Born and reared in Terrebonne Parish, south of New Orleans, I have a cherished history in this part of the country. My parents met in New Orleans, my husband and I met in New Orleans, most of my family went to Tulane and live in and around New Orleans. I moved west to California for college and stayed, but I return home regularly. If you’re attending Scaling New Heights in New Orleans this summer, you’re bound to “pass a good time”. There are beautiful courtyards, shops, musicians, culture, and mouth-watering good food. But if you want a few recommendations, here’s a list of some of my favorite places:
Where to Eat
- Galatoire’s, French Quarter. This award winning restaurant has been a New Orleans tradition since 1905. It’s one of the more formal restaurants on my list. Expect to wear business casual for lunch, no shorts or t-shirts, with jackets required for gentlemen starting at 5pm nightly and all day Sunday.
- Napoleon House, French Quarter. A casual restaurant in a 200 year-old New Orleans landmark. If you go, having a Pimm’s Cup is required!
- Gumbo Shop, French Quarter. Known for it’s traditional and contemporary Creole cuisine, I always order the crawfish etouffee and, of course, the gumbo. They flash-freeze and ship food, which is great for a holiday meal or hosting a New Orleans theme party for friends back home.
- Johnny’s Po-Boys, French Quarter. Laura’s favorite order is the fried shrimp po-boy, dressed OR roast beef po-boy, dressed. Make sure you bring cash, because they don’t accept credit cards!
- Commander’s Palace, Garden District. A New Orleans landmark since 1880, Commander’s Palace is know for the refined Creole cuisine. The dress code is business attire: Jackets are preferred for gentlemen (in New Orleans they assume all men are gentlemen), collared shirts required. No shorts, flip-flops, t-shirts, sweat shirts or sweat pants and jeans are discouraged (and who wants to wear jeans in New Orleans in June!).
- Antoine’s, French Quarter. Open since 1840, Antoine’s serves French-Creole cuisine and is the oldest family-run restaurant in the United States. Business casual attire is recommended, jackets preferred but not required. No t-shirts, midriff shirts, or shorts.
- Parasol’s, Irish Channel. This hole in the wall makes my Uncle Tony’s (a local artist) favorite po-boy.
- Frankie & Johnny’s, Uptown. A very casual type of restaurant where locals grab boiled crawfish & po-boys.
- R&O’s, 216 Metairie-Hammond Hwy, Metairie. Very casual, great variety of menu – crawfish, po-boys, gumbo, Italian food.
- Peche, Warehouse district. A new restaurant, Peche serves really good fresh seafood including whole fish and has a great oyster bar.
Bars & Such
A word to the wise: New Orleans has experienced increased crime and violence in recent years. When you go out at night, talk to your hotel concierge about your plans, making sure you’re headed to a safe area.
- W hotel, French Quarter. Stop to rest your feet in the beautiful courtyard and/or have drinks at Sobou– their hotel bar with a street entrance.
- Pat O’Brien’s, French Quarter. Have the world-famous hurricane, but do not drink more than one! Check out the piano bar.
- Any Daiquiri stand. Daiquiris are the preferred icy drink to take the edge off New Orleans’ hot, humid summers. You’ll find daiquiri stands all over – there are several in the Quarter. Be careful, they may taste like Kool-aid, but are LOADED! You may also find drive-thru daiquiri establishments. Fear not, you are not breaking the law by driving with an open container, because they will put a piece of tape over the straw hole – LOL!
- Hansen’s Sno-Bliz or Pandora’s Snowballs and Soft Serve Ice Cream. Or any snowball stand you come across. The secret to Louisiana snowballs, unlike anywhere else, is the shaved ice. My favorite order: raspberry snowball with condensed milk. Cash-only
- Carousel Bar, Hotel Monteleone, French Quarter. This classic New Orleans hotel bar is the city’s only revolving bar and is known for having excellent classic cocktails.
- Maple Leaf Bar. Authentic New Orleans music venue. Check out Rebirth Brass Band, which plays there on Tuesdays.
- Tipitina’s, Uptown. A famous New Orleans juke joint. All the legends play here. You can save yourself from waiting in line by buying tickets ahead of time and picking them up at will-call.
- Columns Hotel, Garden District. Have drinks at this classy, historic hotel on St. Charles.
- Fat Harry’s – Long-time favorite college hangout. Lively sports bar with po-boys, burgers & other pub eats, plus happy hour & sidewalk seats.
What to do in New Orleans
- Turn your dial to wwoz for local musicians on the radio
- Buy recorded live music from jazz fest here: https://www.munckmusic.com/wms/jazzfest/index.html
- Most of the live acts you come across in New Orleans will probably be amazing, but here are some musicians to look out for:
- Kermit Ruffins, Jazz trumpeter.
- Rebirth Brass Band, Grammy award-winning New Orleans brass band.
- The Meters, pioneers of funk (they’ve been on a US postage stamp!) Or, anyone from The Meters: Art Neville, Leo Nocentelli, George Porter, Jr, Joseph ‘Zigaboo’ Modeliste -who played at Laura & John’s wedding!
- The Neville Brothers, New Orleans ‘First Family of Funk’ . Or, any Neville: Aaron, Art (see The Meters above), Charles, Cyril, Charmaine– daughter of Charles, Ivan– son of Aaron.
- Dirty Dozen Brass Band
- Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr James Brown of Zydeco
- Tab Benoit (from Laura’s hometown, Houma).
- Wild Magnolias, a funk band in the tradition of Mardi Gras Indians.
- Anders Osborne, a Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter.
- French Quarter – The French Quarter’s Royal Street is home to a whole gamut of antique shops full of treasures. My little boys always insist we visit Cohen’s Weapons Shop. You’ll also find furniture, clothing, art and specialty boutiques. Our California home has French Quarter touches with Bevolo lanterns and my Papa’s old partner desk bought straight from the window display on Royal Street.
- Magazine street – runs parallel to St. Charles, about 5 streets south. Visit boutiques like Gallery 3954, with gorgeous glass lamps and vases designed by my cousin, Fifi Laughlin. Find home decor at Sotre and iconic jewelry and specialty collections at Marion Cage and Mignon Faget.
- French Market, at the eastern corner of the French Quarter in the triangle between Decatur and N.Peters. Six blocks of shopping, including retail, flea market, farmers market and restaurants. Take a stroll down Dutch Alley.
- Explore the Mississippi River. After beignets at Cafe du Monde, stroll along the Moonwalk and catch a breeze off the mighty Mississippi.
- Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the French Quarter – regular or ghost-version!
- St. Charles Street– walk or ride an antique streetcar down St. Charles Street and admire the beautiful houses of the Garden District. Here’s a self-guided tour here. Lookout for Tulane and Loyola Universities and the Audubon Park and Zoo. Imagine Mardi Gras season with the street closed off to cars and parades of beautiful floats throwing colorful beads to crowds along the curb. Look for beads caught in the trees year-round!
Tours and Museums
- Swamp Tour – See alligators, birds and other wildlife on a relaxing journey through the swampland while enjoying a history lesson as told by your Cajun boat captain. Ask for Captain Reggie, if he’s available; word is his personality is the basis for Disney’s character Ray the Cajun firefly from “The Princess and the Frog”. Located about 40 mins from the French Quarter; they offer pick-up/drop-off service. I prefer the swamp tour over the loud airboat tour.
- National World War II museum
- Louisiana State Museum @ the Cabildo. One of nine facilities to learn your Louisiana history.
- Civil War Museum. As we’re headed to The South, it’s worth noting that this is actually called the Confederate Memorial Hall Museum.