I was supposed to be in New Orleans ("NOLA") last month to celebrate a friends' 30th birthday. Last minute changes forced me to cancel the trip. Prepping for that trip got me thinking about some of my NOLA favorites. There is no shortage of things to do, places to see or food to experience. From weekend destination to extended vacations, I don't think you can go wrong making plans to visit New Orleans ("NOLA"). This guide has been carefully curated over several visits and discussions with locals. There is not a thing/place on this list I would not recommend to my nearest and dearest.

Getting Around

I found the best way to get around is by car. Rent one at the start of your trip and the possibilities are endless. If you are looking to save cost, uber pool has always been a great alternative to car rental. If you are only intending to stay near or around the French quarter, you can also get by without a car.

The Best Time to Visit

Unless you want to experience Mardi Gras, Voodo Fest or Essence Festival (or any other such annual events), I found the best time to visit New Orleans is September to November when the summer crowds have decipiated and the weather is friendly (or April & May - just become the crowds arrive)

Where to Stay

Near or around the french quarter. Personally, I like to avoid the heart of the French quarter. I have loved staying at Hilton St George (very close to French quarter, but away from the heart of it); Wyndham New Orleans and Hotel Provincial. If you want to stay in the heart of the excitement, I have always liked AC Hotel Bourbon/Fren Quarter and Astor Crowne. These are easy on the wallet and accessible. If you can snag a airbnb in the garden district, irish channel or uptown, then by all means. Those take you away from the tourist traffic of the French Quarter but not to far away that you can't get to it if you wanted.

Where to Dine

Of course there is Cafe du Monde. No NOLA trip is complete without getting beignets. They are open 24 hours and if you can get a seat looking out to Jackson square then you win the lottery for prime people watching. 

For Brunch. You cannot go wrong with Luke's, Commander's Place, Cafe Amelie or Ruby Slipper. One of my favorites things is brunch in the Cafe Amelie courtyard and the Shrimp and Grits at Luke's is the reason for weekend brunch.

For Lunch & Dinner. Any of the Brunch recommendations will do, but you can also consider Bon Ton cafe; Acme Oyster house; Jacques-Imo; Juan flying burrito; Atchafalya or August by John Besh. For something more fancy, the Upperline is all kinds of fab. I have never gone wrong with anything on the menu.

For coffee and sweets. Cafe du monde (it bears repeating) - I hardly ever venture from the hot chocolate and beignets. The few times I do - I go to one of these: Spitfire coffee; District donut or District hand pies. For something cold and creamy, Creole creamery or Little vic does the trick.

Where to explore

Spending time in the French quarter is a given. Stroll down Bourbon street and canal street for premium people watch . Don't miss Jackson Square. There is also Frenchman street at night with live music at bars and restaurant. Find one you like, grab a seat and relax. Getting away from the French quarter, exploring the Garden district is a great way to spend an afternoon (lots of instagrammable homes). You can also join one of the free walking tours to get acquainted with the city. For shopping, the riverwalk outlet collection is a great option that keeps you close to the tourist areas. If historic cemeteries / above ground burial grounds are your things, NOLA has got a few I hear are worth checking out. If you want to get out of the city - a swarm tour might be a good option. The tours last two to three hours.



Last fall I booked a sponteneous trip to New Orleans. I had some family in the Country and they were spending a few days in New Orleans ("NOLA"), I had no intention of meeting up with them since I was going to be hosting them in Dallas at the tail end of their vacation, but by a stroke of luck, I found deeply discounted tickets on skyscanner. I purchased my ticket late Friday evening, booked a room and hurriedly tossed a few items into an overnight bag. The next morning, I was on the 7:45 a.m flight headed to Louis Armstrong airport in New Orleans.

When I boarded the plane on Saturday morning, the only thing I was sure of was my accommodation. Over the years , the Hilton New Orleans St. Charles has become one of my favorite places to stay in NOLA. It is located in close proximity to the French quarter, but away from the volume. I arrived shortly before 10 a.m and met up with my party at the Hotel.

10 A.M.

Arrived at the Hilton New Orleans St. Charles Hotel - One of my favorite hotels. Checked into our room and had about half an hour catch up session.

10:30 A.M.

Headed out to brunch at Chef John Besh's Luke restaurant. Another personal favorite in the city.  I recommend the Crispy fried chicken biscuit or the Jumbo Louisiana Shrim En Cocotte (shrimp and grits) - forget everything you know about Shrimp and Grits - this is the gold standard for Shrimp and Grits.

12:15 P.M.

Back to the hotel for a few hours of R & R. I had a very early start and my co travellers were coming off an international flight so we needed the rest.

2:30 P.M.

It was time to explore the city.  I was on my own because everyone wanted to rest. 

I started out on St Charles street towards Canal and on to North Peters - my first stop was at Cafe du Monde (a must if you are in New Orleans). I was lucky to snag a table with a great view of Jackson square and spent the next hour people watching while stuffing my face with Beignets and hot chocolate.


3:30 P.M.

After a blissful time people watching , I spent the next few hours leisurely exploring the French quarter taking in street performances and some of the best architecture anywhere. I had plans to stop by little Vic's on Toulouse St for frozen yogurt but I was still stuffed from the Beignets and hot chocolate. I made a stop into the Shops at Canal Place, instead. 

5:50 P.M

Arriving at the shops at canal, I immediately located the Anthropologie store and proceeded to lose track of time wandering the store and doing serious window shopping.  

6:40 P.M.

We had dinner plans for 7:30 so I headed back to the hotel for a shower and change of clothes. I took the back roads heading back to the hotel. I loved the colorful and unique architecture that lined the streets.


7:30 P.M.

Dinner at the Upperline restaurant. The food here is incredible and I would easily rank this in my top 10 favorite restaurants. If you make your way to the Upperline, I recommend the duck and andouille etouffe with corn bread followed by either the slow roasted duckling or the lamb shanks.

After dinner, we settled in to watch LSU take on Missippi state (college football) - it was just like old times (and LSU won).

Sunday Morning  - 6:30 A.M. 

Time to pack up and head back to Dallas, but not before a stop by to Cafe dr Monde for Beignets. Did I mention, it is open 24 hours ?