I surprised my husband with a trip to New Orleans to celebrate his 40th birthday. New Orleans was the perfect choice because of the history, the food, and jazz! Three things my husband enjoys.
Where to Stay in New Orleans
J.W. Marriott New Orleans
Since I was celebrating my husband turning the big 4-0 I decided that the luxury hotel, J.W. Marriott would be the perfect home base for our trip. It was a great decision, too! The J.W. Marriott New Orleans was in the perfect location. We were able to walk to many – at least 90% – of the places we visited. If not walk to them, we were able to catch the trolley car or hop on the City Sightseeing Bus which were literally across the street.
Read TripAdvisor Reviews here: http://www.tripadvisor.com
The J.W. Marriott New Orleans is a 30-story hotel. Our room, which looked newly renovated was on floor 28 – Room 2814 – and gave us views of the French Quarter and Canal Street. The room was clean, the bed was comfy, and the floor was quiet. We loved the walk-in shower. It was big enough for two. .:Wink Wink:. But I will get into more detail when I share my full review of the hotel.
Where to Eat & Drink in New Orleans
New Orleans is known for its good scene. While planning this trip I made a comprehensive list of all of the restaurants I would love for us to check out. The list was crazy! I had it broken down by brunch, sweets, black-owned, types of food, etc. It was impossible to visit all of them in five days, but we did get to knock off a few. That only means we have to return (several times) to knock off a few others that are on the list. That said, below are some of the places we ate and drank during our visit.
We ate at Deanie’s on our first night in town, and it was good enough for us to visit twice during our New Orleans trip. They’re known for the giant seafood platters, but we opted for other seafood items like their Char-grilled Oysters, Shrimp Etouffe, amazing Barbecue Shrimp, and my husband loved their Crabmeat Au Gratin. Come hungry because portions are large. If you’re into beer, they have a pretty awesome range of local brews on tap.
Coterie Restaurant & Oyster Bar
Coterie wasn’t even on my list of places to dine, but we stumbled upon it walking to the City Sightseeing office for the hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Here, I had Shrimp & Grits. They were so yummy! My husband started his meal off with a slice of warm pecan pie. It was good but not better than the one I make. He also had the NOLA Burger (Beef patty topped with roast beef debris and Swiss cheese), which he said was really good.
Cafe Du Monde
A visit to New Orleans isn’t complete without a trip to the infamous Cafe Du Monde known for their delicious beignets and cafe au lait. My husband and I came here twice – here came alone once without me – and each time we did not have to wait. Since the Cafe is open 24-hours your odds of being in a line vary depend on when you come. Either come really early or really late.
Felix’s Restuarant & Oyster Bar
This is located diagonally across from ACME. The ACME line was way too long for me so we came here. After trying char-broiled oysters, I know that the only way I like to have my oysters are raw on a half-shell or fried. Here, I had them both ways. The fried oysters were in a delicious shrimp and oyster Po-Boy. My husband had Shrimp etouffee.
When it comes to Po-Boys in New Orleans, people have their favorites. Gene’s was one of the recommended places for this New Orleans specialty sandwich. Located on Elysian St. in what some people would call “the hood” Gene’s is a busy Po-Boy shop frequented by locals. We got two shrimp Po-Boys with a drink for $23. The Po-Boy was overflowing with perfectly fried popcorn shrimp.
I could not leave NOLA without visiting Nina Compton’s Compère Lapin. Nina is a black Caribean James Beard award-winning chef. Her food is an infusion of her Caribean roots, French and Italian flavors. Our meal here, which was brunch, was easily in the top three of meals we had while in NOLA.
We did the pre-fixe brunch for $35 which includes a selection from the Small Plate, Sweets and Stuff, and an Entree. We had the Accra with Spicy Green Bean Remoulade, Chilled Shrimp with Coconut Curry and Tostones, CL Bagel Tartar with Calabrese Tuna, and our entrees were Coconut French toast and CL Wagyu Burger.
Her drink menu is extensive. Definitely try the specialty cocktails. If you don’t know what to get, ask the waiter for suggestions. My husband loved his Copper Bunny, which comes in this cute copper bunny.
After enjoying some of their brews at Deanie’s my husband and I decided to stop by the NOLA Brewing Tap Room. We took the trolley into the Garden District, and then walked the rest of the way here. Hey, we have to burn off the calories from all of the rich food and drinks somehow, right?
SeaWorthy (Ace Hotel)
It is no secret that I love oysters. I mean I LOVE them. If I could eat them every day of my life I would. My husband knowing this looked up oyster bars, and came across SeaWorthy, a swanky oyster bar serving oysters from various regions across the US and specialty cocktails. The fact that I would be able to sample oysters from the Gulf Coast, East Coast, and West Coast – all offering an array various salinity and sweetness I knew I had to go. I was not disappointed.
I had a dozen and a half of oysters sampling 1-2 oysters from each region. My husband had the Blue Crab Toast. For drinks, I had an almost too pretty tequila-based drink called “The Butterfly Effect” and my husband had a spicy “Kumbaya”
Big Easy Daiquri’s
Daiquiris are huge in New Orleans. You can find them literally everywhere. Before heading to our walking tour, we stopped by Big Easy Daiquiris to pick up a mix of the 190 Octane + Hurricane. It was good.
Old Absinthe House
We came upon the Old Absinthe House during our walking tour of the French Quarter. It’s one of the oldest (200-years) Absinthe houses in the country. This place has history and still serves absinthe in the same way it was served when it first opened. Stop in here to get a specially crafted cocktail or to people watch.
Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone
Hotel Monteleone is home to the city’s only revolving bar. Even though we didn’t get to sit at the Carousel Bar, we were able to enjoy a glass or two of their specialty cocktails while listening to live jazz.
Where to Play in New Orleans
There is so much to do in New Orleans. Being a New Yorker, coming from the “City that never sleeps” that says a lot. I feel like NOLA runs neck and neck with New York City in the sense that there is always something to do and see no matter the time.
Gravier Street Social
If you are looking for something fun to do check Groupon. Groupon has a ton of discounted things to do in many cities including New Orleans. After researching things to do, I came across Gravier Street Social for a burlesque show. The Groupon deal I found came with a bottle of champagne for two. It was worth it. plus a new and fun experience for my husband.
The Garden District
If looking at historical million dollar mansions is your thing, then taking a stroll through the Garden District should be at the top of your list. This area has many beautiful mansions. Huge, stately mansions some with tales of being haunted and some with celebrity residents like The Carters and John Goodman, and some used as the setting for your favorite scary shows like American Horror Story.
Creole Queen Paddlewheeler Jazz Dinner Cruise
We rode the Creole Queen Paddlewheeler 5-miles down the Mississippi River while listening to the music of a live Jazz band. During the dinner cruise, a buffet-style meal was served that consisted of New Orleans cuisines like corn maque choux, jambalaya, red beans and rice and more. Being able to take in views of the city at night was nice and added a romantic ambiance to the evening.
City Sightseeing Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tour
We were provided a complimentary 3-day City Sightseeing Bus Tour. This was the best way to see the city. Through the tour, we were able to get an idea of the layout of the city and realize that we did not need to uber anywhere in the city. The city is truly walkable or you can use the trolley which is inexpensive. Plus, we were able to plot out our points of interests while learning some historical facts about NOLA.
My husband being the Jazz head that he is could not pass up the opportunity to see a live jazz performance at Preservation Hall. This jazz hall, located in the French Quarter was established in 1961 to pay homage to New Orleans Jazz. Preservation Hall has its own in-house jazz band and record label. General admission tickets are $20 for a 45-min show.
Lafayette Cemetery No 1
We took a self-guided tour of one of the oldest cemeteries in New Orleans. Lafayette Cemetery No 1 is located in the Garden District and its above-ground tombs have many stories to tell. Tales of plagues of yellow-fever killing infants, children and the elderly. We learned about war heroes. Tales of individuals whose decisions were written in history and [negatively] changed the lives of people who look like me.
Second Line Parade
We happened to be in NOLA during the Second Line season, but we missed it. Second Line season is when second line parades take place on Sunday afternoons. You may not know it by name but can recognize it by the brass band marching down the street followed by crowds of people jubilantly dancing in the streets.
You can see a calendar of the Second Line Parades on http://www.nola.com.
Five Days in NOLA Wasn’t Enough
Even though it seems like we did a lot in five days, we still need to get back to NOLA to indulge more. There are so many places I want to visit like Studio Be, the Audubon Aquarium, lots more restaurants like the black-owned Morrows and Willie Mae’s for their fried chicken. We have to do a real Po-Boy showdown between Gene’s, Melbas, Parkways and Mother’s. We didn’t get to try pralines. I know, I know. So we definitely have to go back for that. Plus, it would be nice to venture outside of the city and visit some plantations. There’s so much to do, which only means we have to return to New Orleans and hopefully, soon!