What To Do in New Orleans

My trip to New Orleans last weekend was everything I wanted it to be and more.  It was my first legitimate vacation in almost two years, so it was definitely good to my soul.  My roomie (Kat) and I decided to make a roadtrip out of it, so we left Nashville at an ungodly hour on Thursday morning with a bomb playlist, a bag of dark chocolate and larabars to snack on, and a car-full of excitement.  Eight hours later we arrived in NOLA, and y'all, it became one of my favorite cities real quick.  There is just so much life in that place, with all of the music, food, people, and yes, crazy.  I loved every ounce of it.  I got to eat authentic Cajun and Creole dishes, experience the insanity that is Bourbon Street, explore the French Quarter and Garden District, and I even got to take a little break from the city to explore Oak Alley Plantation, which was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.  I also ate beignets on beignets on beignets... #noregrets.  Kat and I had a really great time and loved (almost) everything we got to experience in the 3 short days we were there.  I already can't wait to go back!  In between all of the photos to follow are some of my recommendations and tips if you ever get the chance to visit New Orleans:

  • Bourbon Street -- fun, fun, and crazy.  Many people I talked to made this area out to be terrible, but I actually really enjoyed it.  Located in the heart of the French Quarter.  Our hotel was only 2 blocks off of Bourbon, so we walked through it at least once a day.  With that, I will say that Bourbon is better to explore on a weekday and earlier in the evening.  Be warned: the later it gets, the more uncomfortable it gets (think catcalling, less clothing, and more pungent smells).  
    • Pat O'Briens -- a tourist hot-spot, but if you're going to get a Hurricane this is the place to go.  Warning: these drinks are strong.
    • Music Legends Park -- jazz music. beignets. what more could I want in life? 
  • French Quarter -- tourist central, but for good reason.  There are so many fun shops, restaurants, art crawls, and street performers.  If you're planning on eating in this area on the weekend, definitely make a reservation.  Also located here were some of my favorite spots:
    • Cafe Beignet -- home to my absolute favorite beignets! 
    • Carousel Bar -- every bit as cool as it sounds: it's a bar that is also a rotating carousel. What.
    • Jackson Square -- great park to picnic, read, and people watch.
    • Cafe Du Monde -- you kind of have to hit this spot, but there are crazy long lines during the day, so I went at 9pm when there was no line.
    • Spitfire Espresso -- living in Nashville has turned me into a #coffeesnob
    • Cafe Amelie -- go here for the most serene outdoor-garden eating experience. You will feel miles away from Bourbon Street even though you're just a few blocks up.
    • Sylvain -- swanky local spot.  We only found out about this place when we got on a pedicab with no destination in mind, and our driver brought us here.  It's a classy little hole in the wall restaurant, and while we sat at the bar, the food looked and smelled amazing.  We were told that celebrities are often spotted here, and we actually ended up sitting next to actress Malin Ackerman. #awesome
  • Frenchmen Street -- where the locals go.  Kat's trainer is from NOLA, so he recommended that we head north of the French Quarter to this sweet little nook of New Orleans.  We made the 15+ block walk around dusk to grab dinner in that area, but note that there are some sketchier spots along the way.  Here we stumbled into the Frenchmen Art Market, a quirky outdoor market with treasures and trinkets sold by locals.  Also:
    • El Gato Negro -- super yummy mexican food!
    • Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro -- this place came highly recommended by a close friend, and while I wasn't able to check it out on this trip, I definitely plan to next time!
  • Oak Alley Plantation -- like something out of a dream.  Truly one of the most beautiful and ethereal places I've ever seen, and well worth the 55 minute drive from NOLA.  This old sugar plantation right off of the Mississippi River is surrounded by southern oak trees that were planted in the 1700's, the most stunning of which line the walkway up to the front of the house.  Take the house tour, grab a mint julep, and stroll around the grounds as long as you please.
  • Garden District -- a must.  This area of NOLA is so, so cute, offering lots of fun shops and restaurant options.  It is quiet, charming, and a great place to walk around and admire the beautiful houses, trees, and even the cemeteries.  Kind of creepy, but they are seriously beautiful. Haha.
    • Sucre -- macarons and chocolate, need I say more?
    • Commander's Palace -- go here for some bananas foster, whose birthplace is New Orleans.
    • St. Charles Avenue -- stunning in every way.  Take a ride on the streetcar if you can!

So yes, New Orleans was magical and I totally fell in love with it.  And yes, there is definitely some darkness in that city with all of its voodoo and whatnot, but I prayed before and during that trip that God would give us opportunities to be a light and be vessels of His love.  Even with all of the amazing things we saw and did (and ate) while in NOLA, the best part by far was being asked, "Why are you girls so happy and joyful?"  Jesus, y'all.  He is just so good.

I hope you all get the chance to visit this vibrant city at some point.  I know I'll be back again!