I think a lot of people have a misconception that New Orleans is all about partying in the French Quarter. I promise it’s not. While it is definitely a fun town, there’s so much more to it than bars. The food scene is off the hook and it’s surprisingly family-friendly, too. My husband lived in New Orleans for four years and we’ve been making regular trips back for over 13 years now. We hadn’t been since our son was born, so we decided to plan a Thanksgiving trip with him and my mom, who had also never been. Everyone had such a wonderful time, I thought I’d share a little guide highlighting our favorite spots from all the trips we’ve taken over the years.
What to Eat
This is probably the most important question because there are sooo many good restaurants in New Orleans. This list has a good mix of old school institutions, new hot spots, fancy, and casual.
- Slim Goodie’s Diner – My all-time favorite breakfast joint in New Orleans (maybe the world), their “New Orleans slammer” is the ultimate hangover cure.
- Toast – A new addition to our regular breakfast rotation, there’s great options here whether you love sweet or savory (think crepes, aebleskivers, omelettes, and, of course, avocado toast!).
- Domelise’s – You can’t go to New Orleans and not get a po boy and if you’re going to have a po boy, it better be the best. Domelise’s is the place you will find that perfect po boy. Pro tip: if you go with a friend, one of you should get a shrimp po boy and the other should get roast beef. If you go by yourself, get one of each and don’t feel bad about eating them both.
- Cochon – A cool casual restaurant with a unique take on traditional southern and cajun food. There’s a lot of great dishes to try here so it’s a fun place to order a bunch and share.
- Pascal’s Manale – When my husband first brought me over 13 years ago, I learned about the magic that is the BBQ shrimp sandwich. This magical creation is more of a spicy shrimp scampi in a crusty hollowed out baguette than any traditional BBQ sandwich you might have had (we recreated it here). Their oysters rockefeller are delicious as well.
- Cavan – One of our new favorites, Cavan serves upscale southern food in the coolest run-down Victorian mansion. I still have dreams about the blackened porkchop with sweet potato salad I had here. Also a great place to come back for a cocktail later – $6 sazeracs during happy hour!
- Commander’s Palace – The quintessential New Orleans decadent experience and the perfect spot for a special occasion. Whether you come here for brunch or dinner, make sure you try the legendary bread pudding souffle, turtle soup, and ramos gin fizz.
- La Petite Grocery – This was our first time trying this James Beard Award-winning restaurant and we were certainly not disappointed. The shrimp & grits were next level and the blue crab beignets were divine.
Where to Drink
It wouldn’t be a New Orleans guide without at least a few places to enjoy a cocktail!
- Coquette – A+ sazeracs with beautiful glass chandeliers? You had me at “hello.” We’ve never dined here, but the food looks amazing, too.
- Columns Hotel – I don’t think we’ve ever come to New Orleans without enjoying at least one cocktail on the porch of the Columns Hotel. If you’re looking for an IG-worthy, oozing-with-charm New Orleans moment, this is the place to come. Make sure you stroll around to the back garden and patio area, I promise you won’t be sorry (see right)!
- Lafitte’s – An old French Quarter blacksmith shop that’s been converted into a piano bar, this little piece of history has a rustic interior and candlelit ambiance.
- Bouligny Tavern – Craft cocktails, a great wine selection, and cool mid-century decor to match. Definite late night cool vibes.
- Mayfair Lounge – A classic New Orleans neighborhood dive bar that kind of makes you feel like you’ve stumbled upon a speakeasy because you have to ring a buzzer to get in.
Where to Shop
Whenever I come to New Orleans, I try to set aside at least half a day for strolling down Magazine Street and peeking in shops. There’s a great mix of vintage stores, home decor boutiques, and cafes along the way!
- Funky Monkey – A long-time favorite vintage clothing shop of mine, I’ve found soooo many treasures here over the years. Also a fantastic place to find pieces for your next costume party!
- So Susu – This contemporary fashion boutique has a fantastic selection of unique designers from around the world. If I lived in New Orleans, I would probably be here once a week.
- Kevin Stone Antiques – If you’re looking to furnish a mansion on a large scale or generally just want to have your mind blown by the most awe-inspiring chandeliers and furniture, you’ll definitely want to give this store a peek.
- B.Viz Boutique – This cute shop features beautiful pillows adorned with pieces of antique fabrics and embroidery. In addition to the pillows, you can also find handmade jewelry and antique furniture.
- H. Rault – Technically a locksmith shop, but my mom and I were drawn in by the amazing jewelry made with old locks and keys. Very cool selection of vintage hardware, too.
- Sucre – Ok so this is technically a bakery/magical dessert bar, but their adorable macarons make the best gifts. Props to my mom for discovering they ship nationwide, too!
What to Do
- Stroll through Audubon Park. – After a long flight, I’m usually itching to get out and walk. Audubon Park is incredibly scenic – pathways lined with live oaks, a fountain pool filled with a myriad of waterfowl, and a great playground for the kiddo.
- Spend the day at the Audubon Zoo. – Fun fact: New Orleans has the second-best zoo in the country after San Diego. People are always surprised when I tell them to make visiting the zoo a priority, but they’re never disappointed. The animal enclosures are incredibly well-designed and there’s lots of great play features for kids throughout the park.
- Catch some live music at Le Bon Temps Roule. – This totally cool dive bar is a great venue to see live music with no tickets or reservations. Our favorite brass band, Soul Rebels, plays every Thursday night!
- Take a house tour. There are tons of beautiful old mansions in New Orleans and quite a few offer tours. This year we checked out the Hermann-Grima House in the French Quarter and it was a fascinating little history lesson.
- Ride a steamboat up the Mississippi River. In all the years we’ve been coming here, this was our first time doing a steamboat tour. We took the Steamboat Natchez, which featured live jazz music, snacks and cocktails, and you can even tour the engine room (which my son loved!).
- Take a streetcar ride up St. Charles Avenue. You can’t come to New Orleans without riding the streetcar and it’s a great way to check out all of the stately mansions that line this scenic street.
What to Wear
As a general rule, New Orleans is pretty casual. I usually bring a couple pairs of jeans to style with flats and a t-shirt during the day and dress up with heels and a blouse at night. I also pack bohemian-style skirts and dresses to mix in between. I wore the outfit above to dinner at Cavan, which was a fairly nice restaurant. People dress up more for places like Commander’s Palace, but it’s usually less fussy than what you might see in a town like Charleston (or even DC). For dinner at Commander’s, I wore a navy linen dress with a blazer and kitten heels. When we went to La Petite Grocery, I wore the slip dress outfit in my previous post. Honestly, it’s a great place to pack lightly for.
I hope you enjoyed our little guide! Check out more of our recent trip on my IG stories!