The Perfect Long Weekend Getaway – New Orleans, Louisiana, Let’s Get Jazzy!
by Taylor Deer
During the next few weeks, I will share some of my great three-day weekend trip ideas that you can take not only during Memorial Day Weekend, but also anytime throughout the year! As much as I want to travel overseas, I also want to explore our beautiful country! Three-day weekends are the perfect time to either book a flight or take a road trip to explore a new US city.
A little over two years ago, I went on a girls’ trip to New Orleans, Louisiana with one of my best friends Courtney. New Orleans has always been a place I wanted to visit and I knew I would love it once I had the chance to go. (How could I not?) We traveled to New Orleans at the end of February to escape the cold Northeastern weather and avoid the humidity the Gulf area tends to carry during the summer months. It was also a perfect time to go there as the famous Mardi Gras celebrations were coming to an end and the rise of St. Patrick’s Day parties were commencing.
On our way to New Orleans!
We left New Jersey for our adventure in New Orleans on a Friday night after work. When we arrived, we were so excited to be in warm weather and couldn’t wait to experience the nightlife. Our first stop was to The Columns Hotel in New Orleans’ Garden District. The Columns is an elegant Victorian house that was built in the late 1800’s that overlooks the famous St. Charles Street. It is a hotel and features a fun bar called The Victorian Lounge. During a nice day, you can catch many people enjoying the weather out on the porch. As The Columns is known to attract many age levels, it specifically draws students from New Orleans’ famous college, Tulane University.
After enjoying our time at The Columns, we took the party to the famous Frenchmen Street in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, east of the French Quarter. This three-block section of New Orleans features some of the city’s most popular live jazz music venues. Since all of the bars were pretty crowded, we stayed at The Spotted Cat. We were also able to enjoy the music on the streets. I love jazz music, so I felt like I was in heaven with all of the liveliness around me. We had such a great time that night!
Our hotel was located in New Orleans’ Business District, which was perfect since it was right in the middle of all of the great neighborhoods. Another reason why our hotel was located in a great spot is because it was right next to one of the best southern-fried chicken places I ever ate at! Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the place, but it was an awesome spot to grab a late night snack. You can find amazing fried chicken hubs anywhere throughout New Orleans.
The French Quarter
The next morning, we woke up and couldn’t wait to roam around the beautiful French Quarter. Our first stop was brunch at Café Amelie, a beautiful courtyard restaurant on Royal Street. I had the special that day which consisted of a breakfast Po’ boy, a traditional Louisiana sandwich that usually consists of seafood on a French baguette.
Later that morning, we strolled over to historic Jackson Square, which is located right in the heart of the French Quarter. Jackson Square faces the iconic Mississippi River and is surrounded by historic buildings, including the St. Louis Cathedral, Louisiana State Museums and the Lower and Upper Pontalba Apartments – the oldest apartment buildings in the United States. In addition, Jackson Square has been a place where local artists tend to gravitate and create beautiful paintings, portraits and caricatures. They display their work on the square’s iron fence. What is awesome is that you can even purchase these colorful paintings to display them in your own home!
After walking around Jackson Square, we walked over to the Mississippi waterfront where we were able to listen to talented jazz musicians and watch the steamboats ride along the river. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the chance to ride in one of the steamboats, but if you have the time, I definitely recommend it. You can do a brunch, dinner or private party cruise along the river.
The famous Bourbon Street
Next, we strolled over to the famous Bourbon Street where we were able to catch an early St. Patrick’s Day parade. There were a ton of people, live music and free drinks. It was awesome!
Right around the corner from Bourbon Street is the Germaine Cazenave Wells New Orleans Mardi Gras Museum located in Arnaud’s classic Creole restaurant. It is free and you can walk through and view lavish Mardi Gras costumes. The museum also features vintage photographs, Carnival masks, jewelry and more!
By mid-afternoon we were ready for a snack. Obviously, the first place we were heading to was Café du Monde, the original French Market coffee stand since 1862. This famous New Orleans cafe is known for its beignets, which are a French donut that is like an Italian Zeppole; café au laits; freshly brewed coffee and live jazz music. You can either sit in the café and leisurely enjoy your treats or take it to go. The line to sit in Café du Monde is fairly long, but please stay patient because it goes quick! Afterwards, take a walk through the French Market and grab a few goodies to take back to your hotel.
Later that evening, I was recommended to check out Bacchanal Wine, a laboratory and garden where food, music and culture collide to create one of the most magical nights you will experience when you are visiting New Orleans. Bacchanal Wine is further east and located in a more secluded area than the main New Orleans’ attractions, but it is totally worth the adventure there. When we arrived, we walked through the wine shop to the beautiful courtyard in the back. Walking to the courtyard was like walking through Disney World! Christmas lights surrounded us and the best live jazz music was playing in the background.
When we sat down, an awesome New Orleans jazz band called The Roamin’ Jasmine started to play. I have to say that they were probably one of the best jazz bands I heard during my time in Louisiana. Not only was the wine at Bacchanal amazing, but so was the food too! I had clams in a potato leak parsley sauce with a fresh piece of French baguette on the side. When I go back to New Orleans, I am definitely making sure to go to Bacchanal again. (It was that amazing!)
Bacchanal Wine closes around midnight. Since it was a Saturday night, we weren’t ready to head back to our hotel that early so we went back over to the French Quarter and ended up at the world-famous Pat O’Brien’s Bar on Bourbon Street. Pat O’Brien’s has an Irish influence and features five bars, a piano lounge and a courtyard restaurant. A visit to Pat O’Brien’s Bar or New Orleans in general is not complete without trying the famous Hurricane drink. This delicious concoction features Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane Rum, their secret Hurricane Mix, crushed ice and garnished with an orange and cherry. While we were at Pat O’Brien’s their staff were super friendly and even offered to give us the famous Hurricane glass that we drank in to take home as a souvenir!
Touring the bayous in Eastern Louisiana and Western Mississippi
After getting a good night’s sleep, we were ready for a day full of adventure. Our hotel had a great café where we were able to enjoy delicious King Cake lattes and French pastries before boarding our bus to take us to the bayous. Prior to our trip, we knew we definitely wanted to do a swamp tour and see some alligators! We found a great tour where they pick you up on a bus and take you over to the bayous in Eastern Louisiana/Western Mississippi.
It was a gorgeous 70-degree day and the tour was approximately two hours long. I was so happy to be on a boat in the sun and was also excited to see an alligator in-person for the first time! We rode all throughout the beautiful bayous that feature Spanish moss and exotic wildlife. As we got deeper into the bayou, we started to see the alligators. They were either chilling in the water or hanging out in the brush. We were able to get close enough to take a few pictures, but not too close! There was even a point where our tour guide grabbed a baby alligator from the brush and we were able to pet it. I was freaked out at first, but then realized the babies don’t bite… yet!
Back to the French Quarter
We were starving when we got back to the city, so we headed back to the French Quarter to indulge in a Cajun cuisine. We stopped at Remoulade on Bourbon Street, the casual, family-friendly side to the famous Arnaud’s I mentioned earlier. I had delicious seafood gumbo as an appetizer and then a traditional jambalaya with chicken, gulf shrimp, honey ham and Andouille sausage. On the side, I tried crawfish pie for the first time and fell in love with how delicious it was! I definitely recommend coming to Remoulade’s when you visit New Orleans to get the best local food.
After lunch, we signed up to do a Ghost Tour around the French Quarter. The tour was around two hours long and we got to see some of the most haunted places in the United States. The first stop was to the Old Ursuline Convent, which is the oldest building on the Mississippi River. Catholicism is deeply rooted in New Orleans and it was the Ursuline Nuns who were the first women to brave the New World. They turned the Convent to a place where young girls from France would come over to become wives to men who have settled in the area. The girls would reside in the convent before finding their husband. There have been folklore stories of these girls arriving in caskets and becoming vampires. Some of the girls have boarded the ships and did not arrive in the New World. It is unknown to what happened to them.
Our next stop on the ghost tour was to the LaLaurie Mansion, otherwise known as one of the most haunted houses in America. The origin of the ghostly tale dates back to the early 1800’s when Dr. Louis LaLaurie and his wife Delphine moved into their Creole mansion on Royal Street in the French Quarter. This horrifying house recounts the brutal execution of slavery by Madame LaLaurie. For close to 200 years, there have been reports of paranormal activity coming from the LaLaurie Mansion.
After hearing the gruesome story behind the LaLaurie Mansion, we all needed a drink. Our next stop on the ghost tour was to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, the oldest and most haunted bar in the United States. Located on the corner of Bourbon Street and St. Phillip Street, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop went through two big fires and the building is known to be the base for Jean Lafitte and brother Pierre’s Barataria smuggling operation. While you are on the tour, you can grab a drink and sit down.
We toured a few other smaller places before ending at Muriel’s restaurant in Jackson Square. Prior to Muriel’s becoming a fine-dining restaurant, this house held slaves before going up for auction. Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan ended up purchasing the home. He later lost the home in a poker game and committed suicide on the second floor that once served as the slave quarters. This area is where Muriel’s Séance Lounge is situated today. It is said that Pierre is still with the restaurant today in spirit. The Séance Lounge is where he spends the majority of his time. There are other spirits roaming around the restaurant, but Pierre is the restaurant’s main resident. The ghosts are harmless and you can even pay $50 to eat at the “ghost” table. Our tour guide informed us that when you eat at that table, the spirit makes sure you have the best meal of your life!
A trolley ride into the Garden District of New Orleans
Later that evening, we took the city’s trolley into the Garden District to explore the nightlife on the famous Magazine Street. We stopped at a neighborhood bar called Le Bon Temps Roule, where we were able enjoy local music, delicious craft beer and the company of people’s dogs! (Yes, it is a pet-friendly bar.)
After enjoying some time on Magazine Street, we headed back to Bourbon Street in the French Quarter to experience some of the famous piano bars. Daiquiris (and voodoo) are a big staple in New Orleans, so I wanted to make sure I got one before I went home the next day. I ended up getting a delicious voodoo Daiquiri that had a grape taste to it. There have been many misunderstandings of the practice of voodoo. Most people think voodoo is bad, it actually isn’t. Originated in Haiti by West African slaves who were forced to convert to Roman Catholicism, voodoo refers to an assortment of cultural elements: personal creeds, folk medical practices, stories and songs.
Our last day took us back over to the Garden District where we grabbed a nice breakfast at Surrey’s Café and Juice Bar on Magazine Street. Since it was our last day before heading back to the cold weather, we enjoyed our lovely Cajun breakfast on the porch. After filling our stomachs, we walked around Magazine Street and admired the beautiful New Orleans’ architecture each house and shop featured. We then reached the famous Audubon Park where we strolled through beautiful Spanish moss and got to take a quick look at the zoo there. It was the perfect way to end our long weekend in New Orleans.
After having an amazing three-day weekend in New Orleans, the city ended up stealing my heart. It is now one of my favorite cities in the world and I recommend everyone to make a trip there. No matter what, you will have the best time and everything you eat will not disappoint you.
I hope you all enjoyed this blog post. Get ready to enjoy another great three-day weekend at America’s other famous music city next week! Please send me an email at Taylor@sitinmyseats.com if you have any questions.
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