New Orleans is one of two cities that indefinitely holds a piece of my heart. The other being Mumbai, India.
There’s just something about the culture, about the SOUL of New Orleans that won my heart over, and I’m sure it will take a piece of your heart too if you give it the chance.
Of course when you visit New Orleans a.k.a NOLA <3, you already know to visit Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. They are definite must-see’s, but they’re also very touristy. I don’t know about you, but my fave part of exploring a new city tends to be heading where the locals go. That said, still don’t miss the stunningly beautiful French Quarter and mega-intoxicating Bourbon Street!
Last May 2015, I spontaneously ventured to NOLA with my friend Amanda, as a “HOLY CRAP WE ACTUALLY GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE” treat to ourselves. We managed to book a flight for only $100 via Spirit Airlines. (Yes that is a hella good price, but if you’re thinking of flying with Spirit, do your research first… or talk to me to help avoid sneaky fees!) Amanda’s aunt lived in NOLA and graciously hosted us for a week. So I experienced a great blend of tourist and local attractions.
From my week in NOLA, guest-living with a local, I present my Top 7 Must-Do’s in New Orleans for tourists seeking the full NOLA experience.
#1. FRENCHMAN STREET MARKET
Frenchman Street is what my dreams are made of. Picture twinkling lights, street artists and soulful singers in pubs packed into just a couple of blocks. Frenchman Street is the hipster/local sister to Bourbon Street.
This area is a bit more quiet and void of flashing neon lights.Here you will find bars lit by the grooving tunes from local bands playing covers of popular songs throughout the ages with a little Lousiana twist. It’s really a great spot if you’re looking to enjoy local music.
You’ll also find the craft artists in the Frenchman Art Market. This market is like a late-night art/craft sale, every night of the week. The things you will find here compared to the French Market (there is a difference!), which is more like a flea market, may be a bit pricier if you’re on a struggling recent college grad budget like me. That said, I’d spend the dollars if I had them to spare on the art on Frenchman Street. You are paying for custom, unique, quality pieces that tell a story.
This is the exact essence of Frenchman Street…
It tells a story. It has its own artsy, tell-it-like-it-is soul.
Favorite part: the “Rent a Poet” pop-up shops, where twenty-somethings sat behind typewriters and would type you a poem on spot for just a small price.
* I recommend doing Bourbon Street one night and Frenchmen the next.
#2. HANSEN’S SNO-BLIZ
HOLY YUM! Close your eyes and imagine… What if a sno-cone had a baby with ice cream and they dressed it in your favorite flavor. Duh, cherry. Plus think if you had a plethora of flavors to choose from, thus making you question your commitment to your favored red flavor.
Then you’d wake from your dream and wish you were at Hansen’s Sno-Bliz!
When your place in line gets close enough that you are finally able to enter inside, you can salivate as the employees churn out sno-bliz right in front of your eyes and hand it over to the dozen people still ahead of you in line. It’s worth the wait, I promise! Hansen’s is a family business, and the fancy machine that concocts this sweet creation was patented by this family…
Meaning, NOLA is unfortunately the only place you can find sno-bliz. MAJOR Sad Face 🙁
Hansen’s may appear to be a hole-in-the-wall establishment and a bit off the grid from the tourist area, but it is very well-worth taking a ride on a bike/streetcar/taxi/what-have-you to let your taste buds holler for more sno-bliz. It is very loved by the locals and is a summertime staple for all.
* This is unfortunately only open seasonally, so make sure you visit when this is open!
* Also definitely recommend the cherry and rootbeer flavors, but there are seriously SO many flavors to explore!
So you might have heard of this one, since it is in the French Quarter, right next to the French Market. I confess I was a bit skeptical at first. I’ve never been a huge coffee drinker, and a donut that was covered in powdered sugar didn’t seem like my kinda thang.
But I had heard Cafe Du Monde was to-die-for, and I thought I would be the judge of that.
** BRB, dying for a bit from my memory of these friggen mouth-watering beignets and coffee.**
It’s really all about that combo. The coffee is the perfect solution to wash down the sticky beignet sugar that coats your throat. So Amanda and I ordered two iced coffees, which came with milk+sugar already added in, and the 3 beignets combo. Honestly, I could have ate all three by myself then, and I wish I had all three now.
I can’t tell you how many times I dreamed of beignets and coffee from Cafe Du Monde months after my visit to NOLA aaaand how many times Amanda and I texted each other, wondering if it were possible to recreate beignets in our little college-sized kitchens in WI.
We ultimately decided, nope. It’s not NOLA, it’s not Cafe Du Monde, and it couldn’t ever be close to the same.
* Don’t wear black to Cafe Du Monde. Powdered sugar + black clothing = messy me… or you. Unless I’m really the only messy one.
#4. THE RUM HOUSE
a.k.a the rum tacqueria of NOLA.
With a full rum bar, Caribbean-style cuisine, and their ever-popular tacos, what’s not to love?!
I chose one vegetarian and one brisket taco, (I know, quite the odd combo) and both were divine! I topped it off with a rum (obvi) concoction garnished with all sorts of fruits on top. Part of me wanted to eat here for every meal, but I knew I must try po’boys, jambalaya, seafood, and more and more of the NOLA cuisine. So I just couldn’t do this, despite my tummy’s rumbling requests.
This is a bit off the grid, but it is close to Hansen’s Sno-Bliz. You could do both in one afternoon, plus there’s a nice little shopping area near here. Quite a nice residential neighborhood area as well.
Favorite part: The prices were great for such quality food!
* Tacos and rum are a must, if that’s not obvious.
#5. DRIVE-THRU DAQUIRI BAR
When you’re in a city where alcohol is allowed on the streets and in the car, ya best take advantage! And oh we did, starting from the moment we got picked up from the airport.
Amanda’s aunt was so kind and so right to greet us with bloody mary’s. It felt kinda wrong to drink in the car, so my instincts made me guzzle it down quick… well also, because NOLA is known for exquisite bloody’s.
And you bet we definitely downed some hurricanes and hand grenades, which are also famous in NOLA, but the best part was the Drive-Thru Daquiri bar. Frozen flavored juice loaded with rum (yum, yum) all with the ease of a drive-thru. Such a fun and quick treat, NOLA-style!
* There are several daquiri bars in NOLA, so take your pick!
#6. TOUR WITH THE VOODOO BONE LADY
To this day, I still don’t know what the Voodoo Bone Lady’s name is… She’s just the Voodoo Bone Lady to me and to many. She is the best of the best when it comes to haunted tours in NOLA. If you didn’t know, this city has quite a dark history. We chose the Voodoo Bone Lady for a couple reasons.
1) She has great ratings online. Seriously the best of all the haunted tours. Also, compared to all of the tours we walked by, Voodoo Bone Lady takes the cake!
2) This lady is the real deal. She is a psychic, a medium, a healer, and even a life coach. Her spiritual abilities come from a long lineage of supernatural powers.
I mean of course she is telling stories, but she is a wonderful storyteller. She was entertaining, funny, and charming. The tour covered all haunted topics, unlike other tours that were strictly vampires, ghosts, etc.
The Voodoo Bone Lady was a super fun addition to my trip.
Favorite part: The pit stop at the oldest bar in the U.S. which had no electricity.
#7. FREE WHEELIN’ BIKE TOUR
This bike tour really brought my trip full circle.
I loved getting to tour areas outside of the main tourist district. Our guide directed us to different neighborhoods, telling us all about the history of NOLA. We saw city parks, monuments, old plantations, cemetaries, plenty of neat residential areas, and much more.
Everything was super interesting.
I’m always up for a refreshing bike ride and learning about cool stuff- so this was the perfect combo.
Favorite part: All of the learning about one of my new fave cities. It’s honestly too hard to pick just one memory from this tour.
*There are plenty of bike tour companies in NOLA, but I had an A++ experience with this company.
*** BONUS THINGS I WISH I HAD TIME TO DO ***
#1. Eat at Dat Dog
#2. Check out the McDonogh Oak – 800+ year old tree
#3. Swamp Tour
#4. Spent more time in the parks (They have great parks!)
#5. Ride the Transit MORE! This is such a neat way to ride around the city.
Have you been to NOLA or is it on your bucketlist?
Tell me about your experiences or perhaps your heart’s desire to venture to this lovely city 🙂