For my birthday weekend, my sister and I jetted off to New Orleans! Due to our crazy schedules, we only had 48 hours in the Big Easy. Despite that short amount of time, we managed to squeeze in so much amazing food, art, jazz, and history.
Here is the list of the 24 things we did during our weekend – and there was still more to do! We’ll have to save all those other things for the next visit, because I definitely want to come back!
1. Have a poboy sandwich for lunch at Killer Poboy
Poboy sandwiches are a delicious New Orleans staple. Traditionally, they are filled with shrimp or some other sort of seafood, but you can find them with all sorts of different meat fillings. We got ours at Killer Poboys at Erin Rose (note: they are cash only). I got a Korean fusion style one with pork belly , while my sister had the shrimp filling – both were amazing!
2. Watch jazz bands perform in the street
Many streets in New Orleans are blocked off from cars and are filled with a variety of street performers, ranging from magicians to tarot card readers. My favorite were the jazz bands – I love their voices, the improvisations, and the laid-back vibe of the music. Jazz is clearly an integral part of this city , and I enjoyed hearing all the live jazz everywhere.
3. Have a poet type you poem on their typewriter
You’ll people sitting in the streets with their vintage typewriters. If you ask nicely, they’ll write you a poem on the spot about a topic of your choice! Afterwards, you can donate as much money to them as you think the poem is worth. The lovely GennaRose Nethercott typed me up a poem comparing baking to alchemy. It’s currently framed and displayed on my desk.
4. Have beignets at Cafe du Monde
There will be a giant line out the door and down the street for this cafe, but it’s considered THE place to go for beignets (and we tried several places to confirm this). The city is known for these puffy donut-like desserts coated in powdered sugar, so this is a must try. The cafe is cash only though, so be prepared for that!
5. Have gumbo and jambalaya in Cafe Beignet’s courtyard
There are probably better places to get gumbo and jambalaya in the city, but Cafe Beignet had an outdoor courtyard where you could sit and listen to a live jazz band and a bar. Plus, these dishes were generally too spicy for us (but still tasty!), so we didn’t need a more expensive version. The best part of dinner was definitely the live jazz!
6. Walk down Bourbon Street with a drink in your hand
You can walk around with an open container on Bourbon Street, so it’s no surprise that this street is filled with drunk people, especially at night. We weren’t really in the mood for this, so we quickly wandered down the street just to see the more historical locations. For example, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (pictured above) is one of the oldest bars in the country and is also considered to be one of the most haunted locations in the city!
7. Have a drink and spin around at the Carousel Bar
Hands down, this was our favorite place that we visited in New Orleans. We hadn’t heard of this place beforehand and actually went here on the suggestion of our airbnb host! The name literally describes what this place is: a carousel that has been converted into a bar! You actually revolve around the bartenders in the middle as you enjoy your drink. We loved it so much that we actually had a drink here both nights! (It can get pretty crowded so you have to be pretty assertive to snag a spot).
8. Check out jazz clubs on Frenchmen Street
A slightly more laid-back alternative to Bourbon Street, Frenchmen Street is home to the top jazz clubs in the city. Some of the more popular ones require a cover and a drink minimum, but you can find some free ones, like the Blue Mile (pictured above). They all have live jazz bands playing, and we heard many different types of jazz, ranging from blues to rock styles.
9. Buy some art from the Frenchmen Art Markets
Here, you’ll find booths after booths of artists selling their wares. There is everything from jewelry, wire sculptures, art prints…I wished I had more money to buy everything! I did purchase a cool print of Wonder Women spray painted on newsprint that is now hanging in my room.
10. Have donuts for breakfast at the District Donut Sliders Brew
We headed over to the Garden District at the start of my next day and stumbled upon this cafe for breakfast. They had donuts with unique flavors (peanut butter walnut honey pictured above), interesting coffee drinks (that one there is a cola, chocolate milk, and coffee mix), and breakfast sandwiches that use donuts for the bread!
11. Visit a historical cemetery (Lafayette Cemetery is free!)
New Orleans is known for its cemetery with above-ground tombs and there are numerous cemeteries scattered around the city full of historical tombs. Some of them charge admission or have tour guides showing people around, but Lafayette Cemetery here in the Garden District was free and we could just wander around ourselves and read the inscriptions of the tombs.
12. Explore the old bookstores in the city
My sister and I both love bookstores, so we made sure to visit a few in the city. We went to Beckham’s BookShop, Crescent City Books, Faulkner House Books, and Librairie Book Shop. Our favorite was probably Beckham’s because of Juniper the book cat (sleeping aptly next to a book about sleeping cats).
13. Ride a streetcar across town
Public transportation is actually pretty decent in New Orleans, and while they are mostly bus lines, there are a few lines that are old streetcars! We rode one from the Garden District to get back to the French Quarter. They are definitely popular – the streetcar was so crowded! It’s a great way to see the city without walking.
14. Try the yellowfin tuna cone from Sobou
Sobou is a fun restaurant that has sorts of interesting things, such as burlesque dancers during brunch (“Legs ‘n Eggs”) and novel fusion foods. They are known for their yellowfin tuna cone that has pineapple ceviche and avocado basil ice cream, which sounds weird, but was incredibly good! My sister also got a cocktail that had Honey Nut Cheerio infused rum mixed with milk for an alcoholic take on breakfast cereal.
15. Enjoy a nice jazz brunch buffet at the Court of Two Sisters
Jazz brunches are the way to brunch here, and since they tend to be pretty expensive, we decided to go for a buffet brunch so we could eat as much as we want. The Court of Two Sisters had tons of great options and gave us a good sample of New Orleans cuisine. It’s was very nice to sit outside, enjoying your all-you-can-eat food, and listen to the live jazz band.
16. Browse the various art and antique galleries
I’ve never seen so many antique shops and art galleries clustered in one area before I visited the French Quarter. Again, if I had money (lots and lots of it, because none of this stuff is cheap), I would be buying so much from all these shops. The art varies in all sorts of styles, but the five light chandelier was a very popular antique I saw in many stores.
17. Walk through the French Market
The French Market is kind of a mashup of food vendors and flea market – you never know what you are going to find here! We tried a gator sausage that was very flavorful and browsed the various souvenirs at the stalls. It spans about six blocks, so you can spend quite a bit of time shopping and eating here.
18. Have a quiet dinner at Cafe Amelie
Need to get away from the craziness of Bourbon Street? Head over to Cafe Amelie for dinner. The lovely courtyard is a great respite from the hustle and bustle, and the food is pretty good too! We originally were going to come here for brunch, but cancelled, so I’m happy we managed to end up here after all for a meal.
19. Catch a jazz concert at Preservation Hall
The historical Preservation Hall was founded with the intention of preserving the jazz scene of New Orleans in the 1960’s. Clearly, as evidenced by all the jazz today in the city, they were successful! They still hold old-school small audience concerts – everyone packs into a tiny room to hear the musicians play for about an hour. There was a huge line for the shows, but it’s completely worth it! Deifnitely some of the best jazz we heard all trip.
20. Watch the dueling pianists at Pat O’Brien’s
We wandered into Pat O’Brien’s on a whim after our concert at Preservation Hall. This place actually has three different bar areas, each with their own gimmick. Our favorite was the dueling piano bar, with two very talented pianists taking requests from the audience for songs to play and sing. It was great just to relax and singalong with everyone else!
21. Walk through Louis Armstrong Park
This was right next to our airbnb and we took some time to walk through the park on our last morning in the city. There were fountains, trees, and sculptures everywhere, and I really enjoyed just walking around and taking photos. The park honors the great Louis Armstrong, but also paid tribute to a few other jazz greats. There’s also a concert performance hall within the park as well!
22. Have bourbon pecan gelato for breakfast
I ducked into a little cafe on a street corner and grabbed a quick bite of gelato before breakfast. They had a lot of great (New Orleans specific) flavors, and in honor of Bourbon Street, I decided to try the bourbon pecan! It was very tasty and the alcohol wasn’t overpowering at all. The tiny bite sized scoop was the perfect amount of gelato as well!
23. Have lunch at the historical Napoleon House
This restaurant was intended to be Napoleon’s safe house after he was brought to New Orleans from his exile, but his death put a halt to his plan. Today, it’s a restaurant serving traditional New Orleans dishes and drinks. We ate our last meal in the city here and I even got a little souvenir glass to drink my Pimm’s Cup cocktail out of.
24. Visit Ronda and her nine cats at Louisiana Loom Works
While wandering down the street at night, we spotted this loom shop and saw tons of cats running around inside. We decided that we had to come back when it was open the next day and visit all the kitties! Ronda owns the shop – and the nine cats she has taken in – and she was incredibly warm and nice while talking to us about both the cats and the rugs she makes!
And that was our quick 48 hour trip! It didn’t seem like a lot of time at the beginning, but looking back, we fit a surprising amount of fun into that time – and had time for plenty of sleep and downtime! I’ll definitely have to come back to the Big Easy to see more!