Louisiana

48 Hours in New Orleans

The following post is from a sponsored trip with New Orleans & Company.

If you’re into beautiful architecture, world-renowned cuisine, vibrant nightlife, outdoor activities, and museums rich in history, then New Orleans is your city.

There’s something for every kind of traveler, and every New Orleans neighborhood has its own unique, charming, and surprisingly eclectic personality. All of the endless activities and sights to see can easily make a weekend getaway in New Orleans feel daunting. Where do you even start?!

Well friends, we’re here to help. We just got back from a trip to “The Big Easy” and have come up with a 48-hour itinerary that covers some of our favorite NOLA spots - and will undoubtedly leave you anxious to return! (Keep in mind that it’s jam-packed, so feel free to go at your own pace, and omit spots if needed.) Enjoy!

SATURDAY

MORNING

Start your weekend with brunch at the chic and trendy Willa Jean. Their coffee is strong, the biscuits are perfectly flakey, and you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. We highly recommend you try the BBQ Shrimp Toast (their most popular dish) and the Grain Bowl (it’s as Instagrammable as it is tasty)!  

Fight the inevitable food coma with a 1.3 mile walk to the historic French Quarter. Wander around the colorful buildings and see the local artists in Jackson Square. While you’re there, spend an hour or two at The Louisiana State Museum, where you’ll find a moving exhibit on Hurricane Katrina, and a fascinating look inside the history of Mardi Gras.

Just down the street is the iconic Cafe du Monde, and it doesn’t matter if you’re still full from brunch, you ALWAYS have room for beignets! Order an iced cafe au lait and a round of beignets, and you’ll see why this place has been a New Orleans staple since 1862!

Amazing brunch at Willa Jean

Jackson Square!

Jamming in Jackson Square

So much to see in Jackson Square!

Colorful Louisiana State Museum exhibits

Mardi Gras Exhibit at Louisiana State Museum

AFTERNOON

One of the best ways to see and learn about the city (in our opinion), is on a bike tour. The friendly folks at Free Wheelin’ Bike Tours will not only give you a fascinating history lesson of the city, but they’ll also take you to some lesser-known sights, through some quaint neighborhoods, and you’ll even stop for a drink or two at a few local spots. In 3 hours, you’ll learn more about New Orleans than you would in a day on your own… and you’ll get some exercise in, too!

EVENING

Located on the lively Bourbon Street, in the heart of The French Quarter, is the vibrant and classy, Desire Oyster Bar. It’s exactly the type of place you want to be on a Saturday night in New Orleans, as you’ll be able to dine on classic NOLA dishes, with a side of prime people watching! Make sure you sample their famous chargrilled oysters!

After dinner, enjoy an intimate performance at The Jazz Playhouse, where they have nightly shows by some of the best jazz bands and musicians in New Orleans. Sip on a French 75, cozy up in a booth, and get ready for a jazz performance you’ll never forget!

Stay at the historic Le Pavillon Hotel, which is only blocks away from the French Quarter. It’s elegant and ornate without feeling pretentious, and their attention to detail is unparalleled. If you make it back in time, be sure to enjoy their signature peanut butter and jelly sandwich bar (genius, right?), which is free for hotel guests from 10-11pm!

Free Wheelin’ around NOLA

Quick stop for a beer on the bike tour

Oysters!

Amazing jazz at the Jazz Playhouse!

The bar at Le Pavillon serving up some tasty libations

SUNDAY

MORNING

Venture into the Bywater District, for a hearty and tasty breakfast at Elizabeth’s. This quintessential New Orleans breakfast/brunch spot is best known for their praline bacon, but you truly can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. And don’t forget to grab a photo by their quirky, art-covered walls!

While you’re in the area, be sure to wander around the Bywater, which is one of New Orleans most creative and ever-changing landscapes. You’ll find colorful neighborhoods, street murals, funky cafes, and even curbside boozy daiquiris (Gene’s Curbside Daiquiris - it’s a must)!

Elizabeth’s for breakfast

AFTERNOON

Make your way back to the French Quarter, (it’s about a 2-mile walk, which we enjoyed, but you could also catch an Uber), and take a stroll through the French Market. Vendors sell everything from “Gator on a Stick”, to Mardi Gras masks, to Louisiana hot sauces!

Right down the street from the French Market is Central Grocery & Deli, home of the original Muffuletta! Consisting of sliced meats, homemade bread, and their family’s Italian Olive Salad, all it takes is one bite of the famous sandwich to understand the hype. It’s been featured on USA Today, The Huffington Post, and The Today Show, among many other media outlets! We suggest sharing a half size (they’re huge), and taking it to enjoy along the Mississippi River!

By this time in the afternoon, a nap might be in order. But if you’re still raring to go, head to the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum! This 1823 apothecary turned museum has exhibits of early medicines, superstitious cures, and more… and it’s fascinating. You’ll be blown away by how far modern medicine has come!

EVENING

Experience a different side of the French Quarter, with a romantic and sophisticated dinner at Sylvain. This dark and trendy gastropub serves Southern bistro classics that are elevated and sophisticated, and their wine and cocktail menu is extremely impressive. Make sure you try their Skillet Cornbread and Shaved Brussel Sprouts!

We can’t think of a better way to end a weekend in NOLA than by “taking a spin” at the iconic Carousel Bar! Located at The Hotel Monteleone, this revolving bar has been a long-time New Orleans favorite, and their cocktails are expertly crafted. Speaking of which, The Vieux Carre cocktail was first concocted here!

Muffulettas are ALWAYS a good idea

So much history at the Pharmacy Museum

Tour of the 1823 pharmacy

Probably the best meal of our trip at Sylvain

Revolving Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone

The Vieux Carre was invented here! It was delicious!

Our First Mardi Gras: Tips & Tricks for the Biggest Party of the Year

The following post is from a sponsored trip with New Orleans & Company. Head over to their page for all the Mardi Gras info you can need, including the Mardi Gras bucket list, Mardi Gras like a local, FAQs, etc. Hope we see you there next year!

Mardi Gras.

It’s an iconic event that we’ve had on our bucket list for years. Parades, beads, glitter, costumes, dancing - Mardi Gras is one of the biggest parties in the world, and we finally understand the hype.

We just returned from a trip to New Orleans where we got to experience our first Mardi Gras parade, and it was everything we could have dreamed it would be! We had the TIME OF OUR LIVES - and the joy on our faces say it all!

But that being said, navigating the celebrations can be overwhelming. Choosing which parades to attend, knowing what to wear, where to stand… it’s a lot for newbies like us! So here are some tips and tricks that we learned from our first (and definitely not our last!) Mardi Gras:

PLAN YOUR TRIP ACCORDINGLY

We decided to visit New Orleans the last weekend in February, which happened to overlap with the very beginning of the Mardi Gras celebrations. The city was abuzz with preparations and Mardi Gras decor was everywhere, but crowds were minimal and hotels weren’t at capacity. The deeper into Mardi Gras that you get, the more crowded the city becomes and rates for hotel rooms can reach an all-time high. Mardi Gras “season” starts 12 days after Christmas, and then culminates the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. If it works with your schedule, we suggest planning your trip for early in the season, then you can explore a more mellow New Orleans, but still get to join in with the Mardi Gras festivities.  

In terms of hotels, we recommend staying somewhere within walking distance of all the excitement. We stayed at Le Pavillon, a beautiful four star hotel in the Central Business District that is a 5 minute walk to the French Quarter (We’ll share more about our hotel in our next post!). It’s an even shorter walk to St. Charles Avenue, where many of the Mardi Gras parades roll through! We find it crucial to be close to all the action, but then be able to retreat to a cozy, quiet, and relaxing hotel.

KNOW WHICH PARADES YOU WANT TO SEE

Mardi Gras clubs (officially called “Krewes”) put on dozens of parades, and each one has a different theme. There’s “The Krewe of Iris”, which is the oldest all-female krewe, “The Krewe of Chewbacchus”, which is for lovers of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, and “The Mystick Krewe of Barkus”, a parade for pets, and so much more. (Head here to see a full list!)

We saw “The Krewe of Cork” parade, which celebrates food, wine, and a good time - three of our favorite things! The Krewe members wear wine-related costumes, toss necklaces with their cork logo, and are even accompanied by “wine police”, whose motto is “To serve and pour”!

THERE IS NO DRESS CODE

While we highly recommend dressing up for the theme of whatever parade you are attending (something we will definitely do next time), there are no rules when it comes to Mardis Gras! People wear whatever they want, and it makes for some glorious people watching.

Wear comfortable shoes, and if your parade is in the daytime, double check the weather. When we were there it was warm (and humid), so light, loose layers were perfect. Since the timing and weather of Mardi Gras changes year to year, it could chilly and cold, so be prepared! We also suggest stopping by the French Market beforehand, and purchasing some beads to throw around - that’s half the fun! And while we’re on the topic of throwing beads...

MARDI GRAS IS FAMILY FRIENDLY!

That’s right -  there were kids everywhere! Mardi Gras can have an “adults only” reputation, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. At The Krewe of Cork there were all ages, and the little ones were having a blast watching the parade go by. We were incredibly impressed with how family friendly the entire afternoon was - it felt like one big neighborhood block party! (There are a few adult themed parades, most notably the “Krewe de Vieux”, so just be aware of the themes ahead of time - if your kiddos are in tow.)

FIND A BALCONY

Ask any seasoned Mardi Gras attendee, and they’ll say that the best way to view a parade is from above! It’s people watching at its finest, and throwing beads from a balcony is so much fun. We watched The Krewe of Cork from the balcony at Arnaud’s, but we’ve also heard great things about the event space Bourbon Vieux on Bourbon Street. A ticket will get you access to their large wrap-around balcony, gourmet cuisine, and a premium open bar. In our opinion, that is truly the way to go!

Loving the views with our new pals!

Mardi Gras can feel overwhelming for a first timer, but it doesn’t have to. Order a Mint Julep to go from Napoleon House, throw some glitter on your face, and get ready for the biggest, most eclectic block party you’ve ever seen… chances are you’ll want to make it a yearly tradition!