Only in New Orleans – Will you find an eclectic mixture of Voodoo shops offering gris-gris bags for good luck, go-cups overflowing with frozen daiquiris and fruity hurricanes, ornate above ground tombstones commemorating the dead, brass bands resounding on street corners while drunken bead-laden tourists clap along, second lines parading down narrow streets, parasols and handkerchiefs dancing to the beat in celebration, the remnants of Mardi Gras’ past hanging from trees and wrought iron fences, the musical styling’s of Kermit Ruffins and potholes big enough to swallow you whole. New Orleans has a certain je ne sais quoi that is made up of colorful Spanish and French architecture, beignets and chicory, delicious Creole and Cajun foods, an infamous nightlife scene and long-lasting historical traditions. But it is so much more than just those iconic things that we picture when we think of The Big Easy. New Orleans is a city of resilience, culture, and close-knit community. It is a place where the strangers you meet become family. A place where everyone is accepted for who they are, no matter what they look like, outlandish costumes and sexual orientation included. It is a place where you can feel the past coming to life in the shadows of the gas lantern lit streets. New Orleans is more than just a place, it is a lifestyle, one that consumes you and sets fire to your soul!
I had the pleasure of falling in love with the incredible city half a decade ago during an impromptu New Year’s Eve road trip. I was licking the wounds of a failed relationship when I decided that I needed to get away from my home in Texas for a few days with some close friends. There was nothing that could have prepared me for the way that I fell in love with the scenery, the culture… the people. New Orleans became my passion. In the past five years, I have made multiple trips, created endless memories, read almost every book about the city that I could get my hands on and even started one of my own.
While each and every visit has been as unique as that city itself, there are certain staples that make every trip a blast. Below is a list of my five favorite places to visit while I am in New Orleans. All of which can be done with a go-cup in tow!
Esplanade Avenue – My obsession with the city starts with Esplanade Avenue. This particular street used to be known as “Millionaire’s Row” and to this day, is still home to many beautiful historic residences. I have always been a sucker for historical architecture and this street is what dreams are made of! From old churches that are now extravagant homes, to 19th century creole mansions that take you back in time, you can’t go wrong. If you are looking to explore a side of the city that is dripping with history, my recommendation would be to start at the Mississippi River and make your way up Esplanade Ave to City Park. Pro-tip: Stop at Rare Form along the way to hear some to local music from Nervous Duane and grab an ice cold Reasonably Corrupt Black Lager to go.
Avenue Pub – 1732 St. Charles Ave – Out of all of the bars I have been to in New Orleans (trust me there have been many) Avenue Pub is by far my favorite. Not only do the bartenders serve up some southern hospitality with their lengthy selection of craft beers, the view of the St. Charles streetcar from the upstairs balcony has the propensity to give you a new perspective on life and the “Dump Truck Fries” are to die for! Not to mention it is the official hangout of the New Orleans “Nightwatch” cast. You never know when you might run in to Nick, Holly, Titus, Dan or Keeley!
Frank Relle Gallery – 910 Royal St. – For me, a trip to any city is incomplete without taking in the art scene. Royal Street is a great place to wander amongst the galleries and shops of creative individuals with incredible abilities to capture the magnificent beauty of the city. However, in my opinion, no one captures the essence of New Orleans and the Bayou better than award-winning photographer Frank Relle. His proclivity for capturing New Orleans in a mystical light is unlike anyone else. Drop by his gallery to take a peak at his collection; if you’re lucky, he will be there to answer any questions you may have!
New Orleans Pharmacy Museum – 514 Chartres St. – For all of you history fanatics out there, this place is the B-O-M-B! Want to see which drugs were used to numb the pain of a stab wound from an old-fashioned dual? Curious about how women dealt with “Aunt Flow” in the olden days? Want to discover which instruments midwives used in the early 1800’s? This place is for you! It is only $5 for a self-guided tour and comes with a booklet full of information that will help you navigate the vast variety of relics. Also, if you are looking for a quaint courtyard to host your wedding, they provide that service as well!
Magazine Street Po’boy and Sandwich Shop – 2368 Magazine St. – I discovered this delicious little hole-in-the-wall on my last visit to New Orleans. There are many places to eat on Magazine Street, but nothing quite compares to this place. It is a cute little mom and pop type diner with mosaic tile floors, a wooden ceiling and some hand-painted Saint’s décor. Sandwich lover? I have one word for you, Muffaletta! While this place doesn’t offer any alcohol, the food is made fresh daily and the staff is very friendly! As a bonus, if you still have room after their giant homemade portions, District Donuts is just a hop and a skip away for a gourmet donut dessert!