Byen Venu (or Bienvenue?) to New Orleans
For those who have yet to experience “America’s Most Interesting City,” New Orleans’ gritty exterior may cause some hesitancy. But the beauty in visiting this raw and progressive city, is if you open your heart up to all of its flaws, it will unconditionally love you right back.
With its vibrant and inclusive nightlife scene, genuine southern hospitality, and powerful sense of identity, pride bursts from every music-filled alleyway and magic from every cobblestone street.
If you’re planning a trip to this “European” city on the Mississippi, you’ll be sure to find dozens of centuries-old dining spots, traffic stopping second line parades, and chickory coffee strong enough to bring a grown man to his knees.
From its deeply rooted French, Cuban, Hatian, and Spanish traditions, it’s a cultural smorgasbord that represents the very essence of the American spirit.
Where to Stay
Lower Garden District
Two miles from the bustling and sultry streets of the French Quarter, one can find all the makings of a quaint and artistic suburb. In New Orleans’ Irish Channel neighborhood, rows of colorful shotgun houses pepper the narrow streets in between historic buildings that house local shops. Restaurants serving up the best of the city’s culinary scene and bars that welcome patrons well after the sun comes up can also be found on most street corners.
The pastel purple “Mambo House” sits in the center of the action, just steps from the popular coffee shops, clothing boutiques, and bars on Magazine Street.
Owned by Jouandot Enterprise, the 1800 square foot shotgun home is a safe and spacious option for housing during a visit to New Orleans with four bedrooms, two full baths, and enough space to sleep at least eight people –or an entire bachelorette party — comfortably.
Vibrant chalkboard paint covers the walls in most rooms as guests are encouraged to leave notes of encouragement (or debauchery) for future guests wherever blank space is found.
NOLA Brewery, The Saint, Audubon Park and Zoo, and the coveted District Donuts hotspot are a quick Uber ride away should one find themselves in need of a break from Bourbon Street.
To learn more about Mambo House or to book a stay, visit this link.
Where to Play
There’s no doubt about it: the Big Easy lives up to its highly coveted name. With endless options to enjoy a night out on the town, choosing can become a bit overwhelming. But there are more than a handful of NoLa hotspots that can’t be missed.
During the day, glide through the streets under canopy’s of magnolia trees during a ride on the Regional Transit Authority’s historic streetcars. For only $1.25 in exact change, hop on the St. Charles line and get off at the Tulane University campus stop to enjoy the gardens. After a quick stroll, hop back on the Canal Street line and make your way into the city. Get off on Canal Street and make your way to the heart of the French Quarter for some fried beignets topped with pillowy powdered sugar at Cafe Du Monde.
Haunted Booze & Boos Tours
At dusk, make your way across the street into Jackson Square to meet a tour guide from the New Orleans Streetwalker Tours. Named one of the “Best Five New Orleans Tours” by Travel & Leisure Magazine, participants of the experience galavant through some of the city’s most haunted establishments while sipping on some of NOLA’s most classic cocktails. As ghastly tales of love and loss echo through the streets, a ghost or two have been known to present themselves — or maybe it’s just the potent Hurricanes from Pat O’ Briens bar.
Where to Dine
You can leave New Orleans with a lot of things, but feeling hungry isn’t one of them.
A city fit for foodie afacianados from every walk of life and with every palate preference, throughout the past two decades it has risen through the ranks to become one of the most legendary dining locations.
From Hatian food to classic southern soul dishes, to sweet signature treats like beignets and bananas foster, the NOLA grid contains hidden culinary treasure troves at every corner that are waiting to be discovered.
Tracey’s Original Irish Channel Bar
After exploring the charming sidewalks of Magazine Street, bring your appetite and your dancing shoes to Tracey’s for a traditional and affordable crawfish boil. This casual yet lively bar and restaurant may be a bit off the beaten path, but with dining al fresco and prime people watching, it’s worth the short journey from downtown. For three pounds of crawdads and all the fixins (red potatoes and corn on the cob), expect to pay around $20.
William’s Plum Street Snoballs
When the cajun spice from your crawdad boil brings the sweet heat, turn to one of New Orleans’s most prized treats to cool things down: snoballs.
These mounds of finely shaved ice, sweet flavored syrups, and thick cream made from condensed milk are made of real snow and served in a Chinese carry-out container.
A short walk from the campus of Tulane University, William’s Plum Street Snoballs have been serving this frosty fave since 1945. Be prepared for a hefty line out of the door to this standing-room-only walk up, but enjoy your treat outside right at the corner. Expect to pay $1.50 to $6 in cash for each.
The Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone
After the sun sets, make your way back to the Tulane campus to hop on the Canal Street line (or hail an Uber or a taxi from Plum Street to decrease travel time) and head back to the French Quarter.
A short walk to Royal Street will lead you to Hotel Monteleone — one of NOLA’s most classic and infamous haunts. Here, the booze flows as free as the revolving carousel bar.
The 25-seat merry-go-round has lured millions of patrons to its playground in search of whimsy and some of the strongest cocktails in the city (and maybe their housemade snack mix). The Carousel Bar offers an array of drinks that have remained favorites among the locals for centuries.
The “French 007” with pomegranate liquor and the New Orleans variation of the “Sazarac” with Cognac brandy and a sugar cube. Drinks at the Carousel Bar are reasonably priced at $12 each.
Plan Your Visit
Travel By Air
Sixteen airlines and more than 53 cities provide direct flights to Louis Armstrong International Airport. Located just 11 miles from the city center, expect to pay between $15 and $25 for a taxi or shared ride service each way — to and from the airport.
When to Visit
To amplify a cultural and culinary experience that only New Orleans can provide, it is best to visit the Big Easy in early spring (late March to early May), or in the fall (late September to mid November). Summers are humid with an average temperature of 92 degrees, while winters are short and mild but full of rain.
For More Information
To learn more about upcoming events, restaurants, historical monuments, and tours throughout the Big Easy, visit the website of the official tourism board of New Orleans at www.neworleans.com.
*This article first appeared in TravelPass Magazine.