charles Avenue. Ride the green line streetcar from downtown down the Avenue & hop off at Constantinople & walk less than two blocks back to the best front porch in the city. Order a sazerac & sip your way to the sunset.
8 Fleurty Girl
Started by a then single mom with her tax return, this NOLA t-shirt boutique has exploded to a 7-store Louisiana retail chain featuring "All Things New Orleans!" Fleurty Girl is celebrating it's 10th anniversary this year, so go join the celebration!
Don't buy souvenirs from a national chain store or import business when you can shop local & support a woman-owned business built from the ground up with passion & lots of NOLA flair!
I recommend the Uptown shop on Magazine (GREAT street for walking, shopping & eating all day) or the French Quarter shop on St. Peter inside the former residence of Tennessee Williams when he lived in New Orleans while writing "A Streetcar Named Desire." Walk from St. Peter to Royal St. & pop in & out of dozens more local stores & galleries sure to make your day...& break your bank in a good way!
Uptown - 3137 Magazine St.
9 Haydel's Bakery
This 3rd generation family bakery has multiple locations, dozens of delectable goodies, & a Guinness World Record! They are the authority on sweet treats in the Big Easy, so remind yourself that vacation calories don't count & head down to the bake shop to stock up on traditional treats, cookies & of course...KING CAKE!
10 Pat O'Brien's Hurricane Cocktail (Bourbon Street)
Bourbon Street. It's something you need to walk & see at least once. But, please, I'm begging you, don't stay there. NOLA is much more than one strip of spectacle.
BUT, since I know you're gonna go, you need a good drink recommendation. For this look no further than Pat O'Brien's (Pat O's Courtyard Restaurant), where they've been having fun & serving up the best & biggest Hurricanes in the city since 1933!
Pace yourself with this one...wink wink.
11 City Park & the New Orleans Museum of Art
Want to pump the breaks on the party & enjoy an afternoon in nature, feeding ducks, riding a gondola, or walking through a sculpture garden & galleries? City Park is your spot!
Enjoy miles of bike & walking/running trails, take a spin around the pond on one of many fun vessels (they seriously have gondolas) or stop in the New Orleans Museum of Art all in City Park. Admire the Spanish moss in the trees & soak up the sun with a picnic if the weather is nice!
Museum info at: NOMA.org
12 Mardi Gras World
As a krewe member I advocate for EVERYONE to experience local Mardi Gras enjoying monster parades as they roll down St. Charles Avenue tossing coveted throws to the crowd! But, not everyone can make their way to NOLA for Fat Tuesday or the days leading up to it.
So, if you find yourself in New Orleans NOT during Carnival Season, head to Mardi Gras world to see some floats up close & personal in one of the spaces where they are created. Hear the history & be amazed at the grandeur of our favorite time of the year!