Hey guys and gals! Welcome to New Orleans! “Let the good times roll!” A fitting motto for this vibrant and animated city.
While pondering a fun location to gather the girls, we landed on New Orleans, a bucket list city for most of us. We’re so glad we did! NOLA, as it’s known, welcomes tourists into its old and vivacious culture with open arms. From cocktail drinking on Bourbon Street to the French Quarter to the Bayou, we all had a favorite day.
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The Basics of NOLA:
When to Go and Where to Stay
Let me cover some New Orleans basics before I delve into what to do each day. Firstly, we went in February, which in my opinion was the perfect weather. It wasn’t the full-blown heat of summer yet, but it was still sunny and beautiful — the perfect cardigan weather.
We all flew from our respective homes to Louis Armstrong International Airport and it was just a quick 20 minute Uber from the airport to our Airbnb in the French Quarter. Our friendly Uber driver immediately made us feel welcomed and gave us a hint of the French/Creole vibe that was to come.
We also opted for an Airbnb — there are so many fantastic options right downtown and at very affordable prices, which is great for those of us traveling on a budget. We were also looking for that historic feel and central location, which made the French Quarter an easy decision. Our place was a cozy artists’ loft right in the French Quarter. It was perfect for four girls to take over for the long weekend! The French Quarter ended up being the perfect location to access all of our sight-seeing and being four single ladies, we felt very safe here.
Since we were staying in the heart of the French Quarter we spent the evening meandering the streets getting ideas for our sightseeing the next day. We learned of the city walking tours for each section of the city — even voodoo and ghost tours. How cool! We found a company called French Quarter Phantoms where they have an array of unscripted tours ranging from music, to history, to ghosts, to cemetery tours and even a custom tour tailored to your interests. We booked a ghost tour the following evening, which we thought would be something super unique in New Orleans to check out. More to come on that.
For dinner, we were looking for something local and delicious. We stumbled into a funky bar and restaurant called The Napoleon House. At over one hundred years old, this place had some character. The walls were distressed, displaying old photos and newspaper clippings showing its years. With tables tucked away in little alcoves and a brilliant outside dining area, we felt like we were in old-time New Orleans. We opted for a craft cocktail at the bar and then dined on PO-boys and Creole-style cuisine in the beautiful garden seating area. What a perfect spot for our first night.
Day Two: The French Quarter
Since we were staying in the French Quarter and we had our evening tour set up, we figured it would be a good day to take in the sights in the area. There is so much history in these old streets — some of the houses look untouched by time.
First stop, Jackson Square. This National Historic Landmark is home to the St. Louis Cathedral, which dates back to 1850, making it the oldest cathedral in North America. The striking architecture makes it an absolutely majestic sight — rising like a castle and surrounded by a beautiful courtyard. We also discovered that as long as there is no mass at the time, you are permitted to walk around inside. Inside, the high ceilings display beautiful artwork and all of the architecture is ornately designed.
Upon exiting the St. Louis Cathedral, we meandered through the streets of Jackson Square, which are designated pedestrian streets. There are buskers, artists, vendors of handmade jewelry, and street performers. It’s a really fun area to check out and of course, support the buskers.
After exploring the church and the walking streets, we walked down to the Mississippi River, just a block-ish away. It’s an awesome sight to see how big the Mississippi river is. Also, if the historic steamboat Natchez isn’t out on a tour, you can see it docked along the river. We didn’t book a tour on the boat this trip, but I would put it on my list for the next one. It looks like it would be an experience!
While you’re in this part of town I would say it is a must to check out Cafe du Monde for their fresh beignets and coffee — a short, but perfected menu. After a quick beignet pick-me-up and some advice from a friendly local, we headed to the French Market. The market runs 6 blocks through the French Quarter and sells a little bit of everything, from souvenirs to spices, to handmade goods.
After checking out the market, a quick dinner of Johnny’s Po-boys was recommended to us before our ghost and vampire tour with French Quarter Phantoms. The PO-boy was excellent! Don’t leave New Orleans without trying one.
On to the tour! The ghost tour couldn’t have been better. Our guide was amazing — animated, friendly, and engaged the group at any chance he could. The tour was just the right amount of creepy. We apparently had the potential to see ghosts, but we didn’t see any. We learned a lot about the history of the French Quarter and got some spooks along the way. What a cool way to learn history. I would put this on the top of your list for tours!
After our tour, we just had to check out the infamous Bourbon Street. Arriving around 9 pm you could feel the energy ramping up. Bourbon Street is known for its late-night parties, massive cocktails, and drinking in the streets.
While we were happy to check the scene out, we opted to head to Frenchmen Street for a more jazzy evening. Every bar has awe-inspiring live music, each one more impressive than the next. Hours passed in the blink of an eye as we bar hopped up and down Frenchmen Street and danced the night away. Now that’s a New Orleans evening!
Day Three: Plantations and Bayous
After having a city day (and night), we decided day two was going to be spent exploring the surrounding attractions. We did some research before the trip and we knew we wanted to explore the local plantations since they have such a crazy history.
We used a website called Getyourguide.com to book a tour that would take us to both a plantation and give us a guided tour through the swamp on a boat. How cool! (This website, by the way, can be used to book tours and/or link up with locals anywhere in the world. Check it out whenever you’re not sure what to do in an area). The company also offered pick-ups and drop-offs at our Airbnb, so that was super convenient.
Our first stop was Whitney Plantation. The view down the walkway through the trees is absolutely stunning; you can really tell how old this place is by the towering trees. The plantation has since been turned into a slave museum to educate people about the slave culture in Louisiana during the 1700s and 1800s. The plantation was home to 350 slaves for over 100 years.
We were led through the property with a knowledgeable guide who pointed out what each area of the plantation was for, what was grown there (sugar, rice, and indigo) and taught us about the memorial that is held on the property to honor the 100,000 slaves that were held captive in Louisiana. I’d say the experience was somber and informative. It really is important to learn about our history, even if parts of it are terrible.
After about two hours here, we loaded up on the bus and headed for the Bayou. We stopped along the way for some tasty Cajun food — I love the food in Louisiana. I had no idea what to expect for the second part of our day and was surprised, excited, and a little scared to learn we were going on a fan boat ride through the swamp!
I’ll ruin the surprise now: it was awesome! We climbed into this “boat” and off we went out into the swamp. Again, we had a very informative guide who taught us all about how the Cajuns lived in the wetlands. We saw tons of wildlife from alligators to bald eagles, to owls, to turtles, and even a wild pig! Our guide stopped for plenty of photo ops and we tried to capture the wildlife on camera.
Upon arriving back into town we figured we had to check out an oyster bar while we were in NOLA. We found Felix’s Oyster Bar to be the happening place. Grabbing seats at the bar, we decided to complete our adventurous day with four tasty margaritas — on the rocks with salt, please. We had a delicious seafood dinner and a few cocktails and headed to relax at the Airbnb to prepare for tomorrow’s explorations.
Day Four: The Garden District
Good Morning, New Orleans! On the morning of day four, we were off to explore the Garden District, as recommended by fellow tourists and blogs like this. From the French Quarter, the best (and most fun) way to get to the Garden District is by streetcar.
I would recommend riding the streetcar the whole way through The Garden District to get a feel for the area — the whole ride is about 40 minutes. We picked out a couple of places we wanted to check out and hopped on and off the streetcar at our leisure. At the low cost of three dollars for the whole day, you can’t go wrong.
If you’d like, you can organize a tour. Free Tours By Foot offers an easy walking tour of the area with knowledgeable guides to hit the mansions and restaurants of interest. We weren’t planning on doing a tour, but we happened to be in the area when one began so we thought, “Why not!”
The Garden District is basically a collection of mansions dating back to the early 1800s. The mansions have been maintained and preserved through time and are absolutely beautiful, each surrounded by a beautiful garden.
The tour ended up being great, as we would have never learned what we did about the mansions themselves if not for taking the tour. The architecture of each was unique to the owner’s desires at the time. There are gothic-inspired houses, those inspired by the owner’s wife missing her corn farm in Iowa, Italian inspired architecture, and even the mansion of the famous football player, Peyton Manning.
One of the stops on the tour was Lafayette Cemetery, which is the third oldest cemetery in New Orleans. It’s owned by the Catholic church. It has massive headstones, or tomb-like structures, rather than the normal headstones we are used to seeing. The cemetery looks like it’s full of small buildings for each of its dead. It is unlike any cemetery I have ever been to and absolutely worth checking out.
There is an obvious lunch spot that must be checked out: The Commander’s Palace. It is said to be one of the best restaurants in the United States — what a statement. We had to find out why. One of the reasons is with each lunch entree you can also order a 25 cent martini! It was a little pricey, but totally worth it — the food is stunning and the vibe is fantastic. We were told they also do a jazz brunch, which I would definitely plan on doing for my next trip. (Apparently reservations are required, so keep that in mind if you are planning this for your trip. There is also a dress code, gotta keep it classy.)
After an amazing lunch, we spent the afternoon shopping on Magazine Street. There are tons of vintage shops, souvenir shops, shops selling trinkets and handmade jewelry, antique shops, and much more — you could easily find anything your heart desires. We had a great afternoon picking up souvenirs from New Orleans. We couldn’t go home empty-handed.
After we bought more than we probably should have, we headed back to the French Quarter to freshen up for dinner and some jazz music for our last night. After a fancy lunch, we figured we could tone it down for dinner. We ate at Coop’s Place for none other than some Cajun fried chicken and sausage and rabbit jambalaya! (Sounds strange, but it was delectable). It was a great last New Orleans meal — we had to experience this jambalaya.
For our last night, we wanted to check out Preservation Hall. It is a very small venue for a fantastic jazz band. I would say it can only fit less than 100 people and you pack in tightly and sit on wooden benches. The music is amazing and the vibe is intimate. You can bring your own drinks in (plastic only) which makes it all the more unique. I recommend getting there early so that you can for sure get in, it fills up quickly.
This was a perfect end to our girls’ trip in New Orleans. And I would say, all in all, the trip was completely worth it. It was easy, enjoyable, and educational. You can absolutely plan as much as you’d like, but you can also easily have a rough idea of what to do and get a little bit lost. You will enjoy yourself either way!