I totally fell in love with New Orleans. This city is so much more than yardstick drinks on Bourbon Street. You could absolutely have that experience - hey, nothing makes you feel like you're on vaca quite like a lax open container law - but if you're the type that likes to round out your boozing with some stellar food, music, and sights then this city needs to be on your radar, stat.
Ace Hotel New Orleans (Warehouse District): Centrally located, this option is ideal if you're interested in exploring different neighborhoods and want to get away from the chaos of the French Quarter. In typical Ace fashion, this one has similar chic offerings and the ambiance you've come to expect from the hotel group. Lounge in the lobby (pictured above) with a cold brew from Stumptown Coffee Roasters; have a zen moment in the poolside rooftop garden, Alto; and start your evening with a pre-dinner Jockey Club Cocktail ($6 during happy hour) at the in-house restaurant, Josephine Estelle. Don't forget to pop in the ubiquitous photobooth, located on the first floor near the elevators.
Petite Amelie (French Quarter): The perfect spot to chat and relax with a pastry before exploring the area. Or, enjoy a light lunch in the idyllic garden bistro, Cafe Amelie, located just next door.
Sylvain (French Quarter): Oh, Sylvain. I would go back to this city just to go back to this restaurant. The ambiance has a cozy, old world charm, making it the perfect date night spot. Start off with the fries and champagne and don't forget the fennel and endive salad and buttermilk-fried chicken sandwich (you haven't had it like this before). They do elevated gastropub fare better than anyone.
Seaworthy (Warehouse District): Located on the same block as the Ace Hotel, this cool-vibe restaurant has a weekday happy hour from 4-6. The cava and 1/2 dozen "Area 3" oysters are $6 each, though I recommend splurging a couple extra for the chef select variety.
Pêche (Warehouse District): Two-time James Beard award-winning New Orlean's style seafood. Whether you choose the smothered catfish prepared on the open hearth or opt for something lighter via the raw bar, you can't go wrong. Unless you've got a reservation, prepare to enjoy a cocktail or two while keeping your eye out for some open bar seats.
Cafe du Monde (French Quarter): You can expect quite a line during the mornings and afternoons at this quintessential NOLA cafe so best to make this your last stop of the night. There are multiple locations but the original on Decatur Street is open 24/7. A beignet (or two) and café au lait make the perfect night cap. Cash only!
Revelator Coffee Company (Warehouse District): We stopped here every day for the Guatemalan pour over, it was just that good. It's very bright, airy, and just the type of place you'd want to start your morning. It's also located next door to St. James Cheese Company, a local cheese shop with the best happy hour: $10 for a three-item cheese and charcuterie board with all the accoutrements.
Cane and Table (French Quarter): If you're a bougie boozer, this place if for you. This Caribbean-inspired gem has an extensive list of "prototiki cocktails" and Tahitian-chic decor. The Sacred Herb is served in a coconut. Now you're really on vacation.
Hot Tin Rooftop Bar (Garden District): Located on the top floor of the Pontchartrain Hotel, this place boasts a fantastic city view and vintage-style cocktails served in Nick and Nora stemware. On your way up, make sure to stop by the Caribbean Room on the first floor to admire the palm carpeting, velvet tufted sofas, and painting of Lil Wayne.
NOLA Brewing and Tap Room (Irish Channel): The key to my heart: craft brew and BBQ. Okay, maybe that's a stretch... but a flight and pulled pork sandwich with all. the. sauces (from the attached McClure's) will totally hit the spot. It's a little out of the way (as breweries usually are) but is less than a mile walk from the Garden District.
Garden District: This neighborhood is just so beautiful. It's also very walkable and, if you love architecture, you'll want to spend some time admiring the classically ornate southern style of the homes. Stop by the oldest of the seven municipal cemeteries in the city, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 (entrances on Washington Ave and 6th Street; check here for hours), and then ride the St. Charles Streetcar Line (the oldest operating streetcar in the world) up to Canal Street at the edge of the French Quarter.
French Quarter: You can't visit this city without experiencing the French Quarter. Get your tarot cards read in Jackson Square, stroll through the many art galleries, and enjoy local talent at one of the three nightly shows at Preservation Hall. If you're looking for a pared-down alternative to Bourbon Street, walk up Royal until you reach Frenchmen, a three-block section of the bohemian Marigny neighborhood with eclectically authentic New Orleans music.
National WWII Museum (Warehouse District): Even if you don't typically hit up the tourist spots, put this one on your list and make sure to give yourself at least a few hours to engage with the narrative and visually striking exhibits. You won't be bored, promise. You'll leave with a deeper appreciation for history, freedom, and those who are responsible for it (i.e., I cried).
Maple Leaf Bar (Uptown): Rebirth Brass Band plays every Tuesday at 11 p.m. and cover is $20. Arrive a bit closer to 10 to avoid the line and hang out in the back garden courtyard. It's dive-y, sweaty, typically over capacity, and definitely an experience.
if i had one more day...
St. Roch Market (Marigny): Wish I would've stopped here for lunch! The vendors list looks fantastic.
Longue Vue House and Gardens (Lakeview): A little out of the way but where else would you expect to find 8 acres of lush, sprawling gardens?
Paladar 511 (Bywater): Recommended by a friend who lives in the area. Very much into the decor and the brunch menu.
Bywater: Just east of Marigny, we didn't quite make it to this vibrant and artsy area. Home to The Country Club, a neighborhood gem with a hot tub, cabana bar, and Saturday morning "Drag Brunch" ($15 bottomless mimosas!). There's always next time.
Which of your favorite NOLA spots did I miss? Tell me in the comments below!