New Orleans City Guide
Oh New Orleans...there's no place quite like it. As a child I came to New Orleans with my family for FSU football championships (1993, 1998). This last spring I returned with my husband for a leisure trip and it was an altogether different experience. Here are my favorites from our recent trip.
Hotels: We stayed at the Ace Hotel in the Arts District and this turned out to be the perfect location for us. This neighborhood is undergoing a renaissance (also known as gentrification) and there are new cafes/shops/restaurants cropping-up almost weekly. As far as the hotel goes, the public spaces at the Ace are wonderful. The lobby bar is perfect for grabbing a happy hour beverage and the rooftop pool/lounge is the stuff dreams are made of. The rooms however, have a bit of a jail-cell-aesthetic that didn't appeal to me personally, and for this reason, I probably wouldn't stay here again.
Next time, I'd check out the Troubadour located a bit closer to the French Quarter than the Ace Hotel.
To Eat: We started off our trip with lunch at Willa Jean and I'd say this is a must. Stop by for lunch or brunch, or just grab a coffee or pastry at the to-go counter.
Nestled between the Arts District and the French Quarter, Bon Ton Cafe is a great place to try out classic New Orleans fare. Save room for the bread pudding dessert!
Another obligatory stop is for beignets at Cafe Du Monde. It's crowded, the tables are sticky, and the service is haphazard, but it's all worth it, if for nothing else then to say that you tried it.
A bit off the beaten path is Shaya Israeli restaurant. We went here before exploring in the garden district. I recommend the house-made pita with hummus and the Sabich sandwich.
The award for best meal goes to Balise, which was located down the block from our hotel. We stopped here for dinner one Friday night and tried several small plates as well as an entree. Everything we had was delicious...the burger, the roasted beets, the shrimp pan roast, the sticky toffee pudding. They have a rotating menu so ask your server for suggestions.
One place that was on our list, but we didn't make it to was Seaworthy. I hear that they have an Oyster Happy Hour. We'll be back for that!
To Drink: We checked out a whole slew of coffee shops while we were in New Orleans and the one we kept coming back to (literally) was Mammoth Espresso. This spot is tucked away in a more quiet area of the Arts District and it's worth the trip. The owner and staff here are as nice as can be, so make sure to have a chat while you're there. When you order, try something a little different than your usual, and check out one of their coffee cocktails. I loved the 'sweet thing'.
For non-caffeinated beverages, be sure to check out the rooftop at Hot Tin. A cocktail while overlooking the city at sunset, is a nice way to start your evening.
To Do: While in New Orleans, you really must spend a bit of time in the French Quarter, just don't feel that is all there is to see and do! The French Quarter admittedly is not my scene, but I was able to find the charm of the area, especially in the beautiful architecture and the groups of musicians posted at most street corners. I recommend going at an off-hour such as 11am. Go have beignets at Cafe du Monde, then explore and go on a self-guided architecture tour. I really enjoyed the area around Chartres Street and St Phillip St.
Probably my favorite experience while in New Orleans was taking the old Streetcar. Ride the historic St. Charles line to get between the French Quarter, the Arts District, and the Garden District.
Lastly, make sure that you dedicate some time to exploring in the Garden District. Check out the beautiful antebellum homes in the area and walk along Magazine Street for the restaurants and home decor shops (more on the later).
Lastly, return to the French Quarter in the evening and slowly make your way to Frenchmen street, taking in all of the great street musicians that you pass along the way. Frenchmen Street is THE place for live music, so pop in to one of the bars and see who is playing.
Shopping: In the French Quarter, the most obvious stops may not be a used bookstore and a gas lantern manufacturer, but these were my favorite spots. At Beckham's BookShop, I was able to find an old hymnal as a gift for my husband. I recommend perusing the shelves to see what gems you can find.
Bevolo is an industry leader in handmade gas lanterns (you'll spot much of their handiwork adorning the porches and entry ways of the homes in the French Quarter). Their shop is located right in the French Quarter, so stop in and let them tell you a bit about their products and process.
Other favorites outside of the French Quarter were all of the home decor shops along Magazine Street in the Garden District, and a fabric store Promenade Fine Fabrics in the Lower Garden District.