Return to site

Elisa's New Orleans Tip Sheet

GENERAL ADVICE

  • Get a good night’s sleep before you go.
  • Pace yourself, especially if it’s hot. Stay hydrated.
  • Don’t rent a car unless you’re traveling outside the city (it’s expensive to park in the French Quarter, and you can walk/bike/streetcar/pedi-cab/Lyft/Uber wherever you need to go).
  • Walk Bourbon Street once if you’ve never been, then go see the real city—those obnoxious drunk people are (mostly) not New Orleanians.
  • New Orleans is a very friendly city. If you’re from the North, don’t be alarmed when strangers say, “good morning, how y’all doing?” when you pass them on the street.
  • Don’t be looking down at your smart phone while walking. The city’s “vintage” sidewalks and streets might trip you up. Plus, you might miss a unique sight.
  • Unless you’re going to a really fancy restaurant, you won’t need a suit, tie or pantyhose, especially in the summer.
  • Be careful and don’t walk by yourself at night in remote areas (use your “big city” common sense); ladies, try not to carry a purse while walking around at night; men keep your hands on your wallet in downtown crowds.
  • If someone comes up to you on Bourbon Street (or anywhere else) and offers to bet you $20 he can guess where you got your shoes, decline and say, “I got my shoes on my feet and I’m standing on Bourbon Street.” [No lie: my Uncle Denny fell for this old scam and was out $20.]
  • Elisa and Jon live in the Marigny, a block outside the French Quarter. Call Elisa at 504-390-2741 if you need bail money.

THINGS TO DO

Check the official visitors guides for standard tourist information. The New Orleans Welcome Center, 529 St. Ann St. and the National Park Service sites at the Jean Lafitte National Park office at 419 Decatur St., 504-589-3882, and the New Orleans Jazz National Park, 916 N. Peters St., 877-520-0677 are good places to start.

French Market. 1008 N. Peters St. down by the river in the French Quarter. Best place to buy inexpensive New Orleans souvenirs, spices and cooking supplies. While you’re down there, check out Crescent Park, a great place to walk or ride a bike along the river.

Art Galleries. See Arts New Orleans. Tons of galleries in the Warehouse/Arts district (like LeMieux Galleries), on Royal Street in the French Quarter, and on Magazine Street Uptown. Also, on St. Claude Avenue in the Marigny/Bywater and other areas of the city. More information on local art markets here.

Museums. Here are a few small museums that might be of interest:

Free People of Color Museum, 2336 Esplanade Avenue, one of the country’s few attractions dedicated exclusively to preserving the material culture of and telling the story of free people of color.

Backstreet Cultural Museum, 1116 Henriette Delille St., in the famous Treme (pronounced “treh-may”) neighborhood.

New Orleans African-American Museum, 1417 Governor Nicholls, Treme.

House of Dance & Feathers, 1317 Tupelo St. 504-957-2678 in the Lower 9th Ward is great if you want to take a deep dive into the Mardi Gras Indians, Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs and other local cultural traditions.

Degas House, 2306 Esplanade Avenue, owned by my friend Dave, is the 19th century estate where French impressionist Edgar Degas briefly lived in the early 1870s.The renowned artist, whose mother was born in New Orleans, produced close to two dozen paintings and drawings here.

Historic New Orleans Collection, 533 Royal St. 504-523-4662 is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. They have rotating exhibits and sometimes live music in the courtyard.

If you want to take a trip about 45 minutes outside the city, I recommend the Whitney Plantation. The tour books and sites will have plenty of info on the other plantation tours. I really have no use for them, as most of them gloss over the shameful history of slavery in Louisiana and focus on the beautiful architecture and stories of the masters, told by women in reproduction hoop skirts. The Whitney was built from the perspective of the enslaved people who lived on the plantation. It’s a powerful, moving and educational way to spend part of your time here. It’s about an hour ride out there, and you should buy tickets for a specific tour time in advance on their website. You can stop for some good local seafood while you’re out there, maybe at B&C Seafood, and contemplate the impact of America’s original sin on contemporary society.

Other museums to check out: New Orleans Museum of Art, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Contemporary Art Center, National WWII Museum, and the Louisiana Children’s Museum and the Southern Food & Beverage Museum are all well worth visiting.

Audubon Zoo and the Aquarium of the Americas are both great, especially for kids. Both are run by the non-profit Audubon Institute.

Swamp Tours are fun and informative if you want to get out into the bayou.

Learn to cook—at the New Orleans Cooking School.

Shopping on Magazine Street. Six miles of shops, restaurants, antiques, boutiques and more. Royal Street in the French Quarter is great for antiques and jewelry.

Tours—A few you may not see on the tourist sites:

Hidden History Tours and Know NOLA Tours for more of a focus on the diverse cultures that make New Orleans unique.

If you want a deep dive into the music of the city, check out A Closer Walk, or sign up for writer Chris Rose’s hilarious music-focused tour. (No website, you just have to send Chris a message to set it up).

There are all kinds of other walking tours through the French Quarter and Garden District, tours of New Orleans’ famous above-ground cemeteries, and “ghost” tours (which may or may not include “alternative facts”). Any tourist website or guidebook can provide more information or check out the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau site. You might also be interested in the New Orleans Culinary History Tour or Drink & Learn, the cocktail tour.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (a.k.a. Jazz Fest). The best time you’ll ever have if you’re into great music, great food, and great fun. Jazz Fest (which is about all kinds of music, not just jazz) is always the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May. Book flights and lodging the winter before. I haven’t missed a Jazz Fest since 1994. Highly recommended, unless you get nervous in crowds. There are multiple festivals all year round, so come any time.

Of course, there’s Mardi Gras. Unless you’re under 25, we advise experiencing Mardi Gras in the neighborhoods of New Orleans, rather than on Bourbon Street. There are lots of parades in the weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday, so check the schedule. The WDSU Parade Tracker app is a great way to stay informed.

If you really want to soak up some authentic local culture and brass band music, see if you can find a Second Line on a Sunday afternoon. Routes and details are usually posted at WWOZ’s “Takin it to the Streets” site.

LODGING

One of my favorite hotels in the French Quarter is the Hotel Monteleone, 214 Rue Royale, 504-523-3341 or 800-535-9595.

In the Garden District, the Ponchartrain Hotel, 2031 St. Charles Ave, 800-708-6652 is a slice of local history. Tennessee Williams wrote “A Streetcar Named Desire” while staying there. The Hot Tin Roof bar has a cool view of the city.

The Hotel Peter and Paul is a charming, unique hotel in the heart of our Marigny neighborhood.

If you want to splurge, stay at the Waldorf’s Roosevelt Hotel, or just stop by for a cocktail at the Fountain Lounge or the Sazerac Bar.

Of course, all the usual chain hotels are here. The Marriott has a bunch, including two particularly nice Renaissance hotels, the Pere Marquette (across Canal St. from the French Quarter) and the Renaissance Arts (in the Warehouse District). They also have a nice standard Marriott across the street from the Convention Center.

There are many boutique hotels as well (just be prepared for quirky and sometimes haunted). We recommend the Valentino Hotels.

There are lots of Bed & Breakfasts. A couple we recommend: Crescent City Guesthouse (Marigny) and our friend Dave’s Degas House (Mid-City). [You can also do Air BnB but be aware that the regulations are changing to restrict them as they have had some horrific consequences for our neighborhoods.]

FOOD

Check out NOLA Eater, Where NOLA Eats, or New Orleans Menu for the latest hot spots. There are a zillion great restaurants in the city and new ones opening up all the time, so consult Yelp to get ideas and reviews.

Check out our friend Poppy Tooker’s Louisiana Eats podcast and books. Here are a few of our favorite places:

Fine Dining

Brigtsen’s,723 Dante St., 504-861-7610. Probably our favorite restaurant in the city. Chef Frank Brigtsen is always in the kitchen, and his family works the front of house. Uptown

Dooky Chase, 2301 Orleans Avenue, the city’s premier restaurant for Creole cuisine, and a civil rights landmark Treme

Li’l Dizzy’s, 1500 Esplanade Avenue Treme

Clancy’s, 6100 Annunciation St., 504-895-1111 Uptown

Patois, 6078 Laurel, at Webster. 504-895-9441 Uptown

Boucherie, 1506 S. Carrollton Ave. (Carrollton), 504-862-5514 Uptown

Peche. 800 Magazine St., 504-522-1744. Central Business District

Herbsaint. 701 Saint Charles Ave., 504-524-4114. Central Business District

Meauxbar, 942 N. Rampart St. Marigny

Muriel’s Jackson Square. 801 Chartres St., 504-568-1885. French Quarter

Bywater American Bistro, 2900 Chartres St., 504-598-5700 Chef Nina Compton’s latest fabulous eatery. Bywater

Bayona, 430 Dauphine Street, 504-525-4455, Chef Susan Spicer’s romantic gem. French Quarter

Palace Café. 605 Canal Street, 504-523-1661. Reliably great food and service. Fun atmosphere. Don’t miss the white chocolate bread pudding. French Quarter

Neighborhood Favorites

Pascale’s Manale, 1838 Napoleon Ave., 504-895-4877. Oysters and Italian food in a fun atmosphere. Great place for a group. For a real treat, sit at the oyster bar up front and listen to the wisdom of Uptown T. Mid-City

Mandina’s, 3800 Canal St., 504-482-9179. A Creole-Italian neighborhood restaurant. Be prepared to wait. Mid-City

Cafe Dauphine, 5229 Dauphine St., 504-309-6391 Lower Ninth Ward

Frankie & Johnny’s, 321 Arabella St., 504-899-9146. Great place for boiled crawfish in season. Uptown

Cafe Reconcile, 1631 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 504-568-1157. The non-profit mission is unique: to lift undereducated, under-skilled youth into careers in the hospitality industry. Central City

Café Degas, 3127 Esplanade Ave., 504-945-5635 Mid-City

Elizabeth’s, 601 Gallier St., 504.944.9272. Great weekend brunch. Bywater

Ruby Slipper, Great for breakfast/brunch but get in line on Yelp Waitlist because there’s usually a wait. Locations all over the city

Satsuma’s, 3218 Dauphine St. 504-304-5962. You can actually get a delicious and healthy meal at Satsuma’s. It’s also a coffee shop. Bywater

Paladar 511, 511 Marigny St. 504-509-6782 Marigny

Elysian, at the Hotel Peter & Paul, 2317 Burgundy St., 504-356-6769 Marigny

Po-boy shops

Domilese’s, 5240 Annunciation St., 504-899-9126 Uptown

Parkway Bakery & Tavern, 538 Hagan Ave., 504-482-3047 Mid-City

Frady’s One Stop, 3231 Dauphine St, 504-949-9688 Bywater

Snowball stand

There are lots, but we recommend Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, 4801 Tchoupitoulas St. 504-891-9788. “There are no short-cuts to quality.” Best snowballs (not to be confused with snow cones or shave ice) in the city. Open seasonally. Uptown

MUSIC

For live music listings, check out the Live Wire on WWOZ, Offbeat magazine or Gambit weekly websites.

Clubs on Frenchman Street, lots of great music, just outside the French Quarter, 4 blocks from our house Marigny

Back Room at Buffa’s, 1001 Esplanade Ave., 504-949-0038; our neighborhood place, a block from our house Marigny

Preservation Hall, 726 St. Peter St. French Quarter

Chickie Wah Wah, 2828 Canal St. Mid-City

Tipitina’s, 501 Napoleon Ave., 504-891-6477 Uptown

Maple Leaf, 8316 Oak St., 504-866-5323 or 866-9359 Uptown

Best Local Music Store: Louisiana Music Factory, 421 Frenchman St. 504-586-1094 Marigny

Community Radio: WWOZ When you get home and miss New Orleans, you can stream it.


Music Blogs: My Spilt Milk, a great resource for serious music fans.

BOOKS

A few good books to read to better understand the political, cultural and natural history of New Orleans:

  • Why New Orleans Matters, by Tom Piazza
  • Nine Lives, by Dan Baum
  • City of Refuge, by Tom Piazza 
  • Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward
  • Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans, by Freddi Williams Evans
  • Jazz, Religion, the Second Line & Black New Orleans, by Richard Brent Turner
  • The Baby Dolls: Breaking the Race & Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition, by Kim Marie Vaz
  • Black Life in Old New Orleans, and We as Freemen, by Keith Weldon Medley
  • Blues People, by Leroi Jones
  • Groove Interrupted, by Keith Spera
  • Feet on the Street, by Roy Blount, Jr.
  • Gumbo YaYa, by Lyle Saxon
  • Rising Tide, by John Barry
  • The World that Made New Orleans, by Ned Sublette
  • Control of Nature, by John McPhee
  • Bayou Farewell, by Mike Tidwell
  • One Dead in Attic, by Chris Rose
  • The Great Deluge, by Doug Brinkley
  • Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole

We highly recommend HBO’s series Treme (pronounced “treh-may”) as a binge watch to soak up accurate and poignant portrayals of the people, music, food and culture of post-Katrina New Orleans. It might make more sense to you after your visit.

Miscellaneous

Pralines (pronounced “prah-leens”). Local pecan confection. Eat them right away—they don’t travel very well.

Andouille (pronounced “an-doo-ee”) Sausage. A Cajun spiced and smoked sausage.

Beignet (pronounced “ben-ñay”) Fried dough served with powdered sugar on top.

Boudin (pronounced “boo-dan”). A ground Cajun sausage made with spices, one main meat ingredient and always mixed with rice.

Creole vs. Cajun. Two different, important groups of people in Louisiana. Learn more here. "Creole" are generally urban people, descended from African/Caribbean/French/Spanish heritage. Cajuns are generally more rural people, descended from the French Acadians colonists who got kicked out of Canada and re-settled in Louisiana.

File. (pronounced “fee-lay”) Dried, finely ground leaves of the sassafras tree. Used as a thickener in gumbo.

Po-boy. A sandwich, kind of like a sub, grinder, or hero but way better. You may be asked if you want it “dressed”, which means with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.

Muffuletta. (pronounced “muff-uh-LOT-uh." The proprietors of Central Grocery pronounce it "moo-foo-LET-ta”) An Italian sandwich best sampled from the Central Grocery.

Tchoupitoulas is pronounced “chop-ih-toolas” (basically, the first “T” is silent). It’s the street where Tipitina’s is, at the corner of Napoleon.

Esplanade is pronounced to rhyme with “lemonade” (not like the Esplanade in Boston)

It’s a streetcar, not a trolley.

Lagniapppe (pronounced “lan-yap”). It means “a little something extra.”

New Orleans (pronounced “New Orlins” or sometimes “New Or-le-ins” but not “N’awlins”). Try not to sound like a tourist. Or like this.

Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!

(Let the Good Times Roll!)

All Posts
×

Almost done…

We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!

OKSubscriptions powered by Strikingly