When people ask me the best time to visit New Orleans, the answer is easy: November. Sticky summer weather has turned lovely, there aren’t heaps of tourists, and this city knows how to decorate for the holidays. With a Thanksgiving feast coming up at the end of the month, New Orleans is the perfect place to pregame – it’s one of my all time favorite cities for eating (and I don’t even like seafood!).
If you’re planning a visit, here’s my packing advice: Bring shoes for walking, something fantastic to wear for a night out, and do not pack your gloriously skinny-skinny jeans. They are simply not equipped to deal with the NOLA deluge of beignets, fried-everything, and cocktails to go.
If you’ve never been to New Orleans before, start in the French Quarter. Jackson Square is the heart of the neighborhood, home to that famous view of Saint Louis Cathedral, along with all sorts of artists, street performers, and local color.
Just walking around the French Quarter, you’ll see many of the major spots pretty quickly. Wander through the neighborhood (I always seem to end up on Royal Street) to find cocktails to go, fancy antique shops, and the famous Spanish architecture – those balconies! Stop for the traditional beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde, or visit Cafe Beignet for my personal favorite beignets with coffee or a split of champagne.
There are so many fantastic places to eat and drink in the French Quarter, I’d never be able to list them all. Here are some highlights:
Arnaud’s French 75 Bar has a delicious version of the famous cocktail, and the place is wonderfully vintage glam. If you’re peckish, order the soufflé potatoes – they’re meant to be amazing!
Sylvain is one of my favorite spots for taking advantage of the dining-outside weather. You really can’t go wrong with their menu any time of day, for food or drinks. You’ll find Champagne & Fries in the Starters section, and you should absolutely order it.
The Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone is a busy local landmark, and a perfect meeting point for an evening out in the area. Who doesn’t want to see a carousel-turned-rotating-bar (and skip the long wait for a seat)?
Café Amelie has two winning options for you: a delicious Sunday brunch in their hidden-away courtyard, or a cozy dinner in the carriage house. The only wrong choice here is to not make a reservation.
The Garden District is my favorite NOLA neighborhood, and The Henry Howard is my favorite neighborhood hotel. It’s family-run, and the whole place feels appropriately homey – but, you know, definitely chicer than your actual home. There’s custom toile wallpaper, brass instruments above the beds, pretty courtyard hideaways, and a mimosa bar in the lobby!
It’s on Prytania Street, right near the Eiffel Society (built from former pieces of the Eiffel Tower) and the street car that can take you downtown. Try not to steal the orange dress they have framed, but it’s okay if you have all your furniture re-upholstered in velvet when you get home.
You might know that walking is one of my favorite things to do while traveling, and The Garden District is just made for a leisurely afternoon stroll. Wander along the quiet streets, past all the beautiful houses, popping in and out of the little shops and restaurants you find along the way.
Following Prytania Street will take you past many classic Southern mansions and tucked-away shops (like The Garden District Book Shop!), over to Lafayette Cemetery No.1 and Commander’s Palace. If you get a couple of their 25-cent Monday martinis, you won’t be able to help but look up your favorite homes online.
On Magazine Street, you’ll find plenty of fantastic shops. My personal favorite is Century Girl Vintage – a dreamy and colorfully curated collection of vintage dresses, newer pieces, and designer finds. Next door is the beautiful modern home furnishings store Sunday Shop, the inspirational Spruce Wallpaper shop (by appointment only), and Saint Claude Social Club. Further down the road, you’ll find Perch for home decor and Pilot/Powell for clothes.
Lunch: Turkey & the Wolf for a sandwich that has literally won awards, Juan’s Flying Burrito for great tacos, The Vintage for Italian-esque appetizers, The Daily Beet for something that’s refreshingly healthy.
There’s been a lot happening in this neighborhood for the past few years, and the biggest news (in my book) is Maison de la Luz. If the incredible design is any indication – from the rooms themselves to Bar Marilou and a blue-and-white breakfast room for guests – it’s more than worth booking a stay. It’s top of my list for my next visit!
The Arts District is (surprise!) home to many art galleries. Julia Row is dotted with gems like Degas Gallery and Arthur Roger among historic row houses. The National World War II Museum is near the end of the street, and extensive enough for at least a half-day visit.
Willa Jean is great any time of day, but best known for their biscuits and brunch. You’ll find some creative slushie cocktails on their menu (frosé is only the beginning), and sandwiches as big as your face. There will be leftovers.
Bar Marilou is the perfect way to get a taste of Maison de la Luz, even if you’re not staying there.
Bittersweet Confections has an impressive display of cakes, pastries, gelato, and sandwiches too. Their cupcakes are quite possibly the best in town – just the place if you’re in the mood for something sweet.
Herbsaint is perfect to stop by for lunch outside, or settle in for dinner indoors.
Drip Affogato Bar serves up a slew of pretty, creative twists on the traditional espresso-over-ice cream. Stop in at Buff Beauty Bar across the street for a manicure, and follow it up with a Matcha, Matcha affogato. Aren’t you glad you left those skinny jeans at home?
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