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Help me plan my short trip to New Orleans next month.
March 22, 2011 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Help me plan my short trip to New Orleans next month.

Next week I'm taking a short trip to New Orleans for a one day music fest by Community Records, and it will be on Saturday, April 16th.
I'm flying in MSY from LAX on Thursday late afternoon, and it would be my first time in NoLa. I know I can't do as much as I would like to on a Thursday night and all day Friday, but I was wondering what anyone thinks should be essential to do in the area? I will be travelling alone until I meet up with friends just for the Saturday music fest, and I will be leaving Sunday.

One of my friends that lived there said I should check out The Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter, and the New Orleans Art Museum. Any other suggestions for food and cultural stuff?

Also if anyone had suggestions on where I should stay - safe hostel or cheap hotel, that would be great because I haven't planned my accommodations yet.

I'm hoping if this trip inspires me that I'll go back for a longer trip next time.
posted by xtine to Travel & Transportation around New Orleans, LA (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sounds like a fun show - didn't know the RX Bandits were still around.

The Gumbo Shop is not a bad restaurant, but it's overpriced and pretty touristy. Did you check out any of the other NOLA AskMes?

It's honestly fun just wandering around in the French Quarter. There are so many little nooks and crannies, random stores and yummy restaurants. Definitely check out Royal St, Decatur St, and Frenchman St.

Also you'll probably have fun shopping on Magazine Street, say between Louisiana and Washington or Jackson to Felicity.

If you're into art museums, NOMA is a good one (although personally that's not my thing). Also the National World War II Museum (used to be called the D-Day Museum) is really neat if you are at all into history.

EmpressCallipygos stayed at a hostel when she was here two Mardi Gras' ago, but I don't know much about it. Look for hotels that are in the Garden District, Uptown or in the French Quarter. You should be able to find a good deal through Travelocity or one of those sites.
posted by radioamy at 10:59 AM on March 22, 2011


I really need to create a Default Answer To What To Do And Where To Do It In New Orleans, Focus On Eating because everyone that knows I live down here emails me at some point, "Oh hey I'm going to be in New Orleans for 36 hours what do I do?"

Which is not to say I'm complaining, I just need to get my shit together so I can just copy and paste something.

Alright, where was I?

Oh yes, what do you like to do? If you like architecture and photography then you won't even remember the rest of the list once you set foot in the city - there's enough wandering around and looking at houses of every conceivable style to keep you entertained for a week.

We have a fantastic top-notch zoo, if you like that. The aquarium is right nice as well. Haven't been to the insectarium yet but I hear it's great.

Do you want to spend all your spare time eating, recovering from eating, traveling to a new place to eat, talking about where to eat next, and then eating? If so, you may just need to move here because it could take a while.

If you substitute every mention of eating with drinking (alcohol) in the statement above it works just as well.

So, personal recommendations:

1.) The French Quarter is *not* New Orleans. It's in NOLA, yes, but Bourbon Street does not represent how the city functions. There are good restaurants down there but don't feel like you have to eat there or even do anything there.

2.) For great mid-day mid-price food I'd recommend Parkway Bakery and Tavern, Stein's Deli, Domilise's, Liuzza's (not Liuzza's by the Track (not that there's anything wrong with them)), Juan's Flying Burrito, Pho Tau Bay or Pho Bang (both across the Mississippi River), Mahoney's, Cowbell, and ... well, about 100 other places.

3.) For great mid-to-high-priced food, I'd recommend the Delachaise, Dante's Kitchen, Cochon, Mat & Naddie's, Boucherie, and I'm going to stop there because that's already more than three nights' worth of food.

4.) For great beer, Avenue Pub, no contest. It's not far from where the Community Records event will be happening.

5.) For fantastic classy cocktails with bartenders that know their stuff better than you can imagine, Cure.

6.) For all other alcoholic intake, see: every bar in the city. You can locate said bars by spinning in a circle then throwing a rock.

The nice thing is that if you got 10 other New Orleanians they'd give 10 different lists. There's no end to the good food and drink here. There's some fierce competition of sorts here, because people just won't tolerate sucky food. If you can determine that a place has been open more than a year or two then it's probably going to be great food. [caveat: this rule becomes null and void inside the French Quarter]

Anyway, let us know more about what you like and what you want to experience, and we can better tailor some recommendations.

p.s. it's NOLA (New Orleans, LA) not NoLa.
posted by komara at 10:59 AM on March 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


I just got back from a four-day trip to New Orleans. We ate at the Gumbo Shop on Sunday night, and I thought it was quite reasonably priced. We got there early (6:30) and there was no wait, but apparently it's pretty popular because there was a line out the door by 7:45.

I don't know what your idea of fun is, but I would avoid Bourbon Street after dark for the most part. It's like a big frat party. Fun to see for a few minutes, but I can't imagine spending a whole evening there.

We did a guided cemetery tour (this one) that was really interesting. I usually avoid organized tourist things, but all the guidebooks imply that you will instantly be killed if you venture into the cemeteries alone, so we decided to play it safe. There were some sketchy homeless people milling around between the tombs, so it was probably for the best.
posted by something something at 11:14 AM on March 22, 2011


i like good food and not touristy stuff.

best place i have eaten for sure (after many visits to nola): green goddess. go. have the chicory coffee with condensed milk. holy goodness. sample a few of the dishes.

amazing fancy food (not as clean and simple as green goddess): cochon (rib with watermelon pickle), luke (the charcuterie plate was amazing)

if you are a photography buff, there is a store with more incredible photography than i have ever seen in any museum: a gallery.

and yes, touristy, but delicious. cafe du mond's beignets.

ps you did not say if you are a veggie/vegan - if so, green goddess has many lovely options
posted by anya32 at 11:17 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


You should take a look at the other hundred questions exactly like this one in askmefi. Not being snarky, these questions get asked once a month, and there's a lot of good information in them.

I pretty much agree with radioamy, but my two cents:

- The gumbo shop is fine, but if it was my first trip to new orleans with limited time it certainly wouldn't be on my short list.

- NOMA is in City Park. If you want to make a trip of seeing the Park, which is beautiful, and art is your thing, then go for it. But for a limited trip I wouldn't want to be inside for hours, and it wouldn't really be as if you're visiting new orleans.

- My suggestion for anyone with a limited time is to not plan too much. Half the fun of New Orleans is walking around and getting a feel for the city, which, in my opinion is quite unique. You'll find things to do, good restaurants that no one has suggested. I'd pick a couple of parts of the city and spend time just exploring. I wouldn't over plan, in other words.

- I would definitely spend time in the French Quarter. Ignore those that tell you differently. They're nuts. There are wonderful streets to explore, and it oozes history. The tourist/visitors center has tours that are very well done. People that never leave the French Quarter are missing out, but people that ignore it are just as much. Your first trip? You'd be nuts not to spend half a day wondering around.

Have a great time.

The French Quarter is *not* New Orleans. It's in NOLA, yes, but Bourbon Street does not represent how the city functions.

And the French Quarter is *not* Bourbon Street.
posted by justgary at 11:24 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


"but all the guidebooks imply that you will instantly be killed if you venture into the cemeteries alone, so we decided to play it safe."

I personally wouldn't wander into St. Louis #1 or #2 without a group, no. However, there are many other cemeteries in the city that would be fine to explore solo, if you're just into being in the cemetery not knowing where the graves of various famous people are. Personal favorites: Masonic cemetery, Odd Fellow's Rest (if you can get in), and St. Roch, all of which I have gladly wandered solo.
posted by komara at 11:27 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


C'mon, justgary, I didn't say, "NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES SET FOOT IN THE FRENCH QUARTER." I've just personally found it worth my time to caution people away from thinking that they could (or should) spend their entire vacation inside that little 8x13 square.
posted by komara at 11:41 AM on March 22, 2011


Hah. I'm sitting in a park across the street from the NOLA convention center right now.

I won't weigh in on must-sees but for me, being back here with limited time but having been before and not feeling like I NEED to do any one thing, I have done e following:

Gone to Mother's a few times for a quick lunch counter po boy.

Simply wandered the Quarter looking for some live music that sounds worth a beer. With the emphasis on plastic cups and lack of open container law I'm not obligated to stick around to finish my drink. Theres obviously better ways to find good music but my hotel is on Canal on the edge of the Quarter so I can walk out the door and expend my limited energy after a full day and walk back when I'm done.

Skipped Cafe Du mond but it's a nice g-there-once place.

Sat on a patio and had a beer and watched the ferries on the Mississippi.

Bourbon is a stinky piss hole filled with obnoxious douches but it can be fun for people watching. Plus I think you have to appreciate people having a good time even if you wouldn't want to spend too much time near them.
posted by phearlez at 11:52 AM on March 22, 2011


Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I know the question is asked sporadically, but I guess now my focus is on finding a place to stay.

I love art, photography, architecture, jazz music, etc so I realize I'm not going to be able to do enough. So I think I'm not going to plan that much and just enjoy it like you guys have mentioned. It's a place I've always kinda wanted to go but never yet until now.

I won't be drinking much (if at all), so I want to focus on the cool little eateries and shops.

While I will visit the French Quarter, I know it's not representative of NOLA so what's within walking or public transportation distance?
posted by xtine at 12:16 PM on March 22, 2011


I've just personally found it worth my time to caution people away from thinking that they could (or should) spend their entire vacation inside that little 8x13 square.

And I agree. But I also think many mistakenly believe that Bourbon Street IS the French Quarter. For someone's first trip, with limited time, if they're really interested in the city, I think skipping the French Quarter is a mistake. Plus, with limited time, maybe no car, and no knowledge of the cities layout, it's one of the easier sections to explore.

Theres obviously better ways to find good music but my hotel is on Canal on the edge of the Quarter so I can walk out the door and expend my limited energy after a full day and walk back when I'm done.

You could walk to Frenchmen street for great music, but being on Canal, you'd have a very long walk.
posted by justgary at 12:17 PM on March 22, 2011


EmpressCallipygos stayed at a hostel when she was here two Mardi Gras' ago, but I don't know much about it.

I did indeed -- Marquette House. I'd been there before in 1997. It wasn't bad -- wasn't my first choice, though; a little rundown and could have been a bit cleaner. But not "oh no roaches everywhere" level by any means, and pretty well located.

The OTHER place I stayed at in 1997, and the place I WANTED to stay at two years ago, was India House Hostel, which was about the same neighborhood as the Marquette House and a little better-kempt. Either one is within a block of the Canal Streetcar line, which makes it easy to get to and from the French Quarter.

And as for the French Quarter, I'd say at least make a quick visit just so you can see what it's like and draw your own opinions about it. I did spend an afternoon in the Quarter -- including a visit to the Gumbo Shop, at the behest of a friend who spent five of his formative years in New Orleans and told me he would never forgive me if I didn't -- but then hung around this funky used cookbook bookshop on Toulouse Street. (Said shop is worth a visit, too. It's called Kitchen Witch, they specialize in new and used cookbooks, and they have a used CD/record store in the back as well. Nifty place.)

Another "you've got to go just so you can say you went" thing is Cafe du Monde. Just once. They're open 24 hours, so you can make it a quick hit if you want. And get yourself a muffaletta at some point -- either direct from the original source at Central Grocery, or at one of the other restaurants that offer it. (I gotta say, back in 1997 the best muffaletta I had was a fancypants one at a sit-down restaurant.)

And just following your nose when it comes to the food won't steer you wrong either. Two years ago the best red beans and rice I had came from this dive bar I went to only two blocks from my hostel; I was thinking it'd just be a "quick something to eat before I go to bed" thing, and I totally wasn't expecting anything when they sent me to order food from a back room where a guy took cash in a cigar box and a 98-year-old woman hovered over three big pots. But my God it was good.

So yeah, even the dive bars in New Orleans can surprise you with the food. Trust your nose and you won't go too far wrong.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:15 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos is right - follow your nose! My fiance and I had a great dinner once at a little Italian place - we smelled the delicious bruschetta that some people were eating at a sidewalk table and couldn't resist!
posted by radioamy at 1:30 PM on March 22, 2011


My cocktail tour of New Orleans.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:57 PM on March 22, 2011


Just got back from NOLA on Friday, and some of the things I really enjoyed were:

-Taking the St. Charles streetcar to the end of line at twilight.
-Old-timey jazz at Fritzel's.
-The Pharmacy Museum on Chartres in the French Quarter was really neat.
-Had some interesting/decent West African food at Bennachin.

Enjoy your trip!
posted by greatgefilte at 7:21 PM on March 22, 2011


You may find my comment in a previous thread to be useful.
posted by mostly vowels at 8:07 PM on March 30, 2011


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