I consider New Orleans, Louisiana to be the best city that America has to offer. The food rivals that of New York or San Francisco, but that’s just the start. I’m in love with the people, the architecture and of course, the music. I’ve been to New Orleans about a half dozen times. Whenever someone tells me that they are going to New Orleans I start rattling off the must do list.
I believe that there are two types of travelers: list checkers and culture seekers. List checkers are the ones who look up the top 10 list of things to do and will go do them to simply check off the list. I am a culture seeker. I would rather never see a tourist attraction if that means that I can connect with the locals and understand what their life there is truly like. In the list below, I will suggest some tourist items, but for the most part, I try to suggest things that are off the beaten path.
Please enjoy my New Orleans vacation list. Have a recommendation to add? Email the show at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heads up to our international travelers and urbanites, the portion sizes in New Orleans are intense. Known for the creole and cajun cuisine, New Orleans is a mix of traditional southern food blended with French, Caribbean and African influence. If you know the history of New Orleans it makes total sense.
If you only have a day, here are your must eats:
- Breakfast: grab a cafe au lait and beignets at the world famous Cafe du Monde
- Lunch: Johnny’s Po Boys is the classic French Quarter place to eat
- Dinner: You want to go out in style, so why not enjoy the posh Commander’s Palace Too fancy? Then hit up Praline Connection for some down home southern cooking
before seeing a show on Frenchmen Street.
Cafe du Monde – 800 Decatur St. situated on the edge of Jackson square, Cafe du Monde
features New Orleans style cafe au laits. The coffee has a pinch of chicory to it adding a robust earthy flavor to it. Chicory can sometimes be a little bitter, so be sure to order beignets with it. These heaping pile of fresh fried doughnuts are known for being covered in powdered sugar, so try not to wear dark clothes or the beignets will wear you.
Parkway Poboys – 538 Hagan Ave.; OMG it’s the best poboy place in New Orleans. North of the French Quarter, Parkway is off the beaten path. It’s a very locals place, but they have the best poboys I’ve ever tasted.
Johnny’s Poboys – 511 St. Louis Street; What is a poboy? Well, put simply, it’s a sandwich served on a long french roll. Traditionally, they were quick food for the working class. Now they are loved by all and Johnny’s is the place to go. Grab a fried shrimp or oyster poboy for a taste of the Gulf seafood.
Praline Connection – 542 Frenchmen St.they have seriously good southern food. You’ll be able to get the classics here like gumbo, okra, jambalaya, etouffe, and all the trimmings. Do be sure to get a side of collard greens and some corn bread. Praline Connection has the best bread pudding in New Orleans, and of course you must get a Praline, which is a delicious cookie/candy made from nuts, butter and sugar.
Commander’s Palace – 1403 Washington Ave. Jacket required for dinner, but for lunch just business dress. Commander’s Palace is known for their turtle soup (yes, it’s actually made from turtles) and southern cuisine. Do save room for the bread pudding souffle. Be sure to watch the documentary film “Commanding the Table” about restauranteur Ella Brennan whose inspiring tale of a woman succeeding in the restaurant industry despite all the cultural challenges she’s faced.
Jacques-Imo’s – 8324 Oak St. conveniently located near the Maple Leaf, Jacques-Imo’s serves
up decadent New Orleans cuisine at a reasonable price. What to eat? Start with the fried green tomatoes or the shrimp and alligator sausage “cheesecake.”
Coop’s Place – 1109 Decatur st. Coop’s is a small, dive-bar style restaurant located near the French Market. Must orders here are the fried chicken, seafood gumbo, or the rabbit & sausage jambalaya.
Willie Mae’s Scotch House – 2401 St Ann St. located in the historic musician’s neighborhood of the Treme, this is THE place for fried chicken and all the fixin’s since 1957.
Central Grocery – 923 Decatur St. this is the original naissance of the muffuletta, which is an italian deli meat sandwich served on a soft, dense bread and filled with 3 different deli meats and cheese topped with the italian olive salad (pickled olives and peppers). You will order by a fraction of the entire sandwich, which is about 20” in diameter, so usually a quarter is enough for most people.
Cochon – 930 Tchoupitoulas St. (That’s pronounced “choppa two luss”) Donald Link’s signature
restaurant, conveniently located in the business district near our hotel. This restaurant features all things pork and every dish is perfectly curated. If you’re looking for a mid-range restaurant that will make you want to return night after night, this is the place.
Mulate’s – 201 Julia St. Located near the convention center and our hotel, Mulate’s is the place
to go for large portions of delicious cajun food and live cajun music.
Celebrity Chefs places
BAM! Of course the biggest New Orleans celebrity chef is Emeril Lagasse. Here are his popular restaurants:
- Delmonico : 1300 St. Charles Ave. if you’re in the mood for steak, go to the master.
- NOLA : 534 St. Louis St. Lagasse’s quick casual restaurant, NOLA is known for their New Orleans cuisine
John Besh is a lesser known celebrity, but a big deal in New Orleans. Some of his finest restaurants:
- Restaurant August: 301 Tchoupitoulas St. fine dining New Orleans style. This is an amazing restaurant known for impeccable service and delicous local cuisine.
- Domenica : 123 Baronne St. I would normally never recommend a pizza place in New Orleans, but Domenica is delicioso!
First and foremost…I’m sorry, there aren’t going to be a ton of options. Most everything is cooked in lard or with an animal based stock, so do be sure to ask even if it is seems safe. That said, I’ve survived there a week as a vegan and here’s what I can recommend.
Dreamy Weenies: 740 N Rampart St. A great place to grab a quick bite. There are vegan options available.
13 Monaghan: 517 Frenchmen St. If you are on Frenchmen Street and are in need of something delicious, head to 13 Monaghan and do order the tachos–that’s tater tot nachos (totchos!) covered in vegan chili and cheddar cheese with jalapenos, salsa and sour cream. Did I mention they’re open until 4 am?
Meals from the Heart Cafe: 1100 North Peter’s St. located in the French Market, this food stall overs gluten free vegan food.
Killer Poboys: 219 Dauphine St. One of the few places where you can get a vegetarian poboy from this modern take on the classic poboy.
You come to New Orleans, you gotta listen to live music. Here are some of the best music venues in New Orleans.
Are you Bourbon or Frenchmen?
New Orleans has two main areas known for music: Bourbon Street in the French Quarter and Frenchmen Street in the Marigny. Both are well within walking distance but have very different vibes depending on what you’re looking for.
- Bourbon Street: known for its drunken debauchery, Bourbon is the place to go if you’re looking for cover bands of the Top 40 hits. It’s a party and you can easily pop in and out of places. There are rarely cover charges on Bourbon, but usually a two drink minimum if you want to hear the music. Don’t worry, you can take your drink to go if you wanna roll from place to place.
- Frenchmen Street: known for the music that is the soul of the city, Frenchmen is where you go to see jazz, brass, funk, r&b with New Orleans’ finest. There is usually a cover charge for admission, but no drink minimum at the clubs. Frenchmen is home to Spotted Cat, d.b.a., and Blue Nile. Do eat at the Praline Connection before the show!
Best New Orleans Music Venues
Preservation Hall – 726 St Peter St. a New Orleans institution playing jazz since 1961. There are 3-4 shows nightly. Do buy tickets in advance. They do take requests, but if you want to hear “When the Saints Go Marching In” it will cost you $20.
Tipitina’s – 501 Napoleon Ave. an uptown music venue known for some of the best acts in town.
Maple Leaf – 8316 Oak St. another excellent place to hear New Orleans funk, r & b and brass. Take the Saint Charles Streetcar to Oak and Carrollton and the bar is a short walk down Oak. Rebirth Brass Band plays here every Tuesday night. See them!
Howlin’ Wolf – 907 S. Peters St. food and bar in the front, music venue in the back. Howlin’ Wolf features the Hot 8 Brass Band every Sunday night. Yet another must hear band!
House of Blues – 225 Decatur St. located in the French Quarter, the House of Blues has an elevated stage in a theater setting. They are also well known for their burlesque shows.
Rock & Bowl – 3016 S. Carrollton Ave. three great American loves combined: food, bowling and music. Thursday nights are zydeco, which I absolutely adore!
Spotted Cat – 623 Frenchmen St. an intimate venue known for their jazz. They feature 3 shows daily at 2 pm, 6 pm and 10 pm. Most do not have a cover charge, but a drink purchase is expected.
d.b.a. – 618 Frenchmen St. By far my favorite music venue in New Orleans, d.b.a. is a fantastic bar for live music in an intimate setting. This bar serves up the best selection of micro-brews, so if you like beer, d.b.a. is a must. Located across the street from Spotted Cat, folks will often jump from one place to the other. There’s usually a cover charge for bands. Must see John Boutte on Monday nights!
Blue Nile – 532 Frenchmen St. Kermit Ruffins is known to play here on Friday nights, this larger music venue always has a good selection.
Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro – 626 Frenchmen St. Jazz. What else can I say.
How could you not? Here’s the thing, Bourbon is a party day or night. Lined with bars and strip clubs, Bourbon is best experienced with a drink in hand, meandering down the street and people watching. New Orleans is an open container city, meaning that you may have an alcoholic beverage in your hand, however it’s plastic cups only, no glass. So if you do want to walk with your drink, be sure to order it “to go.” Starting from the business district, here’s how to experience Bourbon:
- Load up at Felix Restaurant and Oyster Bar . You’ll see a line around the block for Acme Oyster. Skip it and go to Felix’s across the street.
- Meander to St. Peter Street and make a right. There you’ll find Pat O’Brien’s infamous
hurricanes. DO be careful, they pack a wicked “punch”. Mixed drinks aren’t your thing? Then grab a Louisiana’s own Abita beer.
- Continue to stumble down Bourbon street. Maybe you’ll get some beads tossed at you from the balconies above. Pop in and out of places for music as you go.
- You’ll get to a quieter part of Bourbon where on the corner of St. Philip St you’ll see what appears to be a dilapidated old building. That’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar , the second oldest building in New Orleans and a great place to grab a drink. It’s said that if you stare into the fireplace some see ghosts in the flames.
- After all this drinking, head down St. Philips St to Decatur. Make a left and on the next block you’ll find Coop’s. Get some rice and beans to soak it all up before hitting up Cafe du Monde on the way home.
New Orleans is a great place to walk around and has some of the best storytellers ever. Do try to check out at least one of these tours.
French Quarter Phantoms : There are a ton of people who do tours, but French Quarter
Phantoms are by far the best. I recommend the following tours:
- Treme: if you like music or just the HBO series, do get this tour with Emily. Emily is by far one of the best walking tour guides I’ve ever experienced. Her knowledge of New Orleans history and the Treme is incomprehensible. Learn about Treme’s music history, mardi gras indians and the history of slavery in New Orleans.
- Ghost and Vampire Tour: by far the most entertaining tour through the French Quarter. New Orleans is an extremely haunted place, so you’ll hear some of the most frightening stories of ghosts. For those who are fans of Interview with the Vampire, you’ll get to see some of the locations used in filming.
Voodoo: The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum has the most comprehensive museum and tours related to voodoo. Try the Cemetery Tour if you want to know the real place where Marie Laveau, the mother of voodoo, is buried and meet a live voodoo practitioner.
Walk along the river or Decatur to the French Market. The best place to get a good deal on souvenirs, this outdoor market is full of food and shopping. Be sure to grab a gator sausage while you’re there.
Most of the year it is hot in Louisiana. But if you’ll be headed there in the summertime, there are some things you’ll need to know: It will be hot! It will be humid. It will be extremely uncomfortable between the hours of 11 am to about 5 pm. Plan your day accordingly. Take naps or get indoors during the daylight hours to stay cool.
- Bring sunscreen
- Wear bugspray as the mosquitos are very prevalent.
- Dress for the weather. Most music venues won’t have air conditioning.
- Bring comfortable walking shoes.
- Stay hydrated and avoid caffeine and alcohol if you can.
- Bring cash for cover charges at clubs and tips if you take a tour.
- Be friendly: New Orleanians are some of the most friendly folks you’ll ever encounter. They genuinely want to show you a good time. It’s not uncommon to strike up a conversation on the street or in a bar.
- Laissez les bon temps rouler!