When someone says “New Orleans”, thoughts of crowded sidewalks and the infamous Bourbon Street often come to mind, but when I hear of this southern city, I think of a different place entirely.
Is New Orleans known for its nightlife, abundant bars, and perpetual crowds? Sure, but it’s not the NOLA I’ve come to know and love. Wanting to see New Orleans in a completely different way and find out where to go while you’re there? Here’s how:
Explore the history. New Orleans is absolutely packed with museums, churches, and historic sites that will make you see the city from a completely different point of view. My most recommended stops are:
The Cabildo, a Louisiana state museum sharing 200 years of city history and artifacts. This museum is only $6 for adult admission (plus it offers discounts for children, students, military, and seniors), and is also a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of Jackson Square right next door.
St. Louis Cathedral, the Ursuline Convent, and Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church. Even if you are not Catholic, or even consider yourself religious, you can’t help but appreciate these incredible stops. Being built as early as the mid-1700s, these sites offer incredible history about the people who contributed to building up New Orleans, serving it during difficult times, and they offer beautiful art and architecture that is not commonly seen today.
The National WWII Museum is also a must. I have yet to see the museum personally, but I have heard rave reviews and plan to see it the next time I find myself in New Orleans. Any research I have done on the museum claims it is a sight to be seen by everyone, even those who don’t consider themselves history buffs. Blogs and reviews also recommend doing everything the museum offers: all exhibits, shows, and behind-the-scenes attractions. Admission for adults is $36, but can be almost half-price if you are military, a student, or senior. The cost is a little hefty, but according to reviews (which are almost all exclusively five star) it is money well spent.
Eat like a true New Orleanian. If you visit the Big Easy, it is not the time to order a burger and fries. Indulge in what NOLA does best: gumbo, boudin, and everything else cajun and creole. Where to eat first?
The Gumbo Shop is, by far, my favorite restaurant in New Orleans. It’s a favorite for a couple of reasons. The first reason is the location. It’s nestled on St. Peter Street between Royal and Chartres, half a block from Jackson Square! My second reason is something you might not notice unless you time your meal just right: it’s located on the NOLA parade route. Want to watch the parade with all the food and air conditioning you want? Get a window seat here, sit back, relax, and watch the floats go by as you feast on chicken andouille gumbo. The third reason is, of course, the food! The seafood and the chicken andouille gumbo are by far the first things I order when I stop in. They are amazing and are the best bowls of gumbo I’ve ever had (second of course to my family’s southern Mississippi-born recipe). They also have great boudin (a pork and rice dressing stuffed into a sausage casing – trust me, its delicious), killer crawfish étouffée, and a perfect recipe for bread pudding (complete with whiskey sauce – yum!).
Dying for some beignets? From my experience, I advise anyone to skip Cafe Du Monde all-together and to go straight to Cafe Beignet. The beignets are still amazing, and since it’s not the place to get them, you won’t be fighting a giant line just to get some powdered sugar-covered doughy goodness. The location is also idyllic, and the cafe is exactly what one would imagine a French shop to be – small, cozy, and with a quaint outdoor patio. Don’t believe me? Just look at this adorable storefront. So skip the typical beignet spot, and go right to this gem.
After you have had your fill of history and delicious food, spend your afternoon strolling on over to Magazine Street and make a beeline for Sucré. Not only do they have amazing pastries and desserts, but they also have some of the best sorbet and gelato I have ever had. Not to mention, they specialize in macarons! Don’t hesitate to buy a pack, get some sorbet, and sit at their outdoor tables as tourists stroll down bustling Magazine. Great stores and antique shops line the street, so visitors are sure to find something that interests them. If you’re also needing an afternoon pick-me-up, Sucré serves great coffee and lattes to go with your assortment of sweets.
At the end of the day, NOLA makes for a great weekend getaway, or even just a day trip if you live within a few hours of it. Get in the car, decide on an itinerary, and get exploring! New Orleans has so much to offer – all you have to do is get there!
Want to see more? Check out some of my favorite photos I’ve snapped during my past few trips to The Big Easy: