The reputation of Bourbon Street stands out as something that kind of “summarizes” New Orleans to many people, but there is so much more to the city than partying on Bourbon Street (although there’s nothing wrong with doing that, too!). When I planned my trip to New Orleans with my friend Sam – who doesn’t drink and I barely do – I wanted to find unique experiences in New Orleans and share them with you guys!
I’m going to be sharing my itinerary in a few days which has more information about where to stay and breaks down when and where to do these plus the rest of the must-do things in NOLA!
Experiences in New Orleans
Family Style Cajun Food at Mosquito Supper Club
Wondering where to eat in New Orleans for the most memorable experience? Mosquito Supper Club had to be my favorite! Have you heard of the Bayou? In Louisiana, there is a small town called Chauvin in Terrebonne Parish on Bayou Petit Caillou but with ocean levels rising, it’s falling into the sea. So much so, that a chunk of Louisiana the size of Delaware is just GONE. As you might know, my boyfriend, Ben, builds artificial reefs to prevent coastal erosion and I found all of this very intriguing to learn about. The chef of this supper club is from Chauvin and has made it her whole life basically to preserve the food that her mom, her grandma, and all the women in Chauvin cooked. That means they don’t do fusion, they don’t evolve the recipes; they make them exactly how women there have for generations.
The supper club is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Up to 24 people can come and sit together where they eat family style in the cutest New Orleans home. They try to show you what life on the Bayou is like and that means Cajun cooking. We had seafood gumbo, homemade rolls, stuffed crabs, salad, and much more. The potato salad is the best I’ve had EVER. The food is all from local sources.
We don’t really think about dinner parties and supper clubs these days, but going here and meeting other people at dinner was such a highlight of the trip for me. One couple was planning their wedding, one guy had been to the supper club four times, another couple were both doctors, and the cute grandma next to me was serving me food making sure I was getting enough! Haha! I loved this so much and highly recommend it. FYI the chef, Melissa M. Martin, is low-key famous and will come out for a chat after dinner. On the mornings in the weekend, the same house turns into a bakery that people line up around the corner called Levee Baking Co.
Check out the Mosquito Supper Club website here. You do need to make a reservation. The address is 3824 Draydes Street. Your Uber driver will think the address is wrong and drive you around the block. The meal is a flat fee of $75 per person + drinks. You can BYOB wine and pay a $15 uncorking fee.
PS: I’ll be sharing about where else I ate in my itinerary in a few days!
Creole Welcome to Freewheelin’ Bike Tours in Marigny and Bywater
Not sure what being Creole means? We took a bike tour from Laura, a Creole woman from New Orleans, who patiently explained it all to us. Over three hours, we toured the more off-the-beaten-path parts of New Orleans while we learned about everything from Voodoo to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We learned such an insider’s look into what life is like in New Orleans and I can’t recommend this tour enough. THAT is coming from someone who actually hates riding bikes!
I just could have listened to Laura’s stories all day. I recommend doing this tour right when you get to New Orleans as it’s a nice introduction to the layout of the neighborhoods. Many people won’t leave the famous French Quarter (where Bourbon Street is and most major tourist attractions), but this tour only starts and ends there since that is where the bike shop is located.
The tour will take you out of the French Quarter to the colorful homes of the Bywater instead of the Antebellum homes of Uptown. You will stop into a cozy cafe like Paloma Cafe for a coffee part way through or a drink at Bacchanal (a do not miss) if you’d rather. You’ll learn about civil rights, Voodoo (the real stuff not the touristy version) at a secret alley with a Voodoo temple, see hidden away phenomenal graffiti, a funky version of New Orleans, and really just get a unique view of the city.
You’ll then be able to see where you want to go back to – maybe you wanted to spend more time in one of the neighborhoods or maybe you can check them off your list and focus now on French Quarter, Oak Alley, or head over to Magazine Street for some shopping!
The bike tour is $49. You can book on their website here. It is 8 miles in total which probably sounds like a lot but is really do-able. It’s hot but it starts in the morning which helps ease the heat a bit. Wear a hat!
Don’t miss out on what NOLA is known for: Jazz
While you might not want to drink and party, that is okay – you can go to a jazz club for a laid-back chill experience. Sam and I had chocolate cake and Shirley Temples instead of booze! I recommend the Jazzplayhouse in the Royal Sonesta Hotel. It’s a small, intimate space and they have great bands.
While we were there we got to listen to the Brass-a-holics who are pretty famous in New Orleans! I’m not a huge jazz person – it’s not what I tell Alexa to play while I’m in the shower, anyway, haha, but seeing it live is a whole other story – it was fantastic! They actually are kind of like a Funk band.
Touristy but worth it – Cafe du Monde
You can’t read a blog post about New Orleans without it raving about the beignets at Cafe du Monde. Beignets are a deep-fried dough covered in powdered sugar. You can have some cafe au lait, coffee with chicory, with it or do what I did and go for the hot chocolate. When I got to New Orleans I started asking everyone from my taxi driver to the manager of my hotel who grew up in NOLA, “is Cafe du Monde touristy or really the best place for beignets?” It really is, guys. It’s worth the hype. Although, to be fair you can’t really mess up deep-fried dough too much so it’s too busy in Cafe du Monde don’t stress; there are other places to try these.
These have been famous in New Orleans since the 20’s when in the French Market people of all classes would rub shoulders here to drink the best coffee and eat the best “donuts” in town. The owner of Cafe du Monde, Louis Gillette, had someone offer him $250 for the recipe (a fortune back then) and he wouldn’t tell. But these days, everyone buys a box of the beignet mix and takes it home with them! Technically, beignet means fritter in French but they are actually a Belgium donut – with many people saying it’s really first from Rome, Italy!
While you’re here, wander into the actual French Market which is an open-air covered market that has locally made food, produce, crafts, and even touristy items like t-shirts and magnets.
American Horror Story in the Garden District
The famous neighborhood has huge mansions and is lined with stunning massive Oak Trees. Lafayette Cemetary is here – a famous place to explore. Another interesting house here is the Buckner Mansion which is where they filmed American Horror Story: Covent. If you’re into that, this is a must! I loved that season!
You’ll want to take an Uber out here and can just put Buckner Mansion into the map. It’s on the edge of the district so you can walk in from there. These homes are stunning. If you’re feeling cheeky, you can open up the Zillow app, and see how much the homes are worth!
Grab Some Antiques (or Pricey Homewares) on Magazine Street
You can walk from the Garden District to Magazine Street over a long stroll and then do some shopping. There are tons of cafes and restaurants here as well so grab lunch! They have the big stores like Free People but also small local shops, tourist shops, luxury homewares, and some vintage clothing shops that were VERY cool. I’m almost kicking myself because I didn’t realize until after that this location has one of the very few Warby Parkers stores in the USA. Check out all the shops here.
A unique store you shouldn’t miss if you love jewelry is Mignot Faget. This local designer makes jewelry from things that inspire here in New Orleans.
Pack a picnic for City Park
Why not make lunch a little more interesting? One of the most popular places in town is brand new and called Auction House Market. They have varied restaurants like classic NOLA po-boys, a health food shop with make your own salads, smoothies, empanadas, rolled vegan ice cream, and more!
The place is beautiful but just an idea: instead of eating there, why not pack a picnic and take it to one of the beautiful places in New Orleans that are on your “tourist to do list” anyway, like City Park!?
New Orleans has so many cool things to do and this just scrapes the surface.
You can explore the just French Quarter for days and not get bored. The nightlife on Frenchman Street is off the charts (places like Snug Harbor, d.b.a., The Spotted Cat, Apple Barrel, The Blue Nile and Maison.) But outside of that, you can go ghost tours, learn at ethical plantations like Whitney Plantation House. There are air-boat alligator tours if you want to get into nature. You can make sure to see Jackson Square, New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, the National WWll museum, Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, and shop on Royal Street. The list goes on and on! I will share more tips and places to eat in my upcoming blog post: How to Spend 3 Days in New Orleans!
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This trip was a paid campaign with Visit New Orleans but the activities were chosen by me and all opinions are my own.
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That old school trolley looks fun Rachel. Seen one in Istanbul and Christchurch and they look like a neat ride. NO feels awesome. On my travel list for sure.
Great Post Rachel! I always wanted to go to New Orleans and now even more! It looks amazing!
This is a great list! I am so looking forward to visiting New Orleans next year!
After reading your blogpost I feel like I desperately need to go to New Orleans – it looks really stunning!
To me NOLA is all about the culture and history, and less about Bourbon Street. Thanks for highlighting the other side of it all!