New Orleans is one of my top favorite places I’ve ever traveled to… like, ever.
I can’t say that about many places, and I continue to go back and enjoy my time there. In fact, I plan on making another trip again soon (look out for that post!).
New Orleans is located in the far southeast of Louisiana, where the Mississippi River spits out into the Gulf and Lake Pontchartrain sits to the north. Driving there from Houston, Texas, takes you through the swamp country of Louisiana, which I personally think is quite beautiful and unique.
In fact, on your way into NOLA (short for New Orleans, Louisiana) or at some point in your trip, you should take a swamp tour. You can find many places offering tours and often times they’re really cheap. I really enjoyed my tour and got to hold a baby alligator!
Now, New Orleans seems to be quite the controversial vacation location. Some people love it, some people hate it. It’s a unique location.
Here is my brief disclaimer: I love New Orleans because it is rich in history, culture and passion. However, it is quite dirty, smelly and can be dangerous. I’ve only visited when I’m with other people, however, I do plan on making a solo trip at some point. I think that if you travel solo, then you must be very wary and confident in your solo travel skills and lifestyle. I have had friends who traveled to NOLA solo and been just fine. It just depends on what you’re comfortable with. Despite all of this, I do recommend visiting NOLA! Just travel with all of this in mind and be safe.
If you go to NOLA, you MUST visit the French Quarter, both during the day and at night. During the day you can see the beautiful French architecture from when France owned and occupied the area. Bourbon Street and Royal Street are the typical hot spots for tourists and I do recommend visiting both during the day and at night. During the day, especially in the morning, it’s pretty quiet. No one is really out and about (aka., most people are hungover), except for tourists. Parking in NOLA is horrible and unreliable street parking, so I would recommend getting an Uber or Lyft from your hotel / AirBnB (I typically AirBnB in NOLA).
Throughout the day, you can hear wedding parades — just like you see in the movies! Wedding parties and their bands parade throughout NOLA, dancing, singing and celebrating. Everyone moves off to the sides to let the parade go through, dancing and clapping for the bride and groom. I absolutely love it and would actually love a wedding in NOLA with a celebratory parade.
The food in NOLA is spectacular, good ol’ southern style cuisine (for the most part). You can find alligator Po Boys, fried frog legs and chicken, gumbo, jambalaya and every “Southern-style” foods that you can imagine. Unfortunately it’s not a great spot for vegetarians or vegans. I’m a vegetarian and have some difficulty finding food, but it is possible. Food is pretty cheap, depending on where you go, so I’d say that NOLA trips can be very budget-friendly.
A hot spot for food is Cafe du Monde, which serves French-style beignets. Oh my goodness, they are so delicious! Unfortunately, the line to get your beignets is incredibly long so you’ll have to be patient. I do, however, recommend waiting since they’re so delicious and not expensive.
Near Cafe du Monde is Jackson Square, where the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral resides. The cathedral is open to the public and frequently used for weddings.
Across the street from Jackson Square is the Washington Artillery Park, where you can typically find some truly incredible and talented street performers.
As exciting as NOLA is during the daytime, nighttime is when it really comes alive. The streets fill with jazz, piano and pop music. Actually, there’s probably a bar for everyone. My favorites are the piano and jazz bars. Jazz originated in NOLA and the jazz performers in NOLA are amazing!
Of course, NOLA is known for it’s partying and drinking. Alcohol is freely carried on the street, so be prepared to encounter very drunk people and get alcohol accidentally poured on you. In fact, you can get a truly GIGANTIC fish bowl for like $10. (P.S. Wear shoes that you don’t mind getting icky.)
Since NOLA is so old and historical, it is also known for ghosts and ghost tours. In the early evening, you can schedule free walking tours from locals (although you should tip your tour guides). It’s really easy to find a tour website where you can schedule various types of walking tours for free (typically 1-2 hours), but you must tip your tour guide. I think that the best way to see NOLA, if you want the history, is from walking tours. I took a both a Voodoo tour and a ghost tour one evening.
On that note of ghosts and tours, NOLA is also home to the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. The cemetery is very old and very beautiful, in my point of view. I took another walking tour of the cemetery, where our tour guide showed us around and told us stories about some of the residents of the cemetery.
There are lots of different cemeteries around NOLA with various famous residents, so search for one that interests you and make a visit! Parking is typically just free street parking in nearby neighborhoods.
I know that NOLA isn’t for everyone, but I absolutely love it and if any of what I’ve written about interests you, you should definitely visit!
Thank you for reading! Have you ever traveled to New Orleans? Let me know in the comments below and like this post if you want more like it!