Updated: Aug 27, 2020
A Local’s Guide to the City of New Orleans
When you think of New Orleans, what comes to mind? Bourbon Street with wild parties and drinking in the streets? Or colorful Mardi Gras with the floats and bead throwing? Or perhaps the delicious cajun flare and gumbo?
New Orleans, sometimes abbreviated as NOLA, has so much more to offer than just those few icons. Local, Addison Howenstine, is going to give us the rundown and share why NOLA should be on your bucket list! Addison went to Duke with my sister and graduated with her in 2018.
Of New Orleans
“I was born in New Orleans and lived there until I left for college in 2014. Since graduating a year ago, I've been living and working in Seattle, and though I'm uncertain whether I'll eventually move back, I'll always call New Orleans home.
Outside of work I spend most of my time rock climbing, skiing, and mountaineering—three hobbies that would never have been possible in New Orleans but feel as integral to who I am as the gumbo, jazz, and culture that raised me.”
About New Orleans
New Orleans is the most culture-rich city in the US. I'd argue no other region in the states is as tied to its unique cuisine, music, and history.
We're known for our spicy food, our big brassy jazz, and our nightlife. We maintain a laid-back "big easy" vibe that knows how to "laissez les bon temps rouler" (let the good times roll).
The Best Places to Hangout
Bourbon Street is for tourists, Frenchmen Street is for live music. I love hearing live jazz with the Soul Rebels at Les Bon Temps on Thursday nights or Rebirth Brass Band at the Maple Leaf on Tuesdays.
I also love hanging out at City Park or meeting for coffee at PJ's or CCs. After living in both New Orleans and Seattle, I have to say New Orleans is the better coffee city.
The Best New Orleans Food
Fancy New Orleans Food
Commander’s Palace—this is the place to go if you’re looking for the fanciest, most classic New Orleans restaurant to go to. tbh I’ve only been once because it’s expensive but it’s definitely the move if you’re okay with the price
Other ultra-classic ultra-fancy New Orleans restaurants I haven’t been to: Brennan’s, Arnaud’s, Galatoire’s, Antoine’s, and Clancy’s
Jacques-Imo’s—amazing and kinda fancy creole soul food, best taste of New Orleans all in one place and pretty casual
Mandina’s—great creole/cajun food (as well as Italian family recipes) and huge portions; their (fish of the day) almandine is a classic
Drago’s—classy seafood place, go for charbroiled oysters
Lowkey New Orleans Classics
Parkway Bakery and Tavern—the best po'boys, go on Monday or Wednesday for fried oyster po'boy, runner up is fried shrimp po'boy
Joey K's—great Creole food for a good price. Best all you can eat fried catfish ever
High Hat—white tablecloth but casual diner with really great southern food and lots of good seafood options. Their High Hat Burger with pimento cheese is my favorite anywhere. Good prices for great food and portions, after dinner, go across the street to 504 Ice Cream for dessert if you can resist the amazing desserts at High Hat
Dat Dog—gourmet and exotic amazing hot dogs (get crawfish or alligator dog with crawfish etouffee on top and lots of other toppings)
Camellia Grill—classic old school New Orleans diner
Cochon Butcher—amazing southern food, good sandwiches, and lots of meat there’s a fancy sit down restaurant on the corner called Cochon with amazing high-scale southern food; Cochon Butcher is the casual, homey place next door with slightly better prices and a casual atmosphere. They have the same owner, it’s just two versions of the same thing
Reginelli's—best pizza in New Orleans, the gumbo pizza is my favorite
anywhere on Magazine Street or Freret Street
Coffee and Brunch
Cafe du Monde
District Donuts—gourmet donuts, great breakfast and sliders, their cold brew coffee is so good people buy it by the growler
PJ’s Coffee—my favorite New Orleans coffee franchise. If you go to Starbucks while in New Orleans instead of PJ’s everyone will know you’re a tourist and hate you for it
Community Coffee—the other great coffee franchise
Willa Jean—amazing creole/southern breakfast foods, I’d recommend shrimp and grits or the fried chicken biscuit with tabasco honey
Hansen’s Snowballs—best snowball stand in New Orleans
Other good ones include Pandora’s, Plum Street, and Van’s (lol “Van” is actually my uncle, but Hansen’s is still my favorite)
Creole Creamery—best New Orleans ice cream shop with local flavors
Ethnic Food, etc.
Ba Chi, Pho Tau Bay, Lily’s Cafe, or any other Vietnamese restaurant in New Orleans
Shaya—awesome Israeli food, order family style and get some hummus to enjoy the best pita you’ve ever had
Cafe Abyssinia—Ethiopian food
Nirvana—Indian food, go for $10 lunch buffet
Carmo’s—really interesting food in CBD with mostly vegan/vegetarian/GF options
Mona’s Cafe—Mediterranean food
Juan’s Flying Burrito—grungy Mexican restaurant with good burritos
Traditional Foods of New Orleans
red beans & rice
crawfish (when in season)
corn maque choux
shrimp & grits
snowballs (“nectar cream” is the true New Orleans snowball flavor)
King Cake (if it’s between January 6 and Mardi Gras)
All of these gems come from a google doc Addison shares with his friends and family. When Addison is gone, he says he misses the food the most! Be sure to bookmark this page or download his document here.
The People of New Orleans
New Orleanians are unashamedly eccentric. New Orleans is a historic melting pot of cultures and you can feel that in its welcoming and unique spirit.
We can be loud and fiery, but we're big lovers. We'll feed you till you explode and then send you home with Tupperware.
Things To Do New Orleans
Go out for live music on Frenchman
Eat your way around the city
Ride the St. Charles streetcar through some of the beautiful historic neighborhoods
Tour beautiful Lafayette Cemetery or St. Louis Cemetery
Check out the New Orleans Zoo
The Most Instagrammable Spots
The old live oaks dripping with Spanish moss in Audubon Park, Jackson Square & the St Louis Cathedral, getting covered in powdered sugar at Cafe du Monde.
If you’re in town around the holidays, don’t miss the Christmas lights at the Fairmont/Roosevelt Hotel or at Celebration in the Oaks.
The Most Underrated Place
A lot of people don't know we have the National World War II Museum. If you're even vaguely interested in history, this museum will blow your mind.
You could spend a whole weeklong vacation here learning about WWII, D-Day, and New Orleans' integral role in the Allies' success.
If you have time to venture outside the city, I also recommend the Whitney Plantation (about 1 hour from the city). Unlike most plantation tours, this one focuses on the lives and history of the enslaved people who lived here and teaches about the South’s dark past of slavery and racism.
If you visit, please just stay in a hotel instead of in an Airbnb. Many of New Orleans' most historically and culturally important neighborhoods have been home to renters for generations.
In the past few years, some of these neighborhoods have been totally bought up by a handful of people who rent these homes out on Airbnb and displace the folks who make New Orleans what it is.
I use Airbnb on vacation sometimes too, but please help protect New Orleans neighborhoods and leave that cute, colorful Airbnb house in the Treme alone and just stay in the charming French Quarter.
The New Orleans population is roughly 390,000, which is a great size city! I love cities that are under half a million. In cities this size, the culture and personality can really shine through.
They say the best time to visit New Orleans is from February to May when the weather cooler and the celebrations are in full swing. Mardi Gras is mid-February.
The summer months can be very hot and muggy. Hurricane season is June to November, just keep an eye on the weather. And if you're looking for a more lowkey vacation, December and January are great because the weather is cool, and you’ll get better hotel rates.
Other things to check out:
Addison for this amazing guide to NOLA! I have only been to NOLA once when I was 16 for a volleyball tournament, and I still have vivid memories of the French Quarter and Bourbon Street. This is one place I am dying to get back to.
Have you been to New Orleans? What else would you add to this list? Comment below.