Wondering how to plan a trip to New Orleans, LA, and what the best things to do in town and places to visit are? NoLa — or the Big Easy, as locals affectionately call it — is a hub of great food, music, festivals and stunning Old-World architecture. With its history of French and Spanish colonial rule, Caribbean undertones and Southern flair, the city draws people from far and wide, offering up its famed culture, which manages to combine all of these influences in an eclectic, hypnotic blend. Read on to find out more about how to plan a trip to New Orleans, LA – and the top things to do and places to visit when you arrive.
When to Go, and Festivals to Know
As US News & World Report reports, NoLa is an escpecially incredible destination from February through May, when the weather is warm, without the oppressive summer heat. The city is also known as the “festival capital,” and rightly so. Most out-of-towners often plan visits around events. like Mardi Gras. The city essentially shuts down in order to accommodate two weeks of parades, parties and celebrations, which is something that everybody needs to experience at least once in her life. (Pro tip: Bring an empty suitcase just for Mardi Gras beads and other tchotchkes.)
If you find yourself in America’s festival capital when there’s not a festival in sight (which you 100% should do), rest assured that you’ll still have a fantastic trip. TimeOut suggests starting in the French Quarter, which is the city’s most historic and lively district. Most of the buildings in the Vieux Carré were built under French rule, and then rebuilt by the Spanish after the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788, creating an urban area that still feels distinctly European. After your introduction to the French Quarter, head over to Jackson Square, which houses the St. Louis Cathedral, an idyllic church that looks suspiciously similar to Disney World’s Cinderella’s Palace. If you want to get a little quirky (and let’s be honest, NoLa’s the place to do it), Atlas Obscura compiled a list of the city’s weird and wild offerings. Check out the New Orleans’ Historic Voodoo Museum, which offers up what its name suggests, and Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House, a 200-year-old bar with an interesting history.
Jazz Yourself Up
We can thank NoLa for giving birth to Jazz, and the city still hosts some of the best jazz musicians and houses in the world. TripSavvy prefers favorite, well-known spots such as Preservation Hall, an iconic and old-school jazz house in the middle of the French Quarter. For an upscale venue with cocktails and top-notch jazz, head to The Jazz Playhouse. Travel + Leisure includes Polo Club Lounge located inside the luxe Windsor Court Hotel to their jazz stops, as well as The Spotted Cat, a cozy, cash-only jazz club on Frenchman Street. Stop by all as you think about how to plan a trip to New Orleans, Louisiana, and what the best things to do in town and places to visit are, as you’ll be glad you did.
NoLa’s All About the Food
If you’re on a diet and heading to NoLa, just … don’t. Get ready to eat, eat, and then eat some more, as Louisiana’s capital has some of the best and most eclectic cuisine imaginable. Thrillist has compiled a list of the city’s most iconic food offerings and where to get them. For Po’ Boys, stuffed sandwiches and seafood encased in incredible French bread, it suggests heading to Parkway Bakery and Tavern. No matter what you think you want from the menu, get the oysters or fried shrimp — just do it. For a Po’ Boy with a modern flair, check out Killer PoBoys, with flavors such as smoked salmon and BBQ Chicken Confit, these probably are not the flavors the “poor boys” were originally eating, but we’re more than happy with the twists on the original. Condé Nast Traveler gives its NoLa favorites like beignets, the fluffy French pastries of fried dough drenched in sugar. Get them at Café du Monde — enough said. And for red beans and rice, the heart-stoppingly simple dish of rice and hardy sausage, check out Mother’s Restaurant, which serves some of the best stew in the city.
Freelance writer Lauren Paley is an avid writer and traveler. She has lived in Morocco, France, Tel Aviv and Prague, and has traveled to over 25 countries. Her interests include banh mi sandwiches, Boo the dog, trying (and failing) at languages, and outdoor movie theaters.