My Scoop on Visiting New Orleans – the good, bad, & the ugly

We had so much fun visiting New Orleans! I’m sharing our experience here, from our fabulous hotel, to some delicious restaurants, and everything in between. 

These are the highlights of our trip, my thoughts on the city itself, and some overall tips and recommendations. If you or someone you know is thinking about visiting NOLA for the first time, I’m giving you some tips to keep in mind.

I’m sharing the scoop on visiting New Orleans including the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I'm sharing our experience visiting New Orleans, from our fabulous hotel, to some delicious restaurants, and everything in between.

As I mentioned briefly in my previous post, my husband and I took a trip together to New Orleans last week during spring break. This was the first trip we’ve taken without kids in 16 years! We shipped them off to the grandparent’s house and we headed to the Big Easy.

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I'm sharing our experience visiting New Orleans, from our fabulous hotel, to some delicious restaurants, and everything in between. Hotel Monteleone Carousel Bar I'm sharing our experience visiting New Orleans, from our fabulous hotel, to some delicious restaurants, and everything in between.I'm sharing our experience visiting New Orleans, from our fabulous hotel, to some delicious restaurants, and everything in between. I'm sharing our experience visiting New Orleans, from our fabulous hotel, to some delicious restaurants, and everything in between.

Best Place to Stay in New Orleans

  • First things first; where did we stay? We followed the advice from an old friend and stayed at the Hotel Monteleone, in the French Quarter. It’s an upscale hotel famous for their Carousel Bar that actually rotates while you’re sitting at it. In fact it takes 16 minutes to make one complete rotation. It took us 3 days to get a seat at the bar as it’s quite the hot commodity with tourists and locals alike. We chatted with a local woman sitting beside us and she confirmed that the Hotel Monteleone is the quintessential New Orleans hotel.
  • The location is stellar too. It’s one block from Bourbon Street, and a few blocks from the Mississippi River & Jackson Square, and all of the most popular restaurants and bars.
  • The hotel restaurant is called Criollo, and is fine dining at it’s best. Each day for breakfast they serve a specialty “Benedict of the day” with some amazing flavor combinations. My husband ate there all three mornings so he tried 3 different ones. I only ate there the last morning – I don’t typically eat breakfast but had to try it! The “benedict” we had was a shrimp & crab beignet, topped with poached egg and bernaise sauce. It was sooo good!
  • We also ate dinner there on our last night, and had the most amazing meal – mine is pictured above. The appetizer was lump crabmeat & shoepeg corn cake with Braised Red Swiss Chard, Corn Maque Choux, and White Bordelaise. The entree was Jumbo Shrimp stuffed with Lump Crabmeat, Roasted Peppers, Shallots, Tarragon Butter Sauce, and rice. You can see how pretty the presentation is. The veggies are all tender but crisp, while the seafood and sauce flavors were out of this world! Also notable was the appetizer my husband got – a blue crab & avocado stack topped with jumbo shrimp, and surrounded by tomato coulis. I’m still dreaming about that one! Probably my favorite dish of the trip.

I'm sharing our experience visiting New Orleans, from our fabulous hotel, to some delicious restaurants, and everything in between. New Orleans Lafayette Square I'm sharing our experience visiting New Orleans, from our fabulous hotel, to some delicious restaurants, and everything in between. New Orleans Lafayette SquareNOLA New OrleansNOLA filming NCIS NO I'm sharing our experience visiting New Orleans, from our fabulous hotel, to some delicious restaurants, and everything in between. Brick and Spoon restaurant I'm sharing our experience visiting New Orleans, from our fabulous hotel, to some delicious restaurants, and everything in between. Brick and Spoon restaurant

The Garden District

  • We spent the entire trip eating, drinking, and walking! We walked from our hotel in the French Quarter all the way down to the Garden District, which ended up being about 2.5 miles. I thoroughly believe that the best way to immerse yourself into a new city is to walk it. After walking every corner of San Francisco many years ago, that 2.5 miles was a breeze!
  • Above, are photos along our trek including Lafayette Square, some classic New Orleans architecture, and a street where they were filming an episode of NCIS New Orleans. I couldn’t believe how much “stuff” there was for the filming. Also, one reason we walked instead of riding the trolley is because the trolley wasn’t running due to the filming of the show.
  • When we finally reached the Garden District and Magazine Street {the main street for shops and restaurants} we were starving. We went into the Brick & Spoon which is on Travel & Leisure’s list of Top 10 breakfasts in the US, and ordered three specialty mimosas {pineapple, wild berry, & mango} and these ridiculously good breakfast fries with bacon bechamel, a fried egg, and hollandaise. I was in pure heaven!

I'm sharing our experience visiting New Orleans, from our fabulous hotel, to some delicious restaurants, and everything in between. garden district I'm sharing our experience visiting New Orleans, from our fabulous hotel, to some delicious restaurants, and everything in between. garden district I'm sharing our experience visiting New Orleans, from our fabulous hotel, to some delicious restaurants, and everything in between. garden district I'm sharing our experience visiting New Orleans, from our fabulous hotel, to some delicious restaurants, and everything in between. garden district I'm sharing our experience visiting New Orleans, from our fabulous hotel, to some delicious restaurants, and everything in between. garden district I'm sharing our experience visiting New Orleans, from our fabulous hotel, to some delicious restaurants, and everything in between. garden district I'm sharing our experience visiting New Orleans, from our fabulous hotel, to some delicious restaurants, and everything in between. Lafayette cemetery I'm sharing our experience visiting New Orleans, from our fabulous hotel, to some delicious restaurants, and everything in between. Lafayette cemetery

Lafayette Cemetery

  • I took loads of photos of the Garden District, but to tell you the truth I thought every street was going to be perfectly pristine with every single house looking amazing. In truth, there are a lot of older {boring} houses mixed in with these lovely homes, and a slew of renovations happening all around. The sidewalks are very uneven from the huge, old trees who’s roots are bulging from the ground. It adds to the age and charm of the area, though. Just watch where you’re walking!
  • One of my favorite places to visit was the Lafayette cemetery with all the above-ground crypts and tombs. This one is in the Garden District and much smaller {and free} than the famous St. Louis Cemetery, which only allows paid guided tours.

New Orleans Bourbon Street NOLA jazz bandNOLA Mississippi riverantique-oyster-plate

Out & About, Bourbon Street, Night Life

  • Of course you can’t visit New Orleans without going to Bourbon Street! That’s the first place we went when we arrived. We spent the afternoon walking around, stopping for a drink, and grabbing a few small bites at open-air bars & restaurants. This is where all the CRAZY happens, but I was happy to experience the party atmosphere at all hours of the day.
  • We walked a few blocks over to the Mississippi River and Jackson Square. There was a lively street band playing in the square with some awesome funky beats and obliging dancing onlookers. As we made our way back & forth, we took our time and stopped at several bars/restaurants to have a drink and taste local dishes like char-grilled oysters, jambalaya, étouffée, fried green tomatoes, and gumbo. We figured the best way to taste the classic dishes New Orleans is known for, would be to order off the ‘small plates’ or ‘starters’ menu. That way we didn’t get too full.
  • One of the things my husband and I were most looking forward to when we were dreaming up our trip to New Orleans, was listening to some live jazz music. It was not as easy to find as you would think! We headed out on the town on a Tuesday night in search of jazz music that was within walking distance. There were plenty of bars with live music but they were mostly Rock or Dixie/Blues style. We wanted classic jazz with an upbeat tempo. We finally stumbled upon this bar on Bourbon Street that had just what we were looking for. I don’t know the name of the bar or the band but they were very good!
  • After leaving the jazz bar, we {I} were drawn to another bar that had dance party music playing. I’m ALWAYS drawn to a dance party! We stayed there for a while partying with both 20-year-old’s and 50-year-old’s. That’s what I loved about Bourbon Street – age was of no consequence to anyone.
  • I also did a little souvenir shopping and bought this vintage French oyster plate. I love it so much, and I wanted to find something that was indicative of the city as well as something I could use in my entertaining arsenal. This was the perfect souvenir as oysters are a BIG thing in NOLA. You can see how I incorporated it into my Mardi Gras party tablescape.

INSIDER TIP: When you go to bars and restaurants, ask them what the specials are. Many have UNADVERTISED specials you’ll never know about unless you ask….like 25 cent martinis!

General Observations

  • I’ve always had a romanticized vision of New Orleans, with it’s characteristic architecture and history of jazz. I’m not gonna lie – it wasn’t like that. It’s sort of dingy with lots of homeless people literally laying on the edge of the sidewalk, and many “adult” shops & clubs. I can only imagine this is what NYC was like in the 70’s & 80’s before Giuliani took over and cleaned it up.
  • I was stunned to see so many families visiting with young children! I’m not sure what the appeal is for families, but there were as many visiting NOLA as are at Disney World it seemed. Personally, I would not recommend New Orleans for a family visit. If you’re looking for quaint southern food & charm that’s more family friendly I’d suggest Savannah, GA or Charleston, SC.
  • We went at a really good time of year, or just got lucky. The weather was mild and temperatures were a perfect 70-75 degrees with no humidity. It wasn’t too crowded but it was bustling enough that you felt like you’re in the middle of something. We asked one of the locals if there is an off/on season for tourists, other than the obvious Mardi Gras and Jazz Festival, and he said it’s pretty much like this year round. Not overly crowded but definitely alive and always a party!
  • As I mentioned, oysters are so popular in New Orleans and a line starts forming outside of ACME Oyster House at around 3pm. I’m not sure why everyone goes there because Felix’s is right across the street, and Bourbon House is around the block. Both have fantastic oysters that the locals told us about! FYI, we went to Bourbon House for them. I’m not even a fan of oysters but I tried one of my husband’s char-grilled oysters and it was delicious.
  • As we did our daily bar hopping, I found a new appreciation for Bloody Mary’s. It’s very popular and every place has a different flavor, but all are full of tasty garnishes. I think I may be on a Bloody Mary kick for a while, like this Sriracha bloody Mary recipe
  • As I touched on above, I was impressed by the agelessness of this city. I think it’s where “grown ups” go to party without feeling like they’re in the middle of a twenty-something world. Sure, Las Vegas is similar in that respect, but it’s a whole different vibe. I’ll take New Orleans.
  • NOLA is not for prudes. There are ALL TYPES of people roaming the streets. If you’re judgy-wudgy about that sort of thing, go somewhere else. If you find amusement and entertainment in it, then Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Overall we loved our trip to New Orleans and would love to go back for more food and jazz! There are so many amazing restaurants we’d still like to try, and it would be nice to venture out to some of the well known jazz clubs that are outside of the French Quarter.

Until then, cheers!

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6 Comments

  1. I’ve always been curious about NOLA, thought about visiting, but don’t know if I’d like the food lol I know they have great Antique shops though, that would be the draw for me. I loved all your pictures, and your tips on the places to go. That carousel bar is so cool! Thanks for sharing Chris!

  2. I grew up going to NOLA, my Dad was born there and family still lives there. We would go every year sometimes a few times. I would LOVE to take my kids there since there’s so much history and i want them to experience it, i think that city is a huge reason i was a history major in college. BUT i would love to take a solo trip there with my husband since i will not be taking the kids out at night around town~

  3. Our favorite place to go! You must return and eat at Chophouse and Bon Ton Cafe and breakfast at Cafe Beignet. Can’t wait to return to eat at all three! We use to stay at Hotel Monteleone but the last two times we have stayed at St James Hotel and truly enjoyed it. Chophouse connects to it. It is not a chain. Those are Chop House, two words.

  4. Such a rich post! It’s one of the places my hubby and I would LOVE to visit, least of all because of the French influence 😉

    The food look simply divine and the architecture to die for!! My kinda place for sure!

    1. Great, Bird! You guys meet us there in a couple of years! 🙂
      How fun would that be!

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