NOLA – Play, Eat, Sleep
Visiting New Orleans for the first time? Prioritize your agenda – lots of play, a good amount of eating and maybe a little sleep. From girlfriends exploring, bachelorette and bachelor parties, to couples wandering hand-in-hand looking for amour en Vieux Carre, the French Quarter is alive at all hours of the day or night.
Experienced Nola travelers pace themselves but it’s newbies get overwhelmed and enjoy some things a little too much (like Bourbon street after midnight) and completely miss the magic of other things (like beignets at Café du Monde). If you’re planning a trip to the Big Easy, pull up a chair and learn how to strategize your Nola travel time like a pro.
How to Play in the French Quarter
It’s no secret how Nawlins, also known as Mardi Gras City got its name – lavish celebrations, wee-hour partying and drunken rowdiness is just another day (or night) in this city. Bourbon Street captures more than its fair share of attention, but there’s so much more this city has to offer – historically, culturally and architecturally.
Whether you’re chasing bawdy carousing after dark or memorable moments with your lover, start your day with a beignet and chicory coffee at Café du Monde. The restaurant is always busy so we suggest using the to-go window and crossing the street to the quieter Jackson Square. From there, you’re ready to experience all the French Quarter has to offer…
Exploring the French Quarter
- Pop over to Café Beignet for our second favorite place to enjoy breakfast. Yum.
- Shop the French Quarter boutiques – especially the ones that feature hand-crafted items.
- Continue shopping at the French Market – be prepared to barter.
- Sign up for a NOLA history tour (stop by the tourism office on the East of Jackson Square for tips on picking the best guided tours).
- Do the touristy thing and sign up for a voodoo, cocktail or late night ghost tour.
- Learn the difference between wrought iron and cast iron – and how they shaped the history of this city.
- Wander Pirates Alley and Green Goddess Way.
- Connect with the devastation of Katrina at the Presbytere Louisiana State Museum – Jackson Square (Gray Line offers Bus tours to take you into the wards and see the damage evident even 8 years later).
- Geocache your way through the city. Visit Joan of Arc and Jean Baptistele Moyne De Bienville for their relevance.
- Check out the Earthcam on Bourbon – if you dare.
Be part of the night life
- Visit Mardi Gras and Lundi Gras and experience the bare-thy-chest challenge on Bourbon St - be that as a participant or observer. In experiencing the fun, remember ladies, your girls are worth more than just a set of $2 beads …
- Soak up Bourbon St. Jazz (especially Preservation Hall - a GoGirlfriend recommendation!)
- Did we say Bourbon St ????
- Explore off-the-path Frenchman St. jazz and their clubs
- Enjoy a night-time haunted or ghost tour
Eat, eat and more eat
Seafood mecca, chef-inspired creations, beers and burgers – this city is a foodie’s paradise. As long as you are not a vegetarian or vegan, the selection is immense.
Our tasting included:
- Olivier’s Creole Restaurant on Decatur
- Dominique’s on Carondolet
- Superior Grill on St. Charles
- New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Co on Decatur
- Drinks at Muriels, Jackson Square
- Court of Two Sisters on Royal St.
- Antoines on St. Loius St,
- Broussards Restaurant on Rue Conti
- The Bombay Club on Conti St
Ms. GoGirlfriend, a vegetarian for more than a decade had some struggles finding suitable fare. When we inquired about vegetarian selections, we heard statements like “vegetarian?? That’s okay, they like fish!” or “what’s a veggie burger?” But we’re not known to back down from a challenge and found a healthy number of restaurants happy to serve vegetarian-yummy meals.
- Green Goddess – delightful selection of vegetarian options
- Bayou Burger and Sports Co. – veggie burger and garlic fries
- Oceana Grill – spinach ravioli
- Three Muses – garlic fries and live jazz
- Mexican at El Gato Negro (French Quarter) or Superior Grill (Garden District)
- Nachos at Jimmy Buffets Margaritville
- Check out www.happycow.net for other vegetarian dining options
Sleeping in the Big Easy – if there’s time…
New Orleans is a class all its own and while you might be tempted to migrate to a big chain hotel, we advise against it. Dive into the French Quarter and hunker down in a hotel with history and charm. If you’re not the adventurous type, two hotels (JW Marriott and Riverside Hilton) are close to the action but just outside the Quarter.
We stayed at the historic Maison Dupuy, but check out our list of alternate historic recommendations:
- Bourbon Orleans on Orleans St.
- Hotel Monteleone on Royal St.
- Dauphine Orleans on Dauphine St
- Omni Royal Orleans on St. Louie St.
- Hotel Provincial on Rue Chartres
- Soniat House on Chartres
- Le Richelieu Hotel on Chartres
While we’re pretty darn proud of our list of places to play, eat and sleep in the French Quarter, New Orleans is overflowing with hidden gems. Bring your walking shoes and explore it for yourself – and then report your finds back to us. We’re crushing for another visit…
One final note of caution. You might be tempted to spend all your time in the French Quarter but there’s so much more to this grand old city. Check out the Garden District’s beauty, the hotels and shops of the Business District and the great eateries and shops of the Warehouse District. The New Orleans Convention and Visitor Bureau has a wealth of information on what the entire city of New Orleans has to offer ...
Laissez le bons temps rouler!!
Been to New Orleans’ French Quarter? We’d love to hear about your favorite hangouts and best finds – so we can add them to our next tour. Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook – and let’s continue the conversation!