After visiting New Orleans on a long weekend trip two years ago, the city stayed at the back of my mind (and stayed on my travel bucket list). Since the 4th of July fell on a Tuesday this year, many American companies gave employees both Monday and Tuesday, July 3rd and 4th, off work for the holiday. This opened up a window of time for a solid 4-day weekend… so I jumped at the chance to revisit New Orleans.
This particular weekend was a pricey time to visit, as the Essence Festival fell on the same weekend as July 4th. Despite the fact that the average price per night on this 5 night trip was higher than I’ve ever paid to stay in any hostel in the world… flights were relatively reasonable from Nashville at the time when we purchased them, so my friend and I went for it.
And I’m so glad that we did.
Getting to Know NOLA
On my most recent trip to Austria, Germany and Hungary in April, we made a mistake that is hard to avoid when traveling to Europe from the US (even for experienced travelers): we tried to do too much. Too many cities, too many activities in each city. The thought that you don’t have much time, and you need to make the most of that limited time, can drive you to build a trip that isn’t scheduled with getting to know places as the priority. Instead, it is scheduled with some instagrammable experiences and visits to popular tourist destinations in mind… and not much else.
Since I hit most of the tourist highlights on a previous trip to NOLA, I wanted to make sure that this visit would be more about getting to know the city. Luckily, my travel buddy on this adventure had also been to New Orleans before, so she wasn’t worried about missing any tourist spots. As fate would have it, we both had absolutely crazy months of May and June at work… so both of us had a slower pace of travel in mind for this trip, which worked out great.
My Favorite Thing to do in New Orleans: Eat
Even though I live in Nashville, TN, which has an excellent up-and-coming food scene in its own right, visiting New Orleans is like stepping into the foodie big leagues. One of the only things we did research on this visit was where to eat, since on our last visit we spent a lot of time in the really touristy districts of town randomly walking into restaurants. (As with tourist areas in most towns, those restaurants didn’t have the best food and tended to be overpriced, so I felt like I missed a huge part of New Orleans’ culture on my first.)
Suffice it to say, we didn’t repeat that error.
While my bank account is currently quaking in fear at the amount of money we spent on food and drinks during this 4 day trip, I’m also still dreaming of some of the BEST FOOD AND DRINKS I’ve ever had in my life. So I’ll call that money well spent… but also I need to avoid eating out in Nashville for the next month at least.
I always hesitate to give recommendations on restaurants and bars in foodie cities, because the industry is very competitive and there are constantly excellent new places opening. That being said, on this trip in July 2017 some of my absolute favorite places we ate and drank were: Sylvain in the French Quarter (such a cool cocktail menu), Coquette on Magazine Street (brunch), District Donuts on Magazine Street (donuts AND sliders), Adolfo’s on Frenchmen (this place is so tiny you may walk past it at first, but it is worth backtracking), The Bulldog on Magazine Street (beer garden), Avenue Cafe on St. Charles Ave (the only place we visited on our first trip to NOLA that we revisited this time) and Barrel Proof on Magazine Street (fantastic whisky/bourbon/scotch list).
My One Word to Describe New Orleans
If I had to pick just one, it would be…
When I search for the word lively on Google, the top definitions say, “full of life and energy; active and outgoing”, “full of activity and excitement” and “intellectually stimulating or perceptive.”
There’s something about New Orleans that makes me think of life being lived to its fullest. The people are warm, friendly and social… but at their core, they seem happy. People interact with each other, and they laugh a lot. The city has a laid-back vibe: like people could start dancing in the street at any minute (and several times, I saw people do just that.) In general the music is SO GOOD, it seems like everyone stops to listen: tourists and locals alike. Being from a music city myself, I love a city with music in its blood… because it reminds me of home.
New Orleans is different than my hometown in some ways as well. Nashville tends to be a bit uptight when it comes to having a good time… but in Nola, virtually anything goes. New Orleans is a town that knows how to party (and DEFINITELY knows how to eat and drink, as mentioned above).
Obviously, the Bourbon Street shenanigans draw a lot of tourists… but on this trip, we spent a lot of time outside the French Quarter: particularly on Magazine Street in the Garden District. Even though this area isn’t a nonstop party, I still thought “lively” was the word I would use to describe it. Its something about all the colorful houses, and again… its something about the people.
Full of energy.
Full of life.