New Orleans a city of jazz, mouthwatering food, and the nicest people that make you do a double take. The beauty of New Orleans is it is a city where almost anything goes. I have been three times throughout my life and every time the Big Easy surprises me with different experiences that blow my mind.
I have gone as a teen, a booze crazed 21-year-old, and a more mature sober Sarah. This time around there was no booze as I traversed the city, by day and night. In fact, the past 6 months I have cut out alcohol out of my diet entirely, but that is an entirely different story. Seeing New Orleans through a fresh mindset and an open mind allowed me have a hell of a great time!
Café and Beignets
Tired after a long overnight bus ride from Dallas, I arrived in the morning and headed straight to 24-hour Café Du Monde to have the café’s world-famous beignets and coffee. I had my pick of seats, since 7am is very early for the revelers that often come to visit the city.
The last time I sat in this café was 4 years ago with my mother. It is was interesting to sit here and reflect over my coffee on how much New Orleans has grown and rebuilt over the years, but also how much I have changed.
As I sat there, New Orleans slowly rose from its’ slumber and the street jazz musicians began to play. I came to New Orleans entirely in a moment of spontaneity, after I decided not to get on my flight back to Orlando in Dallas.
Flixbus, a European company, just opened up in Texas with fare specials as low as .99 cents between cities. My entire trip between Dallas to New Orleans cost a mere $12.00. The overnight bus was smooth, relaxing, and I got a decent night’s rest.
On the way, we stopped in San Antonio and I spent the layover taking a scooter to see the Alamo and take a quick tour of the city. I had been once before with my mother when I was 12. It was definitely a nostalgic pit stop.
The New Orleans Mint and Jazz Museum
When I got to New Orleans I hit the ground running. I dropped my things off at my Couchsurfing host’s apartment in the French Quarter and went to the Jazz Museum at the historical Mint Building.
I recommend the museum because it shows you how Jazz is at the roots of New Orleans culture. It was amazing to see Louis Armstrong’s first cornet, and the world’s largest collection of instruments owned and played by important figures in jazz- trumpets, cornets, trombones, clarinets and saxophones played by jazz greats such as Bix Beiderbecke, Edward “Kid” Ory, George Lewis, Sidney Bechet and Dizzy Gillespie. (That random elective I took in college on the History of Jazz really paid off on this trip.)
Also, you can learn about the history of the New Orleans Mint building, which was interesting being that it had produced Confederate currency at one point in history.
Lunch and a Walk in the French Quarter
The French Quarter is the main attraction that draws people to New Orleans. Most people only think of Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras when they think of New Orleans’s French Quarter. I thought the neighborhood offered much more, from stunning architecture, to great food and street performers I was definitely impressed.
Head to Jackson square the historical park where the Louisiana Purchas was signed. Don’t forget to step inside the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral right off the square.
From there you can walk to the Mississippi River where you can hitch a ride on the Natchez Steamboat.
If antiquing and luxury are your thing head to Royal St. I loved strolling down the street checking out antique chandeliers, the cafes and bakeries, as well as the ornate Hotel Monteleonethat has a rotating Carousal Piano Bar and Lounge.
On the outskirts of the French Quarter you will find an outdoor Flea market full of vendors selling everything from veggies, books, home made goods, and jewelry. From 10 am to 6 pm every day you can check it out for a reasonably priced bite to eat and souvenirs.
Romance and Horse Drawn Carriages
New Orleans can be described in many words, but one of those would have to be romance.
It is not hard to see why.
New Orleans has cobblestoned streets lined with gas lamps, wrought iron balconies, and of course horse drawn carriages.
What more could you ask for?
While I have only ridden in a carriage with my mom experiencing the city as a child and a 21 year old looking to party. This time in New Orleans I felt the romance of the city.
It is hard not to get caught up in the swoon worthy songs that emanate through the streets and not want to experience it with someone else.
Tinder and Traveling
The first day I was in New Orleans I felt like I would hop on Tinder, since I was alone and my Couchsurfing host was too busy to hangout. (Don’t know what Couchsurfing is? Check out my article about it here.)
Some people are embarrassed about meeting people on Tinder. However I thought meeting a fellow traveler on Tinder or a local could give me a buddy to explore New Orleans with.
While I matched with some real weirdos, one guy stood out since he was also traveling solo and not from New Orleans. So, we met at Wednesday in the Square, a free jazz concert that is held every Wednesday in the Spring. In the first 15 seconds he made me laugh, and the conversation went smoothly.
This was the first time he used Tinder, and the first time I used it for the purpose of meeting someone to hang out with while I was on the road.
After the concert was over we headed over to The Quisby, a boutique hostel, where he was staying because they had an Open Mic night. The hostel was beautiful and full of energy.
I highly recommend this hostel. Every night they host events, have many people in the hostel bar, and they offer a free breakfast in the morning. While I didn’t stay there, I definitely felt more than welcome hanging out there and participating in their events.
My Tinder date might have broken a record. It has been three weeks since I met him and we went to New Orleans, Orlando, Miami, and Cuba together. It was definitely one of my best experiences on a dating app! We hit it off. Maybe it was lucky that we both were travelers, spontaneous, and looking for adventure, but using Tinder for me definitely was worth it this time around!
One thing I cannot stress enough is getting outside of the French Quarter and seeing other neighborhoods in New Orleans. Traveling without a car is easy and the city is super walkable.
My second day we went to the Garden District by street car. The street cars and public transport is very affordable in New Orleans and runs 24 hours. The cost for a ticket is $1.25 usd one way or $3 usd for a 24-hour pass.
The Garden District is beautiful to walk in and take in the architecture of the beautiful mansions in the area.
Some of my favorite things in the Garden District:
- Lafayette Cemetery – this unique cemetery is interesting with its’ above ground tombs due to New Orleans being below sea level. Interesting fact: Some of the tombs have 30- 40 people buried inside them. Also, you may recognize the cemetery from the movies, such as Interview with a Vampire.
- Commander’s Palace: Across from the cemetery is a world-famous restaurant, with its’ southern hospitality and the famous chefs that have come out of its kitchen, such as Emeril Lagasse be sure to step inside this gastronomical gem. You won’t miss it due to the recognizable vibrant blue exterior.
- Magazine Street: With 3 miles of shops, restaurants, bars, bakeries, and anything else you could imagine this street is the best place to shop.
- Celebrity mansions: Some celebrities that call the Garden District home are Sandra Bullock, John Goodman
Another neighborhood we enjoyed walking around was the Bywater district. With colorful houses, businesses, coffeeshops, art studios, and bars/restaurants that will send your head for a spin this place was definitely the most hipster.
Here you will find the best street art from Banksy, to the art outside and inside of Studio Be.
One of my favorite places and the most unique restaurant concepts I have been to was The Country Club. In an old southern mansion with a porch, quaint décor, and a pool with a bar this place is probably the anthesis to the traditional southern country club. For $15 usd you can lounge around the pool all day and also have a great brunch.
Along the riverfront of the Bywater is Crescent Park that leads you all the way back to the French Quarter. It offers a great view of the city skyline along the Mississippi River and a nice walk to get some fresh air.
Voodoo and Ghost Tours
New Orleans has a spooky vibe. It reminds me of witches, ghosts, and the Creole heritage of New Orleans brings up Voodoo. On one of my many visits to this hauntingly beautiful city I took a Voodoo/Ghost tour. I highly recommend to Free Tours by Foot for some great tour options that bring you all over the city.
Nightlife in New Orleans
Over the course of the four nights I stayed in New Orleans we went out almost every night. I wasn’t drinking, but I love live music and dancing, so New Orleans nightlife was the best place for me.
We went out on Bourbon Street, where we bar hopped and took in the various street performers. Some of my favorite spots on Bourbon Street:
- Pat Obrien’s: From the garden patio area, to the dueling pianos bar inside this place was by far my favorite.
- Bourbon Cowboy: What, did you thought Bourbon Street wouldn’t have a rodeo-themed bar with mechanical bull? Of course, it does. My friend bet me to do it and I stayed on the longest of anyone in there!
- Cat’s Meow: I love Karaoke and watching people make a fool of themselves so this one is definitely on the list. Here you can see some of the best air guitarists in the world and back up dancers on stage as someone belts out NYSNC.
I prefer Bourbon Street early in the afternoon because I like to avoid the messy party at night. (Think vomit in the streets and frat basements.)
In the evening I recommend going out on Frenchman Street where the locals go to party. This is where you go if you want to fit in like a local. Frenchman Street is the sophisticated older brother to Bourbon Street. Here you will find live music, amazing food, and local prices.
My favorite places on Frenchman:
- The Maison – With live funk, soul, and Jazz music every day of the week there is no going wrong at The Maison.
- d.b.a. – Also a great place to see local big names in Jazz and dance the night away.
- Louisiana Music Factory– The largest venue and also one of the best places for funk. I loved the dance floor here.
Basically, you can walk up and down Frenchman Street any day of the week and find a party with nice locals, good music, and cheap eats/drinks.
Where to stay in New Orleans?
Quirky/Party: India House Hostel is a quirky hostel with a pool and is also the oldest hostel in New Orleans. It has been hosting travelers from around the world the past 50 years. The staff hosts dinners, parties, and pub crawls.
Budget: The Quisby is a boutique hostel located along the St. Charles Street Car Route in the Garden District. With nightly events including pub crawls, open mic nights, and live music, you will never be bored or lonely.
Mid-Range: Holiday Inn in the French Quarter is in a great location in the center of the French Quarter at an affordable price. With a wrought- iron balcony and the charm of the French Quarter for less than $200 usd a night.
Luxury: Hotel Monteleone is a luxury hotel in the French Quarter on Royal Street. The opulence of the hotel, historic significance, and the hotel restaurant and rotating Carousal Bar is more than enough reason to stay at one of the listed Historic Hotels of America. $200 plus a night depending if you stay on a weekend or weekday.
Where to eat?
For Gumbo: The Gumbo Shop in the heart of the French Quarter.
For Po Boys: Guy’s Po’ Boys my favorite was the half grilled and fried shrimp Po Boy with all the fixings. This is on Magazine Street.
For Creole Food: Cochon in the Warehouse District. This has the best overall Creole food in New Orleans in my opinion and won’t break the bank.
All in all, my time in New Orleans was a success. I met a great travel companion, partied albeit soberly across the city, danced to a lot of jazz and funk music, and ate some of the best creole food. I followed my gut and took a chance when I decided to skip my flight to head to New Orleans and boy did the adventures that ensued pay off. More stories to come and adventures!