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Classy New Orleans Travel Guide + Things to Do

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This New Orleans travel guide is for those who want more high-end, adult things to do in this colorful city. My husband studied at Tulane University from 2000-2004 and, while he will tell you his college experience was decidedly casual. However, as thirtysomething adults, we visited NOLA with the goal of having a “classy” long weekend, filled with low-key relaxation and “nice” dinners. The result is this post, but I still snuck in a few of his old favorites.

First, I list my favorite fiction books set in New Orleans, so you can get in the mood for your travel. Then, I discuss things to do, what to eat, where to eat it and where to stay. By the end, you will be radiating Southern charm. (*wink*)

New Orleans Travel Guide

Things to Do in New Orleans

French Market in New Orleans
Jackson Square in NOLA
houses in New Orleans

There’s no shortage of things to do in New Orleans. Besides eating and drinking, below are a few options we like for some low key adult relaxation:

  • Browse the French Quarter (pictured above)
  • Visit St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square (pictured above)
  • Listen to live jazz music (We love the popular Rebirth Brass Band, which plays at the Maple Leaf on Tuesdays. My husband says that, if you go there, get dinner at Jacques Imo’s, which was on one of Anthony Bourdain’s shows, and serves Cajun comfort food. My husband loves the alligator sausage cheesecake. There’s also a table in a pickup truck out front.)
  • Shop on Magazine Street.

It seems like there’s some sort of festival always happening in New Orleans, but the most popular ones are Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest.

NOLA Restaurants & Food

Restaurants in New Orleans

What to Eat in New Orleans

Red Beans and Rice: A Cajun spice red bean gravy with celery, onions, and green peppers, over rice and served with sausage

Etouffee: a stew of onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, hot sauce, and either shrimp, crawfish, or chicken

Gumbo: a Cajun-flavored soup with sausage and shellfish, celery, bell peppers, and onions

King Cake: a round iced cake with a hole in the middle and a plastic baby hidden inside. The finder of the baby becomes the “King” or “Queen” of the day. My husband’s favorite flavor is “cinnamon.”

Beignet: a square pillow-like doughnut covered in powdered sugar, preferably from the famed Cafe du Monde (pictured above)

Jambalaya: a Creole rice dish consisting of meat and vegetables mixed with rice. Traditionally, the meat includes sausage, along with pork or chicken, and seafood, such as crawfish or shrimp.

Po-Boys: a variety of sandwiches (like a hoagie) with Cajun sauce, served between two slices of french bread. My husband’s favorites are fried soft-shell crab, catfish, or shrimp. He prefers Domilise’s.

Muffaletta: an Italian sandwich with cured meats, cheese, olive dressing, and bread

Bananas Foster: originated in the 1950s at Brennan’s Restaurant, bananas are sautéed in butter, sugar, and cinnamon, then bathed in rum and set aflame

Pralines: a pecan-based candy made with sugar, milk, and butter

Crawfish Monica: Rotini pasta with crawfish in a creamy Cajun sauce

I usually drink wine when I am out, but I would be remiss not to mention that New Orleans is also known for a wide array of signature cocktails. My top choice is a fruity and herbaceous Pimm’s Cup and my husband’s top choice is the Sazerac, a lemon and rye whiskey drink with a touch of absinthe.

Where to Eat in New Orleans

Commander’s Palace

Commander’s Palace is the place to go for a very traditional high-end New Orleans meal (with a dress code!). Since 1893, it’s earned seven James Beard Foundation Awards (and more awards than I can count), and famous chef Emeril Lagasse once worked there.

It’s known for its turtle (snapper) soup and bread pudding.

Brennan’s Restaurant

Since 1946, Brennan’s Restaurant (featured in the pictures above) is a glamorous pink and green Creole fine dining establishment with several rooms of decor that screams colorful Southern refinement. Chefs love to eat there and it’s also one of America’s best wine restaurants.

It’s known for its fancy brunch, bananas foster, and brandy milk punch.

Muriel’s Jackson Square

Muriel’s Jackson Square (pictured above with hanging plants) is both a pretty and a comfortable restaurant right next to St. Louis Cathedral, perfect for high-quality Southern bistro food. It’s haunted, and its Inner Seance Lounge is where their resident ghost, Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan, spends most of his time.

Its Cajun shrimp and goat cheese crepes are utterly delectable.

Where To Stay in New Orleans

The last time we went to New Orleans, we stayed with friends, but I can recommend a few hotels for you to check out.

Royal Sonesta New Orleans

Trip Advisor’s Traveler’s Choice

My husband has stayed at the Royal Sonesta several times, and we have sent friends there who enjoyed their stay. It’s a large hotel in the French Quarter and has a rooftop pool as well as balconies that oversee the famed Bourbon Street.

Hotel Monteleone

Trip Advisor’s Traveler’s Choice

Since 1886, the luxurious Hotel Monteleone is also in the French Quarter but is unique in its historic (and haunted) details. It’s home to the rotating Carousel Bar (pictured above)

For all the literary buffs here, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Anne Rice, John Grisham, and William Faulkner have stayed there, and Truman Capote lounged at The Carousel Bar.  In 1999, it became an official literary landmark by the Friends of the Library Association. You can even stay in a “literary suite.”

The Columns Hotel

The Columns Hotel was my favorite place to visit in New Orleans. It’s a restored 1880s mansion with historic charm (pictured above with large white columns) located in the Garden District on the well-known St. Charles Avenue. They have a large front porch facing a streetcar and an oak tree, by which you can sip a cocktail.

Fiction Books Set in NOLA

A Streetcar Named Desire
A Streetcar Named Desire portrait in the French Quarter

This is a blog “where books meet lifestyle.” I just love to pair travel with books set in the same location and, as such an artsy and cultural melting pot, New Orleans provides some of the best options, from Classics to diverse reads:

That concludes my New Orleans travel guide with a *classy* vibe.

Pin this New Orleans travel guide to Pinterest because you can refer back to it when you are planning a classy Southern trip.

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