Best of New Orleans
March 8, 2014 6:13 PM   Subscribe

A friend and I are taking a short trip (about 3 days) to New Orleans. We're staying near the French Quarter, access to buses and bikes. Where should we go, what should we do?

We're from the Mid-Atlantic/California and have never been to the South. Things we like: great food, quirky culture, artisanal goods (e.g. shopping local for jewelry and trinkets). We aren't really into nightlife but maybe a bar one night would be fun--if not too aggressive an environment for two petite, straight women.

One potential complication on the food front: I'm lactose intolerant and would prefer not to eat dairy at every meal, since I'll already be taking pills to try famous specialties like beignets. Budget is flexible; we're not opposed to one splurge meal, but a mix of high and low is always best. We won't be renting a car, so staying in the city.

What are the can't-misses of New Orleans?
posted by serelliya to Travel & Transportation around New Orleans, LA (7 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
If you aren't too into nightlife, maybe look into staying in the Lower Garden District instead of the French Quarter. It's close to everything, on the streetcar line & isn't as full of drunken crazies.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 7:03 PM on March 8, 2014

check NO MeFi IRL 1 and 2, and previous AskMe for many good recommendations.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:20 PM on March 8, 2014

There's way too much to cover here, but check out the Frenchmen Street art market for art/jewelry/craft market stuff. It runs evenings I think every day and you can check out music in Frenchmen St at the same time. I recommend going there Sunday night for a more laid back vibe- I've gone in groups of women and haven't really had any uncomfortable run ins. In general, avoid Bourbon Street at night and you'll avoid the majority of drunken aggressiveness you're likely to find.
posted by MadamM at 8:30 PM on March 8, 2014

There are a lot of good threads already about New Orleans and I highly recommend you pore over those as you'll get some great recommendations. Since you asked specifically about local shopping, you should hit up Magazine Street. It's a long street and there are several sections that are good, but starting at Louisiana and heading East would be a good way to go. You'll have a lot of fun in Fleurty Girl (it's only been around a few years but is quite the local institution!). Belladonna Day Spa has a great retail space too.

If you are in the French Quarter, Royal Street has good shopping as does Decatur Street. Can't recommend any shops off the top of my head, although there is actually another Fleurty Girl location right off Royal.

New Orleans has a number of regular art/craft/farmers markets, as well as random festivals. Last time I visited, there were two free festivals going on in the Quarter! See if the Freret Market, OC Haley Market, or Palmer Park Market is going on when you're there.

For night time I'd recommend catching some live music. Pretty much any brass, funk, or jazz band is going to be good. Gambit Weekly is the local rag for music listings. Live brass bands are awesome - you'll find yourself dancing until you can't move anymore!
posted by radioamy at 11:32 PM on March 8, 2014

I'm confused -- are you also gluten intolerant? Because beignets are basically donuts with a ton of powdered sugar. Remember to bring cash to Cafe du Monde, or the ATM fee will > the cost of one plate.

Anyway, people are posting good links, but I think I'm in your similar demographic and got back from New Orleans two months ago, so I'll just brain-dump here.

The Three Muses (Frenchmen) is smoke free, has lighter jazz, and girly drinks. Don't get their excuse for a sazerac because it tastes like a melted jolly rancher; other drinks are quite nice. I enjoyed resting there between the Spotted Cat (hot hot jazz I hope you like your swingouts 220 bpm) and listening to the band on the street.

I also really liked Napoleon House for a breather, and if you like modern / contemporary art, Julia Street is lined with galleries. It's also nice to take the steetcar or go for a run to the museum of modern art: the sculpture garden is remarkable as well as free.

If your trip were longer, I would take a morning to do a plantation tour, in particular, Laura. They're about an hour outside the city, but if you like hearing stories of awesome-sounding women and how the white patriarchy destroyed what seemed to be a more equitable and prosperous system, go. I also left with a souvenir piece-of-fruit because the plantation does still grow things.

If you have sudden homesickness for Somerville / SFO, go to Satsuma Cafe. Total hipster hub.

Finally, NOLA isn't really the south. It's 19th century cosmopolitan, "the northernmost city of the Carribean," etc -- and a very good place to visit before post-Katrina yuppies fully gentrify it.
posted by batter_my_heart at 12:46 AM on March 9, 2014

No gluten intolerance, but regular donuts often contain dairy and I'm quite sensitive even to butter... I will ask specifically though, and maybe be pleasantly surprised. Thanks everyone for the recommendations and links!
posted by serelliya at 5:13 AM on March 9, 2014

Beignets may contain a negligible amount of evaporated milk, so do ask I guess. Also the default coffee that comes with beignets is cafe au lait, so specify black if you don't want that.

You'll be fine in most bars. Very few are actually aggressive or unfriendly to women. Avoid the bourbon street karaoke and big ass beer bars, but that pretty much goes without saying. Try Erin Rose on Conti between Bourbon and Dauphine. It's not exactly an undiscovered gem but plenty of locals hang out there, including myself pretty frequently after work. Three Muses is a great suggestion, though I wouldn't describe the drinks as girly. Get there early because it fills up quickly. They open at five.

Have fun!
posted by CheeseLouise at 11:52 AM on March 9, 2014

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