Nola without a doubt is one of my favorite U.S. cities. Its culture is so unique and unlike anywhere else! There’s just something magical about this place. For instance, everything here as something to do with witches, vampires, or voodoo. It is one of the oldest cities in America, founded in 1718 by the French Mississippi Company, under the direction of Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne. Originally founded by the French, then under Spanish control for a period, and then back under French control briefly, until it was finally acquired by the United States in 1803. NOLA is best known for its fusion of African and French, Creole culture, vibrant history, and significant battles that were fought over the city. Here is a couple of things I suggest while visiting mystical place:
ROAM THE STREETS & TAKE IN THE ARCHITECTURE
(Location: between the streets of Royal & Dumaine click here for exact location)
The architecture in NOLA is a mix of colonial Spanish or French style. Only a handful of the buildings in the French Quarter preserve their original, colonial Spanish or French architectural style and are concentrated mainly around the cathedral and Chartres Street. Two-thirds of the French Quarter structures date from the first half of the 19th century, the most pronounced decade being the 1820s, when the city was growing rapidly. I suggest checking out the buildings at 500 St. Ann and 500 St. Peter street that frame Jackson square. They were built in the late 1840’s and are definitely picturesque! Truman Capote described the Parisian-style row house buildings as “…the oldest, in some ways most somberly elegant, apartment houses in America.”
Location: French Quarter
TAKE A BENIGET & COFFEE BREAK
No trip to New Orleans should be complete with out a beignet or two (or 5). There’s two main cafe’s that sell beignets: café du monde and café beignet. Café du Monde is definitely the superior choice of the two. There are eight different cafés du monde locations but the one on Decatur street is the original, which I recommend checking out. Established in 1862, this restaurant is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! That’s a lot of beignets! Head over there and taste these fluffy, melt in your mouth donuts yourself! It’s always busy so prepare yourself.
LOCATION: Cafe du Monde
The center of this square is the St. Louis Cathedral, a 17th-century French style church. Its’s also Americas oldest cathedral, founded in 1702. With its triple spires and stunning vaulted nave, it is the perfect example of French architecture. The cathedral was built for St. Louis, who was then King of France. All around the cathedral local artists gather to sell their pieces, definitely check it out! Its right next to Cafe du Monde so you can head over after you’ve gotten your sugar fix.
LOCATION: Jackson Square
EAT OUT AT A CAJUN RESTAURANT
Creole food is such a unique flavor, it blends Spanish, French, West African, Amerindian, Haitian, German, Italian, British, and Irish influences; what a melting pot! Louisiana sits at an intersection for a variety of immigrants. Like mentioned previously, Louisiana was founded by the French, giving Louisiana Creole a French aesthetic, with amazing sauces and slow-cooking! Here are some restaurants I suggest cajun and not alike:
- Gumbo at Stanley
- Cafe Amelie
- Johnny Po’ Boys
- Erin Rose
(Location: Buckner Mansion, click here for the exact location)
This charming 19th century neighborhood is full of oak shade, and lined with a variety of different style homes. You can find lavish, historic mansions right next to humble cottages. There a number of different historic homes that you can check out while here, such as Walter Grinnan Robinson House, Payne-Strachan House, Brevard House, and so many more! I chose to visit the Buckner Mansion because I love the showAmerican Horror Story. If you’ve watched it, you’ll remember this mansion from season 3, which was the coven house the student witches lived in! In the same area you can find antique and boutique shops, upscale restaurants, as well as casual cafes, and local bars on and around Magazine street.
LOCATION: Garden District
In the heart of the French quarter, you’ll find bourbon street. Best known for it bars and strip clubs, Bourbon Street provides insight into New Orleans’ past. What distinguished New Orleans from other southern cities was its unique heritage from the French and Spanish. Because of this it drew many tourists to its city; the French quarter was central to this cultural image and quickly became the best known part of the city. The area became known for gambling, drinking, and prostitution. Jazz music is also said to have originated here. Artists such as King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton providing music for the brothels.
LOCATION: Bourbon Street
LISTEN TO JAZZ & ENJOY THE NIGHT LIFE
NOLA really comes alive at night. It also adds to the eerie, mystical vibe it has. Head to Frenchman St. to bar hop and hear some authentic Jazz. Almost every pub has some time of live music going especially on the weekend. There two famous spots for jazz music if you really want to go for the full effect. I suggest heading to the playhouse (bands usually start playing around 8pm) or for a little more low-key spot head to Fitzel’s Jazz Pub.
CHECK OUT SOME MUSEUMS
There is a number of unique museums to explore. Including an apothecary and a voodoo museum. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for these but it’s definitely one of the first thing I’d want to do when I return.
BONUS: WHERE TO STAY
NEW ORLEANS GUEST HOUSE
There are plenty of amazing stays in NOLA that it won’t be hard to find accommodation depending on what you are wanting. For us we really wanted to be within walking distance but also not in the heart of the action so we could get a good nights rest. I definitely recommend the New Orleans Guest House if you’re looking for something that checks those boxes. It is also very affordable. I believe we paid $75 for a night through booking.com. Prices very depending on the time of year and week, so be sure to check in advance. The hotel also provides a continental breakfast.
LOCATION: New Orleans Guest House
OAK ALLEY PLANTATION
if you have a little extra time I suggest checking out this plantation. It does cost $25 per person but it’s really amazing to hear and see some of the states devastating history and gives a better perspective of how the state was founded. They are open 9a.m.-5p.m. daily.
LOCATION: Oak Alley Plantation
That wraps up my NOLA post. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much I did putting it together. As always please leave me a comment if I missed that has to be on the list or something you loved. Thanks so much!