New Orleans: Top Picks For Your First Visit

New Orleans is a vibrant city full of rich history, colorful culture and amazing food. Just named one of the “50 Best Places To Travel”, I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. You will certainly want to add this charming Southern City to your travel bucket list.

new orleans first visit

New Orleans: Top Picks For Your First Visit

Take a look at my top picks from food and drink, to places to stay when you plan your first visit.

What To Eat

Sitting down to eat in New Orleans is an experience in and of itself. Food is a culture in this city, and it speaks for itself. While there is no shortage of great dining, these are my favorite places for a bite to eat if you really want to experience the New Orleans food scene.

Gumbo at Commander’s Palace

A thick stew-like dish consisting of meat, okra and Creole and Cajun seasonings, gumbo is iconic Louisiana fare. While many restaurants in town offer a mean bowl of gumbo, head to Commander’s Palace for a unique dining experience in the Garden District for the best bowl in town. Commander’s Palace has been a landmark since 1893!

Beignets at Café Du Monde

When it comes to beignets there’s no better place than Café Du Monde. In fact, their beignets are so sought after the restaurant is open 24/7 so visitors can get their sweet-tooth fix at any hour of the day. A treasure from 18th century French colonists, a good beignet is composed of gooey dough that is deep-fried to perfection and topped with confectioner’s sugar. Pair it with a cuppa coffee and you will be in heaven.

Soft Shell Crab at Galatoire’s

You cannot visit New Orleans and not enjoy their fresh seafood. Look no further than Galatoire’s for soft shell crab. Sadly, this mouth-watering platter isn’t on the menu every night of the week, but if you are lucky enough to get your hands on it, you will be happy you did. This Bourbon Street restaurant has been around since 1905, and won’t be going anywhere in the near future.

new orleans first visit

What To Drink

Drinking in New Orleans is a rite of passage for some. For others it’s just another day. No matter if you are celebrating a special event, or looking for a happy hour libation be sure to treat yourself to these drinks.

Vieux Carré at Carousel Bar

A signature NOLA cocktail, the Vieux Carré is named after the original French Quarter and is concocted by mixing whiskey, cognac and bitters. Of all the places to sample this unique drink, the best is the Carousel Bar inside the Hotel Monteleone where you will partake in your beverage on a fully functional, rotating carousel.

Hurricanes at Pat O’ Brien’s

Sure you can get hurricanes at a variety of upscale bars throughout the French Quarter, only one bar has the claim to fame for the drink’s creation: Pat O’ Brien’s. Housed in one of the earliest establishments in the French Quarter, this popular dive bar is the place for a Hurricane.

Café Brulot at Antoine’s

It’s always a good idea to combine fire and alcohol, right? For a next-level caffeine pick-me-up, head to Antoine’s where you need to have a Café Brulot, an after-dinner spiced coffee drink that’s prepared over fire.

new orleans first visit

What to Do

Paranormal Tourism

One does not simply go to New Orleans, the Voodoo Capital of America, without visiting a few spooky sights.

Be sure to tour the infamous LaLaurie Mansion; a gruesome site that was once home to Delphine LaLaurie, a twisted socialite turned serial killer. Or, pay a visit to Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, a shop dedicated to the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans herself, Marie Laveau. Laveau lived in the 1800s and was famous for her works of community service and her natural flair for theatrics that could often be seen during her ceremonies.

Swamp Tours

For an experience that’s uniquely Louisiana, check out a New Orleans swamp and bayou boat tour. There are a number of boating companies who take visitors out on the open water for a closer look at swamp life including: alligators, snakes and hidden villages. Some tours even make stops at a few of the oldest plantations in the south.

Art and History

NOLA is home to a variety of museums that are sure to have something of interest for any visitor. Visit the National WWII Museum for an unforgettable chance to tour and ride an authentically restored PT-boat.  For a uniquely New Orleans experience, head to the Historic New Orleans Collection or the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum.

new orleans first visit

Where to Stay

From large chains, to quaint boutique hotels you will find the perfect accommodations for your visit to New Orleans.

Contemporary Living at the W Hotel New Orleans

A beautiful courtyard, bright, bold rooms and a lively late-night bar, the W Hotel gives off an artsy vibe that’s perfect for urban visitors. You can enjoy the cabana-style pool, unique restaurants and the hotel fitness center, to help burn off some of those beignets and booze.

Southern Charm at the Ace Hotel

The Ace Hotel oozes cool with rooms decorated with artwork from local artists, handcrafted furnishings and interesting details like acoustic guitars and turntables. Here you can indulge in delicious food served on site at one of the hotel’s many restaurants, sip on finely crafted coffees at Stumptown Coffee or enjoy the fantastic rooftop pool and sundeck.

Angels and Devils at the Saint Hotel

The motto of the Saint Hotel is, “play naughtily but sleep saintly.” This dramatic lodging option features upscale interiors such as crushed velvet drapes and retro furniture. Each guest room is fashioned with unusual artwork, leather headboards and marble floors to play up the angels versus devils theme. During your stay you will be tantalized by traditional Louisiana dining options, live jazz music and devilishly delicious cocktails.

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No matter what kind of traveler you are, there is something for everyone in New Orleans!

Written by 

Mom, Writer, Lover of all things Social Media. Trying to make it all happen one day at a time! I'm a city girl stuck in a country world in Maryland. Loves Pugs and Designer Handbags. Hates working out, red wine and slow drivers.

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