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Planning New Orleans – My 5 Must-Do’s!

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Jackson Square

Sorry for the travel silence, not much has been happening on the travel front for me, but I’m hoping to remedy that soon! In a few months I will be embarking on the first trip of 2015: New Orleans! It’s my annual anniversary trip with The Husband and we’ve decided to sidestep his flying fears and take the train. And, well, for the experience — I’m all about the experience.  Amtrak operates the Crescent line, which runs from New York to New Orleans and we can pick it up in Baltimore. We got a small sleeper car and everything! It should be interesting to say the very least.

This will be our first time in New Orleans and I’ve got a few things I’m excited to experience:

1. French Quarter Festival

Thanks to Hannah’s comment when I announced I was planning a trip New Orleans, I scheduled our travel to overlap the French Quarter Festival, which runs April 9-12. The French Quarter Festival is a local music showcase scattered throughout the French Quarter. It’s the largest free music event in the United States!

There are more than 20 stages of free, local music from a variety of musical genres and, of course, food booths operated by some of New Orleans’ famous restaurants.

This was a no-brainer. I LOVE music and LOVE food. This festival is made for me.

2. Jackson Square

Jackson Square

Image from Experience New Orleans.com

Being raised Catholic I have a soft spot for old churches and I’m looking forward to touring the St. Louis Cathedral.  I believe it’s the oldest Catholic cathedral in continuous use in the United States.

The Square itself has the famous statue of General Andrew Jackson and I’m fairly certain there’ll be lots to walk and see especially with the artists there!

3. A Run though City Park and the River Front

I have this obsession with running when I’m vacationg. There’s really nothing I like more than sightseeing on foot, alone, and feeling apart of the community I’m visiting.  City Park seems to be the “Central Park” of New Orleans and it’s exactly 3 miles from my hotel. I’m planning at least one nice long run to visit and check it out on foot. The Husband is generally a sleep-in type of guy so I love filling in my mornings with things he’d rather not do. And let’s be honest, the guy is not going to be up for a 2-hour run to the park and back.

As for River Front, well, considering the Mississippi runs straight through the city this is a must for me. Plus my hotel is less than a mile from Woldenberg Riverfront Park.


4. Ride the St. Charles Streetcar Line

The St. Charles Streetcar line the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world. It’s been in operation since 1835!

Charles Street Line

The route forms a 13.2-mile crescent from Carondelet at Canal Street in the Central Business District through the oldest section of uptown New Orleans. Apparently you tunnel live oaks and pass dozens of antebellum mansions, historic monuments, Loyola and Tulane universities, and the Audubon Zoological Gardens.

A day pass is $3. I mean, how do you beat that?

5. Take at least one Walking Ghost Tour!

I LOVE walking ghost tours, and New Orleans seems to have an awful lot to choose from!  Voodoo, ghosts, phantoms, Bloody Mary, spirits, witches — I really don’t know how I’m going to pick. The Husband is already rolling his eyes but I don’t care. I’m going on at least one while in the Big Easy.

Are there any other must-do’s I’m missing? We only have about 4 days but I love getting recommendations from locals or people who have traveled there. Any must-try restaurants? Museums? Bars? We will be kid-less celebrating out 14th wedding anniversary!

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There are 16 comments so far. Join in on the conversation.


    January 14, 2015

    Looks like a great list to start! Must-do foldings: Commander’s Palace (cheaper at lunch and you MUST do the bread pudding soufflé!), any of John Besh’s restaurants (we love Restaurant August), Bon Ton Cafe for crawfish excellence (but closed on the weekends), Mother’s for po boys, Cafe du Monde for beignets, Southern Candymakers for pralines… surprisingly I agree with a lot of this list - http://www.thrillist.com/eat/new-orleans/traditional-new-orleans-food-best-places-to-eat-jambalaya-pralines-crawfish-etouffee-and-more-iconic-dishes Enjoy! Reply


      January 14, 2015

      A real Po Boy is on my list of must tries too! Thanks! Reply


    January 14, 2015

    I agree with Shannon on places to check out. Another must it Yo Mamas Bar & Grill. It is a total dive bar but they have amazing peanut butter burgers. Check them out for lunch! http://www.yelp.com/biz/yo-mamas-bar-and-grill-new-orleans Reply


      January 14, 2015

      Peanut Butter burger?? That's a must try! Reply


        January 14, 2015

        Correction about the Butcher - It's the more casual spot, not less :) Reply


    January 14, 2015

    That's so awesome you get to go to the Quarter Festival! The whole experience is amazing! Things will be crowded, but still manageable. For food, I have to repeat my recommendation for Cochon - and if you don't want to do the sit-down restaurant thing, they have the less casual Butcher right next door (FYI - they make bacon pralines in the morning, but they sell out quick. So so good if you're into that kind of thing). If you want a great muffuletta, IMO you can't beat Central Grocery. We're also big fans of Stanley for breakfast, which is right on Jackson Square. For museums, the WWII museum is pretty interesting and close to the quarter. My husband is ex-military, so he loves it. I have to say I was more interested in the building itself - the space is extensive, modern, and I think they just opened up a new wing. We've done both vampire and ghost tours with different companies multiple times. If you do one, I would recommend Phantom Tours for their ghost tour. It used to start at a great Irish dive bar (Flanagan's Pub), but it unfortunately closed last year. They now operate out of Voodoo Lounge, which is a bit of a walk, but right across the street from Congo Square. Their guides are excellent and really get into the role of story-telling as you walk everywhere. Their website is kind of cheesy, but don't let that put you off. They are fantastic: https://www.frenchquarterphantoms.com/index I agree with all of your other readers' reviews too. Enjoy your trip! Reply


      January 14, 2015

      Thanks! Reply


    January 14, 2015

    You couldn't have sent this at a better time. Our ten year anniversary is coming up on May 5 and we've been debating on where to go. This has been the nudge that we needed. I even think we can do it on a budget which is a plus in my book. I can't wait to hear how your trip goes. Enjoy! Reply


    January 14, 2015

    Beignet and hot chocolate very early in the morning! Oh so good. Reply


    January 14, 2015

    Have you checked to see if there a any races during that time? Nothing beats a New Orleans race. They are the best. I second the WW2 museum. Fabulous. Reply


      January 21, 2015

      No but that's genius! I will! Reply


    January 15, 2015

    Cafe maspero - muffaletta Bon ton cafe - crab au gratin Cafe du monde - beignets Commanders palace - get reservations. A true tradition Reply


    January 20, 2015

    I have been to New Orleans at least three times...I cannot wait to go back! Make sure you have beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde. I have always had amazing meals at Palace Cafe on Canal Street. Walking around the garden district is a must. I had to see Anne Rice's house and we had breakfast at Commander's Palace. We also took the cemetery tour of St. Louis #1 cemetery...it was an AMAZING lesson in New Orleans history. We also took the haunted New Orleans tour at night in the French Quarter. Hope you have an amazing time. Have a hurricane drink and please consider having a FitBloggin conference there! :) Reply

    Tammy Soave

    January 28, 2015

    Loved this city! I was there in late January 2014 during that lovely ice storm! And, I still loved it! LOL Although, I would have loved it more if it had been warmer. ;) My husband was there on business and I was pretty much a solo tourist for 8 days. I had no trouble getting around by myself with the public transportation. And that comes from a midwest woman where there is NO public transportation. Totally agree with Central Grocery for Muffuletta and Yo Mama's Bar & Grill for the peanut butter burger. Although it is delicious, it's not something I'd order regularly, but definitely something you have to try once in your life! Yo Mama's is pretty much a dark, hole in the wall kind of place. But, I loved it's quirkiness! I'd also recommend taking a city tour to get a feel for what there is to see and do and where everything is. It may sound touristy, but, you'll be able to determine what you don't want to see or do. You'll also get around to some places that you might not otherwise see. For example, the neighborhood Harry Connick Jr and fellow musicians started up after Katrina. Take time to visit the Hurricane Katrina exhibit in Jackson Square. It is tastefully done and will move you with emotion to see how this city struggled and pulled itself up by it's boot straps to move on. That exhibit, combines with a tour creates a complete picture of where New Orleans was prior to Katrina and where it's headed! I did one of the Haunted History tours. It was fun. Don't expect to be frightened as much as fascinated by well told stories and history. You'll see the where they filmed some of American Horror Story Season 3. :) as well as the actual house that the real Delphine LaLaurie lived in. Pop into a Visitor's Center early on your visit and they will be most helpful with recommendations and directions. Everyone in the city is friendly! And, don't forget to take time to enjoy all the street performers! Music is everywhere in that city and people are so clever with their entertainment. Once you get used to the constant panhandling, you will enjoy it all! Laissez les bon temps rouler! Reply


      January 29, 2015

      Thanks for this!! Such great advice! Reply

    Janice H.

    February 2, 2015

    Definitely spend some time in the bars on Frenchman Street. The Spotted Cat...they are all great! There is a music store there too that has local musicians and music. Wonderful place. Reply