After clocking about 50 hours driving from New York to Louisiana and back, I can happily say that I made it back from my spring break in New Orleans in one piece.
People talk about how much culture and European influence the city has, but it’s another thing to actually go there and experience it. The drinks to go, the live music down almost every block you walk down, the jazz bars, the colorful buildings. It’s hard to not fall in love with a place like that. After spending my five days there, I can say without hesitation that this city easily became one of my favorites yet. So without further ado, here are my top 10 places to go in the grand little city of N’awlins.
10. New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum, 724 Dumaine St.
This place is only No. 10 because of how tiny it is inside. Its rooms and singular narrow corridor are filled with voodoo and hoodoo artifacts, history about these practices in the city as well as little knick knacks and dollar bills that people leave behind in well wishes to the voodoo queens. Visitors can even make a wish on Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau’s tomb. There’s some comfort in being granted a wish by a dead voodoo queen, I think.
9. Bourbon “O” Bar, 730 Bourbon St.
Think Louis Armstrong singing his rendition of “La Vie En Rose” while sipping on a grasshopper martini (contains crème de coco, crème de menthe liqueurs and some half and half, and it’s delicious). You’ll feel as if you were plopped right into a different decade, and it’ll be blissful.
8. Gumbo Shop, 630 St Peter St.
Plain and simple, this is the place you want to go to try some real, authentic Creole cuisine. The gumbo is a must, whether you get the seafood gumbo like I did or the chicken and andouille sausage gumbo, which is apparently the best rated gumbo in NOLA according to locals.
7. Museum of Death, 227 Dauphine St.
This place is creepy and awesome, and they have some crazy information and artifacts that will forever be etched in your brain. Walking into this museum is like taking a Death 101 class: you’ll leave knowing more about sociopaths, serial killers, terrorism and lobotomies than you’ve ever really had the desire to know.
6. Cafe Beignet, 334 Royal St.
This quaint little cafe has two other locations on Bourbon and Decatur Streets, but if your goal is to stay as far away from tourist traps, then the Royal Street location is probably your best bet. They serve a mean mocha latte but are best known for their delicious sugar-dusted beignets. Your tastebuds will be thanking you later.
5. Jackson Square
Even on a cloudy day in NOLA, this place is always poppin’. Jazz bands, street performers and artists selling and showing off their work galore, and it’s right in the very heart of the city. Enjoy some more live music here and a nice stroll through the square’s garden and be merry.
4. Backspace Bar & Kitchen, 139 Chartres St.
Good food, great cocktails, really cool atmosphere. This is another bar that takes you back a few decades with its particularly bookish vibe. Get some comfort food and a Death in the Afternoon cocktail and enjoy feeling like a brooding novelist for a moment — specifically like Ernest Hemingway.
3. Garden District
This area of NOLA is just effortlessly beautiful. It’s about 10 minutes out of the central city but there is just so much to see. You can happen upon the mansions where Benjamin Button or American Horror Story: Coven were filmed. This is the neighborhood where the Manning brothers grew up, and is also where Jay-Z and Beyoncé and Sandra Bullock own homes they maybe live in two weeks out of the year just because they can. Take a half hour to walk through Lafayette Cemetery, too, where there are huge, above-ground familial tombs that have been around for centuries. Definitely another staple of the NOLA vibe.
2. Oz, 800 Bourbon St.
The name says it all. We just happened upon this gay bar by chance, but it wound up being one of the most fun places we went to in the city. Drag queens and great pop music are the staples of this place, and no matter who you are, as long as you’re kind and like to dance, you’re more than welcome to come out and party.
1. Frenchmen Street
This block of jazz bars, eateries and a little park was the icing on my NOLA cake. Some must-go-to spots are the Spotted Cat Music Club, 30/90 bar and venue and Dat Dawg, a restaurant that serves a plethora of interesting hot dogs (they have crawfish and veggie dogs, too!) Visit the late-night art market and listen to the electric violin jam sesh on the corner of Frenchmen and Chartres Streets.