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This past Summer, I took my very first solo trip to The Big Easy! New Orleans is a spot I’ve wanted to visit for years! I was intrigued by the mix of Southern charm, Creole-style architecture, and unique VooDoo culture. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint! I frequently reflect on my time here and consider it to be one the most enjoyable trips I’ve ever taken.
Where To Eat
A quick Google search will you present you with popular place like Commanders Palace, GW Fins, La Petite Grocery, and more well-deserved recommendations! My trip was a rather quick one, so I didn’t get the opportunity to explore the cuisine as much as I would have liked. That being said, the food it still the thing that stuck out to me the most! There wasn’t a single meal I ate that I wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to order again. Here’s the highlights:
Court of Two Sisters: This place is a little pricier, but if it’s in your budget, I highly recommend. First off, the ambiance is like something out of a movie. Dining in outdoor courtyard beneath a canopy of lights and a large bubbling water fountain in the center was just magical. The service was phenomenal and the food? Creole classics that are as good as they look. I ordered the Chef’s Menu and was holding in audible moans after every bite. It was just that good, but one can only imagine how it looks for someone sitting alone to be making all those noises.
Dian Xin: I actually went here twice because I didn’t get to try everything I wanted to the first time. This place serves cozy Chinese staples like dumplings, noodles, and other delicious meat dishes. Every single item I ordered was full of tender meat and flavorful fillings. This place has some of the best Xiao Long Baos (soup dumplings) I’ve ever had. If you’re a fan of Chinese dim sum, you have to check this place out!
Cafe Beignet: While the existence of this spot is no insider secret (it’s one of the most well-known food spots in New Orleans), what I can tell you though, is which location to go to. (And settle the score and tell you that Cafe Beignet is far superior to Cafe du Monde.) There are four different Cafe Beignet locations and I went to all, but one. The Royal Street Cafe Beignet is the place to go! It’s a little more tucked away and therefore, subject to far less lines. Depending on the day, you might be waiting anywhere from 15-45 minutes for your beignets at some of the other locations. I walked straight up to the counter both times I went to the Royal Street Cafe Beignet. I did go pretty early in the morning, but I still think it’s a far less popular location. There’s a cozy courtyard attached to the building, where you can enjoy your fresh, fried goods surrounded by thick palm trees and gentle jazz coming in through the speakers. If you get here early enough, it’ll be pretty empty and it’s the perfect opportunity to just sit and soak it all in.
Note: The reason I like Cafe Beignet over Cafe du Monde is because they’re simply just fresher. To accommodate for the high demand, Cafe du Monde has bags prepped and ready to go, so while you may be served faster, there’s a chance your beignets have been steaming up that bag for 10-15 minutes already.
Domenica’s: Pasta lovers, this is for you! Domenica’s is a gorgeous Italian restaurant serving some seriously delicious dishes. Hand-selected meats and cheeses, salads, pizzas, and pasta are what you’ll find here. They’ve got an amazing, diverse menu and I can guarantee you will not be disappointed by anything you try. Dishes here range from $14-25, aside from their $80 charcuterie board that I was drooling over as I watched it get delivered to other tables around me. (This girl is not yet in the $80 cheese tax bracket…)
What to Do
Bayou Kayak Tour: I am a huge fan of kayaking! I try and book a tour like this whenever I’m traveling somewhere near any sort of body of water, but this was unlike anything I’ve done before. I booked my tour through Wild Louisiana Tours and it was such a cool experience! Free transportation from the French Quarter was included and our tour guide was awesome. We saw multiple alligators and a massive eagles nest on our trip. The swamp was beautiful and once you get out far enough, so serene. A wonderful way to take in the gorgeous environment of Louisiana.
ResortPass: This is only necessary if you’re staying somewhere without a pool. To save some money, I booked a cheaper accommodation without any amenities, but I still wanted to spend at least one lazy morning lounging by the pool. ResortPass lets you purchase day passes to upscale hotels, giving you full access to their pools. You can come and go throughout the entire day and enjoy everything they offer to regular guests. I purchased a pass to the W New Orleans and had the entire pool to myself all morning. I ate beignets by the pool read my book in peace, and swam under the hot sun. It was glorious. The pass is typically around $50 per person, so depending on the size of your group, this may not necessarily be the cheaper option, but for me, it definitely was. Plus, I think it’s fun that you get to browse all of the hotels in the area and visit your top pick. This is available in cities all around the world, so something to keep in mind wherever you go!
Preservation Hall: It’s not a trip to New Orleans without experiencing their vibrant culture surrounding jazz music. Preservation Hall provides intimate jazz concerts in a building rich with history. The building is kept in conditions similar to when it was built, so it feels like stepping into a time capsule. Everyone sits on wooden benches while the band banters back and forth between lively songs. The experience itself is pretty cheap, but it’s also pretty short. The concert is no more than 40 minutes start to finish, but still a worthy stop if you want to be transported for a night!
Stroll + Shop French Quarter: And of course, nothing beats aimlessly wandering the streets of the French Quarter. The colorful architecture and the humid air makes you feel like you’re taking a stroll down a real Caribbean street. Tip: Walking through the French Quarter at night is kind of like one big frat party. I never felt unsafe about it, but if you prefer quiet evenings and a more reserved crowd, I would definitely schedule your visits to the French Quarter before dinnertime. Just walking around, popping in and out of art shops, and snapping photos of all the gorgeous facades is such a simple activity, but one of the things I remember best. It started raining on my last day as I was walking around, but it was warm and only drizzling. A trumpet player could be heard from a few streets away and it was like a snapshot of New Orleans that I wish I could just bottle up forever.