The ultimate travel guide to New Orleans. I’ll tell you where to stay, what to eat and how to burn it off!
Last month I had the opportunity to visit New Orleans for the first time to write a story for my What to Eat & How to Burn it Off travel series. In case you missed it, so far we’ve already visited San Diego, Vail and Miami.
A first time visitor of Louisiana, I was so excited to finally cross NOLA off my travel bucket list!
Between the passionate people, diverse food scene, beautiful architecture and ideal climate, this city has everything going for it and more.
It has a really unique vibe about it that I’ve truly never experienced anywhere else. Above all? Everyone just seems super relaxed and ready to have a great time – any hour of the day.
If you’ve ever considered a New Orleans getaway, I urge you to make it happen. The DoubleTree by Hilton that hosted me was ideally situated downtown New Orleans directly across the street from the French Quarter within walking distance to many hot spots and attractions.
In fact, many of their newly renovated guests rooms feature views of Canal Street, French Quarter or the Mississippi River. Their lobby was being renovated during my visit but is set to be complete by March 2017.
When it comes to good eats (and drinks!) in New Orleans, let me tell you – I have never struggled so hard to hit up so many foodie hotspots in a four day stay. It’s truly impossible but I’ll be damned if I didn’t try my hardest.
First thing’s first: let’s talk po boys! There was no way I could visit this town without having my first authentic po boy. Based on a tip from our friendly Uber driver, I wound up at the infamous Parkway Tavern & Bakery.
Like so many local businesses, Parkway had to completely rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. Fortunately, the owner decided to expand and his business is now bigger and better than ever. And that mouth-watering shrimp po boy pictured above? One of the best bites of the trip.
A huge seafood lover, I couldn’t wait to eat as many local gulf oysters as possible during my visit. For a truly authentic New Orleans oyster bar experience, I highly recommend Desire Oyster Bar located in the Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street.
Not only did Desire deliver on some of the best oysters I’ve ever eaten but the authentic red beans & rice and jambalaya were out of this world delicious. I’m talking next-level stuff!
Of course, as anyone who has been to New Orleans can attest, you simply can’t go without a stop to Cafe Du Monde for a beignet and a cup of chicory coffee. I’m not a big fan of sweets and really don’t care for donuts but let me tell you – these aren’t your typical donuts. Chewy, doughy, slightly salty yet perfectly sweet at the same time, these are a must.
Next on my list? Muffalettas! My first time ever eating one, I was so excited to finally try this sandwich made famous by the Food Network years ago. While many had suggested Central Grocery, it closes at 5PM so we ended up grabbing one at Frank’s Restaurant located directly next door. It was out of this world tasty and I can’t wait to try and recreate it at home!
Now that we have the essentials covered, I want to share a few other recommendations for fantastic food in New Orleans. For breakfast, I suggest two great options: Willa Jean (pictured above) and Satsuma Cafe.
Of the two, Willa Jean is definitely a bit more on the indulgent side featuring homemade biscuits, fresh bakery items and hearty southern breakfast options.
Case in point? They brought out these chocolate chip cookies, complete with a beating mixer full of DOUGH, on the house. It was as delicious as it looks.
For a healthier breakfast option, I really enjoyed the fresh juices and avocado egg sandwich at Satsuma Cafe. The coffee was on point as well.
For an authentic Italian dining experience, Domenica did not disappoint. Executive Chef Alon Shaya, better known from his other restaurant Shaya, takes classic Italian dishes and pairs them with local New Orleans ingredients.
The squid ceviche, whole roasted cauliflower, and spicy seafood stew were all well balanced, full of flavor and had me wishing for a larger stomach.
My final food recommendation was one that almost everyone mentioned when I asked for tips before my trip: Peche Seafood Grill. Honored with two James Beard awards, this restaurant features rustic seafood dishes and modern twists on traditional cooking methods. There are also plenty of options for the meat lovers like the luscious duck pasta and fragrant lamb kabobs photographed above.
Now that we’ve had plenty to eat, it’s time to get moving! First up? Higher Power NOLA – a yoga, spin and TRX studio!
If you know me, you know I couldn’t resist an opportunity to take my first ever TRX class! Fortunately, Mark Berger, the Owner of the studio, took a spot right next to me to coach me each step of the way. It was exhilarating, challenging and I was sore for four days- just the way I like it after a good workout!
Looking for a slightly less intense option for burning calories? The Garden District Walking Tour is a relaxed and leisurely walking tour that includes a visit to the infamous Lafayette Cemetery.
The guided tour was not only informative but a great way to chat with other visitors to the city to get tips on what to do throughout the rest of your stay. Oh and that house we’re stopping to look at above? That belongs to John Goodman who just so happened to pull in the driveway during out tour.
For another fun outdoor workout option, I highly recommend signing up for a class with The Sweat Social. What’s so special about The Sweat Social is that their fitness and wellness activities are designed specifically in mind for travelers in the area.
Rupa, third from the left, left her corporate job in NYC to start The Sweat Social franchise in New Orleans with one simple mission: to help fit travelers stay fit while traveling. How great is that? I can’t recommend her classes enough the next time you’re in NOLA!
For a final and more relaxed way to burn off those good eats, a visit to New Orleans City Park is a must for your itinerary.
You can stroll through the sculpture garden, visit the botanical garden, have a picnic in the park or simply walk around and enjoy the warm southern air.
I couldn’t get over these gorgeous live oak trees sprawled out throughout the park. You can read more about the Live Oaks of City Park here.
That wraps up my New Orleans edition of What to Eat & How to Burn It Off! How did I do? Did I miss any great hot spots I should know about for next time?
As always, if there are any other destinations you’d like to see me feature, be sure to let me know! Afterall, not all those who wander are lost.
Disclosure: New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation coordinated my hotel accommodations, meals and activities during my stay. Photography by Alejandro Photography. I was not compensated to write this post. All thoughts are my own.