Colors. Jazz. History. That’s how I sum up New Orleans
NOLA is pretty contradictory. There is a sense of elegance because of Colonial-era buildings, but also dirty and risque. It’s loud at nights filled with people and live bands, but quiet during the day, with only a faint sound of jazz playing at a bar around the corner.
There’s a bit of sadness in the city because of the amount of poverty you see almost everywhere and demolition from Katrina, but happiness in seeing people loving life with what little or much they have. I was in New Orleans for four days and that was the perfect amount of time. My friends and I didn’t really set much of an itinerary but instead explored the area as much as possible. We stayed at a reconstructed firehouse with 7 bedrooms, perfect enough for 14 people on the trip.
The firehouse itself had a lot of history, with weird half doors that led to nowhere and faint little creaks in the night. We were convinced we had a friendly ghost with us and I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true. Ask anyone who has been to New Orleans and they’ll tell you there is a lot of history.Here’s a cheat sheet of the things you should do during a quick trip to the Big Easy.
Places to See
Ughhhh. The Garden District is TO DIE for. Sort of literally. Just a few minutes away from Tulane University, this town features tons of tall, beautiful, colonial homes surrounded by trees just as tall. It’s a lot cleaner than Bourbon/Frenchman, has cute little eats, and a popular graveyard site.
The radius from the French Quarter to Bourbon Street are so close, I would often get the two confused. How I differentiate it now is you go to the French Quarter for the food. Oysters, jimbalaya, and po-boys, oh my.
Turn a quick corner and you end up on Bourbon Street. You’ll know you’re there because it’s dirtier and much more crowded. You come here to drink, dance, people-watch, get beads thrown at you (for no reason because I showed nothing), and listen to cover bands.
Perfect place to listen to jazz. Seriously, everywhere you turn at night, there is some jazz band playing at a bar.
Things to Do:
Louisiana Swamp Tour
I highly recommend this! This was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. We had a super awesome tour guide and the weather was perfect enough where we saw some alligators but didn’t die from a heat stroke. The tour guide cruises you around the bayou and when he hits open water, will suddenly speed up the boat for a light adrenaline rush. So much fun. He brought on a small gator and we got to hold and pet it.
Just FYI, you can Uber there, but there is no Uber to take you back to your original destination. Hop on a bus when you see one and the driver will drop you off where you need to be for $15/person.
We didn’t get to take this tour while we were in the Garden District, but the Lafayette Cemetery seems to be the most popular. The cemetery closes at 3 pm, so plan accordingly! My boyfriend and I woke up early one morning and visited a cemetery in the hood and it was just as gorgeous.
I learned from a ghost tour that because New Orleans is below sea level, people cannot be buried underground, otherwise they will float back up at some point. Instead, they’re buried in tall, gorgeous marble mausoleums. It was magnificent to see graves of other people’s loved ones dating back to the 1800s. Highly recommend this if you want to learn some history.
Acme Oyster House
I’m still dreaming of their oysters. New Orleans has ruined oysters for me in Los Angeles because it’s incomparable. The oysters were the size of my hand, big and meaty, without being potent. I didn’t have to put any salt or remoulade, it was fantastic as is. Of course, other things on their menu were good too, but the oysters were the standout.
Cafe Du Monde
I’m going to be basic AF and list Cafe Du Monde as a go-to, because beignets. The line runs around the corner and it is always like that, so granted, I didn’t really wait in line. One of my friend’s mother brought back beignets after she came back from church and it was amazing. I wish I had it with coffee like a normal person. Definitely take some time out of the day to go. Oh, they also have two Cafe Du Monde gifts shops across the street where you can buy coffee grounds and little souvenirs to take home.
French Market Restaurant & Bar
This was my favorite restaurant during my trip. We had come back from our swamp tour and were starving for some food. I had the Crawfish Bisque, which ended up being everyone’s favorite. The Mac & Cheese is a can’t miss.
My boyfriend and I shared the Swamp Platter which had shrimp creole, blackened alligator, and maque choux (creamy corn mix with crawfish and chicken) which was amazing. I had never had alligator before and the best way I can describe the taste is a mix of chicken and pork. I also recommend ordering all of the desserts like we did, especially the Creole Cream Cheesecake. I’m literally salivating just rethinking my meal.
All in all, NOLA was a great place to explore, let loose, and just enjoy time with friends. It’s very easy to linger in New Orleans because of how much there is too see and also how little. Like I said, the place is very contradicting.