5 Must-Visit Places in New Orleans
For my husband’s birthday last year, I gave him a long-weekend trip to New Orleans. He’s been a New Orleans Saints fan for years, we are total foodies, we had never been, and the “Big Easy” has long been on our shortlist for places to visit in the United States. Since we both recently decided we value experiences over “things” for gifts, I thought that a trip over one of the military’s Fall four-day (Federal Holiday) weekends would be a perfect birthday trip. I asked his parents to come out from California to watch our five-year-old and we flew out from our home near Fort Eustis, VA on the Friday of Columbus Day weekend to spend three nights in New Orleans.
Over the course of four days, New Orleans became one of my top two favorite cities in America. (It’s a tie between it and New York City). New Orleans is unlike anywhere else on earth. It is a flavorful confluence of cultures, races, religions, languages, and cuisines. It is everything you imagine and nothing like what you imagine. New Orleans was founded by imperialists’ criminals, laborers, slaves, prostitutes, military, and outcasts. New Orleans was built by survivors and remains inhabited by survivors. Though modernity has touched it, it remains as it always was and always will be, uniquely New Orleans.
If New Orleans is on your bucket list, I highly recommend a visit in the Fall to avoid the hot, humid summer weather. Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day weekends are great options to experience it with nice weather and to avoid taking too much vacation time. While you are there, I recommend you check out these five must-visit places.
1) Bar-Hop on Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street is crazy! It may not be your cup of tea. But…you have to see it, at least once. Bourbon Street is the notoriously wild section of the French Quarter in New Orleans. It is filled with a variety of bars, restaurants, wacky souvenir shops, and live entertainment venues. If wild nights are not your scene, opt for a walking tour of the French Quarter to get a glimpse of Bourbon Street and to be able to appreciate the history and uniqueness of the French Quarter. If you are game, spend an evening bar-hopping along Bourbon Street. Here are some classic institutions and some of my personal favorites to check out: Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s, Blues at the Funky Pirate, Sazerac at the Carousel Bar & Lounge in Hotel Monteleone, and a craft cocktail at Backspace Bar & Kitchen.
2) People Watch in the French Market
Along the river bank of the French Quarter is the covered French Market area, where you can shop from vendors, grab a delicious Muffuletta sandwich at the Central Grocery, and do some fun people watching. Nearby is the famous Café du Monde, where you can splurge on powdered sugar drenched beignets and coffee and stroll over to Jackson Square and admire the façade of the St. Louis Cathedral.
3) Visit the National WWII Museum
Though not one of New Orleans’ most noteworthy attractions, the National WWII Museum is a rival for some of the best museums in the world. As a matter of fact, it was voted by Trip Advisor reviewers to be the #1 attraction in New Orleans, the #3 museum in the USA, and the #8 museum in the world! The museum contains many interactive exhibits, covers all fronts of the war, and includes great period-inspired dining and shopping venues. Be sure to add a viewing of the 4D “Beyond All Boundaries” experience narrated by Tom Hanks to your agenda.
4) Go to a New Orleans Saints Game
Let me preface this by saying, I am not a Saints fan; however, my husband is. So, I bought us tickets to see the Saints play the Redskins. I am a long-time Dallas Cowboys fan thanks to my dad, so naturally I was cheering for the team playing against the Redskins. That aside, I’ve been to a few NFL games in different stadiums and I can confidently say that New Orleans Saints games are a great experience! The music and entertainment outside the stadium before the game starts is high-energy and fun. The fans are supportive and upbeat of their team, but not jerks. Even if you are not a Saints fan, you should highly consider going to a game when you’re in New Orleans. You will have a great time. Honestly…I was almost converted to a full-blown Saints fan because of this experience.
5) Trolley Ride through the Garden District
Hop on the Saint Charles Streetcar and take a ride to the Garden District, a much quieter, subdued section of town, compared to the excitement of the French Quarter. There, you’ll pass by dozens of beautiful mansions. Many people also enjoy visiting the cemeteries with above-ground burials such as Lafayette Cemetery Number 1. For fancy/ fine-dining, top your night off with dinner at the Commander’s Palace. Or, better yet, eat their 3-course prix fixe menu for lunch with $0.25 martinis! That’s right – I said, $0.25 martinis.
We squeezed a lot of great things into our trip to New Orleans and I worked with amazing travel agents to plan this trip out. I know that during this visit I only touched a minuscule fraction of what New Orleans has to offer and plan on returning many times, so if I missed one of your favorite places, please let me know! I will add it to my list and check it out next time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ashley Metesh-McCoy is a veteran of the Army National Guard, an Army spouse, and a former Army brat. She is the mom of a precocious five-year-old daughter, two dogs, and two cats. She is also the owner/founder of Kinship Vacations, a full-service travel agency and travel concierge service that helps people plan customized vacations that create new unforgettable memories and deepens connections. Kinship Vacations also offers other military spouses and veterans the opportunity to start a rewarding, fun, and portable travel business through its one-of-a-kind travel advisor training program designed specifically for milspouses. Ashley is also an enthusiastic Sword & Plough brand champion, recommending the bags and accessories to all of her travel clients. For one, she has personally tested the Signature Rucksack in the sands of the Sahara Desert, to the luxurious boutique hotels in Paris. She loves the versatility and durability of Sword & Plough’s products for travel!