Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler | Let the Good Times Roll
New Orleans, N’awlins, Crescent City, “The Big Easy.” These are only a few of the names for a city that, in one ride on the streetcar, transports you back through history. Known for its vibrant music and architecture, New Orleans attracts visitors to come celebrate life at one or all of its roughly 130 festivals year-round. Whether you’re seeking a good time and huge ass beer on Bourbon Street or listening to jazz on Frenchman Street or at Jazz Fest, New Orleans does not disappoint.
While the pace slows down in the summer in order to soothe the New Orleans heat, there is a buzzing excitement that just does not stop. While many visitors brave the summer humidity with a Hurricane in the Pat O’Brien’s courtyard to cool down, New Orleans gets swamped with visitors year-round for Mardi Gras parades and celebrations in February and March, for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in May, and for the beautiful weather in the cooler months of October and November. You can find local artists and live music as you walk around the French Quarter and the French Market at any time of the year. In the fall, the entire city comes together for Saints football games. Whether you’re in the Superdome or at a local bar like Markey’s to watch the game, the boisterous cheers of “Who Dat!” and tremendous toots of the trumpets envelop you until you believe in the local legend of Drew Breesus. In the spring, the city comes together for crawfish and shrimp, which you can find boiled at any bar, park or street corner. Have a local teach you the right way to eat crawfish to truly enjoy this delicious staple.
For a family-friendly day, grab a sobering cup of coffee at either Mojo Coffee or French Truck Coffee to experience the taste of New Orleans classic Chicory coffee. Head over for a day of exploration at City Park, which happens to be larger than Central Park in New York City. Either leisurely stroll under the beautiful mature live oak trees or rent a Blue Bike to cruise around. Within City Park lies the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden, the Louisiana’s Children’s Museum, Storyland, and Swan Boat rentals. Also, in this vast park, one can find festival grounds, sports fields, and a new PGA Golf course. The list goes on, but all that walking is sure to make you hungry. Stop by Morning Call in the park for a New Orleans’ delight - beignets! But don’t fret if you get powdered sugar all over you, it’s part of the experience.
New Orleans is known for its world-famous cuisine. The local flavor is mostly comprised of Cajun, Creole and French influences. For lunch, check out the treasured Parkway Bakery for poor boys in Bayou St. John or grab some charbroiled oysters at Drago’s downtown. For the last one hundred years, Arnaud’s in the French Quarter has served creole classics for dinner or jazz brunch and is home to the James Beard Award-winning French 75 Bar. For other delicious classic Creole food, head to another New Orleans landmark that has been around since 1893, Commander’s Palace. Be sure you try the bread pudding soufflé with whiskey sauce!
Tired from a full day of eating and exploring? Head downtown and take a seat at either one of New Orleans’ two historic theaters, the Saenger or the Orpheum, for spectacular musical, dance, and comedic performances. Looking for something less formal and a bit more upbeat? Check out a show at Tipitina’s, the “neighborhood juke joint,” dedicated to the legendary New Orleans musician Professor Longhair. Don’t feel like dancing, but want to enjoy music in open air? Pick a bottle of wine in Bacchanal’s cozy Old-World wine shop and head out back to a romantic courtyard to hear some original New Orleans jazz.
Thinking about drinking? While one can have a raucous night out on Bourbon Street, typically reserved for bachelor/bachelorette parties, those who enjoy craft beer will want to head Uptown. Try one or all three of the breweries on the street that locals and tourists alike at times struggle to pronounce, Tchoupitoulas Street (“chop – a – tool – us”). The traditional New Orleans Lager & Ale (NOLA) Brewing is Louisiana’s largest independently- owned craft brewery, offering free brewery tours Friday through Sunday. At stop number two, Urban South Brewery, located in an old warehouse, features ample room and games for friends, as well as a child-friendly play area. NOLA Brewing has a tap room with delicious bar food, while Urban South features pop-ups and food trucks. Continue Uptown and find yourself at Port Orleans, which has the looks and food of a restaurant, yet the beer of an established microbrewery. This brewery, opened in 2017, has a true outdoor space and the added bonus of being dog friendly!
Once Uptown, head to Audubon Park for either a round of golf, a stroll under live oak trees, a visit to Audubon Zoo, or a picnic by the river. Once you’re ready to head back downtown, make your way to America’s only moving national monument, the iconic green St. Charles Avenue streetcar. Take a seat and gaze at the grandeur of the 19th and 20th century mansions that line this beautiful avenue, shaded by the canopy of mature live oaks. Hop off whenever you’re ready and walk down to Magazine Street. Interspersed with charming creole cottages, craft stores and galleries, Magazine Street is also home to boutiques and bars. Stop by Sucré for a macaron or a sweet treat and the Ashley Longshore Gallery for a pop of pop art.
After a long day, rest your head at the Eliza Jane Hotel, centrally located in the heart of downtown on Magazine Street. This new hotel drew inspiration from Eliza Jane Nicholson, the first female publisher of the New Orleans major metropolitan newspaper, the Daily Picayune. Before you head to your room, embrace the rich history that sparkles magically in the historic hallways and grab a bite at the on-site restaurant, Couvant. This fine establishment gives traditional French fare a new perspective. Wake up refreshed and walk over to Willa Jean for brunch. The retro-chic café happens to be a favorite of both locals and Beyoncé. After having Willa Jean’s famed cookies and milk, head towards the National World War II Museum, a top ten museum in the world, and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art for a day of history and culture. If the sun is shining, turn the other way towards the French Quarter for either a horse carriage ride or ghost tour to learn about the city’s physical, social, political and sometimes haunted history.
Want to stay a bit further away from the hustle and bustle of downtown? Head over to the Marigny and find an excellent example of history re-imagined. Hotel Peter & Paul transformed the bones of a historic church, school house, rectory and convent into a boutique hotel that transports you through different experiences. Grab a drink or a small share plate at The Rectory Bar courtyard which looks out at the stunning stained glass of the church. No two guest rooms are exactly alike, mirroring the beautiful architectural character to be discovered in the Marigny. Walk out the front door of Peter & Paul to stroll or bike through the neighborhood to gaze at the array of Creole cottages, Greek Revival and shotgun homes that are a quintessential part of the New Orleans’ identity. Head a few blocks south and climb the bridge to Crescent Park for views of the river and the city from a new angle. Stop by neighborhood restaurants Paladar 511 or Bywater American Bistro for a casual, yet energetic, dining experience. On the way back, stop and strike up a conversation with a local, sure to be found sitting on their front porch or stairs, more commonly known as their stoop.
From music to food to art and architecture, New Orleans’ culture and La Joie de Vivre, “the joy of living,” is simply infectious. The vibrancy of its buildings and its people create a sense of belonging and connection that has existed throughout the history of New Orleans and will be there for a long time to come. New Orleans is a gracious host that will feed you, serenade you, and leave you smiling with a jazz tune in your heart.
Images courtesy of Kevin Barraco and Shutterstock.com.
- Urban Life
- Arts & Culture
- New Orleans, LA