At a glance:
Where I stayed: French Market Inn
Type of Trip: Girl's Weekend
Length: 4 days
Tip: Bring cash!!
A few images come to mind when people mention New Orleans. For most people those images include crowds filling Bourbon Street, partaking in copious amounts of alcohol and flashing tatas for beads. For others, it's a picture of alligators and hot swamps or perhaps the Katrina aftermath. Both of those ideas (though very stereotypical) scare me a little and so I chose to visit in January. Not too crowded and not too hot - beautiful!
Don't get me wrong, if you're looking for a fun place to drink in the streets, NOLA certainly has that option. And if "soup weather" (not weather that's good for eating soup, rather weather that feels like you're walking through soup) and swamp tours are your thing, by all means, go mid-year. But this city has so much more to offer! From its unique voodoo and catholic history to its rich mixture of varied neighborhoods, there is something for everyone.
Truthfully I was drawn to New Orleans by the food. There are endless list of places to eat and foods to try in the city. I did drink a Hurricane on Bourbon Street to check it off the list but I really didn't stay there long. There were charbroiled oysters, grits, jambalaya, and alligator to eat. There was even a surprise stop at a delicious Indian restaurant. The food was everything I expected and more.
Pork Belly Po Boy
What I didn't expect, was how great it was to just walk through the city. There are plenty of famous sights to see like the St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square. The architecture is also an iconic feature of the city. Everyone knows the ornate ironwork on the balconies that line the streets. But what no one talks about are the diverse neighborhoods and how easy it is to get from one spot to the other. One minute you are in the historic city center with 18th century architecture then you are in the downtown area which for some reason has a Harris casino. One minute you are walking by quiet private residences then you are shop-hopping through a bustling hipster district. There are surprises around every corner. I highly suggest walking down Royal Street in the heart of New Orleans for beautiful antique shops and down Magazine Street in the Garden District for trendy shops and restaurants.
And the music! You can't talk about New Orleans without talking about the music! In one night I saw a group of men in their 80's singing the blues in a bar, a young woman singing jazz in a club, a group of teens playing loud brass instruments on the street corner, and a Jamaican woman singing reggae at a bistro. All on Frenchman Street (again, another street I highly suggest)!
Just a note: this is one of the main reasons I suggest bringing lots of cash. Whether you want to tip a performer or buy their $5 demo CD, cash is a necessity. There are also a ton of bars that are surprisingly still cash only. For someone who NEVER carries cash, this was a shock to me.
Another surprising hot spot in New Orleans is the World War II museum. WAIT! I know I just lost some of you and truthfully history museums are where I typically zone out as well. But it was recommended to me and all the reviews were raving so I decided to give it a try. Holy moly, it was amazing! It's pretty impossible to describe the exhibits but they are very immersive. I unfortunately got there late in the day but I could have spent hours exploring. If you're going to New Orleans, make time to go here even if you're not a "museum person."
As for the weather, I am a girl who got extreme heat exhaustion when it was 80 degrees in Florida a few Januaries ago, so going in a winter month was a must. I was expecting low 70's during the day and in the 50's at night. In fact, it was a bit chillier than that! It was an anomaly but the week before I arrived the city went through a freeze that nearly shut them down completely. When I landed the airport was covered in signs that alerted visitors that New Orleans was under a Boil-Water Advisory. When I checked into my hotel I was informed that my room would be ok, but other parts of the hotel had no water pressure. The south just isn't equipped for cold weather and I'm just not equipped for warm weather. So I thank you, NOLA, for nearly shutting down so that I could survive!
More of an ice sculpture than a water feature
Also, a side note that I did not know when I booked my trip. 2018 was NOLA’s 300th anniversary making my first stop on my 30th birthday “year of travel” even more symbolic. I would 100% go back again (in winter). I definitely only saw the tip of the iceberg in this city and am looking forward to exploring even more next time.