I went to New Orleans December of 2021 because I wanted to visit it outside of Mardi Gras. The city is rich in food, culture, and cocktails that turn nights into days. Here is a list of things to do during the day, must-see sites outside of the city, great bars and amazing restaurants (including vegetarian options!).
Things to Do during the Day
Lafayette Cemetery (closed last I was there)
St. Anthony’s Cathedral (rarely open) - if you do the Voodoo tour, it stops at this cathedral
Southern Food and Beverage Museum – learn about foods from all the southern states + special spotlight on Popeyes and Absinthe
World War 2 Museum: the largest WW2 museum ever! (We went there twice) Expect to spend at least half a day there if you want to see all the exhibitions. It houses German military equipment, information from all the invasions including army, navy, and air force attacks.
The Old US Mint – if you are a jazz fanatic, this old coin minting factory has been converted into a huge Jazz museum
French Market/Shops of the Colonnade (next to Café du Monde) – local vendors selling jewellery, arts and crafts
For a nice walk and if you want to take a break from sightseeing, City Park as a miniature train set and botanical gardens
Laura Plantation – beautifully maintained Creole plantation (better than Oak Valley in my opinion in terms of its history – though Oak Valley’s landscape is gorgeous)
Swamp Tour – if you during the afternoon hours, you’ll get to see alligators sunbathing (assuming a hurricane hasn’t gone through recently).
(Link to the combined tour we took (transportation included): https://www.viator.com/tours/New-Orleans/Combo-Oak-Alley-or-Laura-Plantation-and-Swamp-Boat-Tour/d675-8013P10?mcid=61846)
3. Optional – Horror. New Orleans is “the most haunted place in North America”. Some of it is related to the plague and the piles of bodies that used to line the French Quarter streets. The rest has to do with “vampires” and voodoo. I learnt about most of it on the:
a. Voodoo, Vampires, and Ghost tour
b. The house on St. Charles place featured in the American Horror Story – The Buckner Mansion
Jazz! Home to Jazz, NOLA has jazz performances almost every night:
1. Frenchmen street – go “jazz performance hopping”
a. Favourite – The Spotted Cat Music Club (check website for schedule, usually performances at 6:30 and 9:30)
2. Fritzel’s European Jazz Pub – right on Bourbon street. The oldest operating New Orleans Jazz club.
Clubs – every club on the street is fun if you are drunk, but here are some cool ones:
Cats: fun for karaoke and great hurricanes
Studio 504: hard to find, almost up a set of random stairs. My favourite latin club - danced my ass off till 4 am.
Bourbon Cowboy: has a mechanical bull
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar: whether it’s your first or your last stop, Lafitte’s is where the (celebrity) party is at. The walls are lined with every famous person who’s been there. The hurricanes and purple drinks are a staple and there’s karaoke and a photobooth
Old Absinthe House: I learnt about this place at Food Museum. This is where Absinthe cocktails used to be served during its prohibition. They still use the granite taps to slow drip water into Absinthe. If you have never had absinthe, this is a great place to start.
Purple drink/voodoo daquiri (brain freeze)
Notes on Nightlife: my uber driver in NOLA told me that the best nights to go out (clubbing) are Wednesdays and Fridays
Favourite Restaurants and Foods
1. Ruby Slipper Café – Hearty brunches including traditional southern breakfasts
2. The Avenue Pub (great French food, beautiful ambience!) – Can sit on the St. Charles St. Car after
3. Dat Dogs – great fucking vegan hot dogs
4. Tableau - classic French Creole (bit more expensive than the others)
5. NOLA PoBoys – right in the French quarter. Great for eating before or between drinking
6. Pizza places on Bourbon Street – greasy latenight food (runs out of pizza by 3:30 pm!)
7. Other restaurants with vegan/vegetarian options:
a. Avila Grill – Argentinian Food
b. Commander’s Palace: must eat there to feel like royalty and have great food!
c. Auction House Market: right next to the Food Museum – has the best Burmese garlic noodles I have had in the US
Foods to try for non-vegetarians (I am vegetarian, so this list isn’t perfect):
b. Crawfish etouffé
d. Alligator (though I heard from the swamp guide most alligators sold in restaurants are frozen meat that’s really old)
e. Best fried chicken in the country – Willie Mae’s
2. Foods to try for vegetarians – in addition to the restaurants above that I know have veg food:
a. Mushroom Jambalaya – will find it at SEED (make reservations in advance)
1. Beignets! Café Du Monde (need I say more)
2. Pralines – Southern Candymakers
Spice lovers – go Hot Sauce tasting at House of Pepper Tasting Bar
Notes: Don’t order Indian food in NOLA, you’ll only be disappointed
Holiday concerts in Jackson square – we sang “We Wish You A Merry Christmas, Rudolph,…” with 20,000 other people.
Cover Image Credits: Hitarth Raja