New Orleans. NOLA. The Big Easy. The Crescent City. Whatever you want to call it. I call it one of my favorite places on Earth.
This year marks the first time in four years I’m not going to New Orleans. No big deal. (Just kidding. Total devastation over here.)
I first visited New Orleans in 2014 when I went with my mom on a senior citizen bus trip (yes, really). Despite being the youngest person on the trip, it was a ton of fun. We took a bus tour through the city, visited a plantation, went to the World War II museum, and just hung out in the French Quarter. This trip began my love affair of New Orleans.
When planning our honeymoon, my now husband and I decided to go to New Orleans. This trip was very different from the senior citizen bus tour. Instead of sight seeing, we drank and ate our way through the city. Also, we made sure to go outside the French Quarter to really experience all that New Orleans offers.
Then last year, we took our dear friends to NOLA so they could experience it. However, our first night ended up with my husband badly rolling his ankle after a little too much fun on Bourbon Street (I say he broke it, but he refused to go to the doctor. Typical man). As a result, we didn’t do quite as much as we did on our honeymoon. Even though, we still enjoyed ourselves and shared our love of New Orleans with our friends.
Why do I love New Orleans so much?
The food, music, scenery, history, drinks and atmosphere are unlike any other place I’ve been. Even if you are there for a short period of time, it isn’t hard to fall in love with the city.
But, wait Amy. Isn’t New Orleans just one big party?
It can be. Or you can just enjoy the history and sights of the city. The best part of New Orleans is it can be whatever you want it to be. New Orleans, like most cities, has a variety of neighborhoods with different personalities. You are bound to find one that fits yours.
While I may not be going this year, but maybe you are. So if you are (you lucky duck), here are my recommendations on how to spend two amazing days in NOLA.
Day 1 in New Orleans
Start by walking down to Café Du Monde to get a little breakfast treat. Early morning is the best time to go because it isn’t super busy and the day’s heat hasn’t turned the awning into a sauna. Grab a plate of beignets (for those that don’t know what they are, think of homemade donuts with a mountain of powdered sugar) and a café au lait. But remember, don’t wear black or everyone will know exactly where you came from.
Before you head out, walk up the stairs next to Café Du Monde and snap a photo of St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. This is one of my favorite views in the entire city. St. Louis Cathedral sits in Jackson Square which is park surrounded by shops and restaurants. Street artists sit on the sidewalks around the park and sell handmade goods. Definitely take a quick stroll around it at some point.
Eventually, make your way towards Decatur Street to Bubba Gump Shrimp. What? Isn’t Bubba Gump Shrimp a chain restaurant, Amy? Yes, yes it is. It is also one of the few places to find a drink about 10 a.m. in the morning (yes, we start drinking early in New Orleans). As we learned from a bartender, most places stay open late so they don’t open until noon. So sit on down at Bubba Gump and getcha a piña colada. It has pineapple juice and milk in it so it’s just like having a smoothie for breakfast.
Because this is New Orleans, everything is served in a cup to go. So take that piña colada (or another) and just start walking through the French Quarter. You’ll be amazed at all the unique shops, beautiful buildings, and interesting people you will see.
By the time you finish that drink, it’ll be time for lunch and a refill. Head over to Acme Oyster House. The air conditioning is refreshing and the beer is cold. It’s not called an oyster house for nothing so get the chargrilled oysters (pictured below) as an appetizer. Then get a classic shrimp po-boy or the seafood étouffée for your main meal. Acme has a great atmosphere and is a nice place to enjoy a good meal.
Once you’re all fat and sassy, wobble over to Pat O’Briens. Pat O’Briens is a staple that everyone must visit while in New Orleans. Walk through the bar section to the courtyard in the center of the building. Order the Hurricane. It is grown up kool-aid with some fruit mixed in. They also come in a great souvenir glass that you can keep or return for a $2 refund. But be careful. Before you know it, you will be carrying 6 Hurricane glasses back to your hotel room.
Make sure you leave Pat O’Briens somewhat sober so you can head over to the Boondock Saint (yes, just like the movie). This is a great little irish bar right across the street. It’s perfect for chilling at the bar and talking up the bartender.
Once you’re done at Boondock Saint, it might be a good time to head back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner. On your way, you are likely to pass a bar selling grenades. I will warn you. Only get one of these if you don’t intend to remember the rest of the evening. Just ask this guy. He’ll tell you.
The only place you should consider for dinner is Pierre Masperos located on Chartres Street. This is the best food in the Quarter, hands down. If you want to try a little of everything, get the sampler. If you want the most amazing food you’ve ever had, get the fried green tomatoes and the blackened jambalaya. So f-ing good.
After dinner, it’s Bourbon Street time. The best way to describe Bourbon Street is a circus full of debauchery. You will see things you didn’t think were real. Go to all the bars. Dance in the street. Do whatever you want to do. It’s Bourbon Street.
Day 2 in New Orleans
Morning after Bourbon Street is a rough one. Make sure you grab some Pedialyte to rehydrate from all the dehydrating. But mostly, suck it up, buttercup. You’re in New Orleans. Time to rise and shine.
The best way to cure a hangover is with a solid breakfast. Check out Jimmy J’s on Chartres Street for some biscuits and gravy, eggs and maybe a pork chop. Filling your stomach with this solid meal with definitely help you get ready for Day 2.
Once you finish breakfast, hop on the trolley and head to the Garden District. The Garden District is filled with beautiful old homes covered in bright colors and plants. If you know where to look, you can find the houses of some celebrities (we may or may not have followed a tour group to find out where the Mannings’ house was).
As you get closer to Magazine Street, take a quick walk through Lafayette Cemetery (note: the pictures below are not from Lafayette Cemetery, but from another cemetery in the city). Cemeteries in New Orleans are very different than those in Indiana. Instead of headstones, there are crypts that include several family members. Because of the soil, bodies of the dead can’t be buried six feet under. If you find a tour guide, I recommend listening to them to learn more. It’s fascinating.
Keep walking until you hit Tchoupitoulas Street. This is where NOLA Brewing Company is located. NOLA is one of the few craft breweries in New Orleans and it is fabulous. Take a seat at the bar or go up stairs to the balcony outside. Just make sure to taste the 7th Street Wheat and the Tchoupitoulas IPA. Actually, just get a couple of flights to share and try as many as you can!
Inevitably, you will get hungry for a snack after trying a few NOLA beers. Lucky for you, McClure’s BBQ is located right inside the tap room. Grab some poutine (waffle fries with gravy and cheese curds) and have them add the brisket. You won’t be disappointed.
Once you’ve had your fill of beer and barbeque, head back to Magazine Street for some shopping. THen hit the trolley and make your back to the Quarter.
There are so many great options in and outside of the French Quarter. You probably will have difficult time deciding, just as it is difficult for me to suggest just one. Here are my two suggestions for the second night inside the French Quarter (unless you want to go back to Pierre Masperos and I would not blame you one bit).
A great place for dinner is actually right on Bourbon. It’s called La Bayou. Go upstairs and climb through the window to sit on the balcony for a great view of Bourbon. There, you can do some people watching while you enjoy authentic New Orleans recipes.
Or maybe you want somewhere a little more lowkey. Check out Napoleon’s House on Chartres Street. The story is the house was built and offered to Napoleon to live in after he was exiled. I’m not exactly sure why he didn’t make his way over here because the mixed drinks are delicious and the bruschetta is divine.
New Orleans is home to a ton of great musicians and music venues. Spend your last evening on Frenchmen Street. This place is littered with bars and jazz music fills the air. Hop from bar to bar to take in the music, drink some cold drinks and dance your little heart away.
Let’s be honest. It’s hard to spend just two days in New Orleans. The city offers so much to do and see. If you get the chance, you also should visiting the following:
Well, there you go folks. Those are my recommendations for 48 hours in New Orleans. Now, excuse me while I book my own trip.