New Orleans, Louisiana Travel Guide

NOLA travel guideAs some of you who follow us on IG know, Trey and I visited NOLA earlier this month. For us it was an early two year anniversary trip (our anniversary is June 8th). But we went early because we wanted to walk (and bike!) around New Orleans without having to worry about the heat. So early May seemed like the perfect time. 

Pretty nolaYellow buildingWe absolutely LOVED New Orleans! We've been talking about it ever since. We got lots of recommendations before we went, so we thought we'd share all the places we went to and enjoyed in case any of you plan to take a trip there soon.

You'll note that most of the places I'll be sharing are either in the French Quarter or very nearby. We decided we'd have more fun if we skipped the rental car and just walked, biked, and occasionally took an Uber or cab. So this meant we stayed mostly around the area we were lodging. NOLA is a big city, so there are certainly many more places to visit and stay at outside the French Quarter. But if you're looking to centralize your visit like we did, then you'll really benefit from this list.

Cane and tableI'll start with our very favorite spot, which we actually visited twice during our short stay (it's that good!), Cane & Table. The atmosphere is very cool and unique. Plus they have great small plate options and an awesome cocktail + rum selection. We're really into tiki drinks and rum at the moment, so this was perfect. If you go early, ask to be seated in the patio area because it's SO pretty. Unfortunately we were there too late both times we went. 

CochonWe also really loved Cochon. This is very meat-focused (porkโ€”as you might have guessed from the name), but everything we had was just delicious and the atmosphere is very good too (lots of pretty wood inside). If you plan to go, call ahead and make a reservation because it gets busy!

Lattitude 29One evening we had dinner and drinks at Latitude 29, and it was awesome! Their interior and menu are super tiki-themed. So if you like that kind of fare and cocktails, you'll love this place.

A couple other late night spots we liked (but that I didn't get photos of) were Yuki and Horn's. Yuki is a great second or third stop for the night as it's kind of a dive, but it's a great sake bar with amazing veggie dumplings. We loved it. Horn's is a great spot for dinner or a second spot for a drink and dessert. It's a quiet little corner cafe tucked away in a neighborhood. We had a chocolate pot de creme with salted caramel that was amazing! 

Du mondeFor breakfast one morning we hit up Cafe Du Monde. They are one of the most famous establishments for beignets and chicory coffee, and if you've never been to NOLA, it is a must. If you can, go during the week day or at a weird hour because they get really busy. Also, bring cash because it's cash only.

NOLA is colorfulOn our bike tour (more on that in a minute), one spot we went to was Elizabeth's. This is a great spot for breakfast/brunch. They are famous for their praline bacon. I had decided before we went to NOLA that I was going to ease up on my mostly vegetarian lifestyle for the trip since I wanted to try all the good food that came my way. And I must say, the praline bacon was AMAZING. But they have lots of other options too if you don't eat pork. Elizabeth's is inside an old house and decorated with lots of art from Dr. Bob (a local artist), which makes it feel really quaint and authentic to the area. 

Ruby slipperWe also had brunch at The Ruby Slipper, which is inside an old bank building (or at least one of the locations is). Yum!

SurreysProbably my favorite breakfast was at Surrey's Cafe and Juice Bar. Fresh juice and coffee? Yes, please! And their food was delicious as well. If you go on the weekend, expect a little bit of a wait (we waited 40 minutes on a Saturday at 9:30am), but that's how you know it's a favorite spot. ๐Ÿ™‚

Bikes in nolaElizabeth'sIf you are new to New Orleans or find that you only have a limited amount of time and you're worried you won't get to try enough authentic foods, say no more! I was worried about this too. So Trey and I booked a culinary bike tour with Confederacy of Cruisers. Basically you get to bike around NOLA (which is a treat in itself) with a knowledgeable guide who takes you to four different spots to enjoy a small, family style meal with everyone else on the tour. I am SO glad we did this because it was so fun and also so delicious. I also felt like I learned a little bit about NOLA from our guide, Victor, who was from there and had been a part of the food scene there his entire adult life.

They offer a number of different bike tours. I highly recommend checking them out.

MeltdownI actually didn't end up having as many treats as I thought I would on our trip. But I did very much enjoy Meltdown popsicles, which was the last stop on our bike tour. These were totally refreshing, inventive flavors, whole ingredients and most of them were vegan. This may have been one of the healthier things I ate while in NOLA. Ha!

Lamothe hotelHotelHotel2There are plenty of great hotel and home away spots throughout the city, but in case you're curious, we stayed at the Lamothe house. This spot felt unique because it is comprised of an older building separated from a carriage house by an enclosed courtyard with a pool/hot tub. Our room was simple and cute and located in the carriage house. We wanted a hotel with some character and an outdoor pool that was centrally located to everything we wanted to do so we could easily walk most places. This one totally fit the bill and was pretty affordable too. 

Bourbon streetAnd yes, of course we spent one night walking and drinking on Bourbon Street. If you've never been, then I would say that it's certainly something you should experience at least onceโ€”it's like a giant party! We were looking for a more laid back, just-us trip for our anniversary, and I think the Bourbon Street atmosphere might lend itself more to a larger group of friends (especially a bachelorette party or something festive like that!). But, it's quite fun and exactly what you might expect. 

Things we didn't have time for but wish we had:

The Rum Houseโ€”We love rum, so of course this was on our list, but we just didn't have time. I hear their tacos are amazing, and based on their website, it looks really cute too. Next time!

District Donutsโ€”I heard from multiple people that these are so good. I was bummed we didn't have time as I am a donut fanatic. 

Sucreโ€”I have had macarons from here before (mail ordered), and they were easily the best I've ever had in the USA.

If you live or used to live in New Orleans and you want to recommend some things we missed, PLEASE do! We'd love to hear more about this beautiful city. Thanks so much for letting me share some of our favorite spots from our trip to NOLA this year! xo. Emma

Credits // Author: Emma Chapman, Photography: Emma Chapman and Trey George. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

  • This is such a helpful an informative post! We have always wanted to visit New Orleans, and now I am even more inspired to do so. Thank you for publishing this!

    <3
    Emory
    helloscarlettblog.com

  • I love New Orleans! I had a great time when I went in December for New Year’s. That city loves to party. I loved District Donuts and Sliders. I had a Vietnamese Coffee donut and it was amazing. They put boba pearls inside the cream. What?! Also, La Petite Grocerie is a great restaurant, as is the bar/restaurant up the street whose name escapes me at the moment. I love that city and can’t wait to go back!

  • Now i really want a cocktail!

    50 Beauty and Life HACKS Every Girl Should Knowโ™ก

  • Sylvain in the French Quarter for the best dinner, and St. James Cheese Company on Prytania for a great lunch. Also, if you can get to Oak Street uptown..Oak Wine Bar for drinks and Jacques-imo’s for a very New Orleans dinner (sometimes a long wait, but always super fun, and Maple Leaf Bar is next door).

  • Thanks for posting Emma! My boyfriend and I are planning a trip to NOLA for September.

  • Any one have an suggestions other than food/drinks in New Orleans? We will be going in December for part of our honeymoon and we’re looking for activities and must sees!

  • oh my… words cannot express how much I love New Orleans! So much that I’ve been considering moving there from Texas! Did you happen to make it to the Garden District or to any of the need places on Frenchman street? The whole vibe of the city is unlike any other place to me! Looks like yall had fun! I would’ve love to have taken a bike tour!

  • You totally should! It’s a truly fantastic city! I’m so glad Trey and I finally made it a priority to go this year. ๐Ÿ™‚

    -Emma

  • Oh yes! It was on multiple menus we went to. Didn’t try it as I wasn’t sure my mostly vegetarian stomach could handle that level of adventure but it sounds WAY interesting right?

    -Emma

  • Big congrats to you and your fiancรฉ!

    I heard a lot about shopping on Magazine Street but didn’t get to go. I would recommend a tour of some kind (bike, cemetery, swamp, etc.) as NOLA is such a fascinating place full of rich history.

    -Emma

  • I totally agree-the city is so unlike other places. It felt very European to me (although I’ve only been to Europe twice so I’m no expert).

    ๐Ÿ™‚

    -Emma

  • We went to NOLA in February without realising we were there for Mardi Gras which was absolutely EPIC! I agree with Yuki – their noodle soups are delicious too. I really need to write up a guide of what we did – definitely want to do the bike tour – we did a haunted tour and it was giggles all the way!
    Would love to go again ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Please check out Port of Call. It’s a hole in the wall bar that mostly locals go to. They have fabulous food!

  • I have been having this itch to visit one day. This Travel Guide definitely gets me excited to visit! Hopefully, one day soon.

  • All of the food that you tried looks divine ๐Ÿ˜€ I have a ton of friends going to Uni there and would love to visit one day ๐Ÿ™‚

    Julia

    ExploresMore.com

  • They have the National World War II museum there. It’s huge! You can ride the street car and then it’s like a 2 minute walk. Definitely ride the street car down St. Charles Ave. The Garden District is so pretty. Magazine street has shopping. Of course, there’s the French Market, but it’s more touristy shops. New Orleans City Park is huge. If you’re driving you should stop by a plantation on the way. Nottoway plantation is between NOLA and Baton Rouge. Oak Alley is in Vacherie, LA which is about an hour from NOLA. Those are probably the two most popular. If you’re going in the next year, they’ll be having Broadway shows from September-May I think. So just google New Orleans Broadway to see the line up. I think in December they have this huge Christmas festival. I think one of the parks is all decked out and has this special train. My mom told me something about it last year. One thing about Louisiana is that we loovvvvee festivals. We have the most festivals out of any state so I would check around and see if there are going to be any around that time.

  • Happy Anniversary Emma + Trey, glad you had a good time in our city! At this point I actually have an Excel sheet of suggestions I print out for visitors (..and yes I realize that’s makes me a food nerd). A couple call outs for a chill evening in the mid city neighborhood would be: Katie’s-real neighborhood restaurant and nice bar too. Juan’s Flying Burrito-again both food and drinks are great (also has a Magazine street location). Angelo Brocato’s is great for gelato + espresso or other tasty treats.

  • Herbsaint and The Italian Barrel (right near cafe du monde) are both really great dinner places- but if I remember correctly Italian Barrel needed reservations months in advance as its a really small place. herbsaint was fabulous!

  • Excellent itinerary for your short time in NOLA! Agree with other comments a streetcar ride down St. Charles Ave. is a treat- you can’t beat a southern mansion.
    Other food recs:
    Peche
    Shaya
    Lilette
    Atchafalya for the best brunch (and Bloody Mary bar) in the city
    Doris Metropolitan

    For cocktails:
    Cure
    Bellocqu
    Sobou

    Live Music:
    Frenchmen Street! Check out The Blue Nile, Spotted Cat and d.b.a.
    Maple Leaf Bar on Oak St. is wonderful, too.

    Hope you can come back for one of the many festivals!

  • I went to New Orleans five years ago for my graduation trip, and we did a few really fun things. We took a class at the New Orleans School of Cooking (it’s in the French Quarter), and it was my favorite part of the trip! We didn’t cook ourselves but watched the woman cook and give a lesson and got to eat all of the food during it (plus come home with the recipes)! We had a car, so we also drove out to ride an airboat on a swamp tour! I think you can check out the aquarium without a car too; we may have taken the trolley if it was too far to walk.

  • It’s so great to see New Orleans featured! I’m from and live here and I have a couple other favorite spots (okay, a ton more but I will list a few). Dante’s Kitchen or Atchafalaya for brunch; Domenica or Ancora for pizza; Brocato’s for gelato/cannoli! Fun sightseeing things to do: City Park, NOMA, St. Claude/Frenchmen area bars, there is always music happening (check WWOZ radio); and of course festivals. If you have time and a car, take a swamp tour (lots of options not too far out from the city) or check out the Global Wildlife Center.

    ๐Ÿ™‚

  • How great you posted this today! I’d love to go to NOLA when I’ll finally visit the US ๐Ÿ™‚
    And yesterday I was thinking about the book club, since I don’t remember reading anything about it the last couple months if I’m not mistaken.
    So, Emma, in case you’re looking for a nice book about NOLA’s history, I can only recommend you “Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans” by Gary Krist (it’s from 2014). It’s really well written, a bit like a novel, incorporating press articles and historic interviews in the narration – I got it for my BF for Christmas and we both LOVED it ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Oh, I so enjoyed this post! We’ve been there 5 times and always had so much fun. The French Quarter is wonderfully entertaining. Butcher, the luncheon spot owned by Cochon was my favorite meal. Our son met his lovely wife in NOLA and they ended up getting married there even though neither is from there. It was a FUN wedding!

  • Love it! My family’s from New Orleans, so I always love looking at great photos of the city. Thanks for posting!

    Sarah Spener
    songfancy.com

  • I tried the fried alligator at Cochon a few years ago. It was doused in buffalo sauce so it was a nice compromise between being adventurous and not!

  • this is my soul city!!!! I absolutely LOVE NoLA. It is an amazing place with so much grit and magic. Great food and ever better people.

  • I just moved from New Orleans to the San Francisco Bay Area. You definitely captured the beauty of the city. ๐Ÿ™‚

    โ™ฅ Naomi Starry Eyes + Coffee Cups

  • I love NOLA! We take the free ferry across the river and tour where they make the Mardi Gras Floats.

    http://www.mardigrasworld.com/

    We also like their little aquarium and peeking into all the antique shops.

    Martha

  • It tastes like a slightly chewy chicken; I’ve never seen an alligator dish that wasn’t highly seasoned/fried/sauced so it really tastes like whatever they put on it! It’s delicious though and worth a try.

    Source: Baton Rougean.

  • My hubby and I went in March. Had the best time! Next time check out Old New Orleans Rum Distillery! Do the tour! Had so much fun and you get to taste the product. They will even pick you up and drop you off, not bad for $10.

  • We are headed down there Thursday. Thanks for the recommendations. Googling now ๐Ÿ™‚

  • New Orlenas is my absolute favorite! โœ“ โœ” And please do travel more ๐Ÿ˜‰ I love your travel guides

  • I am SO happy I stumbled across this post! I’m going to New Orleans this weekend and the bf and I already have reservations at Cochon Friday night! That’s about all we have planned though (besides adult beverages, of course) so I’m saving this post to read through in detail tonight! Glad you had a fun time ๐Ÿ™‚

    Lisa
    Strum Simmer Sip

  • Love this! I’ve been trying to plan my first NOLA trip – it’s on my list for 2015, but I think it may have to be a wintertime excursion…I missed the spring window and summer weather would probably kill the buzz. I’ll definitely add your recommendations to the list.

  • Just as a warning, September is during hurricane season. And even when there’s no hurricane, it’s very humid and rainy.

    Just as a heads up!

  • City Park is a must! You’ll be there just in time for Celebration in the Oaks–a big holiday light show–and it is 100% worth the visit. My husband and I live less than a mile from the Park, and I’m there almost daily. I love it so much. They have a great sculpture garden, beignets, lots of ducks–it is great.

    The WWII Museum is excellent as is NOMA. The Zoo is totally worth it, too. For live music, Frenchmen Street has tons of good jazz, and Tuesday night Rebirth at The Maple Leaf is fantastic (and very New Orleans). There’s a lot of good burlesque in the area!

    Whatever you do, I would recommend spending time outside of the Quarter. The Quarter is great, but New Orleans really shines in the surrounding neighborhoods and cities. Bike the levees, tour Abita Springs (and Abita Brewery), streetcar down to Mid-City or Uptown, go to St. Roch Market, go see a movie at Prytania Theatre–just get out there! And have an awesome time!!!

  • You have got to go to Bacchanal next time you go–it’s in Bywater. You walk in, and it’s like a liquor store–you pick out your bottle of wine and cheeses from the coolers. Then you walk out into a garden, which feels just the right amount of overgrown. They plate your picks and bring them out to you and you can eat and drink and enjoy the live music they usually have. One of the most wonderful nights I’ve had on vacation.

  • Couchon is my fav!! Love that place. I miss my NOLA so much these days, feeling homesick like never before lol

  • Hello! Writing to you all the way from Australia here but wanted to add my two cents in for NOLA as my fiance and I absolutely LOVED it there!

    A couple of other really great places for drinks and food are Muse (great tapas, drinks and live jazz!) and Evangeline (they do a wicked Proud Mary which is basically a bacon infused Bloody Mary) in the French Quarter and if anyone is interested in buying some local art you should definitely go see Danny Delancey on Royal Street (I think he is in the Lisa Victoria Gallery which is down a laneway). Already itching to go back after reading this post so thank you Emma! ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Hey there! I live in NOLA and am so glad you loved our great city!! Your trip looked fantastic and you must come back down for Rum House, Sucre, and District Donuts- I live uptown and those are some favorite places on mine as a local! I highly suggest hitting up City Park next time around for the art museum and botanical garden, Creole Creamery on Prytania St, Cowbell for amazing mac and cheese on Oak St, along with going to Slice- it’s a place on Magazine with fantastic pizza at a great price! Again- so glad you loved the city, it’s truly magical!
    -Teryn
    http://www.diariesofarucksack.com/

  • Ohmygosh this is so awesome! The Lamonthe House is where we always stayed growing up. The room we stayed in was huge with a little side room that had two small beds. I remember that courtyard to well, it was always so green & magical! Our family vacations were always to Pensacola then a stop in New Orleans because my mom used to live there. I actually have a famous NO artist, George Rodrigue, ‘Blue Dog’ tattoo on me in her memory. I kinda love this post ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Thanks for the tips! We are going next week for our anniversary as well. We were also looking at the bike tour you took. I’m glad you gave it positive feedback. We will definitely try it out. Happy anniversary!

  • I have always wanted to go to New Orleans, mostly for the architecture in French Quarter. Your photos are lovely and it looks like your trip was fun. Happy anniversary!

  • I’m happy I came across this post. I’ll be headed to New Orleans next week an I’m very excited. This will be my first time visiting and I’ve gotten recommendations for restaurants similar to where you two went. I’ll have to try to go to Sucre. Love macarons!

  • I’ve been wanting to go to NOLA for years. One of my bucket list trips is a road trip through Texas, Louisiana, up to Nashville and Memphis and back to Texas.
    The bike tour sounds awesome. Great way to see the city!
    xx Allison

    http://www.thrifted.ca

  • Next time you’re in NOLA make time for dinner at MoPho (http://mophonola.com/). It’s close to City Park. They have the best pho! Try it with flank steak, chicken thighs, grilled greens, and mushrooms. You won’t be disappointed! The flank steak is served rare and sliced super thin so it cooks in the broth.

    Since y’all like rum so much you should also try to do a tour of the rum distilleries and sample some different types of rum. The rum with ginger was different and not something I’d normally drink, but that’s what vacation is all about right?

    Laissez les bon temps rouler!

  • I can’t believe you didn’t have a muffaletta! Masparrows has a great one. They are huge so I’d get only 1/4 of one.

  • I love this post! It takes me back to our time in NOLA. It was one of my favourite places during our trip to the U.S. last year (I am Down Under!). Such nice people, and the best French toast and fried chicken. Also one of the worst hangovers I’ve had! The locals are happy to lead you astray even away from Bourbon Street.

  • New Orleans is on my bucket list! I’m thinking of attending the AIGA conference this year and making it a vacation. Definitely bookmarking this for when I visit.

  • Just seeing this post and insanely excited to see it. I have been following A Beautiful Mess for 2+ years and to see that they traveled to my home and current city, New Orleans, is a delight! It’s so interesting to see where you guys went and what you enjoyed and documented. Great choice on the Rum House and Elizabeth’s. Only thing I am bummed on is not running into you all!
    But please, by all means, return to the NOLA and trust me, you’ll have so much more to explore!!
    <3 Marcella Hogan
    New Orleans, LA

  • Being a Nola local, I loved your post! Next time you’re here, visit the garden/uptown area. Gorgeous. And you better hit up District Donuts! I live in the LGD and go here at least once a week. Also, right next to Cochon is Cochon Butcher which is casual but so good. Be sure to hop on the st Charles streetcar for some sight-seeing and keep your noses out to catch a whiff of the night blooming jasmine and magnolias!

  • I live very close to New Orleans – I was actually born in NOLA – but the French Quarter always makes me feel like a tourist no matter how many times we go!

    Hope you enjoyed our Southern hospitality and culture!

  • New Orleans is fantastic at Christmas time! You have to visit the Roosevelt Hotel. The decorations are beautiful

  • i am one of the front desk agents at lamothe house:) we are so glad you enjoyed your stay with us! we hope to have you back soon!

  • The Ursulines Convent is a huge must, even if you’re not Catholic or even if you’re an atheist. It’s the oldest building in the Mississippi River Valley (completed in the early 1750s), and the inside is stunningly gorgeous (there is even an authentic tiara on display). The convent and the wonderful women associated with it also played a very big role in shaping early New Orleans into the social culture it has now, and it’s worth learning about if you have an interest in the history here. As a hint: it played a big role in what is known as Charity Hospital – America’s second oldest hospital system (which missed being the oldest by a month).

    Once you start unraveling the strings around the history in one part of the city, you’ll feel compelled to learn about what came from that, which would have another wing of history attached to it. It’s truly the nations most fascinating city, I’d argue it has the richest history of any city in the new world.

  • I live in New Orleans and whenever friends and family visit I book them on one of Jonathan Weiss VIP tours. No cheesy French Quarter tour, it’s a whole experience where you get to hear stories no one else knows and get access to secret places and just hang out. There is always something new and cool to do in New Orleans.