ICYMI I obviously have very good reason for loving our first visit to the Big Easy. Beyond our big personal news though, the city did not disappoint on the down south charm, energy and eats, that I had been promised. In fact, the reason I’m splitting my New Orleans City Guide into two parts is because you can expect one to follow solely dedicated to the food! But until then, here are the top things to do in New Orleans:
Walk the streets
First and foremost, New Orleans is literally a perfect spot if you like to explore because even without a set destination in mind, you always end up somewhere amazing. Your step counter will be off the charts, but beyond the touristy musts like Bourbon St. and Royal St. right in the core of the French Quarter (you won’t need much time on Bourbon, btw), the real hidden gems are Frenchman Street (known for the live music spots) and Magazine Street. Magazine was probably my favourite for its selection of restaurants and cute boutiques (I really liked Perch and if you trek to the Central Biz District I wanted to bring everything home from Arhaus). It’s also worth a stroll to the famous Lafayette Cemetery, and if you’re into the whole eerie and beautiful thing, there are plenty of walking tours to haunted spots like Madame LaLaurie’s. Expect Mardi Gras beads to accent all the street signs and light posts (how can you not love that?).
Stay somewhere that epitomizes southern hospitality
I cannot say enough about how much I LOVED our hotel and decision to stay in the Garden District. The Henry Howard is a boutique style (which we personally prefer where possible) restored historic home with only 18 rooms (all unique) and literally felt like coming home every time we walked in.. that is, if home happens to have a massive wrap around porch, 12 foot ceilings in the rooms, exposed brick, drinks on demand, impeccable décor & A CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE TURN DOWN SERVICE. It’s also only a small cost to go back and forth to the quarter and other adjacent popular areas, which originally we had been worried about. Don’t sweat it (approx. $6 per ride).
If you do want to stay in the heart of the quarter though, we’ve heard fantastic feedback on the luxurious Monteleone, where trusted friends have gushed about the rooftop pool and famous Carousel Bar. We still went to see the bar (you don’t have to be a hotel guest to take a ride), being it’s been named one of the top bars in the world and actually revolves! Bonus is that it’s historically been a place of inspiration for the greats of literature all the way to sports (think Ernest Hemingway and Michael Jordan).
If both are fully booked, we also looked at the Pontchartrain which is very close to where we stayed in the Garden District and looks great as well!
Don’t miss the swamps
Our air boat tour through the swamps was such a huge highlight of our trip to New Orleans, I definitely recommend it! First of all, if you’ve followed me for a while you know I hate boats lol, but these move so quickly they are super smooth and fun! You literally forget that you’re on the water, that is, until you’re surrounded by gators. Super interactive (I fed a marshmallow on a stick to one!!), and our guide was so knowledgeable and from what I gathered, the whole crew has spent their lives in the bayou (all have scars from gator encounters, they are fearless!). Overall, a great half day activity and very unique to NOLA. We took the small boat option and it was well worth the slightly more expensive rate.
We also visited the Audubon Aquarium and to be honest, it was cool, but didn’t even come close to the airboat. Plus you get to soak in some of the fantastic weather on the air boat instead of being inside if you visit during the prime months like we did (October or April are best!).
Even with all this great stuff do, we definitely spent more time eating than all of the above combined lol. Stay tuned for the food guide coming soon, and in the meantime as always, send me any questions you have xx