Travel Guide: A Weekend in New Orleans

New Orleans has always been a place I’d wanted to visit – from the Cajun cuisine to the French Quarter – I just knew it was going to be a city unlike any other. And boy was I right.

There is definitely something for everyone to love in NOLA, but there are plenty of things I wasn’t a big fan of either (we’ll get to that bit later).

Drew, my boyfriend, is a huge fan of New Orleans and was set on showing me the best things the city had to offer. Needless to say, we had a busy three days in the Crescent City.

Take A Bike Tour of New Orleans

One of our favorite things during the trip was a bike tour of the less touristy parts of New Orleans. Though I hadn’t been on a bike for longer than I’d like to admit, I hopped on and started pedaling and voila! 

The tour took us to one of New Orleans’ famous above-ground cemeteries, to a sprawling park and down charming Esplanade Avenue, home to some of the most beautiful Southern homes I’ve ever seen. 

One thing to mention, it is suffocatingly hot in New Orleans, especially in the summer. So if you do a bike tour be sure to start in the morning as we did. We used Free Wheelin’ Bike Tours and lucked out with a private tour!

Catch Some Live Music

Frenchman Street
I wish we had spent more time on Frenchman Street, just east of the French Quarter. Here, you can bar hop and hear some great jazz bands. 

Frenchman Street was a much-needed relief from Bourbon Street. It seemed far less touristy and seemed like more authentic New Orleans. I would definitely recommend checking out Bamboula’s

Preservation Hall
Okay, I know this place is on every tourist’s to-do list for New Orleans, but Preservation Hall was really fun! You definitely need to make reservations in advance – luckily we had reserved spots and glided past the block-long line of folks hoping to get standing tickets. 

Preservation Hall has been a pillar of New Orleans’ jazz scene since the ‘60s – and the players certainly did not disappoint.

Hot 8 Brass Band
If you’re a fan of big-band jazz music, or of really talented musicians, you must go see the Hot 8 Brass Band play. The Grammy-nominated band plays every Sunday night at the Howlin’ Wolf, a bar and music venue. Not only are the players crazy talented, but they also cover popular music and add their own brass/jazz twist. With tickets only costing $15, you can’t go wrong!

Bourbon Street

Let’s face it  – Bourbon Street is all but synonymous with New Orleans. But it was far from my favorite part of the city. 

Granted, it may be because we were in NOLA over Memorial Day Weekend, but Bourbon Street was a little…overwhelming. It’s a bit dirty and grimey. Though there were some fun spots to pop in and out of, I felt no desire to spend more than one night there.

But Bourbon Street wasn’t a total bust for me. There is PRIME people watching and some great live bands to sing your heart out to some rockin’ ‘80s tunes (check out Famous Door). I even grabbed one of those syrupy frozen drinks to sip as we strolled. 

One place that is definitely worth a visit is Pat O’Brien’s. I’m sure if you’ve read anything about Bourbon Street, you’ve heard of this place and its world-famous hurricanes. Grab a cocktail and hang out in the ivy-clad courtyard or stop by the dueling piano room. 

Drinking hurricanes at the Pat O’Brien’s patio bar

Where to Shop

Obviously, on any vacation, I always want some time for shopping. Here’s where Magazine Street comes in. There were plenty of great shops to pop in and out of, and even a few featuring local New Orleans artists. Check out Funky Monkey if you’re into vintage thrifting! There are plenty of great restaurants offering yummy meals too. And be sure to get a New Orleans-famous snowball from a snow cone stand to help you beat the summer heat!

The French Market Shops of the Colonnade is a great place to spend an afternoon. Right across the street from Cafe Du Monde, this covered street market offers local cuisine and gifts. It’s similar to a farmers market and definitely fits the bill if you’re on the hunt for a souvenir.

Speaking of souvenirs, the one thing I wanted to bring back from New Orleans was a skull. Luckily, we found a great shop with hand-painted skulls, prints and trinkets! Located in the French Quarter, Skull Paradise was my choice to find the perfect souvenir!

A NOLA mural along Magazine Street

Where to Grab a Meal or Cocktail

Willa Jean’s

Where We Stayed

We lucked out with the dreamiest Airbnb just a couple blocks from the French Quarter – couldn’t recommend enough!

The cute Airbnb we stayed in

What are you favorite restaurants, places and things to do in New Orleans? Is there something I need to see the next time I’m in town? Let me know in the comments below:

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