NOLA, Big Easy, Who-Dat Nation, Cajun Country
Here are many of our recommendations for NOLA. We created shorter version of the path we most often take down Bourbon Street if we just want to stroll and enjoy or have limited time just in the French Quarter. You can find that tour HERE. (We do not recommend walking Bourbon Street with children.)
A few other things to note:
- New Orleans food is not healthy food. If that’s what you’re looking for…you’ll have to stick with grilled shrimp or shrimp cocktail!
- If you are there January to February (and sometimes March) you’ll likely run into Mardi Gras celebrations and more crowds. Just beware!
- If you are in town on a Monday, check to make sure things are open before you head that way. Lots of places are closed. Monday was historically Wash Day which is also where Red Beans and Rice started – a pot of beans could sit on the stove and simmer while people were busy scrubbing their clothes.
- You can walk around NOLA with a drink so get a “go cup” and take it with you. However, some music places won’t let you in with other drinks, so you may have to stand outside a bit and finish.
- Obviously there are TONS more places to go and things to do but these are our favs.
If you have limited time, there are our two MUSTS! If we’re just driving through on the way to family and can’t stay, these are our two stops!
Best Muffuletta. Ever. Really. Ever. This is a hole in the wall whose secret has gotten out so it’s more crowded now than it used to be! (The lines moves fast.) Weave through the groceries to the sandwich counter and order a Muffuletta then sit back and enjoy a piece of Heaven! (A Muffuletta is a Sicilian sandwich that consists of a round loaf of bread filled with Italian salami, olive salad, cheese, Italian ham, and freshly minced garlic.)
**Often closed on Monday so call to be sure!**
Café du Monde
Beignets and Cafe Au Lait – French style donuts and coffee mixed half and half with milk. (You can also get it iced in the summer.) If you don’t like coffee, the chocolate milk is amazing! Or maybe it’s just a sentimental thing for me! They are open 24 hours a day except for Christmas. Don’t worry if there’s a line, it moves fast. And don’t wear black…you’ll get powdered sugar ALL OVER.
This is an easy restaurant to get to in the Quarter and they have a great Happy Hour usually with lots of open bar seats. A great spot to fuel up before cruising Bourbon Street.
Po-Boys and Pecan Pie and they’re famous for their baked ham. Very casual NOLA style.
Has it all! A fabulous restaurant – you have to get Souffle Potatoes and Bananas foster!! Plus there’s a Jazz Bistro where you can eat and listen to jazz for $4 or there’s the French 75 Bar where you can have appetizers, spirits and cigars!
FRIED SHRIMP!! Fried anything, really. Been going to this place since I was born! Very casual.
Mulate’s the Original Cajun Restaurant
Best CAJUN food! Eggplant Pirogue! And Cajun music and dancing too! I’ve danced many a jig through the kitchen.
Napoleon House Bar & Cafe
Pimm’s Cup!! The Cafe and Bar are open. (Some say the muffuletta is the best…NOPE…still Central Grocery for that! But the food is great!)
Felix’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar
Oyster Bar! TURTLE soup! And FRIED FOOD! And TV’s for watching the Saints game!
The Ruby Slipper Cafe
Breakfast spot and Brunch on the weekend. Eggs Cochon!!
Ye Olde College Inn
Fried Bread Pudding Poboy and the Fried Oyster, Bacon and Havarti Poboy. Heartburn just reading it, right?!? (Not in the French Quarter but worth the drive or Lyft ride.)
THE Bread Pudding Soufflé with warm whiskey cream. I strive to make it like this! Very nice restaurant…recommend reservations. You’ll need to take an Uber.
Best Fine Dining…so pretty expensive!
Well-known and often recommended. Famous for their brunch and table-side Bananas Foster…it’s delicious. Also famous for Eggs Hussarde…you have to try it once!
A great restaurant next door to the NOLA Marriott. Fabulous food and cocktails. And they have an upper floor that can be rented for events.
Rock ‘N Bowl
Bowling alley with cajun food, live music and a dance floor. It’s not in the Quarter but it’s an easy Lyft ride.
Irish pub with Killer Po-Boys in the back room. Plus they have a morning Happy Hour from 10am-2pm for mimosas, bloody mary’s, etc.
Willie Mae’s Scotch House
An iconic spot with fabulous soul food
Obviously all kinds of bourbon, but you have to try the Bourbon Milk Punch. Trust me. Okay, get two. If you want food, there’s often a long line for the restaurant but you can find space in the bar usually and you can order some food there.
Pat O’Brien’s Bar
Famous Hurricane and Balcony overlooking Bourbon Street. There’s a debate whether this is the best Hurricane but you won’t know until you try one here first. It’s a tradition!
Molly’s At the Market
Total DIVE Bar…but the BEST Hot Buttered Rum (if you’re there in the winter) and famous for Frozen Irish Coffee. Opens at 10am.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
Oldest Bar in the country, built in the 1720’s. Try the Hurricane and Voodoo Daiquiri. Compare the Hurricane to Pat O’Brien’s and start the debate. If you go during high tourist season, it will be crowded, but stick it out! Push your way to the back, sit around the piano, and sing along with the Piano Man! Most drinks come in a souvenir cup!
The Bombay Club
This is inside the Prince Conti Hotel but is a great upscale martini bar. It’s off of Bourbon by a block so it’s a little quieter and better for relaxed conversations. (Unless it’s Mardi Gras!)
Ryan’s Irish Pub
A great laid-back bar
St. Joe’s Bar
Blueberry Mojito!! ‘Nuff said. (Joe’s isn’t in the French Quarter but if you’re in the area, you have to stop.)
The Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone
Many always talk about the infamous Carousel Bar, but unless you are there off-season or happen to have a bit of good luck on your arrival, it’s almost impossible to get an actual seat at the bar. If you do, it’s a fun experience to slowly turn as you drink, but from our experience the drinks aren’t all that great. So this one is up to you!
The Lobby or Restaurant Bar at The Ace Hotel
Great craft cocktails, a bit out of the way so not super crowded with a cool ambience. Plus there’s a concert room in the back where artists often perform.
You will pass a million Daiquiri bars, so stop in and grab one for the walk down Bourbon Street. Be careful . . . they can be POTENT!
Just walk anywhere in the Quarter and you’ll hear music coming from just about every place you pass (!), so if you don’t want to figure out what you want to hear, just walk, find a place with music you like, stop and enjoy! But if you want to be a little more organized or go to the traditional spots, check the schedule on these below and pick a place!
Best and oldest Jazz Bar. TRUE JAZZ! $12 per person. Open 8pm-11pm. If you don’t want to stand in line, you can buy a more expensive HOT SHOT ticket to bypass the line and guarantee a spot in the room. Fantastic! You’ve probably heard this jazz coming out of my home or office!
Maison Bourbon Jazz Club
Where many New Orleans musicians including Harry Connick, Jr. served their apprenticeships. Famous jazz and Dixieland tradition, The balcony is a fine spot top for an overview of the action, and at the back is a courtyard with access to the bar. You’ll hear local talent here!
German-style beer hall with lots of live Dixieland jazz! My favorite for jazz. It’ll be crowded, but the hostess will seat you and someone will come by for drinks soon. And if you can keep moving up to the front as people leave, you’ll have a super spot!
The Famous Door
The Spotted Cat
Honky Tonk (used to be The Funky Pirate)
The best spot for blues…but it’s on Bourbon so it can get crowded. And if you make it on a night that Mark and the Pentones or Big Al are playing…perfect! Just push your way in, find a spot and stay there. You won’t regret it!
The Blue Nile
A great spot for blues that often includes Kermit Ruffins and Trombone Shorty…some of my favorites!
Mardi Gras World
A great warehouse of hundreds of Mardi Gras floats. It’s a great way to see them, especially if you’re not there during Mardi Gras. It begins with a brief overview and then a tour of the warehouses. Great photo ops! And a good tour for kids too.
St. Charles Street Car
The St. Charles Street Car (the green one!) is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world, as it has been in operation since 1835. If you have a few hours and want to see some great houses and a great view of the Garden District, including Tulane, Loyola, and the Audubon, catch the St. Charles Street Car at Carondelet Street and Canal Street, at the side of Lady Footlocker. If you can’t take the whole round trip, at least take it to the Audubon Park, get off, and jump back on one going back to the Quarter. Of course, you can also, jump off, walk around a bit and catch it again.
St. Louis Cemeteries
If you’re interested in seeing some of the historic New Orleans above-ground cemeteries and mausoleums, here are two to consider. Note that most cemeteries have open “business” hours so pay attention to that.
St. Louis Cemetery #1 is one of the oldest and most famous, but you’re required to join a tour if you want to see it. (You cannot just walk around by yourself.) It’s the closest to the Quarter so an easy walk.
St. Louis Cemetery #3 is one of the largest and allows you to walk around on your own. This one is a bit of a walk from the Quarter so you may want to consider a Lyft.
A Second Line is a traditional brass band that parades down the street gathering people as they go. If you see one, whether for a wedding or a funeral, don’t be afraid to join. Jump in and dance down the street.
You will probably find yourself in Jackson Square without even trying, but just in case. Make a point to get there and walk around. (It’s across the street from Cafe Du Monde so that’s a good time to do it.) Walk around, listen to street musicians, watch street artists and soak in it. This is usually kid-friendly.
St. Louis Cathedral and Jesus Shadow
And while you’re in Jackson Square, see if the St. Louis Cathedral is open and go inside, walk around quietly, and take in the beauty. They usually have mass every day at noon and sometimes you can catch an organ concert. If you’re in the area at nighttime, go around the back of the cathedral to St. Anthony’s Garden to see the beautiful Jesus Shadow.
Roosevelt New Orleans Hotel
If you’re in town during the Christmas season, you don’t want to miss the amazing lights in the Roosevelt Hotel. Just stroll through and take photos! It’s gorgeous! And one of the best Sazeracs can be found the hotel’s Sazerac Bar
You’ve got quite a few choices and it really depends if you want famous NOLA hotels, small boutique hotels or your typical chain hotels. Either way, there are a lot of good ones. And prices vary so much depending on your dates.
Always ask about the parking situation, since in the French Quarter, it’s tight.
Here are some of our favorites:
Le Pavillon Hotel
Iconic NOLA hotel, very beautiful and a great location.
Historic NOLA hotel
This gorgeous hotel is on Bourbon street so be prepared for that. But if you want to be in the middle of the action, this is it!
Smaller boutique hotel with your typical NOLA courtyard.
Prince Conti Hotel
Very small boutique hotel (small rooms) but nice and just a block off Bourbon.
New Orleans Marriott
A good chain hotel close to the Quarter.
The Westin Canal Place
Your typical Westin but it’s in Canal Place on the river with lots of shops and restaurants.
Manny Randazzo King Cakes
KING CAKES!! I’ve mail ordered many a king cake from here! (Not in the French Quarter) If it’s off-season, the storefront may not be open so be sure to check. Even if it is, you’ll be able to find Randazzo’s King Cakes in various stores.
Fleurty Girl Store
Go buy me something! Anything. My favorite store!! Great for Louisiana souvenirs.
A great place to get NOLA groceries to take home without paying tourist prices.
Loretta’s Authentic Pralines
In my opinion, THE Best Pralines!