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If you saw my last blog post or follow me on Instagram, you probably saw in my stories that Jake and I visited New Orleans, Louisiana last weekend for a last minute road trip. Nola is only 5 hours from Birmingham, so it’s been on our must-do list for a while. Jake knew he would be getting off early on Friday, so we took advantage of the extra time to take a longer road trip. New Orleans has probably been our favorite road trip we’ve ever gone on together. The food and culture is amazing and unique. The buildings are so old and have such beautiful architectural design, it made us feel like we were in Europe. I had been when I was 16 and Jake had been there for his bachelor party, but we never had been together.
Where To Stay: I would highly recommend staying in the French Quarter. At first we booked an Airbnb, but I was told by a local that the area we were staying in was not the safest. We quickly canceled our reservation and booked the Troubadour Hilton downtown, since we had Hilton gift cards. The traffic can be slow in NOLA, so being in the central area is ideal. We found that a lot of times, places were easier and quicker to walk to instead of Ubering.
New Orleans is so beautiful during the Christmas season. The store fronts and homes in the French Quarter were decorated, and so was Jackson Square.
- Roosevelt Hotel: This hotel is truly a classic. They decorate their lobby with beautiful over the top Christmas lights and trees. It was a bit crowded, so sadly we did not get a good picture.
- See the Christmas Lights at the Garden District: We visited before it was dark, so we didn’t fully get to experience the Christmas lights, but I could tell there were a lot. The historic homes were decorated beautifully for Christmas. I will explain more about the Garden District below.
- Miracle on Fulton Street: If you plan to visit Harrah’s Casino, you will see the beautiful Miracle on Fulton Street display. This area is decorated beautifully with a light show.
- Wear comfortable shoes, as many times we found it quicker to walk somewhere than to Uber. Most places in the French Quarter are close, so you will walk a lot.
- If you’re flying to New Orleans, I don’t think renting a car is necessary. Like I said above, you can walk to a lot of places, so unless you’re venturing outside of New Orleans itself, you can go without one.
- Book reservations for restaurants: Although we didn’t have trouble finding good restaurants to eat with our trip being last minute, I highly recommend booking restaurant reservations in advance. Reservations go quickly.
- Split Meals: Nola is known for their delicious and rich food. I would recommend splitting an entrée when out at dinner and maybe doing an appetizer to split as well. The food is very rich, so it’s hard to eat a lot. Also, in our experience the portions were quite generous.
Where To Eat:
If you’re visiting New Orleans, you better bring your appetite. Nola is a foodie’s paradise. Some of the signature foods are muffalettas, shrimp and grits, gumbo, etoufee, red beans and rice, po-boys, bananas foster, jambalaya, king cake and more.
- Stanley: This amazing restaurant is located in Jackson Square, so it’s the perfect place to stop when exploring. If you love seafood, you’ll love this spot. We went for brunch and it was some of the best food of our trip. They have an eggs benedict that comes with Canadian bacon, as well as cornmeal-battered oysters, shrimp, and an entire softshell crab. We had never eaten softshell crab before, and literally had to Google that it was ok to eat the whole shell!
- Pascal Manale: They are known for their BBQ shrimp and it definitely did not disappoint. The portion was huge, so we split the shrimp and an appetizer.
- Café Du Monde: You cannot visit New Orleans without trying a beignet and a Café Au Lait. Anytime I see beignets on a brunch menu, I get excited and have to try them. Tip: The line will be huge no matter what time of day it is, so use the to-go line. I saw this tip on my blogger friend, Amanda’s Ok’s blog.
- Mr. B’s: Located in the heart of the French Quarter, this is a must-visit spot. It was the nicest restaurant of our visit. They are also known for their BBQ shrimp, but we tried their delicious gumbo and shrimp and grits.
- Cochon Butcher: When you go to Nola you must try a muffaletta. We originally planned to go to Central Grocery, but by the time we got to Nola they were closing. Cochon did not disappoint.
- Coops Place: They had amazing jambalaya, but we were not overly impressed with the rest of their food. We tried their sample plate with jambalaya, shrimp creole, and red beans and rice. This place kept getting recommended over and over, and while it was not bad, it is not a place we would go back to on our next visit.
Next Time- Most of these spots require reservations pretty far in advance:
- Commander’s Palace for their jazz brunch
- Brennan’s for brunch and for bananas foster (they actually invented bananas foster)
- Court of Two Sisters
- Elizabeth’s- They don’t take reservations, but we didn’t have time to check out this highly recommended spot.
What To Do:
- Stroll Around the French Quarter: The buildings are gorgeous and one of a kind. While checking out the shops, you’ll probably also find a lot of live music. We saw a wedding parade on Saturday, which was such a neat experience.
- Jackson Square: This is where the famous St. Louis Cathedral (the oldest cathedral in North America) is located. This area is pretty touristy, but there are some cute shops and a lot of good people-watching. If you’re hungry, make sure to stop at Stanley’s or Café Du Monde. We also saw a brewery called Jackson’s Brewery that looked like a fun spot to stop in next time.
- Check out Antique Stores: Let me be the first to say, I usually don’t love antique stores. The antique stores on Royal Street are a different story. They are like miniature museums. We visited MS Rau, per recommendation of my former boss who lives in Nola now. We saw everything from Faberge pieces to a painting by Winston Churchill to a prehistoric cave bear skeleton, and even Martha Washington’s hair comb. There were also saw other antique stores in the area with vintage Chanel and even coins from a crashed pirate ship. This was one of Jake’s favorite activities of the trip.
- Take A Street Car To The Garden District/Lafayette Cemetery: You take a bus from Canal Street to another street car location that takes you to St. Charles, on the edge of the Garden District. From the Garden District, you can see Lafayette Cemetery. If you’re visiting Nola, a cemetery visit is a must because the tombs are above ground. We did not do a formal tour, just a self-guided one. After walking around the cemetery we passed by Commander’s Palace, which sadly was booked solid. Then, we walked around the Garden District, which is full of beautiful, historic mansions. You can walk by the Buckner Mansion, which is where American Horror Story: Coven was filmed.
- Bourbon Street: Although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it at night if you don’t drink, Bourbon Street was neat to check out.
- Next time: Carriage ride around the French Quarter (the drivers give you a great history lesson about Nola), check out Magazine Street, and New Orleans Museum of Art
Although we were tired and did not enjoy much night life, there is so much to do all day in Nola.
- Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop: This is the oldest structure to be used as a bar in the U.S.
- You cannot visit Nola without trying a hurricane. You can even grab a hurricane and walk around, since it’s one of the few places we’ve been where it’s not against the law to walk around with a drink.
- Carousel Bar: Located in Hotel Monteleone, this is a must visit spot. It actually has a real carousel that revolves. The hotel lobby was decorated beautifully for Christmas, too.
- Bourbon Street: Bourbon Street can get wild at night, so I would recommend not going late.
- Harrah’s Casino: I don’t personally gamble, but Jake likes blackjack and we visited Harrah’s. If you’re playing games, you get free drinks, just like in Las Vegas.
We had an amazing weekend in Nola and definitely will be back. Have you been to Nola? What was your favorite thing you did?
I hope y’all have a Merry Christmas.