My New Orleans Trip Itinerary
I was lucky enough to travel with three of my girlfriends to Nawlins for my birthday during the first week of January. Though I tossed around a few destinations for this trip, I ultimately landed on the Big Easy because it is one of the cheapest places to travel in the US and one of the most affordable places to travel for 2019.
We flew out of SFO on the red eye. Our group booked the same flights and knew we’d have to hit the ground running as our flight to N.O. landed bright and early at 8:30AM Friday morning. Below I’ll go through our itinerary and share a bit more about some of the highlights of our trip.
- Stored our bags using BagBnB; this turned out to be a great resource to us however I do not recommend using the Catahoula Hotel (our first BagBnB drop-off) as I left a shopping bag in the lobby accidentally and they ignored all my calls/messages/emails and my items were never returned.
- French Quarter Tour: Our first tour of the trip was a free walking tour of The French Quarter. We met our guide (the lovely Renee) in Jackson Square and from there she explained some important details about New Orleans history, the influences behind the diversity of New Orleans architecture and pointed out a lot of great places to eat along the way.
- Quick visit to the French Market for some gator sausage.
- Lunch special at historic Antoine’s for $20.19 exactly – plus the 25-cent cocktail. This is the oldest restaurant in America. Can you believe that?! Right in the heart of New Orleans. The food was delicious and the service was fantastic.
- Casual shopping on Royal Street. I met 2 of my girlfriends at Lush (we all worked there at the time) and the remaining friend I met through one of them. When we saw a Lush on Royal street we had to stop inside and pay our respects for the company that brought us together!
- Apartment check-in to our chic downtown pad on the American side of the French Quarter. Our place featured a brick accent wall, iron paned windows, a plush velvet couch and 6 beds for us to really spread out!
- Now converted to a hostel, St. Vincent’s was originally an orphanage from the early 1860’s through the 1970’s. When we arrived at St. Vincent’s, the tour guides hadn’t arrived yet, so we were just wandering around the abandoned property working up some chills and thrills. After the tour started, the hosts went over some history of the asylum, and we “hunted” as a group in different rooms of the hostel before partnering off to channel spirits alone. The location was just about to go under construction, so we slid in on the very last night of the tour. Add to that the spooky factor of the deserted grounds and the insistence by the hosts that our group split up in the ‘haunted’ hostel, and you’ve got yourself a 10+ on the scare scale. Whether you’re a believer or not, there’s definitely spook to spare in Nawlins. We booked this tour with French Quarter Phantoms.
- We enjoyed dessert first at Café Beignet. Just my personal opinion, but the beignets there were cakier, fluffier and way better than the world famous Cafe Du Monde.
- Dinner: Olde Nola Cookery was one of the few things we did that was not on my itinerary, but boy am I glad! This place looks unassuming amidst the neon lights and loud music of Bourbon Street, but the food has my mouth watering even as I type this now. Highly recommend the etouffee.
- Breakfast at Mother’s before heading over for a tour of St. Louis Cemetery No 1. If you have any interest at all in visiting a cemetery, be sure to book a tour. I believe they are closed to the public without a tour guide or membership, and the atmosphere itself is worth the hour of exploring.
- Buckner Mansion – aka where American Horror Story: Coven was filmed and exploring the beautiful and historic Garden District.
- We hopped on a streetcar back to the downtown area – I felt just like Princess Tiana! Then we had po’boys at Mahoney’s (a great car-themed sports bar if you’ve got a guy’s guy with you on the trip).
- WWII Museum: I don’t remember why New Orleans is the home of this museum, but if you’re a history buff and museum nerd, this is a must for you. Prepare to get all the feels and learn a lot more about the state of the nation back in the early 1940’s.
- Dinner at Cochon was one of the food highlights of the trip. Modern, upscale and delicious!
- Frenchmen Art Market was where I snagged some amazing, local art and souvenirs on the trip. It feels homey, authentic and is so charming with the illuminated bistro lights at night.
- Live music at the Spotted Cat. This place was standing room only, and considering it was the first night of Mardi Gras season, the crowd was wild! The live music was a real treat, but we had a craving for a little more interactive fun. The girls and I headed over to the Cat’s Meow on Bourbon and that was probably the most fun karaoke bar I have ever visited! There were some real karaoke superstars there but we had to leave before getting the chance to sing.
- Voodoo Tour: Our first activity of the day was a Voodoo Tour over in the Treme and in Armstrong Park but first, we stopped for king’s cake on King’s day at Mister Gregory’s. The voodoo tour itself was absolutely one of my favorite activities of the trip! Our guide, Melissa, was so down to Earth and informative, and the tour really tied together the culture of newly Americanized slaves and how that really flavors the culture of New Orleans. At the end of the tour, Melissa took us to Voodoo Authentica to snag some charms and potions before wrapping up.
- Checking online for food recommendations really paid off this time. We lunched at local Cajun Seafood, which is sort of a locals-only, almost hole in the wall type of spot. The portions are huge and the fried fish literally melts in your mouth.
- Couldn’t review our time in Nola without an honorable mention for car karaoke with the best Lyft driver ever!
- We finally got to try beignets (again) but this time at the renowned Café du Monde. Like I mentioned earlier, they’re no match for Cafe Beignet but it was totally worth the experience.
- Since Sunday coincided with the first day of Mardi Gras season, we stopped near Jackson Square to join in the festivities and watch the Joan of Arc parade. Bourbon and Royal streets were practically deserted, so we tucked into restaurant Coronet for some grub not too long before the parade was over.
- By special recommendation from my grandmother, we enjoyed breakfast on our last day at the Ruby Slipper Cafe and had to spend the next two-hours walking off our food! Luckily, Eight Dice Cloth was playing over on Royal Street, so we stopped to listen for a bit and watch couples and kids dancing in the street.
- We finished our last day with souvenir shopping all over town (couldn’t go home without some pralines!) but the day wasn’t complete without stopping for a carriage ride before picking up our luggage. We requested Dapper David and his purple prince, Sugar Daddy. David would loudly proclaim, “watch my ass!” as we turned corners and he claims that he’s the reason Prince wore purple as his signature color. If you’re in town, his carriage ride is highly recommended.
- Unfortunately, the trip did have to end. We were airborne again by around 5pm Louisiana time, carrying an extra 20lbs of weight between us (and not in our luggage, lol) and lots of memories to kick 2019 off with a bang.
As you can see, our days were jam-packed and we didn’t even hit up as much nightlife as one might expect for a visit to New Orleans. Below I’ll share insights on some tips that helped me plan this trip.
Know Before You Go:
- Scope out the restaurant scene at least (2) weeks before your visit. You’ll need time to collect all the recommendations people have to share, and at least a week to book reservations at your preferred spots.
- Be prepared with lots of cash. Many of the places where you’ll want to eat and shop are cash only and those ATM fees really add up (the highest I paid was $5.25).
- Budget Yourself! Piggy-backing off of the last tip, it’s easy to get lost in the back and forth flow of money exchanges. If you have a pretty solid idea of your itinerary, bring only a bit more cash than you need when you leave your room and avoid using your card at all.
- Bring your walking shoes. While there’s not a crazy amount of walking to be done (New Orleans is a relatively compact city) the roads aren’t exactly smooth and even. Riddled with potholes, puddles, and construction, the area will take some careful navigation on your part.
- Leave room in your plans to be spontaneous. The locals (especially the tour guides and Lyft drivers) have lots of recommendations to share. If you want to truly laissez les bon temps roulez be sure to take them up on their tips – you won’t regret it.
My Crew, Funny Tidbits and Behind the Scenes
- I mixed up our address during our drive to check in and got us dropped off on Joseph street instead of St. Joseph street. Happy mistake though because our next Lyft driver ended up giving the best recommendations!
- I made a deck beforehand (above) and sent out a few emails outlining the trip. Dani apparently doesn’t like to read emails…and asked redundant questions the entire trip. We all teased her about it and she’s now officially a meme.
- Every time we took a photo (guilty, we’re selfie addicts), locals and tourists alike thought they were welcome to join in…does anyone know if this is commonplace??
- Speaking of photos, we asked a stranger to take a group photo of us and she started taking photos of random people!
- We went to Lush and I bought treats to take advantage of the bathtub in my room…and promptly misplaced my bag of treats before we even checked in.
- Speaking of baths, the girls couldn’t figure out how to work the shower on our first day. They almost had to bathe under the bath faucet!
- I didn’t even realize our trip coincided with the first couple days of Mardi Gras season – getting to partake in the festivities was an unexpected treat!
- My father’s family lineage includes some connection to Bienville – it was so interesting hearing the history referenced on various tours and reminded me of my dearly missed late grandfather.
- Collectively our group gained more than (20) pounds on the trip. If that doesn’t say we enjoyed ourselves, I don’t know what else could.
I’m by no means well-traveled, but I am excellent at planning and one of the reasons this trip went so smoothly is because I spent a good amount of time beforehand envisioning how we would spend our days. Be prepared with a list of (2-3) things you want to do so you don’t feel like you’ve missed out on anything and as one of the states with the most diverse histories in the US, keep your eyes and ears open for some amazing stories.
Well – off to plan our next adventure! -xoxo