New Orleans – just as you say the name, you can hear the trumpets and jazz in the air, can taste the spicy creole food, and smell fresh beignets and chicory roast coffee. For me, I immediately see the black wrought iron intricate bars on beautiful french-influenced homes, and feel the city’s excitement and vibrance. We spent a week there in September and loved every minute of our time there.
This week, my husband is back in NOLA for a mission trip helping to rebuild homes still under construction from Katrina. Needless to say, while he’s gone, I’m left remembering our trip together and wishing I could’ve gone! So, I figured I’d gather up my thoughts, take a trip down memory lane, and share my recommendations for a trip through the Big Easy.
While yes, you should absolutely get a table at Café Du Monde and enjoy beignets and their unique coffee (Tip, skip the line that’s wrapping around the building to go in through the outdoor area, and instead walk into the retail part of the store, and enter the patio area that way – both are valid entrances! People seem to just get stuck when they see the outdoor line) I also want to share some things we really enjoyed and that you might otherwise miss!
I highly recommend looking at the options through Air BnB if you’re trying to get immersed into the city and enjoy the local feel. We chose this gorgeous apartment off of Esplanade avenue, and though the distance from the city center made us use Uber + Lyft a bit more than we’d plan, the property and owners April + Ken absolutely made it worthwhile. The home was decked out in NOLA themed bold colors, and had a rich palette throughout. Bonus, the enormous high ceilings truly felt like you’re in royal quarters 🙂 (PS – Try AirBnB, it is SO worth it!)
Though you might pass right on by it and miss this gem, we highly recommend The Palace Café. The french influenced food was incredible, and the Bananas Foster at the end (table side) was both beautiful and delicious!
We had quite a few experiences in NOLA that were amazing, but my two favorites were our New Orleans School of Cooking class and spending an evening at Preservation Hall being completely and totally immersed in some serious traditional New Orleans Jazz from an AMAZING band! (Trumpet, horn, bass, drums, other instruments I can’t remember, piano, the works!)
Spend a few hours at the Cooking Class making Shrimp Etouffee, Jambalaya and to finish it off, we made true southern pralines. Of which, I took no shame in eating my weight in – they were by far the best pralines that I’ve ever had. The chef who teaches you will give you interesting history of NOLA throughout, entertain you, provide snacks while its cooking, and all in all it was an amazing experience to learn how to make these staple New Orleans dishes. As I write this I realize that a good bulk of this recap revolves around food (go figure) and honestly, though we had an apartment with a kitchen we planned to utilize, the food was just so amazing throughout the city. Try a sample of everything that you can, you won’t regret it!
And finally, I seriously cannot recommend a trip to Preservation Hall enough! It was by far the most entertaining and incredible part of our trip. Preservation Hall was established in 1961 to “preserve, perpetuate, and protect traditional New Orleans Jazz”. It literally looks like it’s been around forever from the outside, and the interior only handles a small amount of people (maybe 50?) so be sure to book your tickets in advance online. It’s located right in the heart of the French Quarter on St. Peter Street and it offers an intimate, acoustic New Orleans Jazz concert almost every night of the year (and there are multiple shows per night!) Unfortunately, they dont allow photography during the show so I don’t have live shots to share with you, but honestly, that kind of mystery and intrigue is what makes this experience so incredible. It’s something neither of us will forget, and we really want to go back soon! I was looking up music from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band after we left, just because we wanted to be back in that moment again!
I did manage to get this one shot with my phone right before we left after the band had left!
Other recommendations: I definitely recommend taking the trolly through the Garden District and viewing the gorgeous houses. Open air trolleys add to the real feel of New Orleans and you can’t beat the views you’ll see! Also, if you have time, be sure to take a Haunted NOLA Tour (there are plenty of great operators throughout and lots of itineraries to fit your schedule)! Also, of course, it goes without saying be sure to walk through the heart of the French Quarter, walk along the river, and spend time soaking in all the city has to offer!
Are you planning a trip to the Big Easy? If so, feel free to reach out (either in the comments or via the Contact Me link on the home page!) I’d be glad to help and share my favorite things!