Towards the end of Summer I decided to visit my friend Ashley in The South. While I was hanging out with her in Atlanta we decided to go on a road trip down to New Orleans [at the hottest time of the year.. mind you.] And if you know me you know I love a good road trip!
We just so happened to get into New Orleans on “White Linen Night” – a block party in The Warehouse District held once a year to liven up the art and merchant scene. Prior to hitting the road we had no idea this was happening. We were greeted by a swarm of people dressed in white and a vivacious scene on the streets. It was pretty unexpected and equally appreciated!
I always love traveling to places that are so different than I am used to. Even though Hawai’i is considered apart of the United States it is so far removed (and therefore incredibly different) from the continental US. I could also say the same for each individual state. It is so cool to think we live in a country that is so unique and diverse. I can go from one coast to the next and be transformed into a different world. When I had the opportunity to travel south with one of my very good friends, I jumped at the chance to go to New Orleans. I never had a true southern experience and heard nothing but good things of NOLA’s rich culture and history.
Here is my must-do’s in NOLA:
STAY AT THE ACE HOTEL. We decided to stay at The Ace Hotel in the Warehouse District. It was a great spot to commute to/from the French Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods. If you time it just right (the way we unexpectedly did) arrive on White Linen Night, a block party held once a year for the art galleries and surrounding community. Everyone dresses up in white and walks around the streets! The Ace Hotel bar was a hub for a lot of white-dressed patrons. It was such a great time! Be sure to check the local New Orleans calendar for dates in August! If you stay in New Orleans long enough you can even participate in Dirty Linen Night, an extended party in which you wear your dirty clothes the following Saturday. The Ace Hotel also has one of the most happening pools (and it’s on the rooftop with an amazing view!) It is a great way to escape the heat and grab a drink. And for all of you who need your daily dose of coffee, they have Stumptown Coffee in the lobby with coffee on draft!!
TRY A BEIGNET. Beignets are a popular deep fried pastry breakfast item in creole cuisine and the influence of New Orleans French history. Everyone says to go to Café Du Monde for the best beignet. And although I suggest doing the same, I also suggest going to Café Beignet too! It is usually less crowded and has a cute little courtyard to enjoy your snack. You can get even more adventurous and try them both as they are prepared a little differently from one another!
GO TO AS MANY SEAFOOD RESTAURANTS AS YOU CAN. It was my goal to eat my way through New Orleans and never have a bad meal. I highly suggest making a reservation at Peche Restaurant and get everything on the menu. It was one of the best seafood restaurants I have ever been to and the best waitstaff with that good ol’ southern hospitality! Try the Louisiana and Alabama mussels and see if you can tell the difference!
Spend Sunday night at Bacchanal and enjoy a huge selection of cheese and wine! It is such a cool, unique experience! You enter through the wine shop, pick out your wine and cheese, then head to the courtyard where you can order dinner and enjoy a live band! Bacchanal has a cool history/relationship with the New Orleans community too! Back when Katrina hit Louisiana, Bacchanal opened their doors to unemployed chefs and had pop-ups with different a chef preparing signature meals every Sunday. That’s a pretty cool reason to support a local restaurant!
Another great restaurant to check out is Cochon for cajun culinary experience! Be daring and try to fried alligator and woodfired oysters for a party in your mouth! Want to know where all your food is coming from? Check out their website for a list of all the farms they source all their meat, dairy, and produce!
RENT A BIKE. I find this to be the best way to see the city! There are plenty of bike shops around town and riding a bike always gives you an opportunity to explore. We found cool little shops and restaurants in neighbors we would have otherwise never gone to had we been on foot (or in a car.) It also gave us access to the French Quarter without the hassle of finding parking or spending all day walking through each of the streets.
HANG OUT ON BOURBON STREET. Although it is an incredibly touristy thing to do, it is also a very necessary for your New Orleans experience! If you’re into live music this is the spot you want to be! You can go bar hopping until you find one that plays your kind of music! There are so many talented musicians in New Orleans and it is a great opportunity to listen to authentic blues and jazz jams! There is also an array of characters hanging out on the block and you are sure to make a couple of new friends too!
If you want to get a more authentic feel for local music head to Frenchman St. and pick out your favorite band from any of the bars in that area!
*I want to note that we decided not to go to Lower 9th Ward out of respect for those who had deep loss and suffering during/after Katrina (a hurricane that hit the south in August 2005.) Although there are tours groups that drive through the once tight knit community (whom took the hardest hit during the immense hurricane), we chose to respect the kind of hurt and betrayal that happened there. After more than 11 years the community never recovered from the devastation and a lot of families decided not to go back. It’s a piece of American history that shouldn’t be treated like a tourist destination but a lesson learned instead.
Travel Diaries: New Orleans.