It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was late to the party. I had waited far too long to visit and after putting together this New Orleans city guide, I am already itching to return.
Finding the words for the energy in New Orleans is challenging. You feel soul in every moment — whether it’s a bite into a crispy fried chicken at Willie Mae’s or the jazz music soaring through your ears with a stiff Sazerac in hand. The people? The highlight. Their pride of city is unlike anything I have ever experienced before. Each person had a story, a recommendation, a tale that drove home why this city has magic in its bones.
New Orleans brought a feeling of history that is well alive — the kind I seek when traveling to far away lands. This time it was here in my own country. I felt sad or rather disappointed in myself for not having the right priorities to visit here sooner. As the first Mardi Gras parades worked its way down the street in front of our apartment, I had a realization.
It’s okay that I am now just getting to this city because the truth is, the party is always well on its way in New Orleans.
The Ultimate New Orleans City Guide
Where to Stay in New Orleans
- Sonder: During our time in New Orleans, we stayed with Sonder on an invited basis. We loved our apartment rental in the Marigny District which gave good location to visiting the city. Sonder curates incredible apartments and outfits them with good design and amenities, making for a comfortable experience. I would recommend staying in Marigny or the Garden District for the best location. Take a peak at my full review on the stay here.
Where to Eat in New Orleans
When it comes to dining in New Orleans, there is so many options. We could not eat everywhere though we gave our best effort. Food in New Orleans is exciting — there’s classic spots and then up and coming locations that do it effortlessly. Here’s a look at our favorite meals in New Orleans:
- Shaya: I heard of this place a while back and has been on my list since after seeing a bit on their pita bread. We came here and fell in love with their modern take on Israeli food. The pita is as good as everyone says, and be sure to try their hummus. *Reserve in advance.
- Commander’s Palace: If you book one meal in advance, this is the spot. Come here for their pre-fix lunch, show up in your Sunday best, and try the classics. And yes, they have .25 cent martinis.
- Cafe du Monde: Did you even visit New Orleans if you didn’t have a beignet? This is the classic, it’s great late at night and early in the morning.
- Cavan: We had dinner here on our final night and it was memorable. Their fried chicken is a must and they have a range of appetizers to choose from. The space is stunning — it’s set in a historic mansion. Don’t forget to ask about their resident ghost.
- Willie Mae’s Scotch House: James Beard Foundation named their fried chicken the best in the US and possibly the world. So we eagerly waited in line for it and it lived up to the hyped. I cleared my plate faster than I had in a while and I may have teared up at how good this fried chicken was. It’s a New Orleans institution.
- Johnny’s Po-Boys: If you’re looking to get your hands on a po-boy, head here. We may or may not have come twice.
- Compère Lapin: We came in for brunch, the food was good and the space is nice. I think the dinner looked a bit better after reviewing the menu.
- Coffee at: Spitfire Coffee, Merchant, Stumptown, or Revelator.
Other recommended restaurants by locals we did not get to:
- Central Grocery & Deli
- Brigtsen’s Restaurant
- Superior Seafood & Oyster Bar
- District Donuts Sliders Brew
- Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits
- Antoine’s Restaurant
- Turkey & the Wolf
- Coop’s Place
- Gumbo Shop
- Port of Call
Where to drink and see music in New Orleans
- Cane and Table: I loved popping in here for a drink at the bar, the space is beautiful and the service was great.
- Cure: Good cocktails and a lively space.
- Rendezvous: Another good spot for drinks.
- Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29: Yes a Tiki Bar and it’s delicious.
- Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar: Known as the oldest bar in New Orleans, it’s always spilling out with people and worth a stop to see the historic building.
- d.b.a.: Come here for live music every single night in Marigny.
- Three Muses: You can grab a bite here and listen to local artists perform.
What to do in New Orleans
You may have caught on that the highlight for us was certainly the cuisine in New Orleans though there is a ton to be discovered. If you’re looking for history or a deep dive of the roots, I’d recommend guided tours or popping into the museum. Here are a few ideas for how to spend your time:
- Stroll the mansions in the Garden District: One of our favorite mornings was exploring the beautiful homes nearby the Commander’s Palace. There are a lot of plaques up that share the history behind the buildings as well.
- Explore the French Quarter: I would recommend coming earlier in the day and skipping the craziness of night. There are local antique stores and more to explore.
- Take a bayou tour with “Beyond the Bayou“: We spent a half day going out of the city to the swamps. We chose Beyond the Bayou as they are the only company who does not feed the alligators to bait them in for entertainment. Our local guide took us around by boat for a few hours and we got to learn about the history of the swamps and more.
- Take a cemetery tour: It may seem strange but it’s one of the most visited sites in the city due to the history and above ground tombs. Cemeteries like St. Louis or Lafayette are the most popular and each have regular, free walking tours to join.
- Hear music: Preservation Hall is one of the more famous venues and there are weekly shows to see. If not head to Marigny district and pop into for a free jazz concert at the many venues on Frenchman street.
- Stop by the National WWII Museum: This was one thing we didn’t have the chance to do but wish we did.