It’s no secret that New Orleans is one of my favorite cities. Its unique small-town vibe, cozy architecture, amazing restaurants, and soulful music make it a divine destination for anyone seeking an escape from the ordinary. I’ve visited on many occasions over the years, and every time I go, I find new reasons to love this city even more. Here are my Top 10 things to do in the Big Easy.
Eat breakfast at Brennan’s.
This elegant dining experience combines a cornucopia of flavors, textures, and aromas into a meal you’ll simply swoon over. First, sip a Brandy Milk Punch, which tastes like a milkshake with a kick. Next sample a bodacious bowl of soup, like turtle or Creole onion. For your entrée, live dangerously and order a half portion of Eggs Shannon—poached eggs atop fried trout served on a bed of creamed spinach—and a half portion of Oysters Benedict with fried Gulf oysters that are crunchy and sweet. Or try the Eggs Nouvelle New Orleans: poached eggs on a bed of lump crabmeat with a decadent brandy cream sauce. Finish your luscious brunch with a flaming Bananas Foster. brennansneworleans.com
Get back to nature at the Audubon Zoo.
I’ve visited this zoo many times, and it never fails to enchant. From the pink flamingoes preening in their pond near the zoo entrance to the stately giraffes that roam in the African savanna exhibit, the zoo’s animals will capture your heart. Once Peter and I laughed out loud as we watched a bored orangutan thumb through a phone book and an elephant play catch with an old tire. Don’t miss the albino alligators in the Louisiana Swamp exhibit. The best way to get to the zoo is via the St. Charles streetcar, a classic experience in itself.
Dive into Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.
One of my favorite exhibits at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is the bustling colony of Rockhopper and African penguins. Check out the Backstage Penguin Pass, a unique experience that offers guests the chance to have an up-close encounter with an endangered African penguin. Another favorite—and a big hit for kids of all ages—is Parakeet Pointe, an 800-ft. outdoor environment that lets you interact with hundreds of colorful parakeets.
Admire art at New Orleans Museum of Art.
After catching a streetcar along Canal St., get off at the end of the line. Then stroll through City Park to the grand entrance of the New Orleans Museum of Art, a gorgeous Neoclassical building, home to an impressive collection of 40,000 art pieces. Enjoy lunch in Café NOMA—a lovely eatery under the direction of Ralph Brennan and his culinary team. Linger in the outdoor sculpture garden, a tranquil oasis where art and nature commingle in quiet harmony.
Enjoy the funky beat of Frenchmen Street.
On the edge of the Marigny, across Esplanade from the French Quarter, this humble street is home to the city’s best music venues—Snug Harbor, Café Negril, and my favorite The Spotted Cat. Bring your dancing shoes and swing to a variety of musical styles—think gypsy jazz, eclectic funk, and the blues. Sometimes buskers making music on the street are as fun to listen to as the bands in the nightclubs!
Remember the Greatest Generation.
At the National WWII Museum, discover the emotional story of those who fought in the war, as well as the folks back home who supported the war effort. If you’re like me, reading, watching, and listening to the stories of the brave men and women who fought for our freedom in WWII will move you to your core. The D-Day Exhibit as well as the Road to Tokyo are two of my favorites.
Stay in The Higgins Hotel and Conference Center in the Arts & Warehouse District.
Across from the National WWII Museum, this beautiful property, one of NOLA’s newest hotels, blends nostalgia with modern flair and sophistication. I love the clean, spacious rooms and the Art-Deco vibe. Watch the sunset from Rosie’s on the Roof on the top floor of the Higgins Hotel while enjoying colorful cocktails and tasty appetizers—plus an amazing view of the city.
Explore the spooky side of NOLA.
Discover New Orleans’ haunted houses, voodoo traditions, and legendary stories of misfortune during the French Quarter Ghosts and Legends Tour. You’ll see a whole different side to the city and may even meet a ghost! Don’t miss a tour of one of New Orleans’ famous cemeteries, where you’ll learn why tombs are built above ground.
Sip New Orleans’ favorite cocktails.
Start your journey with a complimentary tour of the gorgeous Sazerac House on Canal Street, where interactive exhibits reveal the secrets behind your favorite beverages. Sample a cocktail and browse gifts and accessories in the shop. Afterwards sip a French 75—a delicious concoction with Courvoisier VS, sugar, lemon, and champagne at the bar by the same name next to Arnaud’s on Rue Bienville right in the French Quarter.
Grab a paddle and join a swamp tour.
Glide past ancient cypress trees as you navigate through some of Louisiana’s most beautiful scenery. Flat water ensures easy paddling and who knows? You might come face to face with a real gator! Even if you don’t, you’ll be glad you escaped NOLA to commune with nature and get some much-needed exercise, especially after all the fabulous food and beverages you’ve been enjoying in the city. neworleanskayakswamptours.com
New Orleans is the perfect place to live in the moment, says my friend Grace, who lives in the French Quarter. Her comment sums up what I love about this city. Here you can forget the past and the future and embrace the moment. Don’t wait. Start now to plan your next visit to New Orleans. You’ll be glad you did!
Tidewater Family Plus readers will receive a special discount at The Higgins Hotel & Conference Center. Just call 833-357-1172 and ask for the “Eureka Rate.”
Need more ideas on what to do in New Orleans? Go to www.neworleans.com