Last week three of my best friends from college came to visit and we decided to take a spontaneous road trip to the Big Easy for a night. Since it was the week after Mardi Gras, we scored a sweet hotel deal, right on the corner of Bourbon and Canal St.
I had never been to New Orleans, but since moving to Pensacola I have been dying to go since it is only a quick 3 hour drive. I have heard mixed things about the city, mostly that the european influence is cool and the food and jazz are incredible, but the late night scene can be pretty sketchy. We did a ton of research and decided to just try and get local advice when we got there, and wing our itinerary accordingly.
When we first arrived we went straight to the Garden District. I had read about the Garden District and was excited to check it out. It truly is beautiful. Although spring is not in full bloom yet here, we still got a sense of how beautiful the district must be when the trees and gardens are are in their prime. The old southern mansions were stunning, and the driving through the neighborhoods reminded me of a mixture of the Fan in Richmond, New Port RI, and Charleston SC. Lately I have been really inspired by Southern literature (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Sound and the Fury, The Help) and this area really evoked Kate Chopin's haunting novella The Awakening. I could imagine the dripping heat of summer and girls in white dresses sitting on the porches of the stately houses drinking iced tea, both smothered by heat and smothering their desires to rebel against society.
After driving through the Garden District we parked on Magazine St, near the Whole Foods, and checked all the cute boutiques and shoppes. We grabbed a quick snack at Slice, which had delicious pizza and great happy hour deals. Definitely worth a visit for a good bang-for-your-buck bite to eat, as well as a fantastic bloody mary.
One thing we noticed early on in our visit was that the people are so nice in New Orleans. Both the shop girls and our server gave us some awesome recommendations for dinner that night and fun places to go out. They all resoundingly told us to skip Bourbon St, and hit up Frenchmen St. for the local experience and the best jazz. We did see a bit of Bourbon because our hotel was right on the corner, and although it was an experience, it is definitely a huge tourist trap.
We stayed at the Royal Crown Plaza, right on the corner of Canal and Bourbon St. We happened to score a great deal, and would highly recommend the hotel to anyone because the location is primo. Tip: Don't use RCP parking, instead park in the garage on the backside of the block. It is $10 cheaper for the night.
We grabbed a cab and headed to 3 Muses on Frenchmen St. for dinner after a friend recommended it. (Thanks Katie!) The place was packed when we arrived around 8:00, and the music was already in full swing. We put our name in and decided to walk down the street and check out the scene. New Orleans is fun because you can drink in the street, so we popped into a bar down a few blocks to check out their band (which was awesome) and then took our drinks on the road. There was live jazz in every bar or restaurant that we passed, and some fun stuff happening in the streets two. Some of the best advice we got was that "the music is always worth the cover charge in NOLA." Our advice would be to hit up one or two places, and then pick one and stay put for a while. When we got back to the 3 Muses the place was hopping and the food was insane. Definitely worth the cover and one drink per set.
After a couple sets it was getting late so we moved on to One Eyed Jack's, a club across the French Quarter. We decided to walk and check out the quarter along the way. There were definitely moments and blocks where, with the cobbled streets and shuttered windows, we could have been in France, except the townhouses and flats were all painted in fun pastels. We arrived at One Eyed Jacks to discover that it was 80's night, complete with a theatre screen playing 80's classics and dancers. It ended up being a fun surprise, even though they played such obscure 80's songs for the first half of the time we were there. (Disclaimer: I was not born in the 80s. I do not know what I am talking about.)
The next morning before we left we did some exploring and grabbed breakfast at Café Du Monde. Gotta do it once, right?
Overall, given that we had less than 24 hours, we felt like we got a great taste of New Orleans. Next time I would love to see some more of the parks and sights, but being able to just enjoy the jazz and food was a blast. Sometimes when traveling it's fun to just skip all the touristy stuff , relax, and take it all in. We totally fell in love with the city and would love to go back, and we din't feel like we missed out at all by skipping Bourbon St. Below is our blitz in a nutshell, incase any of you find yourselves taking a spontaneous trip to the Big Easy anytime soon!
New Orleans Blitz:
Areas to Hit up:
- Garden District: Beautiful historic area, mostly residential, with lovely southern houses and gardens.
- Magazine St: Fun street in the Garden District with great shoppes and cafés. Fun place to stop for lunch and window shopping.
- French Quarter: Another historic district, home to the famous Bourbon St. Known for its french architecture and food, nightlife, jazz scene, and historical significance.
- Frenchmen St: Located off of the French Quarter, know for its authentic jazz and local scene. Great restaurants and night life.
Places to Eat:
- Slice: Small pizzeria with multiple locations. We ate at the one Magazine St. Great pizza, salads, and drinks, with awesome slice and drink deals. Very reasonable prices.
- 3 Muses: Fantastic restaurant and jazz bar. Food is small plates, service is quick and excellent. Mix of Southern, Creole, and French fusion. Highly recommend the Fried Oysters and Grits with Bloody Mary Sauce, as well as the Coconut Shrimp and Lamb Sliders.
- Café Du Monde: Probably one of the most famous places in New Orleans, located in the heart of the French Quarter. Totally touristy, but the Beignets really are great, and it's open 24 hours! Don't be afraid of the line--it moves fast.
- One Eyed Jacks: Fun club atmosphere. Dancing.
- Maple Leaf: We didn't go, but heard it is a blast! Next time...
P.S. Have any of you been to New Orleans? What were your favorite parts/spots? I would love to take notes for my next trip!
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