New Orleans - How To Spend a Long Weekend in The Big Easy!
New Orleans is one of those cities that you have to visit. I had only been there once, and it was many years ago for a work trip. My husband had never been there. So now that we live in the Southeast, we figured it was time to cross New Orleans off our travel list.
The city is known for its food and music. And when you think of New Orleans, you probably automatically think of Bourbon Street. But there is so much more to this city. Culture, history and art are everywhere you look.
New Orleans is full of so much culture, including amazing music!
We just spent four days in the city and discovered so many amazing things. I'm certainly far from an expert after one visit, but I thought I would share my experience and give you some tips if you are planning a visit.
Keep reading to find out my favorite things to do and see in New Orleans!
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A Quick History Of New Orleans
New Orleans was founded in 1718 by French Colonists. By 1763, the Louisiana colony was ceded to the Spanish Empire, and the area was under Spanish control until 1803, when it became part of the United States during the Louisiana Purchase. While New Orleans has clearly been greatly influenced by the French, the architecture in the city was modeled after Spain.
During the War of 1812, the British desperately wanted to take over New Orleans. However, during the Battle of New Orleans, General Andrew Jackson and his men held back the Brits and defeated them on January 8, 1815.
Tip #1: To learn more about the Battle of New Orleans, visit the Chalmette Battlefield, which is part of the Jean Lafitte National State Park. It's just a few minutes drive outside of the French Quarter.
Chalmette Battlefield is just a short drive outside of the French Quarter area.
Today, New Orleans has a population of nearly 400,000 people, and its port is a major economic and commercial hub for the Gulf Coast region of the country. The greater metropolitan area is home to over 1.2 million people, and is the most populous metro area in Louisiana.
How To Get There
Unless you are able to drive, you will most likely be flying into the city, which is what we did. The Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is easy to navigate, but has a good variety of flights coming in from all over the country.
Tip #2: You do not need (and you don't want) a car while you are in the city, so don't rent one. The easiest (and cheapest) way to get from the airport to your hotel in the French Quarter is by city taxi. They charge a flat rate of $36 for two people. When we landed on a Friday night, it was very busy and Uber rates for the same ride were $70 and up. There is a taxi stand right as you exit the airport. Just get in line and tell them where you are going. All city taxis are also required to take credit cards.
New Orleans is also a stop on a number of cruises. We saw a couple of large cruise ships in port while we were in town.
Where To Stay
One of the things I love about New Orleans is how walkable it is. Staying anywhere in the main part of the city is what you want to do. There are several hotels to pick from in the area. We stayed at the Maison Dupuy Hotel, which was reasonably priced and just a few blocks off Bourbon Street.
We had a lovely courtyard view from our room.
Tip #3: The key to a good hotel stay in New Orleans is location. Keep in mind that you aren't likely to spend much time in your room. Our hotel was "adequate". It was outdated, we had to lift the cover off the toilet every time we flushed it to make the tank fill, and there were some things going on in the bathroom ceiling that didn't look great. Normally I would have been upset about the room condition for the price I paid. But, the convenience of the location made it worth the money.
For those of you looking for a more "adult" experience (aka - not Bourbon Street), look for hotels on Frenchmen Street. While I can't tell you anything about the inside, we saw what looked to be a great little hotel right in the heart of all of the music called Frenchmen Orleans at 519. I'll definitely be looking into that hotel for our next trip.
Of course, there are also lots of rental options through VRBO and other rental companies. Again, the key is location. You won't be spending much time in your room, and you will appreciate that quick walk back after a long day of sight seeing, eating and drinking.
What To Do
There are so many things to do in New Orleans, that it's hard to list them all. Here are some of my favorites.
Bourbon Street: This famous couple of blocks is where you can go to find as many bars as you want, as many beads as you want, and (just being honest) as many boobs as you want.
Tip #4: You should hit Bourbon Street at night once during your visit to see the spectacle of it. Then, unless you are there for spring break or a bachelor/bachelorette party, don't go back! The drinks are overpriced, the crowd is obnoxious and drunk, and the music is NOT the music of New Orleans.
Frenchmen Street: This is where you want to go if you want to see the music of New Orleans. The street is lined with clubs where there is constantly live music playing. And while you will still get the occasional party people, most people are there to really listen to and appreciate the music. Some of our favorite spots were Blue Nile, BMC Balcony Music Club, Three Muses and d.b.a.
Washboard Chaz is a regular fixture at the Blue Nile!
Tip #5: Pay close attention to what each club is charging. Some places charged a cover to get in, depending when it was and who was playing. Others have a one or two drink minimum and then ask that you tip the band. At Three Muses, they added $3 per person to every bill to help pay the musicians.
BMC had a two drink minimum and no cover for some great music!
Creole Queen: Taking a paddlewheel riverboat cruise is something you should definitely do while visiting the city. You have a couple of options for cruise companies, and several options of different tours to take. We ended up going with the Creole Queen, which left port a little further down, but was a smaller boat and a little bit less expensive.
The Creole Queen takes you on a cruise up and down the Mississippi River.
Tip #6: Rather than doing a jazz dinner cruise or Sunday brunch cruise, do the afternoon historical cruise. Our tour guide on the Creole Queen was excellent. We also had a stop for an hour at the Chalmette Battlefield, which was the site of the Battle of New Orleans. On our return back to port, our tour guide gave a really interesting and intense narrative about Hurricane Katrina. The whole experience was extremely informative and a great way to learn about the city.
Taking a ride on the river gives you a different perspective on the city.
New Orleans School of Cooking: If you like food and/or like to cook, this is a must stop. The New Orleans School of Cooking has been rated one of the best food experiences in the world. They offer both hands on individual cooking classes, or larger group demonstration classes. We did the demonstration class and it was a lot of fun! Book early because the classes fill up quickly.
We had a great time at the cooking demonstration at the New Orleans School of Cooking!
Art Galleries: If you are into art, you will definitely want to check out all of the art galleries throughout the French Quarter. And the thing I loved about the galleries was that, with just a few exceptions, none of them were pretentious. They were all open and inviting to tourists - even if you clearly had no intention of buying and knew nothing about art.
Where To Eat And Drink
New Orleans is a foodie's dream! The food is delicious everywhere you go, so you can't really go wrong. We aren't really into fancy and we didn't want to be tied down to a lot of reservations, so we stuck to more casual spots. Here are some places we really liked.
Café Beignet: When you are in New Orleans, you have to have beignets. And while Café Du Monde may be the more well known place to go for coffee and a beignet, save yourself the long wait in line and head to Café Beignet. They have multiple locations around the city, including just a block or so down from Café Du Monde.
I got the chocolate drizzled beignets at Café Beignet!
Tip #7: While the line was not as long to get in Café Beignet as it was to get in Café Du Monde, there was still a line. If you are planning to have an adult beverage during your meal, check and see if there are open seats at the bar. The bar seats are first come first served, but you have to order alcohol to be able to sit there. Once you get a seat, you can order the full food menu from the bartender and eat there.
Mulate's: If you are looking for amazing Cajun food in a casual atmosphere with good prices, Mulate's is your place. It's located a bit outside of the French Quarter towards the downtown area, but it's still easy enough to walk there. The food was excellent and they also had a live band playing while we were there.
Cajun catfish at Mulate's!
Tip #8: If you do the Creole Queen paddlewheel riverboat cruise, plan on going to Mulate's for dinner after. It's a quick 5 minute walk from the port.
Stanley: If you are looking for a great breakfast spot with unique dishes, check out Stanley. It's located right on Jackson Square, so if you are lucky you might be able to grab a table on the sidewalk. It's a little pricey, but the food was excellent!
My breakfast at Stanley was delicious!
Brieux Carre Brewery: My husband is a big beer drinker, so we always look for some local breweries when we visit a new city. In New Orleans, we discovered Brieux Carre, located just a half block off Frenchmen Street. It's a great little place where the locals go. We had a great time sitting at the bar talking to some people from the neighborhood. And the beers are excellent!
Get a flight to experience several different beers at Brieux Carre!
New Orleans is an amazing city with so many things to see and do, and so much food to try! We only had time to sample a few things the city has to offer, but I hope this gives you a bit of a start when you plan your own trip. We can't wait to get back soon!
Have you been to New Orleans? What are some of your favorite things to do? Let us know! Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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