I had to been to New Orleans before but only for a few hours. So when Melissa, my best friend, suggested we meet there for a girls’ weekend, I was freaking pumped! We also planned our girl’s getaway on St. Patrick’s Day. We couldn’t go to New Orleans without watching a parade on Bourbon Street!
We stayed at the perfect Airbnb. Our host was awesome and the location was on point! We were only a few buses away from the cable cars but yet we were away from the craziness of downtown. We literally walked so much over the weekend… Uber’s are so pricy in NOLA and parking is a joke! However, the weekend was a blast! Therefore, if you ever find yourself in New Orleans, here are 11 things you must do!
1. Go to Jackson Square
With St. Louis Cathedral as the focal point, you might think Jackson Square portrays a reverent atmosphere... WRONG! Ten feet away from the entrance of the church, fortune tellers, drunks, artists, face painters, con artists and mimes consume tourists' attention! J.S. represents the heart of French Quarter and your stop will not be complete until you visit. Historic buildings date back to 1752, so be sure to snap a picture!
2. Walk down Bourbon Street at least once in the daytime and once in the nighttime.
There aren’t many streets as romanticized as Bourbon Street. But will it live up to its name? That’s for you to judge. Yes it's mad, loud, a little smelly and most of the people are drunk. But it's worth a visit to experience the madness of this street. Where can you go, where there is an abundance of music, food and alcohol and occasional women and men incising you in to a club? Not my typical cup of tea but I love the openness of the street!
3. Explore the French quarter
The reason most people go to New Orleans is to explore the unique and bustling French Quarter. This district in the city of New Orleans is home to unique architecture with those classic rod iron balconies.
4. Check out a city of the dead!
The above-ground tombs in New Orleans cemeteries are often referred to as "cities of the dead." Melissa and I explored the cemetery in the Garden District. Last time I was in NOLA, we took a tour in the cemetery to learn about the history and of course the family drama! If you are interested, you can read more about the cemeteries here!
5. Watch/participate in a parade!
Luckily, Melissa and I were in town during all the St. Patrick’s Day festivities! New Orleans is known for its French influence and Spanish culture, but the Irish have left their thumbprint on the city too.The Irish Channel Parade is an annual favorite through the Irish Channel and Garden District. There are Irish themed floats, marching bands, countless men dressed in tuxedos and plenty of green beads.
As you can see, Melissa and I were showered with beads, silk flowers, and a few other party favors! The men dressed in tuxedos walk in the parade with silk flowers, tiaras, garters, beads, etc. They are participating in the parade of course! They walk up to the “most beautiful” woman they see and greet with her a kiss on the cheek and gift her with a silk flower too. It’s charming… :)
6. Have a breakfast of cafe au lait and beignets (french doughnuts) at Cafe du Monde.
World famous for its café au lait, beignets, and of course, the opportunity to people watch! We waited in line for maybe 30 mins? But in New Orleans, you are always entertained even while standing in line! It was established in 1862 and has been lavishly covering beignets with powdered sugar for everyone since!
7. Take the St. Charles Street Car to the Garden District
The street cars glide throughout the streets of New Orleans passing mansions and offering relaxing views of the beauty, charm and history of New Orleans for just a little cost. When you board the street car, you are boarding with a piece of movable New Orleans history.
If you are as horrible as reading a map as me, just download the street car app!
8. Go to Mardi Gras World
How can you go to New Orleans and not learn how the world-famous Mardi Gras floats are made each year?! Head to Mardi Gras World and learn the entire parade float process and the true traditions of Fat Tuesday!
9. Stroll around in the Garden District
Oh the beautiful Garden District… Take the trolley or just walk, then keep walking. It is fascinating to see the old houses, trees and gardens. Fun restaurants are stuck here and there, also for discovering. Just remember to look down periodically, as the sidewalks are uneven due to invading roots of the lovely old trees.
10. Shop around and grab lunch at the French Market
This beautiful market area east of Jackson square has been around since the 1700s as a trading post along the Mississippi River. From there it continued to evolve into a cultural and commercial hub for New Orleans with many cute shops and places to eat. The outdoor market is always packed especially on the weekends. While much of the goods sold here are a bit touristy, its nostalgia and history attract locals and tourists alike every single day.
11. Donuts and shopping on Magazine street
Head to Magazine Street for the best donuts in the city, District Donuts! It’s comfy café offers great coffee but even better donuts! Magazine Street is a good alternative from the nonstop hustle and party of the French Quarter. The shops are quaint and offer some better quality NOLA merchandise.
New Orleans is a city with a supernatural vibe. If you ever get the chance to explore the city, soak it in!