24 Oct A Photo Essay: New Orleans, Louisiana
On a last-minute whim last fall, we decided to take a road trip to New Orleans. Our road trip happened to fall during the week of Halloween, so we had a blast exploring the city during a festive holiday. Micah had been to New Orleans a couple of times in the past, but this was my first visit. I had a list of activities that I wanted to check out, but that list was way too long to fit in everything I wanted to see in just five days. We spent our time dining at delicious restaurants, wandering around the French Quarter, listening to lots and lots of jazz music, perusing the fantastic art at Mardi Gras World, visiting a historic house that was set up for mourning, touring a cemetery, and watching a Halloween parade. It was a good mix of art, culture, and festive holiday fun, and we enjoyed every minute.
We based ourselves at the Cambria Hotel New Orleans in the Downtown Warehouse District. Because we have an abundance of Choice Hotels reward points, we used points to book our stay and we were able to upgrade to a suite for no additional points or charge. We absolutely loved our room, the hotel, and the location. When we walked into our room, we were welcomed with hilariously giant, stately portraits of Ellen, Sandra Bullock, Harry Connick Jr. and Lil Wayne, some of New Orleans’ famous residents. The decorations and design in our room and throughout the hotel were fun, funky, and glamourous all in one. It was a wonderful place to call home for the five nights in New Orleans.
One of my favorite aspects of New Orleans is the gorgeous, colorful architecture. Walking around downtown, the Garden District, the Warehouse District and the French Quarter was a visual treat—I wish we would have had more time to explore other neighborhoods in the city, as well.
You really can’t go to New Orleans without walking down Bourbon Street and the French Quarter at least once, right? Since we were exploring during the afternoon in the middle of the week, the streets were nice and calm, and we really enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere.
Another spot not to be missed? The legendary Café du Monde. Whether you visit for breakfast or a snack later in the day (it is open 24 hours after all), there is no wrong time for chicory coffee and beignets with a towering heap of powdered sugar on top. Yum.
New Orleans is definitely a foodie destination, and we had some amazing meals throughout our visit. One of our favorites was the Fried Shrimp Po’ Boy from Mother’s Restaurant, where there always seems to be a line out the door.
The Rachel (hot pastrami, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on rye bread) at Stein’s Market and Deli was out of this world. The tiny deli was packed when we visited, and we loved the random items for sale on the shelves.
St. Roch Market is a southern food hall, and it was another one of our favorite spots to dine. The rotisserie chicken sandwich from The Good Bird was delicious as were the empanadas and salad from Empanola (which has since moved to the Auction House MKT). Food Halls are the best—it’s so nice to have a wide range of delicious options all under one roof.
The 5 Spice and Boston Cream Donuts at District Donuts and Coffee Bar were great and so was the scrambled egg and cheese biscuit sandwich.
Cochon Butcher is a sandwich counter, butcher shop, and wine bar located in the Warehouse District. It’s an offshoot of the popular Cochon restaurant located next door. The smoked turkey sandwich, Cubano and mac-n-cheese were all fantastic, and they definitely made us want to try Cochon on our next visit to NOLA.
Coffee shop stops are always a necessity on our travel itineraries. French Truck Coffee caught our eye as we were walking through the French Quarter, and we ended up stopping there for a break a couple times during our trip.
New Orleans is also famous for its cocktails. Many classic cocktails were born in The Big Easy, the first of which was the Sazerac. Cozy up in the dimly lit atmosphere of The Sazerac Bar in The Roosevelt Hotel for a dose of history in addition to the classic cocktail.
In a city that is filled with bars, the revolving bar at The Carousel Bar & Lounge provides quite a fun twist. We weren’t able to snag a seat at the bar, but it was quite a sight to see nonetheless.
We thought about taking a walking tour through the Garden District to learn more about the neighborhood’s history, but the times didn’t quite line up for us. Instead, we wandered around the streets on our own and ogled at the mansions, gardens, and tree lined streets.
Another thing that NOLA is famous for: cemeteries. One of the most well known is the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, which is located in the Garden District. Since we were already in the area, we couldn’t resist a quick walk through.
After walking around the Garden District, we made our way to Mardi Gras World to learn all about the festival and what goes into creating it. We got a behind the scenes look at where and how the various parts of the giant floats are made, and we learned about the history of the event. We couldn’t believe how large the floats were or how much went into creating them each year!
Since we were visiting around Halloween, we figured a cemetery tour would be a fun addition to our itinerary. We signed up for a tour of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, as the only way inside this cemetery is with a tour group. This plot of land is the final resting place of the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau and many other storied residents of the city. We heard all sorts of tales about the cemetery and its residents, but I think I most enjoyed learning about the history of this cemetery as well as others around New Orleans. It was an interesting look into a side of the city that I may not have given more than a passing thought.
To keep the Halloween theme going, we also visited the historic Hermann-Grima House. Tours of the house are offered throughout the year, but during the month of October they run a special event called “Death and Mourning in 19thCentury New Orleans.” On October 15th, 1850, Marie Anne Filiosa Grima died on the property, and the house is set up to reflect the mourning period during that time. It was an interesting way to tour a historic house for sure!
We heard that next to Mardi Gras, the Halloween festivities were some of the biggest events of the year. Some said Halloween in New Orleans is like a mini Mardi Gras. Halloween was on a Tuesday evening during our visit, so most of the crazy celebrations were held the weekend prior. We were ok with that though—we weren’t really up for the whole dress up party scene. There were still parades and dressing up that took place on Halloween, so we decided to catch the parade before heading out to listen to some music.
One of our main focuses of this trip was to soak up all the wonderful jazz music in the city. Tuesday night is Rebirth Brass Band night at the Maple Leaf Bar and after hearing so many people rave about the band, we knew we had to check it out. I read that the venue is normally packed so full you can hardly move. It could have been that everyone was tired from all the Halloween partying the weekend prior, that it was Halloween night or a combination of the two, but we actually had room to breathe during the show, which was a welcome surprise. The band was absolutely fantastic and watching the Rebirth Brass Band was easily one of our favorite experiences throughout our entire trip. If you are in NOLA on a Tuesday and enjoy music, do yourself a favor and check this spot out.
Micah and I love traditional jazz, so we also had to catch a show at Preservation Hall. This venue was created in the 1960’s with the intent of protecting, preserving, and perpetuating Traditional New Orleans Jazz. Shows are offered several times a night and it really feels like you are taking a step back in time when you head inside for a show.
On our way to find music on Frenchmen Street, we stopped at the Louisiana Music Factory to pick up a couple of records.
One of the venues we visited on Frenchmen Street was The Spotted Cat Music Club, which is an iconic New Orleans Jazz Club. The club is small, but we managed to squeeze in and get a good view of both the band and swing dancing action.
And last but not least, we also stopped at Fritzel’s European Jazz Pub, aka the oldest operated jazz club in New Orleans. We had so much fun listening to a variety of different jazz bands around the city and Fritzel’s was a fun stop to end our self-guided jazz tour.
Even though our visit to NOLA was short and we barely scratched the surface of all the city has to offer, we still packed in a ton of fun adventures that left us wanting even more of this fascinating city in the south!