Having lived in 13 cities in 11 different states and visited countless more, I’ve experienced everything from the hustle and bustle of New York City, to the ski slopes of Park City, Utah. I’ve been to Fenway in Boston, cheered on the Cubs in Chicago and hiked Camelback Mountain in Phoenix…twice.
Currently I live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, approximately 70 miles west of my favorite city of them all, New Orleans. “The Big Easy” has its own unique flavor that reminds me of a tasting a dish so savory, that you remember it’s flavor 20 years later. Whether it’s food, music, history, or architecture you’re looking for, New Orleans is overflowing with things to see, do and taste that you won’t find anywhere else in the country.
Monday: Start your day with café au lait and a beignet at Café Du Monde. There are tons of good eats in New Orleans, but this spot is a must-visit. Your taste buds will celebrate with every bite, and the Café is located in prime people watching position. For those of you unfamiliar with the food scene in New Orleans, café au lait is coffee that is mixed half and half with hot milk. Beignets are square donuts dusted with powdered sugar that are served fresh and hot. Café Du Monde is open 24 hours a day, so don’t worry if your “breakfast” comes a little later than normal (that tends to happened after a night on Bourbon Street). Later in the day, get your history fix with one of the many “haunted” tours offered. My personal favorite is Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo (fans of the show “America Horror Story” have heard that name before), but there are tons of tours to choose from ranging from haunted graveyards, to historic churches. I can’t get enough of the Voodoo tales, and stories about life and death in historic New Orleans… some of which still send chills up my spine!
Tuesday: Tuesday you can get moving… literally! New Orleans is home to several bike tours, but I recommend the Culinary Bike Tour. Imagine pedaling through the Creole part of town while making stops to sample local cuisine along the way. Think fried oyster po’ boys, pork boudin, and freshly caught crawfish. After the bike tour, you should have plenty of time left for shopping. Magazine Street is my favorite spot for an afternoon jaunt or leisurely bite to eat. So far I’ve never come up short in my search for the perfect outfit or original piece of art (my wallet after a trip to Magazine Street is another story). This six-mile stretch is filled with some of the best boutiques, art galleries, and antique stores in the city, and is known for its one of kind finds. The architecture of the shops is just as intriguing as the items for sale inside. I love to end my day at Sake Café (order the New Orleans Roll), but if sushi’s not your thing, there are a slew of restaurants and coffee shops where you can refuel. Coquette is a popular Magazine Street restaurant known for its locally sourced New American fare and unique cocktails (my favorite of which is the House Punch). Be sure to be on the lookout for one of the restaurant’s special events. Coming up on July 31st Coquette features all-you-can-eat Fried Chicken and unlimited Champagne… count me in!
Wednesday: Instead of dining out on Wednesday, you can learn to prepare your own Creole feast at The New Orleans School of Cooking. Imagine learning to cook authentic Corn & Crab Bisque, Chicken Étouffée and Pralines! It’s the perfect way to take a little bit of New Orleans home with you after your trip. Demonstration classes are daily, with the most popular being a lunch class that starts at 10am. Whether you are exploring New Orleans with kids or you’re simply a kid at heart, the Audubon Nature Institute is a great way to round out your day. The Audubon Institute consists of a zoo, aquarium, butterfly and insect garden, Imax Theatre, and park, so no matter what you’re into, you’ll find it. The aquarium is my personal favorite. Between the Stingray touch pool and adorable sea otters, I can hang here for hours, finishing my afternoon with a 3D movie in the Imax Theatre that will transport you to Africa and back in less than an hour. You can finish up with a classic New Orleans dining experience at Dooky Chase Restaurant. This spot has been around since 1941 and was once a meeting place for music, entertainment and cultural leaders. You’ll get your fill of some of the best Creole favorites around like gumbo, red beans and rice, and shrimp po’ boys.
Thursday: Don’t worry if you’re visiting New Orleans this spring or summer, you can still get a taste of the Mardi Gras spirit at Mardi Gras World. This tour allows you to see first-hand what goes into building those amazing parade floats and shows you exactly what Mardi Gras is all about! Tours start at 9:30am and run every half hour. For lunch head over to St. Roch Market… this food hall is literally a dream come true for any foodie. The building itself is gorgeous, but it’s what’s inside that will leave you breathless (and full!). St. Roch Market is made up of a multitude of grab-and-go vendors. You can find anything from oysters to shrimp and grits to freshly made cakes. My go-to spot here is Lagos, a Nigerian vendor that serves the best beans and rice I’ve ever eaten. If you have time, stop by Exodus Goods on Conti Street. This boutique, co-owned by Solange Knowles, features an array of clothing and accessories, many designed by local owners. For dinner head to Luke on St. Charles Avenue. Be sure to start with the Seafood Gumbo, and then, no matter which entrée you choose, add a side of Roasted Jalapeño Grits. No meal in New Orleans is complete without dessert, so dive into Luke’s Bourbon Vanilla Bean Creme Brûlée, yes, it’s as good as it sounds (actually it’s better!).
Friday: Finish up your week in New Orleans with a ride across the Mississippi River on the Canal Street Ferry. You’ll be transported to historic Algiers Point on the West Bank, where you can take in some of the best views of the city and really grasp the style and charm of New Orleans architecture. This area is pretty residential, but you’ll find bike and walking trails, plenty of shops and bed & breakfast spots. That evening you can dive into the New Orleans sports scene, which rivals any in the country. The passion, spirit and intensity of the fans creates an atmosphere that is almost as exciting as the actual game. This time of year, basketball season just finished up for the New Orleans Pelicans, but the season is in full swing for the New Orleans Voodoo of the Arena Football League. If you get the opportunity to visit the Smoothie King Center, grab a bite to eat prior to the game at my favorite sports bar, Walk-On’s… founded by a pair of actual LSU walk ons. I think I like the name as much as I do the food!
If you’re considering a trip to New Orleans, let me add that the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is extremely easy to navigate… no trains or people movers, easy access to taxis and shuttles, cajun food and a plethora of Mardi Gras souvenirs year round. Enjoy your trip!!
To see some of the highlights from this trip, check out the Photo Gallery!