As most of you know, I made a quick couple day trip to New Orleans a few weeks ago. To say I had fun would be an understatement, I fell in love with New Orleans. The City Guide: New Orleans breaks down my picks for where to stay, eat and what to do while visiting The Crescent City.
Any time I had previously visited to New Orleans, it was for super quick trips that entailed dinner and bar hopping for the night until we left the next morning for our next destination. I had honestly never truly experienced the charm of New Orleans.
I’m lucky that here in Houston it’s a super quick hop-skip-jump sort of flight on Southwest. And driving takes about 5 hours or so from HTX. I know I’ll definitely be back to visit and hope you will add this super cool city to your travel bucket list too! Now without further ado, the City Guide: New Orleans.
Places to stay
Hotel Monteleone // Situated in the heart of the French Quarter on Royal Street, this quintessential New Orleans hotel is an absolute gem. If you want to be close to Bourbon Street and the rest of the action, stay here. Just a block away from Bourbon Street, you can quickly walk out to the surrounding area and avoid using a car. While it is to be expected that the original rooms will be smaller, due to the historic nature of this hotel, it’s definitely worth it for the location and ambience. P.S. you must visit the Carousel Bar, see more below!
The Henry Howard Hotel // This absolutely adorable boutique hotel is situated in the heart of the Garden District. If you want to feel like you are in New Orleans or the South, this is the place to stay. This hotel definitely embraces the Southern Charm while still keeping with the modern finishes and touches that so many of us love when we stay away from home. Turndown services includes warm cookies, need I say more? I haven’t personally stayed here yet, but have heard such wonderful things, I hope to stay here for my next Nola visit!
The Renaissance New Orleans Arts & Warehouse District // Away from the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter, but still within walking distance, I love this hotel. A converted warehouse, the rooms feature exposed painted brick and are spacious. We had a corner room and it felt perfect for a stay in Nola. The lobby has a really cool setup and the rooftop pool features expansive views of the city.
Where to eat
Commander’s Palace // A New Orleans staple. If you eat anywhere in New Orleans, it should most definitely be here. Situated within the adorable Garden District, this Creole restaurant is definitely a photo-op spot upon arrival with it’s turquoise paint and striped awnings, along with the lit up sign. Owned by the Brennan family, Brennan’s restaurant in Houston is my favorite hands down, and this restaurant doesn’t disappoint either. The Turtle Soup is my go-to appetizer and I always order a piece of fish for my entree. Don’t forget their famous, and delicious, Banana Foster for dessert, too.
Domenica // This may be one of my favorite dinner spots in Nola. Inside the Roosevelt Hotel, this spot is definitely a popular one, so be sure to make a reservation. If you do decide to drop in, don’t do so until after 8:45-9pm. They cut their meats on-site; think super fresh Prosciutto (my guilty pleasure). Their pasta is homemade and their pizza is seriously delicious. The first time I came here was before a night out on the town for a bachelorette party. Most recently, my mom and I came for a late dinner on Sunday night and it was still busy after 9:30pm!
District Donut // An adorable, yet unassuming, little joint along Magazine Street. I had read about this spot, but actually walked by it initially without even knowing it. Sit down for classic, Southern breakfast (before 11am/until sold out) or lunch. In a hurry? Walk up to the counter for the most glutinous donuts you’ll ever try. Definitely worth a stop if you’re walking along Magazine Street. The Buttermilk Drop was freaking delicious.
HiVolt Coffee // Want to grab coffee and breakfast/lunch like a local? Then head to HiVolt. A really cool spot within the Garden District. I stopped by for breakfast and a coffee one morning when I needed to crank out some work on my laptop. The atmosphere definitely reminded me of one of the cool coffee shops I used to study at in Austin. They offer some really good vegan options too if you’re into that! I had an egg sandwich on a homemade biscuit and it was yummy.
Poke Loa // My poke bowl obsession is real. I actually had no intent on stopping here for lunch, but after walking some 20 minutes or so down Magazine Street, I stumbled upon this spot and was drawn in by the super cool logo and sleek exterior. Y’all this place is the real deal. Order at the counter and customize your bowl. The ingredients are super fresh and I was lucky to not catch too big of a line – apparently it can be out the door at high times.
The Ruby Slipper // There are quite a few locations around New Orleans, but my mom and I headed to the French Quarter location for breakfast. If you’re looking for a solid, Southern style breakfast, then this is your place. The biscuits are delicious as are the grits.
Tableau // If your looking to dine in the heart of the French Quarter, but want to avoid the touristy joints, then this is your spot. Our dinner at Tableau was my favorite meal of the trip. Situated on the corner of Jackson Square, you’re in the heart of the city, but inside feel like you’re in a Southern townhouse. Another Brennan restaurant, the classic Creole fare is simply delicious. I had some of the best shrimp and grits I’ve ever had. Plan on an adorable photo op in the courtyard, true to form in the middle of the restaurant. Need a spot for happy hour? Head up to the third floor for an adorable patio where you can take in the sights and sounds of the French Quarter.
Willa Jean // An adorable cafe in the Central Business District. I had been told to definitely check this place out, and I’m glad I did. I actually just happened to stumble upon it one afternoon. I walked up to the counter and grabbed some flavored iced-tea and an Oatmeal cookie to eat on-the-go. My mom and I returned the following day for an early afternoon happy hour, we each had one of their famous frozen drinks – I opted for the Frose and she the Creamsicle with Honeysuckle Vodka. Their happy hour is a must: half off frozen drinks, appetizers, wine & beer!
Carousel Bar // Another recommendation from a friend, I had heard about this bar but never made it a priority to visit previously. On Monday afternoon I found myself with some free time, so I hopped in an Uber and headed to this staple bar. I was told it would be extremely difficult to get a seat at the actual Carousel Bar (truly a Carousel that you sit at and it circles around the bar, albeit slowly!), but I figured on a Monday afternoon, I might have a shot. Wrong. Well, sort of. I hung out for about 10 minutes in a regular seat along the bar, and since I was a solo, was able to snag a seat rather quickly. The bartender advised me to try a Pimm’s Cup (usually too strong for me), but this one was delicious! I definitely took time to savor the moment, and the people watching out the window (the bar faces Royal Street in the Quarter) and will definitely be making a trip back next time I visit.
Krewe Optical // I knew Krewe originated from Nola, but had no idea they had a storefront. I actually completely stumbled across it as I was wandering around the French Quarter. Their French Quarter flagship store was everything I thought it would be and more! Walk in and you’re welcomed to bright white walls and sleek lines of covet-worthy sunglasses frames. The shotgun style leads to a back patio where an Espresso Bar and plant gallery also makeup the space. Talk about an Instagram worthy spot, this is it!
LaFitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar // Okay, let me first tell you, I am a geek when it comes to US history, I seriously love it. So when I was brought to this bar during a college spring break trip, I was in serious awe. Billed as one of the oldest structures used as a bar in America (built in the mid-1700s), step inside the dimly lit bar and you feel like you’ve gone back in time some 200 years. Known for their frozen drinks, I had their famous Purple Voodoo Daiquiri, and be warned it’s exactly as it sounds – a stiff one! I’ve heard it gets pretty rowdy during the day-drinking hours on the weekend, but we stopped by one night on Bourbon and easily found a table to listen to the piano player. For some fun, Mr. LaFitte apparently was a pirate, and the bar was frequented by such, and today many claim the bar is haunted by his ghost and others.
Magazine Street // I spent the better part of my day on Magazine Street. The street itself stretches for miles. I’d suggest walking the stretch between Jefferson and Louisiana Avenue. There is plenty to see, in my opinion, including historical homes and neighborhoods, cute shops and fun bars and restaurants. Highlights on the street include: Dunn & Sonnier for antiques and interior goods; Lucy Rose for super cute clothes on one side and connected is another shop featuring home goods and adorable gifts; Perch for home decor; NOLA Couture for accessories inspired by New Orleans, grab a tie for your hubby or dad, a cute tee or a collar for your dog; Sucré for delicious sweet treats including chocolates and gelato, plus coffee and other drinks – best part, they’re open ’til midnight for a late-night snack!
Of course I can’t forget the better-known stops, including Cafe du Monde, Cafe Beignet, Pat O’s for their hurricanes and dueling piano bar and Jackson Square and the surrounding areas for artists and live music. Do you have any favorites in New Orleans? Let me know in the comments below!