We received complimentary services and/or compensation for our visit and review, however the opinions, thoughts, and amazing photos are all our own.
We just returned from five wonderful days in one of our favorite cities, New Orleans. Shannon is a little biased since that is his hometown. He is always so happy to visit the Big Easy since relocating after Hurricane Katrina. Our last visit to NOLA was in April, when we spent 3 days exploring the city. It was Tiana’s first time there, and Shannon’s first time back since evacuating. This time we did more exploring, a photo shoot, a swamp tour, and ate wayyyy too much. We get asked all the time for advice on what to see, where to eat, and how to maximize your time in New Orleans so here is our little travel guide of a little bit of touristy mixed with some local’s advice.
Where To Stay
Weather your budget is under $100 a night or sky high, these hotels will give you the best bang for your buck.
Just 2 blocks from Bourbon Street, the Ritz Carlton New Orleans is a perfect place to stay. The prices aren’t as high as you would think and are actually close to the same prices as the 3 & 4 star hotels. Make sure you ask Let There Be Travel for a deal. They hook you up with upgrades and a daily dining credit!
The Roosevelt is a Waldorf Astoria hotel, and sits right across the street from the Ritz Carlton on Canal Street. A little more pricey than the Ritz, but on about the same level of luxury. They have an amazing rooftop pool and Domenica, one of the cities best rustic Italian cuisines and the best charcuterie in New Orleans.
Lay your head down on Canal street at the Sheraton New Orleans if you want a traditional hotel feel. Its right on Canal Street, where you can catch a streetcar to the Riverwalk or take a stroll to Bourbon Street.
Want something that feels really New Orleans-y? (Yes, that’s a word!) Check out the Corn Stalk Hotel on Royal Street. Royal Street is one street away from Bourbon and is one of the beautiful streets in the city. The hotel was built in the early 19th Century by the first Attorney General of State of Louisiana. If you ever stay at the hotel, be sure to request the “Elvis room” — where Elvis Presley stayed while he was in town filming King Creole.
The Hotel Monteleone is another gem on Royal Street. The hotel was established in 1886 and is one of the last great family-owned-and-operated hotels in New Orleans, run by the 5th generation Monteleone family.
Le Meridien is in the business district, one of the quieter area of New Orleans. A 2 block walk to Canal Street, its our favorite area. Close to the action, but you get away from the crowds and noise. It just went through a $29 million dollar renovation and the contemporary Europeans style, and views of the river are to die for.
In the heart of the Arts District is the Omni Royal Crescent. Just two blocks from the French Quarter and Canal Street, and its a straight shot down Decatur to get to Jackson Square. The price is the lowest of those mentioned here, but the luxury suffers a bit as some of the rooms are a little dated. If you don’t plan on spending a ton of time in your room, this is a great choice.
What To Eat
Everyone talks about Commander’s Palace and Mother’s. Bleh. If you want a super touristy, fancy dinner, go to Commander’s Placa…but stay away from Mother’s. Not sure why so many people recommend it. Its soul food, cafeteria style. Avoid it. Here are a few places we couldn’t get enough of, and locals rave about as well.
Deanie’s – We started with the artichoke hearts, and then the waitress giggled when we ordered the Giant Seafood Platter at Deanie’s Seafood for just two people, and soon we knew why: This tower of fried seafood arrived at the table looking like a personal challenge from Poseidon. The platter’s menagerie of sea creatures are fried in a flavorful combination of yellow flour, buttermilk and seasonings. Go for it!
Petite Amelie – We listed this place in our previous post, but can’t say enough good things about it. Their gumbo is OFF THE CHAIN (that’s still a saying, right?) Chicken and sausage, okra, and pure yummy-ness. If you are lucky they might have some Doberge Cake in, its delicious (forget the King Cake!) This is their quick cafe style place, but they have a full restaurant close by, Cafe Amelie, but you might want to make reservations, it gets packed!
Irene’s – Italian food in New Orleans? What?! YES! Our good friend Danielle, who is a NOLA girl herself, suggested this place and she was right. Chef Nicolas outdid himself. Tiana had the veal, which was tender and the sauce was drool-worthy. Shannon ordered the lamb, recommended by a regular who was sitting next to us. She couldn’t stop raving about it, so we gave in to her suggestions. Everything was beyond delicious, including the cheesecake dessert. No food photos unfortunately, there is candle-lit lighting that isn’t great for foodie photographers. Make sure you call or use OpenTable to make a reservation.
Red Fish Grill – If you don’t order the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, you are losing in life. Don’t like crab cakes? Order it anyways. It has to be 99.9999% crab, which is hard to find. Usually crab cakes are 50% crab if you are lucky. We went here twice, once for a casual dinner, and again for their Thanksgiving dinner buffet. The Satsuma Glazed Yellowfin Tuna will knock your socks off.
Brennan’s – Originally opened in 1946, and recently emerged from an extensive renovation that spared no expense by new co-owners Terry White and Ralph Brennan. It boasts eight glamorous dining rooms, each steeped in New Orleans architecture and ambiance. We started with the Blue Crab Remoulade, which had horseradish (not described in the menu) and we weren’t big fans of it, the menu said, “shaved jicama, avocado, mango vinaigrette”. We also ordered the New Orleans BBQ Lobster appetizer; Creole spiced butter, lemon confit, thyme, toasted baguette. It was delicious, however the portion was minuscule. The star of the night was the main course, Sweet Potato Pappardelle. The pasta was cooked perfectly al dente and the roasted Mississippi shiitake, sheep’s milk cheese, garlic confit, brown butter sauce made us want to lick the plate clean.
Acme Oyster House – See that line forming on the street blocking the sidewalk? Yup, that’s for Acme. Prepare to wait. It’s worth it, we promise. Get the char-grilled oysters and a pound or two of crawfish.
Parkway Bakery & Tavern – What trip to New Orleans is complete without a delicious po’boy? Parkway is the best, they don’t skimp on the oysters, or shrimp or whatever you decided to stuff your bread with. Our favorite? The surf & turf topped with Gumbo. Every local we asked sent us to the same place. Its a bit out of the French Quarter but we Uber’d (use this link for a $20 free ride or use code UBERPCLFREE) and get there in about 10 minutes. Watch how they make ’em on Travel Channel’s Food Wars.
What To Drink
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar – The oldest bar in America, with no electric lighting, sits on the corner of Bourbon Street and St. Phillip. Everyone thinks of Pat O’Briens for Hurricanes but should be talking about Blacksmith. The ORIGINAL Hurricane since 1722. No powder mix, just a delicious mix of fruit juice and liquor. Try the VooDoo daiquiri if Hurricane’s aren’t your thing.
Tropical Isle – Home of the famous Hand Grenade. What’s in it? Melon-something and 7 or 9 kinds of liquor depending on who you ask! Just because it’s green, or comes in a funky green cup doesn’t mean it’s a real Hand Grenade! Hand Grenade drinks are only sold at Tropical Isle and their other location called Funky Pirate. Watch out because these fruity drinks sneak up on you.
Avenue Pub – Looking for a great craft beer bar? This place is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They have 31 rotating taps on their tap list and 9 constant favorites. They always have some great bottles in stock for on-site consumption too.
Stein’s Market & Deli – Looking for some rare beer not sold in your area? Stein’s got you covered. We picked up some awesome local beer at a little over $1 a piece. Make sure you stop next door at District Donuts for some incredible cold brew coffee, fancy donuts and sliders.
NOLA Brewing – A local brewery in the heart of the city that is making big noise in the Big Easy! Sours, IPA’s, stouts and BBQ are some of the many options available to you. They have now incorporated a 2nd floor deck that oversee’s the Mississippi River with a second bar that sales their canned beers.
What To See & Do
No New Orleans travel guide would be complete without a to-do or must-see list. Here are our favorite things to do and see in The Big Easy, and some tips that will come in handy. If you need more ideas, check out the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau website for more tips.
Photo Session – Schedule a session with Flytographer while you are in New Orleans! They meet you there, schedule a session from 30 minutes up to a few hours. They will make sure you get amazing photos of your trip, because some trips deserve more than just selfies!
Hurricane Katrina Museum – The Project is the result of R. Omar Casimire’s experience in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the blistering impact it had on the citizens of the City of New Orleans. Omar’s firsthand experience prompted him to create a full documentation of the events caused by Katrina and how those individuals trapped, coped with the devastation and the lost each were encountering.
Swamp Tour – Venture into the swamps and bayous of New Orleans with Grayline Tours via air boat or pontoon boat to see the rural areas of outskirts of New Orleans. We even got to hold a baby alligator!
Jackson Square – on Decatur street, a block up from Cafe Du Monde, check out the park, beautiful cathedral and horse-drawn carriage rides.
Amy in New Orleans for Flytographer
French Market – For over 200 years, the historic French Market has been an enduring symbol of pride and progress for the people of New Orleans. While the Market has existed on the same site since 1791, each new decade and governing flag has brought dramatic changes to the Market. What began as a Native American trading post on the banks of the mighty, muddy Mississippi River, has become a cultural, commercial and entertainment treasure.
The Riverwalk – Walk along the water, shop at the outlets, or jump on the ferry to Algiers from the Riverwalk. It also makes a great backdrop for photos!
Amy in New Orleans for Flytographer
Cemeteries – The cemeteries in New Orleans are so beautiful. Some people think they are creepy or haunted. They are mostly above ground, and because of vandalism, you need a tour to go inside most of the bigger cemeteries. The most famous cemetery, St. Louis Cemetery #1, is walking distance from the French Quarter and the Downtown area. Please note that under the new rules set by the Archdiocese of New Orleans, all visitors to this cemetery be accompanied by licensed tour guide.
Carriage Rides – We did a night time carriage ride, and we thought it would be romantic but it was also informative, and really fun. The guide told us so much great history of the french quarter and we fell in love with the city even more.
Frenchman Street – Live music on the streets and in every bar and lounge, in a neighborhood called The Marigny. Art shows, a more mature crowd than Bourbon street, gather to listen to music and enjoy the live entertainment at places like The Spotted Cat. Many New Orleans locals, told us that Frenchmen is what Bourbon Street used to be. It’s hard to picture it, but what is now home to venues blaring several really bad versions of “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” at the same time up and down the street was once the birthplace of jazz. Quite simply, Frenchmen is where the best music happens in New Orleans — it’s where world-famous musicians might even show up on stage just because they feel like playing.
Plantation Tours – We were so excited to check out the famous Oak Alley Plantation. Grayline Tours took us on a luxury bus about 1 hour outside of New Orleans to see this amazing piece of history. You can marvel at the unbelievable quarter-mile long alley of 28 magnificent Oak trees, each over 250 years old, walk through slave quarters, and tour the plantation owners home with a guided tour.
New Orleans is a city we can visit over and over, and each time feels like its all brand new and little like going home at the same time. (Except in the summer, then its just hot and humid) Enjoy our New Orleans Travel Guide and let us know how your trip goes in the comments below!