The Lower 48 in the US has no shortage of fun places to visit. America at its core is setup to be the home of the road trip after all. There are quaint beach towns, bustling cities, charming mountain escapes, and picturesque deserts – and then, there is New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA). Not only is there nothing quite like it in the U.S. the same can be said around the world. It even made our list of 13 Romantic Destinations for couples to travel to.
If you ask 1,000 people how to best experience NOLA, you’ll likely get about as many unique answers. There’s so much to do, so plan on getting up and at ’em early, and hit the ground running.
Coffee & Beignets: New Orleans has its own version of just about everything imaginable, and breakfast is no exception. The city is known for its melt-in-your-mouth beignets (the donut’s sophisticated cousin. No, not the cronut … this is more classic than that heavenly delight. Think funnel cake, okay this isn’t starting to sound classy at all.) Coffee and beignets are practically made for each other, maybe more so than donuts. You be the judge, and try them for yourself. Chances are you will get hooked, and then you will start suffering from withdraws once you get back home. Nobody makes them quite like the Cafe du Monde, which has been around since 1862. Try them at your own risk!
Get Your Art On: Jackson Square, “Place d’Armes,” as it was named in the 1700’s, is a timeless attraction in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter. Here you will find local artists, talented street performers, and even ubiquitous musicians. Unlike some of the other part of the city that can get a little wild at times, especially in the French Quarter, Jackson Square has a more refined attitude. Maybe it’s the aristocratic feel of the French Architecture which lays the cornerstone for New Orleans culture, and this place is rich with that kind of style.
You have to try the Jambalaya: Admittedly, this is one funny word, but it is such a definitive dish for what Cajun cuisine is that you could call it the “cheeseburger of Cajun cuisine”. There are so many ways to make it, and each chef has their own flare, but deep down there’s almost no wrong way to make it. Just ask any city native how they feel about Jambalaya, and they can likely go on and on about where the best dish is. But as it is with local flavors, not all dishes are created equal. Warning, it can be a spicy dish sometimes, but the combination of seasonings, rice, sausage, and seafood should put a good base in your stomach for the long nights out in the city.
Let the Horse Walk It Off: With the Jambalaya sitting firmly in your stomach, maybe walking isn’t such a good idea just yet. That’s perfectly fine time for a city stroll on one of the horse-drawn carriages. You will be overcome by views of the age-old port docks and incomparable French, African, and Creole-influenced architecture. And we would be remiss to exclude the vibrant, if not a bit unique locals going about their daily routines. Call it romantic, or whatever you will, but a leisurely voyage through the streets to the rhythmic clopping of horse hooves will have you drifting off into hypnosis.
French Quarter: Before it was fashionable in the US to copy European architecture, New Orleans was being built as-is and it’s legit. This isn’t an expression of the Reformation Era that came after the Civil War, this pre-dates that by a century. They call it the French Quarter, because it literally was a French territory at one time. Whether you’re into music, poetry, history or even want to browse some local shops with potions and spells, there is no shortage of things to experience here. The only danger is time getting away from you here – there is just so much to take in.
We hope you like seafood: By the time you finish exploring the French Quarter, you will probably be hungry again. And, it would be in poor taste to indulge in anything but a crawfish or shrimp boil (or some other seafood offering served up Cajun-style). By now you will have seen many restaurants, each claiming to be the most authentic or best, and you really can’t go wrong no matter where you turn for a fine meal down here. If you can’t make up your mind, as a local and see what they might recommend. You might hear them referred to as Crawfish, Crawdads, Crayfish or some other kind of iteration…when in Rome, as they say. Rip off the tails, suck on the heads, and sink into the sweet and savory chunk that is a Louisiana tradition.
Let’s Groove Tonight: New Orleans is known for its Jazz music. It’s the home of it after all. The street performers groove to it by day, and the bars and clubs explode with it in full force come nighttime. It’s like blues, but with a whole lot of brass. Grab your partner and dance the night away. You may even want to indulge in one of the local cocktails of choice, the Hurricane. If a couple of those don’t have you in a dizzy, maybe the swirling sounds and smooth moves of the music will have you and your partner swaying side to side on the dance floor.