We got back to DC on Tuesday after three days in New Orleans and I’m excited to share a recap of our trip! I’d never been to The Big Easy and J went once in college (totally different kind of trip so was basically not helpful in planning anything we’d do this time around…) and have heard universally good things about what the city has to offer!
We knew food would be the cornerstone of our trip, followed by drinks and exploring as much as we could. There are so many dining + drinking options that I got pretty thorough in the descriptions below–it’s hard to go wrong, but not every place will be for everyone! I’ll also start by saying we’re the type of travelers who like to be home by 10 or 11pm and hit the ground running by 9am so our NOLA experience is a little atypical compared to many who visit :) That being said, we ate and drank very well and thoroughly explored the areas we did go to, so hopefully most of you can find something helpful in this guide no matter the type of trip you’re planning!
WHERE WE STAYED
Marriott is our hotel chain of choice and we found a great deal at the Q&C Hotel. Most cash and point rates across the board were on the lower side–I assume since we were there post-Mardi Gras. This was the lowest, and the hotel was well-rated on Marriott’s own site and other travel boards. The location and front desk staff were great! In full transparency, there were some missteps…were on the fourth floor but woke up to window-rattling noise two out of the three nights, our window shade broke twice, and apparently the whole hotel was out of tea for the Keurig (vs. coffee) on our last morning (not a huge deal, but if you’re going to offer tea and coffee as an amenity, no I don’t want to purchase some from the restaurant when you run out!). Also the smallest rooms are really small…the size didn’t bother us but the whole space stayed humid after a hot shower which wasn’t fun! We peeked into a couple other rooms on our floor that were being made up and they were much larger, so those layouts probably have been more comfortable. I will say that the manager sincerely apologized and dropped some points into our Marriott account when I told her about our experience, so I appreciated a genuine effort to try and make things right.
WHAT WE DID
I’m going to break this section down by day but details about each spot are included below!
We arrived around 10:30am on Saturday, dropped our bags off at the hotel, grabbed lunch at Acme, and went for a walk around the French Quarter and a bit of the surrounding area. A drink + dessert at Tableau was a great way to rest our feet before walking around some more, before heading back to the hotel to freshen up. We went to the nearby Sazerac Bar for drinks and had dinner at Domenica. The night ended with live music on Frenchman Street!
We woke up on the early side and had breakfast at Ruby Slipper before walking over to the World War II Museum. I’d highly recommend a visit if you’re looking for a non-drinking or eating activity in the city–we spent about three hours there before popping into Cochon Butcher for a quick bite.
We’d planned to do the bulk of Bourbon Street at an off-peak time so headed there after Cochon. We actually only hung out at Pat O’s–home of the famous Hurricane!–and caught some live music in the piano bar for a bit before heading home to change for dinner at Pêche. Post-dinner we walked over to the famous Carousel Bar for a drink before calling it a night!
Garden District day! We grabbed breakfast at Cafe Du Mondé and then took the St. Charles Streetcar to the Garden District. It was a quick trip and we basically spent three hours walking around…we popped into the Henry Howard Hotel (that I’m dying to stay at–unfortunately only guests take photos but it’s beautiful), weaved around streets of mansions and adorable homes, and walked over two miles up Magazine Street. Lunch was Commander’s martini lunch (more on this below–don’t miss it!) and then we walked around a bit more before taking the street car back to the hotel. We were pretty tired by then (the martinis to blame) and could have stayed put the rest of the night, but walked over to the nearby Bar Marilou because I really wanted to check it out and then came back to our room and ordered Chick Fil A via DoorDash and watched The Bachelorette :)
We weren’t looking to spend our time or money on shopping but we did hit a few notably good spots, mostly on Magazine Street in the Garden District! There are also several antique stores…I didn’t note them all below but they’re impossible to miss if you start around Magazine and Jackson Avenue and head west.
+ Shake Your Bon Bon: An extremely well-curated shop of clothing and accessories for women. The owner, Bonnie, was incredibly sweet and chatted with us for awhile. I picked up a gift for a friend and took a few pictures…if I were shopping for myself, there would definitely have been some more damage!
+ White’s Mercantile: Cute and well-curated is the name of the game on Magazine Street! This shop has some well-known brands and many lesser known names–they call themselves “a general store for the modern tastemaker” and that description perfectly fits the bill. If you need to shop for gifts or treat yourself, I’d highly recommend…apparently there are a few locations between Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Arkansas!
+ Judy: An upscale, cute boutique located in The Rink shopping center right near Commander’s Palace. Many pricier items, but we pick up ornaments on every trip and got ours here for ~$10 (the selection was nicer than most of what we saw in the Quarter), and J got me a beautiful pair of earrings from a local jewelry maker.
+ Magazine Antique Mall: An antique lover’s paradise! We browsed the entire place for awhile and I exercised a lot of self control. As is the case with most antique malls, you do have to hunt…but prices are good and there are a lot of gems!
+ Southern Candymakers: Heather did some good research and mentioned this spot in her NOLA guide, so we stopped by there before heading to the airport to grab a couple pralines for ourselves and our dog walker. The staff could not have been nicer–they’re generous with samples and even gave me spoon of Blue Bell ice cream since I missed it so much (and had no idea it would be readily available in New Orleans or would have gone out of my way to get a scoop during our trip!).
+ Frenchman Art Market: There’s this cool night market on Frenchman Street and it’s fun to pop into when you’re out for the night! There are lots of local jewelry makers, artisans, artists, etc…it was bustling!
WHERE WE ATE + DRANK
Again, I’m trying to be really thorough here because there are so many good places to eat! We tried a good range of food and can confidently say that we didn’t have a bad meal.
Acme Oyster House: A highly recommended NOLA institution that I would say has mostly turned into a tourist trap. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t amazing either…we loved the charbroiled oysters but our po’boys were really dry. Our Lyft driver recommended Felix’s across the street but so many people had raved about Acme that we wanted to give it a shot! We were able to snag bar seats without a wait but all the tables were full within 45 minutes of opening and we saw a line halfway down the street later in the day!
Tableau: We stopped in here for a drink Saturday afternoon and ordered a chocolate pistachio mousse dessert to share. It was a great spot right off Jackson Square…the windows were open and the brunch crowd was starting to wind down when we got there. I’d definitely go back for their jazz brunch next time! They also have a great happy hour.
Sazerac Bar: This is the bar in the famous Roosevelt Hotel and it’s the creator of the Sazerac cocktail. We’re both Sazerac fans so that’s what we ordered! They were great and the atmosphere is pretty typical of an upscale hotel bar…it was a Saturday night, so lots of people heading off to weddings, some guests returning from a day out, and others like us on their way to dinner. Drinks are pricey but if you’re looking for something nice and historic, it’s a great spot.
Domenica: Domenica is actually located in the Roosevelt, too, and features a pretty expansive menu of Italian offerings. The chef is a James Beard winner and our server was delightful. J had the Gulf Shrimp Risotto and I had the Truffle Agnolotti–both of us had the small portion after splitting the meatballs and we were stuffed. My only complaint was how quickly the food came out…we were out of there within an hour and a half and that was after lingering post-food!
The Spotted Cat: This was the only live music-specific spot we visited and it was so, so good! I think we got there around 8:15pm on Saturday night and it filled up steadily after. It’s mostly standing room with a bar + a few tables and the venue was much smaller than I expected. It’s on Frenchman Street, which is known for live music…apparently it’s the preferred area for locals but there were tourists, too. We loved this place!
Ruby Slipper Cafe: There are tons of Ruby Slipper locations in this area including three within a 15 minute walk of our hotel! This is a popular place and wait times can get really long for a late breakfast or brunch, but we were seated within 10 minutes at around 8:45am. They let you join the waitlist from Yelp so I’d highly recommend doing that if you’re going at a busier time! We split the bread pudding pudding pancakes and two different benedicts (there’s a menu item where you can combine two varieties and I wish more places did this)–everything was delicious.
Cochon Butcher: We split a burger and potato salad and grabbed a beer here after the WWII Museum on Sunday. It was pretty ‘hoppin around 1:30pm and seemed to be mostly locals. Would recommend if you’re looking for a non-fast food or poboy quick bite in the Central Business District! Their full restaurant, Cochon, is right next door.
Pat O’Brien’s: Another NOLA institution that’s home to the famous Hurricane cocktail! Bourbon Street and crazy crowded bars aren’t really my thing but a friend who used to live in the city said this was her one favorite spot nearby and I can definitely see why! We didn’t even go into other nearby bars but could have hung out at Pat O’s piano bar or courtyard for hours (and only didn’t because I didn’t want to show up to our nicer dinner after one too many)…we were there midday Sunday so it wasn’t jam packed, but they always limit the number of people in the piano bar at peak times so it’s never insane. Order a Hurricane and relax–it’s a great time.
Pêche: We almost didn’t make it here and I’m so glad we did! Peche was another highly recommended spot but we were considering doing something casual to save a few dollars so I didn’t make a reservation. A couple hours before we decided it really sounded too good to miss so we did a walk-in at 6ish and got two seats at the oyster bar. It was packed for a Sunday night so I’d definitely recommend a booking–we’d have had to wait two hours for a table! Every single thing we got was out of this world…the oysters, crawfish croquettes, baked drum with mushrooms + sweet potato, jumbo shrimp with coconut + fried garlic, fried bread, fried broccoli (there was inadvertently a theme here) and finally, the chocolate pudding dessert. We weren’t planning to order nearly this much food but J amusedly commented that he hadn’t seen me this excited about so many items on a menu in awhile (I really wish we could have had one of everything), so we indulged and I recommend doing the same!
Carousel Bar: There are so many good hotel bars in this city but this was my favorite! It makes every “must do” list and completely lives up to the hype. The actual space is large but the main bar is designed to be a carousel and literally rotates–the bartenders have to hop over the bar to leave the middle! I wish I was less tired because we could have stayed here for a couple rounds, but I’d recommend going at off-peak times if you can…we were there around 8pm on Sunday and easily snagged two seats “on” the carousel as another couple was leaving.
Café Du Monde: The classic! A must when you’re in NOLA–it’s typically packed on the weekends (there’s a line down the street to sit at the tables) but they also have a takeout window with a shorter line if you don’t mind getting yours to go. We walked right in around 8:30am on Monday morning! The beignets were phenomenal and well worth the trip…just be prepared for the powdered sugar mess, and bring cash!
Commander’s Palace: Another big win! Countless people recommended Commander’s and it did not disappoint. If you’re in town Monday-Friday, don’t miss their 25 cent martini lunch–yes, you read that right! You do have to purchase an entree, but they offer two lunch specials along with the full menu. I had the two course special with a romaine salad and fried catfish, and J had the three course special with their famous turtle soup, quail, and bread pudding soufflé for dessert. Would 100% recommend for a nicer meal! Note that there is a dress code…it’s less formal for lunch, but people still dressed nicely.
Bar Marilou: I actually found this bar on Instagram and we popped in for a quick drink even though we were wiped by Monday evening. I requested a mocktail and the bartender made a yummy ginger molasses drink, and J ordered a “What We Do In the Shadows”–both were really unique and very good! Prices are also more reasonable than most hotel bars and the decor is so interesting…I didn’t get a snap of the “library” part because it was pretty busy, but it’s definitely one of the cooler bars I’ve been to.
Willa Jean: Our last stop before heading to the airport! Like most of the places we visited, it came highly recommended and I’m glad we made it in for breakfast on our way out of town. I had the avocado toast and J had a biscuit with sausage + pimento cheese–both were great and it was nice to have something less decadent (at least with my order) after an indulgent few days!
THINGS TO NOTE
+ Bring cash! We had some on us but would have planned better for this–some bars and music venues have cover charges, there was a bathroom attendant at Pat O’s, Café Du Monde is cash-only, et al…
+ Try out the streetcar. We’d definitely have overlooked the streetcar if it wasn’t for my friend who sent us his extensive NOLA guide and itinerary! We took the St. Charles line (the oldest operating one in the world!) from near our hotel to the Garden District on Monday and it was a fun + efficient way to get to that neighborhood. It’s $1.25 each way (you need exact change) or $3 for a day pass. I’m not sure it’s reliable schedule-wise (we walked right on one way and had to wait over ~20 minutes for the way back) but if you’re not in a hurry I’d recommend it as an alternative to rideshare during the day!
+ Walking vs. rideshare. Aside from the streetcar, we walked everywhere aside from taking a Lyft to and from Frenchman Street. Everyone we talked to before our trip seemed to have a different take on whether it was safe to walk around at night–in general it felt totally fine, but deserted streets popped up quickly and we’d have wanted to avoid those after dark. I was surprised how many empty streets we encountered (especially so close to the French Quarter) and I think part of the reason could have been the post-Mari Gras slump. Like any city, just stay vigilant! We also weren’t out past 10pm (LOL) and weren’t there on a Friday night, so I can’t speak to the typical weekend late night crowds.
+ Think about your footwear. This is probably obvious but the streets in the French Quarter are dirty! They get power washed every morning but unsurprisingly are pretty gross during the day and night. I really wish I’d brought my Tretorns…I had really casual sneakers for travel days and my Rothy’s were my “going out” shoe since they’re easy to toss in the wash. It was tricky because of the weather…boots would have been ideal but it was on the warmer side, and if you’re doing a nicer dinner it’s not fun to wear sneakers! Just something to keep in mind. I was careful and my Rothy’s actually stayed clean but again, we the only divey bar we went to was Pat O’s.
That sums up our trip–we loved eating and drinking our way through New Orleans! Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below if you have any questions 😊