An exotic destination right here in the US.
This was my first time to visit New Orleans and I immediately fell in love! The city has such a unique vibe and feels like travelling to a foreign country, even though it is right here in the US. The architecture is so charming and the culture is so interesting, not to mention the food! Every single meal I had was delicious. I would definitely go back again!
Sights to See
The weather was great when we landed, so we headed right to the Garden District, an area known for its beautiful architecture. The houses come in all sorts of beautiful colors, so it is a nice area to take photos. You can spot some homes owned by celebrities along the way, including the home of author Anne Rice (Interview with a Vampire) and the Manning family of football fame.
Right in the heart of the garden district is Lafayette Cemetery. I know this is a strange thing to visit but it’s one of the top sights in New Orleans. Because of flooding they had to build aboveground tombs, some of which are colorfully decorated. A lot of them are dilapidated and overgrown with tropical vegetation, giving everything a slightly eerie effect. We were here on a cloudy day, which added to the mysterious atmosphere of this place.
We had some nature lovers in the group, so next we headed over to the Audubon Insectarium to meet some creepy crawly creatures. This might not be for you if you are squeamish about bugs, since it’s an entire museum filled with critters! I liked seeing the hard-working ants and the beautifully colored beetles, but the highlight is the butterfly room at the end. You get to walk through a room filled with butterflies.
I could walk around the streets of The French Quarter for hours. This area has beautiful architecture and a very European feel. There are lots of shops to explore.
The Carousel Bar was so cheesy and touristy, but definitely fun! The bar itself is a real moving carousel. A band was playing great live jazz music.
The next day was rainy so we stuck to indoor activities. The National World War II Museum is listed as one of the top sights in New Orleans, and it was the perfect place to hang out on a rainy day. It was definitely a heavy subject matter, but I learned a lot from the museum. It was very interactive, with lots of videos and a “4D movie” at the end with immersive special effects like vibrating seats.
After such an intense afternoon, it was time to let loose. And what better place to do so than Bourbon Street? This is definitely a party town! There are row after row of bars and other late-night establishments. What happens in New Orleans stays in New Orleans, so I will just leave it at that!
We wanted to get out of the city and explore the countryside so we rented a car and drove to Oak Alley Plantation. This is a historical property that shows what life was like in the South before the Civil War. The grounds were beautiful, with a stunning alley of 300 year-old oak trees. The house tour was really well done and interesting.
What would a trip to New Orleans be without some live jazz? There are many places you could go, but we went to the Blue Nile jazz club on Frenchman Street to hear a band play.
Places to Eat
New Orleans is known for its amazing Cajun cuisine, so eating was a major part of this trip. New York Men’s Fashion week is less than a month away and pigging out is probably the last thing I should be doing right now! But when in Rome… Truth be told, one travel hack I use is to travel with a cooler filled with my own food–just simple things like rice crackers, nuts, smoked salmon, shredded chicken. That way, I can eat light and healthy for some meals and really enjoy the meals out.
The first place we went after landing was Willie Mae’s Scotch House. This is known for some of the best friend chicken in the country! It was such an indulgence. I don’t think I’ve eaten something that deep fried in a long time. The chicken was really all about the breaded crust. It was so thick and crispy and had a bit of a spicy kick to it. I ate so much friend chicken, but truth be told I was actually more into the sides! We each ordered a different side and shared. You have to get the cornbread. I kept saying that it tasted like a cupcake. So good! And my green beans were really delicious as well.
That afternoon we stopped by the famous Café du Monde for a little afternoon pick me up. They are known for their beignets, a traditional French pastry covered in powdered sugar. It was pure decadence—once again I was eating something deep-fried! It was good, but I was happy just to sample a few bites. It was too late in the day for me to drink caffeine (my cut off is usually 3pm) but everyone else in the group said the coffee was so good, and I imagine it pairs well with the beignet. For the record, I have also heard that Café Beignet, down the street, makes a mean beignet, if you want to skip the line at Café du Monde.
For brunch the next day, we went to Willa Jean. I loved this place the moment I walked in. It had a fun modern vibe. The first thing you are greeted by when you walk in is their case of amazing baked goods. These looked so tempting and were absolutely as good as they tasted! We tried a little bit of everything. I was a huge fan of the biscuits—so buttery and great with jam and (more) butter. I also loved the blueberry ginger muffin and chocolate chip cookies. For lunch I had the avocado toast with an addition of salmon. It was served so beautifully with edible flowers on top!
For dinner that night we went to Herbsaint, a nice upscale restaurant with contemporary takes on Cajun classics. We spotted a famous male actor there on what sounded like an awkward first date, so it definitely felt like the local hot spot. I ordered the gumbo for a starter and the duck confit for my main course since that is the dish they are known for. The duck was out of this word delicious and I would go back and order it again right now if I could!
The next day for brunch we went to Atchafalaya, which I learned is the name of the river that runs through Creole country. I immediately loved the vibe of this place. There was a funky jazz trio playing—cello, guitar, and a wonderfully idiosyncratic jazz singer. They gave out festive feathered headpieces to the lady guests, so it looked like a throwback to a1930’s café. The food was updated Cajun. I ordered the shrimp and grits, which was amazing! It had such an interesting blend of amazing seasonings and flavors.