If you are planning a visit to New Orleans.. no, wait, scratch that. WHEN you are planning a visit to NOLA, you need to check out the places & experiences showcased!
Let me show you my goods with a full disclosure, some businesses mentioned are collaborative partnerships with services in trade for my honest AF opinion.
Ok, here we go!
My first visit to New Orleans was jam-packed with so many sights & sounds yet I feel like I barely scratched the surface. Probably because… I barely scratched the surface. 😀 This town is so intricate and deeply layered. And what great timing, New Orleans is celebrating it's Tricentennial this year. Established in 1718, this gracious town is looking quite spry for 300. Being an empath, I really plugged into the rugged & elegant energy – this town has been through a LOT. But it is incredibly vibrant – everywhere you turn, you can see progress and upbeat people.
One of the greatest pleasures of being a tourist in New Orleans is observing the city's rich architectural heritage and how it is preserved and brought into modern times. There is a plethora (I love that expensive word) of bars, restaurants, hotels and event spaces that are housed in vintage buildings or embrace architectural elements of the past. I'll definitely be showcasing some of those here.
But first, A quick lesson on nicknames for New Orleans
NOLA – Ok, I'll tell ya but I bet you already know – this acronym is: New Orleans Louisiana. You're welcome.
The Big Easy – which I think sounds cheesy and I did NOT use that while in New Orleans
And finally, a lesson in pronunciation. Someone actually took the time to do a funny video on how to pronounce New Orleans and some other funny information on how not to embarrass yourself:
Our favorite educator, Edward Branley (aka @nolahistoryguy) gives new New Orleanians a quick guide on NOLA speak. Find a New Orleans home: http://crescentcityliving.com
P.S. We finally got the pronunciation of Tchoupitoulas on the last day. We felt accomplished.
Let's start with the most tip-top of of ProTips:
You need to follow Mark Bologna and Beyond Bourbon Street.
The name is just that – everything and beyond Bourbon Street.
Mark is a born/bred/raised/never left true NOLA native – I needed to look no further than Mark's blog/podcast for all things Big Easy. His website and social channels are jampacked full of expert recommendations for New Orleans and definitely … Beyond Bourbon Street (see what I did there)
Some of my faves so far: Top Ten Things to Do on Your First Visit to New Orleans. I accomplished 7 out of ten, not bad for a first-timer. Left to complete: Spend time on the Mississippi, Explore Jackson Square, Ride the Streetcar
Make sure to follow Mark on Instagram as well – his photos will give you NOLA FOMO (fear of missing out) – you'll be planning your trip in no time flat!
One of the best suggestions from Beyond Bourbon Street was Old 77. I was lucky to rest my weary feet (and the rest of me) at this lovely historic hotel for the week during my visit. Old 77 is located in the Warehouse Arts District, which is a hop skip from the French Quarter. Formerly called the Ambassador Hotel, the building got its start in 1854 serving the city's bustling port district. Built in the heart of New Orleans’ bustling port district, It originally was a coffee warehouse and then a chandlery, or general wholesale business, trading in sailing ship needs. Prior to the turn of the 20th century, the address was 77 Tchoupitoulas, soooo, do the math on why it's called Old 77 😉
Renovated in 2015 and featuring You can really feel the history of the city and of the original building – the owners kept the original plank floors & exposed brick walls but also updated it with fun retro design and plenty of tech including flat-screen TVs, docking stations and banging good WiFi . Old 77 is part of the Provenance Hotels group (and they have a nice collection of hotels throughout the US)
Other fun features:
- Pet-Friendly – woof and meow As a pet-friendly hotel, they provide a pet bed, bowls and tasty treat upon check-in, as well as a curated list of New Orleans pet resources.
- Luxurious amenities with an old world feel
- “Celebration of Art and the nearby Warehouse District – you can spend a lot of time just walking around and checking out all the fun artwork on the first floor as well as in the hallways & the rooms.” I stole that text from their website because, well, they say it best!
The staff were so friendly and fun and let us crash their lobby like a gang of thugs and sit at the fun long table while we livestreamed and, in general, cut up.
The hotel is attached to an amazing restaurant, Compère Lapin helmed by Top Chef Alum Nina Compton. CL carries quite a pedigree – it was listed by Eater Food Critic Bill Addison as one of the top restaurants in the US in 2017 (only 38 made the list!)
We were treated to some punch that packed a SERIOUS punch by Compere Lapin's Bar Chef, Abigail Gullo. Abigail is THE woman for combining drinks with dishes and more. She rules the roost. You can also check out her amazing interview on the Beyond Bourbon Street podcast. Want to have your own taste of New Orleans in your own home? Check out Abigail's punch recipe:
8 oz. fresh lemon juice, plus zest
8 oz sugar
750 ml strong Assam tea
1 (750 ml) bottle Irish whiskey
2 oz. Amer Hiver (Bitter orange and cinnamon liqueur)
1 oz. rosewater syrup (Rosewater syrup can be found in some specialty stores. Or you can make a simple syrup and ad a few drops of rosewater to taste.)
Freshly grated nutmeg, for serving
Satsuma peel, for garnish
- In a large punch bowl, toss the satsuma zest and lemon zest with the turbinado sugar and muddle well. Let sit for one hour.
- Add satsuma juice, lemon juice, tea, whiskey, liqueur, and rosewater syrup; stir until sugar has dissolved. Strain, chill, and serve with a dash of grated nutmeg. Garnish with satsuma peel, if you like.
Venturing outside of Old 77 we found some amazing spots & experiences you must try:
Manning’s Sports Bar and Grill, Harrah’s New Orleans restaurant partner, was the spot for a fun sponsored party to kick off our first day in New Orleans. It’s in a prime spot – located conveniently in the Warehouse District, paying homage to the area's unique architecture and reflecting the city's “Laissez les bons temps rouler” attitude.
Named after Archie Manning who is well-known for his football exploits as well as for spawning famous football offspring. I’m leaving it as that because I know YOU know who he is. Random fact, did you know Archie Manning was also drafted four times by major league baseball? #WhoKnew
The staff was so incredibly receptive and helpful. We had a fun private party for everyone attending Collision on their back patio which is so delightful.
And guess what – the crawfish boil ingredients were heating up when we arrived so we got to see all the magic happening step by step. They use a combination of oranges, lemons, garlic and spices that made for a perfectly seasoned crawfish boil. Unfortunately, my crawfish eating skills were not as perfect as the taste:
Thank you again to Harrah’s and Ashley and crew of Caesars Entertainment. Considering what a large group of locations they have, their personal touch collaboration is quite impressive!
Maison – Get away from crazy crowds of Bourbon Street and check out Maison on Frenchman Street. Not fancy at all, you'll get some really great grub and some amazing music as well. Of course we had the gumbo that was jampacked and seated on a bed of grits.
The band that night was true old school jazz completed with a full horn section. And then a singer stepped casually onto the stage and blew us all away!
Cochon – Recommended by the staff at Old 77 – it looks like an older spot with you first see the signage but it's delightful inside & located right on a central corner. The food was DELISH although a bit spicy for this old biddy. Great for breakfast, brunch/lunch or dinner!
Carousel Piano Bar & Lounge – Yes, this is an obvious one but in Hotel Monteleone must be experienced, even if just for a drive by. You do not have to be a guest at the hotel to imbibe. It's a must-visit anytime. Although it was a busy Thursday night – we were able to get a seat in the coveted couch area and were treated to an amazing band and the incomparable Nayo Jones!
Antoine’s – I had the chance to experience this iconic restaurant in grand style with a private dining room experience. I LITERALLY felt like I stepped into a movie scene, walking through the restaurant to dine in the Escargot Room, named for a group that meets regularly at Antoine’s to enjoy … (you guessed it)… escargot. 😀 We didn’t have any that night but I did get to enjoy the Oyster Rockefeller, Filet with Marchand de Vin Sauce and for dessert, the famously flamboyant Baked Alaska with Chocolate Sauce that is flambayed to perfection (In other words, flamed without burning the crap outta it)
This restaurant is a staple item for the classic NOLA experience. Opened in 1840, it is still owned and operated by fifth generation relatives of the original founder, Antoine Alciatore and they are famous for their world-renowned French-Creole cuisine, impeccable service & unique atmosphere.
Recommended by Beyond Bourbon Street, we did the Garden Tour in the morning which was perfect. I was hung over from some dumb-ass karaoke antics the night before so, even with the pain and indignation, I still REALLY enjoyed it. Just enough walking at a semi-leisurely pace along beautiful tree-lined streets. Our house really laid down a ton of great information & stories. Houses owned by Anne Rice as well as locations where American Horror Story are filmed. And then there’s the house formerly owned by Nicolas Cage – rumor has it because he purchased one of the most haunted homes in New Orleans (LaLaurie), he ended up losing both homes & most of his fortune. That is creepy AF, in my opinion! It’s all about the stories, especially in a town like New Orleans that is steeped in rich history of dark, light, tragedy & triumph. The tour ended with a walkabout in Lafayette Cemetery #1.
Another notable spots :
Vyoone – lovely spot in the Warehouse District, Yvoone & Zohreh are the proprietors and you need to make sure to meet them – they make you feel like family from the minute you walk in! I didn't get a chance to actually eat here, just imbibe a TON but I'll be back most certainly. Not only is the restaurant area delightfult but there is a fabulous garden area that's a complete oasis.
Irish Cultural Museum – Delightful spot and I can't wait to go back and explore. Everything centered around drinks so I only showed up for a party & cocktails but the courtyard is another little oasis. Read about it. And apparently, it's quite the spot for weddings & events!
We also spent a good part of the week at the Ernest ?? attending one of the largest tech & start up conferences in the US. I had a chance to see Al Gore speak as well as meet Susan Herman of the ACLU, Naveen Jaine of Viome and also some of the guys from NASA. Stay tuned for my blogpost covering all the great tech companies & startups I spoke with during the conference!