Let me just start this off by saying 48 hours in New Orleans isn’t enough.
It’s something my best friends, Sarah, and I quickly learned on our “friendcation” to NOLA recently.
This trip was impromptu from the start. With a long weekend ahead of us, we had the itch go pack our bags and escape Maryland for as many hours as we could.
Between amazing food, a love of all things Jazz and the irresistibly rich culture, we had been dying to see the city for ourselves for years.
So, as our wallets cringed, we took a leap of faith, booked our tickets and never looked back.
Here are some of our key takeaways...
Don’t Fall For The Same Rookie Mistake We Did
After a handful of layovers, we landed in NOLA around 10 p.m. and made our first “rookie” mistake - we ordered an Uber to shuttle us to our hotel.
Typically, I am usually one of the first people to sing the praise of the ride-hailing app - but even I couldn’t justify the near $60 price tag for our 15-minute ride.
If you are planning a trip of your own, long or short-term, do yourself a favor and check out the multitude of shuttle/cab options at your disposal.
Stay Outside of Bourbon Street
After balking at the price of our last-minute tickets, we immediately tried to find the cheapest deal we could on hotels.
After hours of looking, we settled on a great deal we found through Groupon - one of my favorite cheap travel hack sites.
The hotel we settled on was the Royal St. Charles hotel in the business district - just a short three block hike to bourbon street. The hotel itself has a super modern look to it and is equipped with a ton of staff who are quick to greet you with a smile or help you find off-the-beaten-path spots to see.
The one negative I do have to say is room size. I’ve slept in college dorms that had more breathing space available.
But, in the end, we used it as a good excuse to spend more time exploring.
Get Into Trouble on Bourbon Street
After dropping off our bags in our room, the first thing we did was hit Bourbon Street.
With its neon cocktails and rowdy hordes, this storied street is worth a visit for some good old fashioned boozing.
It’s hard to describe the vibe on Bourbon Street to someone who hasn’t been there before. The crowded streets just feel alive with hordes of visitors (with drinks in hand) navigating their way in and out of the strip, performers and musicians travel up and down the street adding to the jovial vibe.
Now, for the budget conscious traveler, I will say to take it easy on Bourbon Street. Like any other tourist-heavy spot, drinks, and food come at a premium cost.
Before either of us knew it, Sarah and I had easy blown through $100 in just under 2 hours.
Don’t Skip Out on Brunch
I get it.
Waking up early enough to catch the brunch scene after a night trolling Bourbon Street might sound impossible - but I promise it is well worth it.
As lovers of all things brunch, we made sure to check out the nearby brunch hotspots. The first one we landed on was Cafe Amelie.
I cannot stress enough how much you need to eat here.
Armed with our body weight in mimosas, we nursed our hangovers in the courtyard with the most amazing chicken and waffles I've ever tasted that were smothered in andouille gravy.
If It Starts With French, Go There
French Quarter, French Market or Frenchman Street - each of these spots are a must see for anyone headed into NOLA.
Yes, it might seem like the “tourist” thing to do, but I loved almost everything the French Quarter had to offer.
After downing our brunch, we walked the streets of the Quarter until we hit The French Market which is like like a farmer’s market and flea market rolled into one – everything from food items, to typical souvenirs to artwork.
We spent hours strolling through everything and burning a hole in our pockets buying souvenirs.
Once our arms were loaded up with bags, we made our way to Frenchman Street, which is often referred to as the “local Bourbon Street.” I will admit, I loved Frenchman Street a million times more than I loved the main strip.
The whole vibe was calmer and the streets were brimming with local artists and live jazz music.
If we’re lucky enough to go back, this will be the first place I go.
Escape the City For a Swamp Tour - As Long As You’re Not Afraid of Alligators….or Snakes
I’m going to start this one off by admitting that NOT doing this is the one regret I have about our trip.
I knew getting Sarah to agree to a swamp tour was going to be nearly impossible with her (irrational) fear of alligators.
But I was thissssssss close to getting a yes before the helpful attendant in our hotel mentioned one thing.
“It’s not the gators you need to look out for, it’s the snakes.” That piqued my interest. “Why the snakes,” I asked. “Well it’s the reason why all of the gator tour boats have coverings. The snakes fall from the trees onto the coverings before sliding into the water.”
I knew she was going to put a squash on the whole thing long before I heard the words “Hell no,” slip from her mouth.
To be honest, the snake thing had me on edge, too. But this is still something I will regret not doing for a long time.
Tap Into the Voodoo Spirit at Marie Laveau’s
You can't go to New Orleans without checking out a voodoo shop, and this "famous" one is worth a visit.
Whether laced with elements of voodoo or not, general fortune telling is a popular “sport” in Nola. Marie Laveau’s is delightfully kitschy and so New Orleans in its essence.
We took our Marie Laveau experience to the next level by booking a reading with Phillip the in-house psychic.
Now, I’ll keep my personal feelings about fortune reading out of here, but if is something you into or have never tried it before, it’s definitely worth the experience.
Don’t Forget the Best Part
If you go to New Orleans and DON’T stop for a beignet at Cafe Du Monde…..I don’t know what to tell you.
During the 48 hours we had to explore NOLA, we stopped not once...not twice...but five different times for these irresistible, fried, sugar-coated delicacies.
I get that the hype surrounding this touristy location tends to get tempered by the almost never ending crowd, but trust me it is beyond worth it.
To be honest, I’d be willing to fork over a fortune if the shop would consider shipping a box of these to my door every day.
I’m that obsessed.