If you happen to be in that time of your life when all of your friends start getting hitched, there’s a good chance that the city of New Orleans has been on your radar; especially because of it’s popularity as a destination for bachelor and bachelorette parties. Although many people like to treat a trip to ‘The Big Easy’ as they would a trip to Vegas (read: an opportunity to get completely trashed for multiple days straight), the city has so much more to offer than just a good party. In fact, along with its vibrant live music scene, NOLA is very well known for its incredible food and fascinating VooDoo culture (along with its infamous ghost and vampire tours).
My first visit to New Orleans was back in 2014 when I was in town for a work conference. Even though I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to explore the city, it didn’t take long for me to know that I wanted to return as soon as possible. There’s just something so unique about New Orleans that makes you feel like you aren’t in the United States at all. The people are warm and friendly, the historical architecture makes you feel as though you’ve been transported to Europe, and hearing live music everywhere you go (even on the streets!) is something truly special.
Fast forward four years and I found myself *finally* travelling back to New Orleans with my boyfriend last fall–a trip we had been dreaming of taking together ever since my first visit–which we were able to do thanks to the (financial) ease of booking our flights with my Aeroplan miles. Out of the two of us, I’m the only one that collects miles, but because I choose to use my credit card for the majority of my purchases, I find it super easy to rack up miles and now always use my Aeroplan miles to pay for flights to cities I travel to regularly such as New York and Los Angeles.
Although the Big Easy isn’t a big city by any means, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by choice and figure out how to avoid the tourist traps. Thankfully, I received some great suggestions and tips from locals and frequent visitors, so here I’m sharing 7 of my favourite magical (and affordable) places to eat, drink and shop in New Orleans.
Cafe Du Monde
If you’ve been searching for where to go in New Orleans, there’s a good chance that Cafe Du Monde has popped up more than a few times. Normally I try to avoid tourist hot spots when I’m travelling but after multiple friends insisted we visit to try their infamous beignets, we gave in. Am I happy we did? YOU BET. Not only is stepping inside like entering a time warp, but their limited menu also features prices that feel as though they’re from years past as well. I mean, where else can you get a cuppa joe and plate full of hot beignets for just over four bucks? The pillowy soft beignets with their mountain of icing sugar on top didn’t disappoint either. Just don’t wear black when you go to dig in on these signature treats.
Another name that was constantly mentioned by everyone from close friends to strangers was Bacchanal. “You must MUST go to Bacchanal!” they would urge, “It’s the most amazing place in New Orleans!!” With rave reviews from just about anyone and everyone, we knew we had to check it out. Although it’s a bit of a trek from the French Quarter, it truly is completely worth it. This spot is in one word: MAGICAL. The old, rundown building you’ll find on the corner of Chartres Street and Poland Ave is home to a plethora of amazing wine that you can order before taking a seat in their shabby-chic backyard space where you’ll always find local talent performing. Since we had ventured over after brunch, we unfortunately didn’t have a chance to try the food but everything that passed by looked drool-worthy. A nearby spot I’d highly recommend if you’re in the area (especially after a few glasses of wine) is Pizza Delicious that we visited TWICE in two days.
We happened to discover Sylvain on our first night in the city, thanks to an amazing recommendation from the bartender at Bar Tonique–a great neighbourhood bar we ended up visiting almost daily for their delicious daily drink specials. Sylvain is tucked away within the heart of the French Quarter and is truly a magical little spot. I would suggest reserving this casually upscale restaurant for a romantic date night when you can sit in their candle-lit garden and splash out on something like the ‘Champagne & Fries’ combo on their menu.
Faulkner House Books
For any writer or book lover visiting the Big Easy, make sure a stop at Faulkner House Books is at the top of your list. Not only is this a magical little independent book shop, but it happens to be set within the beautiful former home of author William Faulkner. This is also a great shop to visit if you’re on the hunt for both classic literature and local interest books.
Killer Po Boys
Just like you can’t visit New Orleans without eating a beignet, you definitely can’t leave without eating Po Boys! This traditional Louisiana sandwich involves the baguette-like New Orleans French Bread and can most often be found stuffed full of freshly fried seafood or meat. Although we were told that Verti Marte (a small convenience store in the middle of the French Quarter) was the best spot for Po Boys, I much preferred the super fresh Po Boys and selection (including vegan options!) that we dug into at Killer Po Boys. Plus, the bread was better and that’s what really matters when you ordering a massive sandwich, doesn’t it? PS. Don’t forget to order a can of rosé to enjoy along with your Po Boy.
A great suggestion from my friend Louise (who happens to be a local), Barrel Proof is an amazing bar that’s an absolute dream for any whisky and bourbon lover out there. The entire wall behind the bar is filled with whisky and bourbon from around the world, and you can easily try anything and everything thanks to the ability to pay by ounce. Similar to most bars and restaurants in the city, Barrel Proof has a daily Happy Hour and I can say from experience that their Margaritas and Old Fashioned cocktails are not only delicious, but a total steal at $5 per drink. BTW, if you find yourself in the area, you might want to check out VooDoo BBQ for a truly quirky (and unique to Louisiana) fast-BBQ experience.
While I wouldn’t consider New Orleans to be a top destination for shopping, they do have a decent vintage scene which is quite fun to browse through while you’re in town. My top pick? Blue Dream located just around the corner from the infamous Frenchman Street, which happens to be one of the best areas to go for live music at any time of day. With its mix of goods from local (and international) artisans and hand-picked vintage pieces, Blue Dream is a total gem where you’re sure to find something special. By the way, if you see a fiery redhead working in the store, say hello to my friend Louise!
For more information on booking your next trip with Aeroplan, click HERE.
(Story by Editor-in-Chief, Gracie Carroll)