There’s More to New Orleans than Mardi Gras

Literally… Mardi Gras is the synonym of New Orleans! Every year, tons of thousands of people from around the world come visit “The Big Easy” (one of several nicknames given to NOLA) to celebrate “Fat Tuesday”, and pack Bourbon St. while catching beads, drinking hurricanes, and collecting doubloons (the Mardi Gras coins). I am 100% positive you’ve heard of this big festivity!

No doubt, NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) is definitely another city you must add to your “bucket” list! However, please beware that visiting New Orleans during Mardi Gras can get a LITTLE  (notice my sarcasm?) overcrowded and a BIT (notice it again?) crazy. Sooo… if you’re like me, and you don’t like squirming through the masses like a sardine, this is NOT the time for you to visit this charming city.

My boyfriend and I recently drove to New Orleans for a friend’s wedding and managed to fit in some time to explore the area. Despite the fact it was an ordinary weekend (no special holidays or events going on), we still (somehow) ran into a lot of traffic before getting to the French Quarter -where our hotel was located. Fortunately enough once we checked in and valeted the truck, the fun begun!

As I have previously shared with you, I don’t have too many vacay days therefore my trips are typically limited to weekends, which means I need to maximize each trip to its fullest capacity by doing the most in the least amount of time. If you’re in desperate need of more vacation days but have to suffice with what you got, I think you will find my advice a little (I hope for very!) helpful.

We were able to cover a lot of ground during our short stay; so if you are planning to visit the folkloric city of New Orleans, allocate your time as wisely as possible! Be sure to set aside enough time for the following places:

1. French Quarter. Thankfully the Omni Royal Orleans hotel (a block away from Bourbon St.) was located in this area and everything was walking distance -we truly didn’t need a car to get anywhere! The only transportation I recommend taking (if you have time) is a horse/mule driven carriage -it’s the most authentic way to tour the French Quarter! (Tickets can be bought on the spot, make sure you shop for the best deal by asking around before you buy).

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2. Bourbon St. The whole purpose about going to NOLA is to walk through this street! If you do not accomplish this, you completely missed the point of your trip.  Bourbon St. is full of live entertainment; there’s music, dancing, food, booze (bourbon included -duh!), fun and plenty of good vibes all around! As you can imagine, there is also an overwhelming number of restaurants and bars which makes it more difficult to decide where you should spend your time, and what’s worth your while. Let me help you slim down your choices:

  • The Old Absinthe House. The oldest speakeasy in the French Quarter, dating back to the early 1800s offers a unique, mystique experience at Bourbon rue. Their menu obviously consists of a variety of “Green Fairy” drinks -remember to drink within your limits. (I’d never had absinthe in my life so I asked the bartender for her recommendation; she advised me to try the Butterfly drink).
  • Erin Rose. A few steps off of Bourbon St. you will drink the BEST Frozen Irish Coffee you have ever had!
  • Pat O’Briens. You cannot leave this street without ordering one of NOLA’s  signature drinks -the Hurricane!
  • Fat Cats. This bar has a live band, playing your biggest hits of the 80s -it’s the perfect spot to drink and sing-along with the frenzzz!
  • Big Easy Daiquiris. If you are searching for quick and tasty food, this place is legit! Their pepperoni pizza was beyond AMAZING -so good it does not compete with Costco Pizza! Plus, they have a frozen bar and you can order whatever flavor you want! This place was our savior!

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3. Jackson Square. Make sure you take a walk through the historic landmark of the city; this area is really cool because there are many artists trying to capture the essence of The Big Easy on canvas and sell it for a living. One of the artists we spoke to had very neat paintings that my boyfriend liked and bought for his house; the frames were made of wood the painter found in dumpsters! (Isn’t that so cool?!)

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4. Saint Louis Cathedral. Hopefully you’re timing will be better than ours; we didn’t get to see the cathedral on the inside. (A little secret about myself -when I travel I love to check out churches and make a wish for every new church I visit).

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5. Other Places. Some other places you want to make sure you get to see even if it’s just walking by are:

~Amelie Café. This is a neat spot to have a long brunch. Unfortunately for us, it was only drinks at the bar. If you want to eat here, I highly recommend calling in to make a reservation; walk-ins are accepted but are limited -so don’t risk it and call in.

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~French Market. I hope you’re in financial shape to walk through six blocks of non-stop shopping! Here you will find anything from cajun food, local art & art crafts, used books, unique apparel, handmade jewelry and much more! Have your credit cards available and ready for a fun shopping spree!

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~Hot Sauce House. If you get sick of waiting in line to be seated at Café du Monde, walk across the street to check out this store -they have a wide selection of hot sauces to sample; hopefully you have a high tolerance for  “picante” -some of their sauces are very spicy!

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~Fiorella’s Bistro & Wine Bar. After passing up restaurants with long waiting lists, we discovered Fiorella’s, a bistro that served excellent raw oysters marinated in champagne-wine (not on the menu), and very moist, charbroiled oysters. I really liked this place to grab a quick bite and keep moving forward.

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I hope you get to checkout all the places I’ve listed and you get to see way more than I did! Make sure you share any other pieces of advice you pick up during your trip here.

AIRFARE

Not needed when your only a drive away! If you are further away than just a few hours, search for your best flight deals on Expedia.com, Priceline.com, or visit directly the airline websites such as United.com and/or Southwest.com.

HOTEL

As always, my boyfriend and I do our due diligence searching for a place to stay with the main criteria listed below:

  1. Location. Making sure your hotel is in a safe area is always important (safety first!). Additionally, when you are visiting a loud city, it is nice to find a place where you can find peace and quiet to get a good night’s rest.
  2. Comfort and Quality of Service. Comfy beds with clean, fresh sheets, at a high end hotel calls for good night’s rest. The hotel staff was very welcoming and friendly which always makes a difference during your stay!
  3. Proximity. Being able to walk to all the hot spots around town is a major convenience when you’re out traveling! We wanted a hotel that would allow us to spend most of our time exploring new sites, such as the ones I’ve listed.

The Omni Royal Orleans was the hotel of our choice based on this criteria. Located on Saint Louis St. (a few steps away from the busy Bourbon St.), the Omni Royal Orleans offers a friendly, relaxed, and luxurious atmosphere -perfect for a fun getaway weekend!

Overall the staff provided great customer service. Check-in and -out were quick and easy; which we all know can sometimes be a nightmare and delay the beginning of your fun or your journey.

Based on the experience of our stay, I rate the Omni Royal Orleans with a full five yellow stars. You should TOTALLY check it out for yourself and let me know what you think!

TRANSPORTATION

Like I said, everything is walking distance within the French Quarter. If you really need a ride to get somewhere you should truly take a carriage tour around town.

DON’T MISS OUT!

Wherever the streets of New Orleans take you, please do not leave the French Quarter without visiting these places!

~Bourbon House. Take this as my best recommendation! This restaurant/bar has an amazing showcase of all types and kinds of bourbon -I think your drink for the night is quite self-explanatory. This restaurant’s ambiance is graced with elegance, and their food is served very rich in flavor. Please, please don’t walk away from Bourbon House without trying their charbroiled oysters -they are exquisite! By the way… they prepare a delicious vanilla, whiskey shake you must order -remember, don’t be counting calories! (No room for diets when you’re on vacation LOL).

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~Café Beignet. Everybody that visits New Orleans has their mind set on visiting Café du Monde ( in Jackson Square) to order a café au lait -coffee with milk- and an order of beignets -Google it if you don’t know what they are. However, people typically don’t know about the 2+ hour line you need to go through to be seated! (So soo crazy!). If you have all the time in the Monde (get it? LOL), then by all means be patient and wait to be seated. But, if you are on the “go” and want to have just as good of an experience, definitely visit Café Beignet!

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~Hotel Monteleone. One of the fanciest hotels you’ll find in the French Quarter is famously known for its Carousel Bar & Lounge -which by the way, does spin around! (FYI: You don’t need to be a guest at this hotel to sit at their bar and order a drink! Oh yeahhh… no reservations required either!!). For drinks, I suggest ordering “The Corpse,” a cocktail off the menu that another person sitting next to me at the bar recommended; a Sazerac -which is a variation of cognac and whiskey- if you like strong drinks; or a French 75, a very refreshing type of mimosa -made with gin and lemon juice instead of the usual orange/grapefruit juice.

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I ranked these three locations as the main highlights of our trip; be sure you check them out and share your thoughts -remember to take it easy on the drinks (LOL)!  If you have any questions on other topics, please feel free to message me; I wish you the best experience ever at “The Big Easy.” Look forward to hearing all about your visit!

Safe Travels,

~Steph

 

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