Just came back from a 4-day trip to NOLA to visit family... and what a trip it was. I'm excited to show you some of the wonderful and weird things we experienced, but first a disclaimer: there were 22 shootings during our vacation, but I had never heard about how dangerous New Orleans is before I went. All the travel blogs I'd read glossed over the seedier nature of the city and even highlighted hotspots in some of the most dangerous parts of town. Even though it wasn't the safest-feeling trip, I'm still really glad we went, and would encourage others to visit—it's a place unlike any other.
So here are a few fun, delicious, and (mostly) safe recommendations.
We started our first day in the French Quarter, which was the most crowded and touristy area we encountered. Parking is pretty rough here, so I'd recommend Lyft. Most of NOLA is close together, so car rides don't cost too much.
French Truck Coffee
French Truck Coffee is a chain, and this location had delicious pourovers, teas, and muffins! They also roast their own beans (complete with adorable packaging), which would make a great souvenir.
We then stopped by Napoleon House for a Muffaletta sandwich and some drinks. Apparently they're known for their Pimm's Cup (a tangy citrusy drink), so I tried that and Matt got a Sazerac. Unfortunately we didn't think they were that good. The sandwich was amazing though, as were the red beans and rice, and the interior was beautiful.
The Pharmacy Museum
We stopped in for a $5 tour at the Pharmacy Museum, given every Friday at 1pm. Our guide was very knowledgable as he went around the main room, showing us led syringes, tampons that contained opium, and a soda fountain where tonics like Dr. Pepper used to be served from. There was time after to walk around upstairs and in the beautiful courtyard at the center of the building.
Cafe du Monde
We had to have beignets! Cafe du Monde is the most famous and popular spot to get these delicious pieces of fried dough, plus a Cafe au Lait. We took ours to go, and the line was surprisingly short.
Exploring Royal St.
We stopped to listen to Doreen, a clarinet-playing NOLA staple. She was pretty great, and her daughter accompanied her on the drums.
We stopped into Maskarade, an amazing shop full of locally-made artisanal masks. The owner was super friendly and we had a good time trying things on.
We piled onto a giant steamboat to take a tour of the Mississippi River. Honestly, it was a little hot, dirty, and crowded for me, but we ended up sitting in the main cabin listening to the jazz band for most of our ride. They were great and we got to dance a little!
One of the creepiest/most unique parts of NOLA are the above-ground cemeteries. They're everywhere around the city, with Lafayette being the most famous one in the most dangerous area... so we stayed away from that one.
We went to Lake Lawn Metairie, which has the famous Weeping Angel statue.
The Warehouse District is an up-and-coming area with some truly delicious places. It's not as dangerous as the Bywater, although there was a shooting in this area the day after we visited.
Delicious coffee, beautiful tile floors, what more could you want? I appreciated the cheap prices for pourovers in NOLA, $3.25 vs the usual $5 in Los Angeles.
St. James Cheese Co.
Was excited to try out St. James Cheese Co. Beautiful, airy space, great variety of cheeses and charcuterie, and huge salads. Add a beer and you have my perfect afternoon and a great place to feel a little healthier after all the jambalaya.
After watching the NOLA episode of Somebody Feed Phil, we decided we had to try Cochon Butcher. And I'm so glad we did! These were simple-looking sandwiches, but packed so much flavor and texture. I got the smoked turkey and Matt got the Buckboard bacon melt—both amazing. We went on a Sunday around 11AM, so it wasn't crowded, but i hear it fills up.
We headed to City Park for some much-needed nature. It's huge, with a (slightly creepy) storybook-themed park for kids, a botanical garden, and a free sculpture garden.
At the edge of the park is a beignet restaurant called Morning Call. It wasn't crowded, and although we didn't like the food as much as at Cafe du Monde, we appreciated the convenience and free hats (which we asked for)!
We went shopping on Magazine Street—which is also one of the more dangerous parts of town, apparently. As you get closer to the highway and Lafayette Cemetery, the more dangerous it becomes. There were, however, some really beautiful shops and cafes.
A cute mid-century modern shop, HiVOLT had the only matcha latte I saw out of the shops we visited.
Sunday Shop was a great surprise in the midst of a slightly sketchy area. Truly beautifully curated home goods presented in a calm, modern setting.
There are two locations of Surrey's in the Garden District. We opted for Uptown, which is a bit safer. I'd recommend the shrimp and grits and the bananas foster french toast!
Audobon Park is HUGE. There's a long road that goes all around the park, so we saw many people biking or jogging. There are mansions surrounding the place, giant oaks, and too many birds.
It's a bakery... AND a bar!! We came here for the delicious doberge cake, a tall glass of milk, and a tequila-based cocktail.
New Orleans definitely defied any expectations I had, and in the words of the great Matthew McConaughey, "New Orleans is like a giant flashing yellow light: Proceed with caution — but proceed."
Hopefully this guide is helpful for anyone considering a trip to NOLA! Let me know in the comments if you tried anything from here. Also, I know this is not a typical itinerary—minimal drinking, no going out... but we still had a great time.