Fresh beignets, broiled oysters, brass bands, and balmy-weather are just a few words that come to mind when I think of New Orleans. I long wondered what it would be like to experience this city in real time and finally this past weekend I got to do just that!
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that NOLA often gets wrongfully pegged as a party town. But the truth is Bourbon St. (and all the debauchery that ensues there) is so far removed from the magic that is New Orleans. My guide is a tribute to the beauty of the big easy.
What to Pack:
- Truly anything goes in NOLA! I had an absolute blast putting together outfits for this trip. Lots of prints to mix and match, vibrant colored dresses, off-the-shoulder tops, and flats (the city is not ideal for heels). Do keep in mind that the city gets quite hot during the Spring/Summer so lightweight, breathable fabrics are key to staying cool.
Where to Stay:
- Ace Hotel: located a few blocks from the bustling French Quarter and boasting a beautiful rooftop pool & bar. Brings in a young, hip, international crowd aka my kind of hotel!
- Hotel Peter and Paul: for a luxury boutique hotel experience, this is your spot. Classic NOLA aesthetic with a contemporary twist.
- The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans: I always feel at home when I step into a Ritz-Carlton but this property is an especially tranquil reprieve from the excitement outside its front door.
What to See:
- The French Quarter: muse over the dreamy cast-iron balconies and candy-colored colonial buildings. Grab a drink overlooking the square.
- Jackson Square: for a view of the Mississippi and the sounds of street jazz.
- The Mardi Gras Museum of Costume and Culture: gorgeous collection of costumes and tribute to the origins of Mardi Gras. One of the highlights for me for sure and even got to join their Memorial Day Second Line.
- Join a Second Line: truly one of my favorite parts of our trip was getting to parade with a second line brass band. The sound is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. You can’t help but want to move once you do.
- Steamboat on the Mississippi: nice to do on a hot day!
- Swamp and Bayou Boat Tour: make sure you get on a boat with a roof because the sun can be strong on these tours.
- Cemetery Walking Tour: didn’t get the chance to do this but I’ve heard they are pretty impressive.
Where to Eat:
- Cafe du Monde: prepare to wait in line for these sugar dusted beignets but know that it’s fully worth it!
- Pêche Seafood Grill: one of the most flavourful meals I’ve had in a while and the only one that wasn’t battered/deep-friend in NOLA. Their Area 3 oysters and swordfish did not disappoint.
- Bacchanal Wine: out in the Bywater neighborhood and a local favorite. Purchase your choice of cheeses from the fridge for a great charcuterie board and head to the back for a live jazz performance.
Where to Shop:
- UAL: all your favorite labels at discounted prices (Lisa Marie Fernandez, Caroline Constas, Prabal Gurung and more).
- La Bella Vida Boutique: cute day dresses perfect for the warm weather.
- Saint Claude Social Club: eclectic mix of contemporary fashion you might find on Net-a-Porter combined with local designs.
Where to Play:
- If you are looking for the wild and crazy then do take a walk down Bourbon St. or head to the Country Club for a brunch meets cabaret pool party. Yes you read that correctly.
- For a more authentic, local experience, head to Frenchmen St. Here you can hop from one venue to the next, and listen to a variety of jazz pouring into the streets. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a brass band spill into the streets for an impromptu block party.
What to See Outside the City:
- Hands down, one of the best decisions we made on our trip was to head out to the Oak Alley Plantation for an afternoon. It took about 1.5 hrs to get out there with a guided bus tour. The history of New Orleans is rich, deep, and at times rather dark, but so important to know in order to fully understand and appreciate the destination. Oak Alley was originally a sugarcane plantation and has since become an incredible portal to the past and in some cases the backdrop to major films and music videos (Interview with the Vampire and Beyoncé’s Deja Vu to name a few).