After visiting Oak Alley Plantation house the boyfriend and I set off the next day into the city of New Orleans itself. New Orleans (affectionately known around the area as NOLA) was up there on my list of must-see cities before leaving the South. If you also are planning to visit NOLA, here is everything you'll need to know for a wonderful trip!
(Have a question about something I didn't cover? Leave 'er in the comments and I'll happily help you out!)
Getting To NOLA
There is one way, and one way only I would suggest for getting to NOLA. That is by car, specifically during the day! Driving in gives you the perfect introduction to the city to set the tone for your unique visit to this one-of-a-kind city! You'll cross a long bridge over swamp water, with marshy nature growing all around. You'll also pass by a few cabins on stilts, just as you would have pictured in your mind. It's really something to see in person!
Related: Creating Budget-Friendly Trips
What's NOLA Like?
You've likely heard of New Orleans because of the famous Mardi Gras festival that takes place in February in the French Quarter (the most famous district in New Orleans). When we arrived on a Sunday morning in the French Quarter, bar owners were outside cleaning up, and washing down from the night before. Additionally upon leaving on Sunday night, the party was starting up again. So rest assured, if you don't make it down during Mardi Gras, there will still be a party to be had other times of the year.
Okay, partying aside, NOLA is one of the most unique American cities I've had the pleasure of visiting! Why? The history of NOLA is long and complex, with the city changed hands many times, being a part of Spain, France, Spain again, the United Stated, the Confederacy, and then the United States again. There's also been a great influence from countries south of the border, as many migrants came to settle due to tragedies in their home countries. This has made for a complex mash up of architecture, culture, and food which you still see immensely in the city today!
Within the city itself, there's two modes of transportation I would suggest. The classic streetcars, complete with polished wood seats, and red exteriors, or by foot. Streetcar fare is $3.00 for a full day pass which will get you around to the important destinations within the city. Once you get to the district within the city you plan to spend time in, walking will get you just about everywhere. The French Quarter, the most popular area for tourism, is a fairly small area consisting of a few city blocks, and can be covered easily by foot.
Where To Stay
NOLA surprised me greatly with price of accommodation! Hotels, hostels, Bed & Breakfasts, AirBnB's, etc,. all will run you a pretty penny, so be prepared for a slightly more expensive accommodation than you might originally expect. If you don't plan to go wild on the bar scene at night, staying just outside the city is a perfect way to cut down on cost. Also, parking is generally not included with accommodation, but there are many paid parking garages around the city you may use.
What To Do
NOLA has so much to offer! Where to start!
To get the most well-known NOLA experience, spend some time wandering in and out of the shops, art galleries, restaurants and bars in the French Quarter!
If you love a good ghost tour, (like me!), I suggest booking a tour with Haunted History Tours. They offer a number of themed tours in a couple different areas of the city. You'll get a nice mix of the history of NOLA, along with some scary stuff.
Up for something a little unusual? Visit a cemetery! Yes, yes, I know you're saying, "Paige, why are you such a weidro visiting cemeteries?" I promise you, these are no regular cemeteries ma' friend! NOLA, as you might know, was previously swamp land, and was drained to now be the city land it is. However, the lands foundation is rather wonky, and when bodies were buried underground, they tended to pop right back up in the spring time... Yum.
This led to New Orleans undertaking a very unique looking burial process, and having some truly remarkable cemeteries to view!
Nature appreciators, visit the swamp! Yep, you can fly through the swamp with muggy water splashing through your hair on a motorized boat swamp tour with Cajun Tour Encounters or get in touch with nature while paddling by in a canoe or kayak with Canoe & Trail Adventures. The swamps are eerily stunning, enjoy!
Want to see where the swankiest NOLA residents bump elbows? Stroll through the Garden District where celebs like Sandra Bullock, Archie Manning, and our gal Beyonce have homes. Not to mention, a zillion of these homes have had movies filmed inside!
Where To Eat
The most famous cafe in New Orleans is without a doubt, Cafe du Monde. Being the most famous does come with draw backs however. The line to get in is long, and the place is coated in sugar from the desserts served. Suggestion: avoid waiting to sit in the sticky cafe area, and use the To Go line to pick up your coffee and beignets (the famous powdered sugar coated dessert served), and sit in the near by Jackson Square to enjoy. You'll find lots of musical and artistic entertainment around the square anyways.
You must try the Gumbo at the Gumbo Shop restaurant in the French Quarter. We sat in the little backyard area, and enjoyed service from the friendliest of waiters! Not to mention the Gumbo was delicious!
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I hope all y'all (American) readers enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving, and are wildly preparing for Christmasssss! I just purchased the cutest of ugly Christmas sweaters (ironic - yes!) ... Now I'm off to consistently hound the mail man until it arrives. For the first peek at the ugly Christmas sweater, you'll want to follow along on IG here: @apagebypaige.
What are your must see cities in the South?! Is NOLA on that list? Leave a comment below!