Here’s how a true globetrotter does New Orleans.
New Orleans or, The Big Easy as some like to call it, is a Southern city filled with deep history and culture, bold Creole flavors, and plenty of live music to keep you dancing into the night. For most first-timers, the goal is to hit the famed Bourbon Street to experience the chaos of beads being thrown from balconies. But, beyond the busyness of the iconic road, there is so much to explore.
NOLA is said to be the birthplace of jazz music, and the sounds of trumpets, drums, and trombones often fill the night air—any day of the week. The city's Louis Armstrong Park—more specifically Congo Square—was the site of weekly drum circles held by free Black men and women during a time when our ancestors weren't free to express themselves musically anywhere else. It's also where the story of the Voodoo Queen was birthed.
EBONY recently took a little trip down to the Bayou to explore this vibrant city on a deeper level. From powerful Black-owned art galleries and finger-licking cuisine to a comfy stay in the heart of the warehouse arts district. Here's our insider's guide on where to eat, stay and play to make the most of your adventures in New Orleans.
Where to Stay
To get the most out of your visit, you'll want to stay in a centrally located neighborhood. The city's warehouse arts district is steps away—or a very short Uber ride—from all the best offerings. The Kimpton Hotel Fontenot is an excellent choice that merges luxury and art within its walls. We opted for a suite, to give us a little extra room. But, there are standard king and double rooms as well.
Best Places to Eat
It's New Orleans, so you'll likely never encounter a bad meal. But, just in case you're overwhelmed with the plethora of options, here's a few that we suggest. For breakfast or brunch, Brennan's is a must-do. It's a staple in the French Quarter, so make sure you reserve ahead of time. Pro Tip: Order the bananas foster for an exciting interactive experience. If you're the type that needs a coffee boost in the morning, Black-owned Baldwin and Co.—yes, named for James Baldwin—is a dope café and bookshop that whips up healthy, yet unique coffee drinks.
After your time exploring the city, we recommend heading to Lil Dizzy's in the historically Black Tremé neighborhood. A small, yet authentic spot, you can find all your Southern and Creole staples like: red beans and rice with smoked sausage, homemade gumbo, bread pudding, baked macaroni and cheese, and so much more.
We know you're still probably stuffed from the option above, but you will also want to work in stops at: The Elysian Bar, Chef Nina Compton's Compère Lapin, and Cochon.
And, what's a trip to NOLA without a night cap? The Hotel Fontenot's Peacock Room has an amazing bar program, and is the hangout spot for locals on any given night. If you're into over-the-top flare, check out the Chandelier Bar in the Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans.
Where to Play
This is where you will truly want to pace yourself, as the options are endless on things to do in this popular city. For the history buffs: A walking tour of the Tremé neighborhood or a visit to Vue Orleans would best suit you. Both are interactive ways to gain a deeper understanding of the Black history and culture that was birthed in New Orleans.
Art lovers, you're in luck as well. One of the most thought-provoking galleries we've ever experienced is Studio Be. Owned and operated by area native Brandan BMike Odums, this massive space is home to thoughtfully curated exhibits and events that get us to truly shift our mindset on the Black experience in America. A fun option is Jam. Nola, an immersive pop-up experience that taps local artists to commission unique installations that reflect the culture of the city.
And of course, music lovers. No trip to The Big Easy is complete without at least one night on Frenchmen St. Here you can find local bands and musicians setting up on the sidewalk to give your ears a treat. There are also tons of little bars and music venues tucked away in the area that host nightly shows featuring live, local bands and performances.