Coincidentally while on my birthday trip to New Orleans, Louisiana, I learned that the city was one of the top cities to visit in 2018. AND the city turned 300 which is serendipitous since I turned 30! 😀
Well, I had been wanting to go to New Orleans and more specifically Mardi Gras for a really long time and I figured it would be perfect for my 30th birthday. I wanted it to be a big celebration with a group pf friends, but that didn’t work out as planned. :/ Fun Fact – I was extremely sick for the first couple of days of the trip so that part was not fun. Nonetheless, it was a really fun trip.
One thing that was shockingly different from my hometown of Miami, FL is that in New Orleans you can walk around with an “open container” or an alcoholic drink. Drinking is literally a way of life in New Orleans. With that said, I’m not a huge drinker lol so I didn’t get “the full” Mardi Gras experience.
I feel that if you’re going to visit New Orleans for Mardi Gras, it’s best to do it during your college years or early to mid 20’s. There are a lot of young people there during Mardi Gras season.
Me and My Beau
My boyfriend and I stayed in New Orleans for 5 nights which was more than enough time to experience a lot of New Orleans. My friends flew in on day 3 and stayed with us for the rest of the trip.
If you’re going to visit New Orleans you only need to stay 2 or 3 nights. We stayed at an Airbnb and it was awesome! [If you want to see the place, follow me on instagram and check out my Nola Trip Highlights!] Where to stay in New Orleans is one of the most debatable parts of planning a trip to the city.
I am a huge researcher and planner since I like to minimize the amount of surprises I experience on a trip. So during my research, I struggled with where we were going to stay. There are tons of blog posts that say hotels are best and just as many that say Airbnb’s are best.
If you’re a college student or someone who wants to party hard, then stay in a hotel near the Mardi Gras action. It will be quicker for you to get to the festivities and you’ll save on transportation since you’ll be able to walk to most places.
If you’re more low key, stay at an Airbnb. Of course the Airbnb options vary in location and you can also find one near the French Quarter if you so please. However, if you want to visit places outside of the French Quarter, then you may want to be more strategic on which areas to stay.
New Orleans is an old city and it has a lot of places that are still dealing with the aftermath from hurricanes and floods. Many of the residents don’t have the money to fix up homes and businesses, so at first glance some neighborhoods may appear unsafe even though they are not.
We stayed in the area where Marigny and Bywater meet. We felt very safe during the trip and the residents were very friendly and relaxed.
Transportation is probably the second most debatable topic regarding a trip to New Orleans. We rented a car because there were several places that we wanted to visit far from the French Quarter.
If you’re only going for Mardi Gras, DO NOT RENT A CAR. Parking is really expensive (unless you stay somewhere with a driveway or complimentary parking which is rare) and during Mardi Gras it is difficult to even find a parking space. Most streets in and around the French Quarter get blockaded during the parades so you may not be able to travel in a car.
Bike riding and ride sharing is perfect in New Orleans. We took Uber and Lyft sometimes and the prices weren’t too bad. The rides to and from the airport will be the most expensive (around $40 when I was there) so if you know someone in New Orleans who can pick you up and take you or if your hotel has a shuttle service, use those options to save money.
Like any place you travel to, you will need to dress according to the time of year that you visit New Orleans. Check the weather before you leave for your trip to make sure that you’re prepared. It can get pretty chilly in New Orleans and it can rain at any moment. You should definitely bring a light hooded jacket or sweater just in case it rains while you’re out.
We visited in February and it was perfect t-shirt weather during the daytime the first couple of days and pretty chilly the other days. Also, there was a downpour on one of the days in the middle of the day while we were sightseeing. The hooded jacket I was wearing definitely came in handy. The jacket pictured below is from Target.
Me in Jackson Square
If you’re a foodie like me, you’ll love eating in New Orleans. And if you like seafood, you’re in for a treat! New Orleans has some of the best food I have ever had especially the seafood dishes. 😀
Don’t worry, if you don’t like seafood, there are plenty of options for you. My boyfriend is allergic to shellfish and he doesn’t love fish too much and he definitely ate some awesome food.
My boyfriend’s and my favorite place to eat in New Orleans is Red’s Chinese. It’s a “hole in the wall” kind of restaurant. They don’t have a huge or obvious sign so the restaurant can easily be missed. It’s on an open and main street below a grocery store. The prices are decent and the service is fantastic.
My favorite dish by far on the trip was the crawfish rangoons from Red’s Chinese. I’ve had dozens of variations on rangoons, most of which are filled with crab. These crawfish ones are so savory and delicious OMG!
The choice of using crawfish instead of crab is what sets these apart, since crawfish so much more tender. They were perfectly crispy and filled with a generous amount of crawfish and cream cheese. Plus the sauce adds that perfect sweet and tangy flavor.
My boyfriend is obsessed with the pork buns from there. According to him, they were made perfectly. He says that the pork buns he’s had in the past lacked flavor or didn’t taste fresh. But he loved the ones from there so much that he ordered them for delivery on the night before we left and I of course ordered the crawfish rangoons. 😉 We had to eat from there again before we left!
Café Du Monde
The one spot you HAVE to visit when you travel to New Orleans is the famous Café Du Monde. I’m not big on fried dough dishes, but I know that most people love fried dough including doughnuts, churros, funnel cakes, “elephant ears,” and of course beignets.
Well when you go to Café Du Monde, you HAVE to order the beignets. The regular order includes 3 fresh beignets tossed in a ton of powered sugar in a white paper bag.
I will say that the beignets from here are by far the best of the fried dough food variety. Wow they’re so perfectly crisp and fluffy. And if you like coffee, opt for a cup of coffee as well. In my BFF‘s words “what you gotta do is dunk the beignet in the coffee then take a bite.” She says it’s perfection.
The best part of Café Du Monde, besides the beignets, is the fact that they are open 24 hours (not many places in Nola are) so they make for the perfect late night spot after partying.
Pro tip: if you want to go to Café Du Monde and you want to avoid long lines, do not go in the morning nor afternoon. The line here for most of the day reaches the end of the block. If there’s a line you can walk straight in and see if you find a table.
If not, you’ll have to wait in line or come back later. We only went to Café Du Monde in the afternoon and evening (we went three times during the trip!).
Regular Order of Beignets
The Best Fried Dough Ever (aka Beignet)
St Roch Market
Another one of my favorite places to eat in New Orleans is the St Roch Market. It’s a building that houses a variety of restaurant counters. This is a perfect place to visit with picky friends because everyone can choose which restaurant they want to order from and then you can all sit together at a table to eat.
Beware though, if you go on a Saturday or Sunday it will be packed with people. Parking will be hard to find, lines will be long, and finding a table will be challenging. Try to go on a weekday or be prepared to spend a good hour and half or two hours there on a weekend.
Also, the prices for a lot of the food there were a bit steep. I paid around $15 for my breakfast avocado toast (pictured below) from this natural and organic foods joint. Granted it was a good portion but the price was too steep for my liking. My boyfriend ordered some FIRE empanadas that were priced between $7-12.
The prices were outrageous, but they were the best baked empanadas we’ve ever had!!! They were flaky instead of the usual doughiness and the fillings were more on the gourmet side.
Overall, the market is fantastic. I also ordered a delicious Oreo cupcake from Bittersweet Confections – it was my birthday after all! You can find more affordably priced food there, we just opted for those options to try something different.
St Roch Market Front Entrance
Breakfast Avocado Toast
Oreo Cupcake from Bittersweet Confections
ACME Oyster House
One food you’re sure to see everywhere in New Orleans is oysters. They can be prepared several different ways, but a specialty dish is the chargrilled oysters.
We debated between trying them from somewhere else but we opted for ACME Oysters. This restaurant is quite delicious. There was a line to get into the place – we waited about 20 minutes. But once you’re in, the service is pretty quick.
I tried an oyster shooter for the first (and last) time because why not?! I love trying new things because you never know when you’re going to try something you’ll love!
We ordered the chargrilled oysters for an appetizer which was amazing! – And it comes with bread, perfect for dipping in the garlicky oil. For my entrée, I ordered the half catfish po-boy half beans and rice. I love po-boys so I new I HAD to try them in New Orleans. I definitely recommend this place!
Half Catfish Po-Boy Half Beans and Rice
We visited New Orleans during Super Bowl weekend. So on that Sunday, we picked up some pizza and soda from Pizza Delicious and stayed in to watch the game.
The prices are moderate and the food is delicious as the name suggests. The slices were moderately thin and all the food was fresh. I didn’t love the garlic rolls but I am picky when it comes to garlic bread haha!
Crescent City Pizza Works
After a night of partying in the French Quarter, Crescent City Pizza Works came in handy to satisfy my hunger. I ordered a slice of cheese pizza and a Blue Moon and it was perfection.
This is a grab and go joint with minimal seating. It has a long bar/counter set up on the left with some stools for dining in.
My BFF suggested we do a fancy brunch for my birthday (she works in catering and is always looking for the best restaurants to dine in). We ate at Broussard’s which has $12 bottomless mimosas and rosé for brunch – AMAZING!
While this restaurant is more on the pricey side, the food and the service was superb. We had a table next to a window which overlooked a gorgeous outdoor patio. There was a jazz band going around and playing music at each table – the whole brunch was lovely! At the end, they gave us to-go cups and topped us off before we left! The locals love their alcohol haha!
Broussard’s Gorgeous Menu
Shrimp and Grits
There is no shortage of things to do in New Orleans. Whether its food, drinking, music, history, shopping, or meeting people that moves you, you’re sure to find what you love.
New Orleans is rich in history-with monuments, museums, and public parks all over. We visited Jackson Square the historical park and location of where the final version of the Louisiana Purchase was signed.
It was raining while we walked around there but beautiful nonetheless. If you visit Jackson Square, you can cross the street and walk down the Mississippi River front to check out the steamboats.
The city also has the most beautiful homes and mansions! We visited the Lalaurie Mansion which is the famous house where American Horror Story Coven was filmed. The whole neighborhood scenery is simply gorgeous.
New Orleans has a bunch of museums, tons of tours, and the Harrah’s Casino. I wanted to go on an airboat swamp tour, but my friends were not as enthused as I was about going on a swamp tour in chilly February.
When I go back, I’m definitely going on one. I was looking into Cajun Encounters for the Airboat Swamp Tour. There’s also the famous Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, where you can shop for some voodoo dolls and mystical trinkets.
The Garden District is one of the most gorgeous and famous neighborhoods in New Orleans. It has celebrity owned mansions (like Sandra Bullock’s) and in the heart of the Garden District lies the famous Lafayette Cemetery.
You HAVE to visit the Lafayette Cemetery when you go to New Orleans. Its eerie yet beautiful with the rows and rows of mausoleums and tombs made of stone and brick.
Before you leave to go to the cemetery, be sure to check the operating hours. We learned the moment we walked through the gate that the cemetery was closing early and we had to leave within 30 minutes. So we didn’t have much time to experience it but it was quite moving nonetheless.
Selfie in the Garden District
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1
Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo
The nighttime activities in New Orleans are abundant to say the least. There are TONS of bars and clubs open late night in and around the French Quater.
We visited a few bars inside the French Quarter the first few days and we visited some others on Frenchmen Street one night. My friends and I grabbed some drinks at The Spotted Cat Music Club which has live music on certain nights.
Frenchmen Street is where the locals hang out. It’s rare that you’ll see a local in the French Quarter.
We had a blast on Frenchmen Street. They have a bunch of fabulous jazz clubs! Jazz music is the soul of New Orleans so you have to check one out during your trip.
We had tons of fun at 30/90 Nola. The drinks were great and the live music was fantastic so I definitely recommend it. The Frenchmen Street neighborhood also has a cute outdoor market where I scored some handmade illustrations from a local artist.
Dirty Thirty Selfie in the French Quarter
My BFF and I in the French Quarter
If you’re visiting New Orleans during Mardi Gras, then you’ll want to download a parade schedule so you don’t miss out on the fun! The parade participants work on these extravagent floats for months. They are a must-see.
Just as people decorate for the holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah, the residents of New Orleans decorate for Mardi Gras and Carnival Season.
It is a big celebration for them so you will notice that front yards, fences, gates, and balconies are embellished with purple, gold, and green ribbon, flags, banners, signs, and of course beads. And in case you were wondering, there’s not much crazy bead throwing and boob flashing going on like you see in the movies haha!
Something else you will find at practically every market and bakery is King Cake. It’s a colorful cake that can come in a variety of flavors. But one special thing about the cake is that a tiny baby trinket is placed inside or underneath the cake.
There are many ideas on what the baby represents but for the most part whoever gets the slice with the baby either acquires good luck and prosperity or they are responsible for bringing the cake next year or throwing the next Mardi Gras party.
We stopped by a donut and burger place called District while sightseeing one day and my BFF got the King Cake donut so we could try it. It was lemon flavored and had colored sprinkles and the baby on top.
I tried a piece and it definitely wasn’t for me but it was such a fun looking donut! The burgers and fries at District are fantastic! It’s a great place to grab a quick bite to eat.
King Cake Donut from District
Overall, my trip to New Orleans was super fun! If you get to visit be prepared to be inspired, to drink, and to EAT! (PS: If you have a sensitive stomach, bring reinforcements like Tums or Alka-Seltzer because the food for the most part is very heavy.)
New Orleans is quite a special city, full of vibrance, history, and culture. The French inspired architecture and food is truly something to experience. I would love to visit again for a two-day trip.
I recomment that everyone visits the city at least once in their life. The people there love to have fun and live life care-free. [That’s one reason why they call it The Big Easy.] You’ll love the chill vibes there – and the badass photo ops!
Do you want to see what my whole trip was like? Follow me on Instagram and check out my Nola Trip Highlight!