N’awlins – say it with me tourists (or New Awlins if you want to sound authentic, according to Urban Dictionary)! This Louisianian city is the friendliest place on Earth. There is no denying it, NOLA is wild, be prepared to lose you life and your liver to this hot mess if following these tips on things to do in New Orleans.
Hot Things to Do In New Orleans
1. French Quarter Fancy
For me, one of the main thing to see in New Orleans is the French Quarter. This is where all the happnin’ stuff takes place but Bywater is where all the trendies have taken over. We stuck to Royal Street for walking (as advised by our Airbnb host, Yvonne) and walked everywhere. Our first stop was Dat Dog for a hotdog and a drink, service was shocking (barman was wired) but the views were great for people watching and the SUN (to British readers, that’s the bright orange thing in the sky that gives us glorious heat) was out (had to bin my tights!) Nothing else disappointed us after that.
2. Jazz in the French Quarter
We watched a jazz band play in Bamboula’s, sucked in by the music and promise of a $5 Hurricane (bartender opened two Heinekens – accent problems!). Lots of restaurants in New Orleans to be had but even more drinking holes to tackle…
We bought sangria at the French Market and sipped it at the river whilst watching the boats.
3. Hand Grenades on Bourbon Street
What are those luminous green long cups everyone is drinking? Hand Grenades from Tropical Island! On Bourbon Street. Now! Bourbon Street. Ooft! This place is carnage, bead necklaces everywhere, drunk couples fighting, folk (sorry, people) spilling out of bars, graffitied signs, groups singing, music blaring – it’s like Benidorm in one street. But fun! It also has the oldest pub in the world on it – Lafitte Blacksmith Shop Bar.
After meeting lots of lovely people (an artist who wanted his photo taken with us; ‘James’ who wanted us to buy him a drink, beat it James; a group of boys who were amazed that you could meet another ‘half’ who also wanted to travel for 18 months and many admirers of Craig’s tattoo sleeve (yes, that again!) we binned our Hand Grenades (seriously, who can finish them?!), made ourselves look respectable and went to Hotel Monteleone to see The Revolving Carousel Bar. We cheekily took a photo and skipped off to return when less busy).
Revolving Carousel Bar
4. Cafe Du Monde Desires
The rest of the night went past in a blur (I’m not sure what caused that.) but we ended up at Cafe Du Monde for a hot chocolate and beignets. Craig opted for pizza from The Pizza Pirate on Royal Street then it was bedtime. Day one over, I could not keep my eyes open. I love this place. Foodies: check out this guide to cheap eats in New Orleans.
5. Jackson Square
In 1960, Jackson Square was declared a National Historic Landmark. This historic park can be found in the French Quarter with lots of artists, musicians and horse and carts!
6. Before I Die, New Orleans
Day two involved a lot of walking (and the development of blisters). We had breakfast at Who Dat (forgot how big portions are in America) and then set off to catch a riverboat. However, another tourist looking for the ‘Before I Die’ wall stopped us in our tracks. This wall was erected for locals to write what they wanted to do before they died in chalk. Turns out the wall was dismantled but a local invited us into her house (!) to show us the memorial she had for the wall and let us write our wishes down, she promises that everyone’s desires come true so it looks as though we’ll be saying bye to Craig for his next adventure to space.
7. St Charles Streetcar New Orleans
& Garden District
We finally made it to the river (with a $3 snowball, pink lemonade – very nice) to find the ticket office closed – mechanical issues with the boat. Not to worry, still so much to do in NOLA. We waited patiently in line for the dark green St Charles New Orleans streetcar (the wait was long, the weather was humid and Craig was starting to fade), which eventually took us (it’s really slow, avoid it if you want to be somewhere prompt and you need the correct change) to the affluent Garden District where we wandered in awe at the size of the houses.
8. Ain’t no Party Like a Po’boys Party
I had my first Po’ boy sandwich (thick bread roll) at Ignatius Eatery on Magazine Street (cool street with lots of hipster bars and vintage shops), Craig had gumbo (stew type meal) so a very NOLA style lunch. Our time in the Garden District concluded with a quick walk around Lafayette Cemetery and a slow ride back to the French Quarter. After a rest back at the double shotgun, the gravity of Frenchman Street pulled us back in (the smell of Bourbon Street repelled us), we searched for a Po’ boy (for Craig) and were finally saved by NOLA Po Boys where Craig basically had a steak pie in a roll (minus the pastry). Full of starch we headed towards Bar Tonique but decided it was a bit up market for us and opted for home (tiredness beat us again).
9. Banksy in New Orleans (or not!)
Our last hours of the two days in New Orleans were spent searching for the work of Banksy (the British graffiti artist) however ‘The Grey Ghost’ has covered up much of his work (saving this for another post – too much art and graffiti in NOLA to squeeze into a sentence). We have now located ‘The Girl with the Umbrella’ but time was against us, looks like we’ll have to return to find her. Disappointedly, could not tick of my list of things to do in New Orleans.
10. New Orleans Tours
When I return to New Orleans (for a third time) I plan to head out of the city, put down that cocktail Gemma, and check out more of New Orleans tours. First port of call will be a swamp tour. Next up, a tour around New Orleans cotton plantations (see comments below for reader suggestions!) to learn more about the history behind the beauty of those homes. New Orleans has a variety of tours from the normal walking / segway to the slightly creepy ghost tours and the downright strange jogging tours! That’s the fun in New Orleans, anything goes. Hell, you can even get married on Pirate’s Alley.
New Orleans Hotels
New Orleans is actually a pretty expensive city for accommodation. Downtown hotels in New Orleans start from around £60 to £350 per night. Hostels, like many North American cities, are not great for private room budget travellers starting around £35 going up to £95. New Orleans hostel dorms are definitely the cheaper option, starting at £13 – £30 per person. We opted for an Airbnb apartment in Marigny. This was our second Airbnb adventure, our first shared apartment. Airbnb first timer? Use our money off coupon – you get money off, we get credit, thank you!
Marigny New Orleans, Where the Locals Live
Mandeville Street, Marigny was our home via Airbnb in New Orleans. We chose Airbnb for three reasons. Firstly, we loved our experience using it for our trip to London last summer, secondly, New Orleans is expensive for accommodation (our room was £83 for two nights which is cheap) and finally I wanted to stay in the cool hipster area of Marigny and it didn’t disappoint. The ‘double shotgun’ house had a separate bedroom for us; a bed covered by throws which Yvonne, our very friendly hostess, uses and a third bed in the kitchen for other renters. Yvonne has a dog called Poochini, she’s lovely and kind which is surprising because she was a rescue dog – Poochini was tied to a very short rope (too short too allow him to lie down) outside his owner’s house during Hurricane Katrina. Yvonne was given her by a friend who turned out the be the owner of a bar I had on my ‘list’ Jake and Snakes Christmas Club. A reader has updated me that Marigny is now taken over by Airbnb, I do hope that Yvonne still lives there!
New Orleans Restaurants
The Big Easy is all about what you put in your mouth! Not going to lie we pretty much lived of beignets from Cafe Du Monde and Po’ Boys from Johnny’s Po-Boys as it suited our drinking schedule and budget. However, there are a variety of restaurants in New Orleans which serve the ‘must try’ meals of Louisiana. Put some South in your mouth! New Orleans was the first time I tried Jambalaya – a Louisiana Creole rice dish, kind of like paella. Best tried at Mother’s Restaurant. Sandwich lovers, check out Muffuletta – a tower piece of bread, meat, veg heaven. Central Grocery Store will hook you up with that hot mess of a lunch. If you are fish lover, you have come to the right city – BBQ shrimp (does what it says on the tin) or Gumbo Shop’s award winning gumbo, a soupy / stewy fish dish. De-licious!
Hover over to pin to your New Orleans inspiration board!
Jazz, Po’boys, hand grenades! With these New Orleans attractions, you can see why it is easy to fall hard for the The Big Easy. Put it on your ‘before I die list’! I’ve been twice and I would go again, that’s a rarity!