This past March I had the privilege of visiting the charming city of New Orleans for the second time. The first time I visited, I simply thought NOLA = drunken nights on Bourbon Street, swamp tours in the alligator infested waters, and all the Cajun food you can eat. Now let me just say NOLA indeed is all of these things (and rightfully so I might add), but I found out that it has SO much more to offer that I never imagined.
While there are countless restaurants, attractions, and tours to chose from in New Orleans, here are the top places that stood out the most to my friends and I!
My friends and I stayed in a quaint and homey hostel called the Atlas House on Magazine Street. While hostels often times get a bad rep (umm has anyone else seen the horror movie “Hostel”?), if you do your research and take proper precautions to ensure your safety, you can find countless hostels that offer reasonable prices, a sense of community among fellow travelers around the world, and clean, sanitary conditions. The Atlas House had incredible hospitality and offered a yummy breakfast of homemade pancakes every morning. It kinda felt like staying at your grandma’s.
We had the pleasure of meeting a group of 20’ something year olds from Great Britain and even spent several nights with them singing karaoke on Bourbon and playing drinking games through all hours of the night in the cozy living area of the hostel. (Picture credit to booking.com)
If you went to New Orleans and didn’t eat Cajun food, did you really go?? One morning after a long, fun night we woke up and set off down Magazine street in pursuit of food. We noticed a crowd of people lingering outside a restaurant called Surrey’s. Despite the 45-minute wait, our rumbling stomachs, and the embarrassing lack of effort we put into our wardrobe, we decided to wait. Thank the lawd we did because I think that might have been the best meal I had ever eaten. Surrey’s is a Cajun brunch restaurant that serves incredibly fresh and flavorful food. No wonder the line was out the door! (Picture credit candacelatley.com and nola.eater.com)
Maybe after a life altering meal of Cajun cuisine at Surrey’s you are in the mood for something sweet. Have no fear! Further up Magazine Street is an emporium of top-notch sweets called Sucre. This classy little shop sells handmade French macaroons, decadent chocolates, fluffy pastries, and creamy ice cream. I kid you not when I say one bite of the red velvet cupcake made me want to buy ten more (I refrained.) (Picture credit neworleans.com and nola.eater.com)
Of course, Bourbon street was a must on our itinerary. The late-night karaoke sessions (we killed Party in the USA with our British buds) and the greasy pizza slices were fantastic memories that will go down in history, but the street that really struck my fancy was Frenchmen street. I danced in the street for over an hour along with dozens of other people enjoying the lively jazz band set up on the corner of Frenchmen and Chartes. The street was lined with bars that housed live jazz bands. We went into to 30/90 bar and danced along to the energetic musicians that allowed anyone up to sing (if they had talent of course…they made sure to clarify that). It was so much fun watching these random tourists relish in their 3 minutes of fame as everyone cheered them on. (Picture credit neworleans.com and tripadvisor.com)
Introvert Tip: If you are anything like me, you love being social and in the action to a certain extent, but there comes a time when you NEED alone time to recharge. My suggestion is to find a secluded (yet safe) spot in your hotel or hostel to spend some time each day to yourself, doing anything from reading, writing, or even watching a movie.
Be sure to let your friends know where you are! If they are the cool people I know they are, they will totally support your Me Time and welcome you with open arms when you are ready to jump back in the action!
It’s better to step back from all the commotion a trip can entail and come back when you are fully energized rather than forcing yourself to push through and feeling drained all trip.
Both of my experiences in New Orleans have been filled with adventure, exploration, delicious food, and fun times with my friends. Please take my advice and do all that you can to mosey on over to New Orleans. It’s an affordable destination that offers no lack in culture, fun, and character!