A Love Letter to New Orleans

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Advisor - Pamela Murphy
Curated By

Pamela Murphy

  • USA

  • New Orleans

  • Arts & Culture

  • Domestic Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • Luxury Travel

  • Sightseeing

  • Museums

  • Foodie

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Curator’s statement

New Orleans' long-standing rep as a party town doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what this resilient, beautiful, warm, authentic, sometimes gritty and always welcoming city is really about. Sure, there's the alcohol-infused vibe of the French Quarter which can either be a huge draw (hello, bachelor parties) or a giant turn off (I'm looking at you, family vacationers), but there's also so much history there that I would suggest everyone at least walk the quarter once. But let's talk beyond Bourbon Street, because that's where the magic of NOLA truly lives. From the historic and beautiful mansions of the Garden District to the chic art galleries and shops that line Magazine Street, there is no shortage of things to do. Music? Obviously. Museums? Yup. Parks? Sure thing. And I haven't even mentioned the food, which is simply as good as you've always heard. But to understand this incredible city, you have to experience it for yourself. It's beyond special; it's truly magical.

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Where to stay in New Orleans, Louisiana

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Things to do in New Orleans, Louisiana

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Frenchmen Street: A trip to the French Quarter might be required of anyone visiting New Orleans for the first time, but I would argue that one should skip Bourbon Street and head straight to Frenchmen for a more authentic, less Disney-like experience. The music is better, the bars are seedier and it's often less crowded.

Take a Ghost or Cemetery Tour: New Orleans can be creepy, but in a good way. Embrace the ghosts and goblins that exist all year round with a walking tour through the oft-thought haunted French Quarter or through one of NOLA's famous cemeteries.

Visit City Park: City Park is one of the largest urban parks in the US, with more than 1,300 acres that house one of the most spectacular botanical gardens you will ever see (it's home to more than 2,000 varieties of plants). You'll also find the Besthoff Sculpture Garden which is unparalleled as well as the New Orleans Museum of Art just inside the park.

Ride the St Charles Streetcar: Jump on the Streetcar anywhere along St. Charles Avenue and you'll take a step back in time. It's a great way to see the city, too.

National WWII Museum: A must for any and all history buffs, the New Orleans WWII museum is world-renowned for being the best of its kind.

Take a tour of Mardi Gras World: I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Mardi Gras, the city's most celebrated holiday, and if you can get to the city during the festivities, you absolutely should. But short of that, take a tour one Mardi Gras World, a 300,000 square foot warehouse where all of the Mardi Gras floats are created.

Listen to Music at Preservation Hall: One of the oldest and most famous Jazz venues in all of New Orleans, the shows are intimate and acoustic and will make a jazz lover out of just about anyone.

Audubon Zoo: Not just for kids, the Audubon Zoo is surprisingly large and full of lions and tigers and bears and .. just about any animal you can imagine (yes, there are even giraffes!). Great for the kids and the kid in you.

Magazine Street: Running almost the entire length of the city, Magazine Street is known for its shops, cafes and restaurants. You won't find much in the way of big box stores (yes, there is one West Elm and a Lululemon pop up), but it's the smaller boutiques and vintage shops that make Magazine Street a must-walk.

Garden District Tour: The Garden District was developed between 1832 and 1900 and today is thought to be one of the best-preserved collections of historic mansions in the South. The homes are incredible and if you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of Sandra Bullock or Beyonce walking the district.

Places to eat & drink in New Orleans, Louisiana

A Love Letter to New Orleans - Places to eat & drink

La Boulangerie: Don't let the line scare you off - it moves fast, and the croissants and coffee are MORE than worth the wait.

Mister Mao: The hook here is that everything — and I mean everything — is spicy. Some things more than others, but Chef Sophina Uong brings the heat, and all I can say is: WOW. It's better than good, and you'll find yourself wanting to order the famous fried chicken over and over again. The drinks also slap, and the vibe — Tropical Roadhouse — is definitely off-brand for typical New Orleans decor, but that's what makes it so cool.

Compère Lapin: Chef Nina Compton grew up in St Lucia, studied classical French cooking, and has a penchant for combining the best of both worlds with the local ingredients and flavors of New Orleans. The vibe is young, fun, and fresh, and the space, in the heart of the Warehouse District, is decidedly cool. It's a must-eat spot.

Saffron Nola: Nominated by James Beard for Best New Restaurant in 2018, the Indian cuisine at Saffron is next level. Don't miss the curried seafood gumbo, which blends Indian culture with New Orleans flavors seamlessly and spectacularly.

Saba: If you haven't heard of Chef Alon Shaya (or haven't had the opportunity to indulge in his wood-fired pita bread), allow me to introduce you. Saba is a fan favorite for anyone who loves fresh ingredients and missile eastern flavors. The patio is lovely, and the new lounge area is the perfect spot to sip a French 75 while you wait for your table.

Commander's Palace: Nothing and I mean nothing, screams old-world New Orleans charm like Commander's Palace does. It has been around forever (since 1880, to be exact) and has been home to some of the world's greatest chefs, including Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, Jamie Shannon, and now, Meg Bickford. My money is on Sunday brunch in the treehouse-like dining room, where you can feast on what they call Haute Creole cuisine for hours while drinking Sazerac after Sazerac. Plus, it's located in the Garden District, which makes for a great after-lunch walk.

Mother's: As with so many of New Orleans' institutions, Mother's feels more cafeteria than restaurant, but it makes no apologies for what it is and what it does, it does well - specifically the loaded po'boys. We happened to go to Mother's twice for breakfast while we were there, and I have to admit that I fell in love with the no-frills feel and the super authentic food.

Coquette: Despite the fact that the building dates back to the late 1880s and has been everything from a grocery to an auto parts store, Coquette is definitely on the more modern end of New Orleans style. The dining rooms (there are 2, one upstairs and one down) are airy, and the menu, which changes daily, focuses on locally sourced products.

Tito's Ceviche: This Uptown hole in the wall has some of the best ceviches I have ever had, and the Chaufa de Mariscos (fried rice with mixed seafood) is off-the-charts good.

La Petite Grocery: Come for the blue crab beignets and stay for the Turtle Bolognese at this Magazine Street staple where James Beard Award winner Chef Justin Devillier never, ever misses. It's one of my favorite places for lunch or dinner.

Cafe du Monde: It's cliché, and not at all my usual preference to go onto the beaten path, but there is no way around it: you simply CANNOT visit New Orleans and not have beignets and chicory (drink it the way they suggest: au lait, half coffee, half hot milk) at Café du Monde. Both are sublime, and if you ask me, the best way to do it is to take it to go, walk around to the side of the building, and watch the beignets being made through the glass wall.

Galatoire's: This very well may be the most famous lunch spot in all of New Orleans. The time to go, if you can, is Friday at noon, when you'll certainly have to wait in line, and the place to sit is in the downstairs dining room, but the pomp and circumstance is part of the fun (I have been told that they do actually have a wait list and take limited reservations, but we were not privy to that info on our trip). Waiters wear dinner jackets and, for the most part, are Galatoire's lifers, so their menu recommendations should be taken to heart. I have also heard that Sunday brunch is high on the list of things to do, but keep in mind that for men at that time (as well as every day after 5 pm), jackets are required.

Turkey and the Wolf: Forget everythign you think you know about sandwiches and visit this spot which has won just about every award out there. The menu is small, the sandwioches are not, but I would advise that you get one of each and at least try everything.

Herbsaint: This was my first meal in New Orleans ever, and it set the bar really, really high. Donald Link is the chef here, and while Cochon (see below) is his down-and-dirty masterpiece, Herbsaint is the much more refined older brother. It's the first restaurant he opened, and to say it is flawless doesn't even begin do it justice.

Cochon: Cochon is one of those places that you can't eat at just once. In fact, in the four days we were there, we went three times (don't judge). Chef Donald Link is a fixture on the New Orleans food scene (see Herbsaint, above), and he has won all kinds of awards for good reason. It was here that I first ate alligator (fried with chili garlic mayonnaise), and everything from that to the wood-fired oysters, smoked pork ribs, rabbit dumplings, and, of course, the Louisiana Cochon is sheer brilliance. It's a great spot for lunch in an area that feels more industrial than anywhere else in town, so it's a nice change of scenery. And don't miss a visit to Link's Butcher, a butcher shop, sandwich counter and wine bar, right next door.

Advisor - Pamela Murphy

Travel Advisor

Pamela Murphy

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