As I’ve mentioned, I grew up in New Orleans and my parents still call the place home. Since Clemson has decided to come visit I wanted to give everyone some advice on where to go and what to do. This is by no means definitive, but it is a general look at New Orleans and what to do.
Ok so let’s talk French Quarter. Rule 1, don’t drink on Bourbon Street. The drinks are pricey and sugary. It is a guaranteed recipe for a hangover and a short night. If you’re going to Bourbon Street get your drinks elsewhere and then walk down the street to experience the uniqueness of the place. But I always suggest elsewhere for drinking in a bar. Do check out Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop for an ancient bar and a bit of history. Rule 2. Open containers are allowed and encouraged. At many restaurants you’ll be asked if you want a “to-go cup” it is exactly what it sounds like. They’ll pour a beer or drink into a plastic/Styrofoam cup and let you wander out with it. Always do it and have a drink as you wander.
When you go during the day, the entire French Quarter is excellent and well worth exploring. I recommend starting at Canal Street and then heading towards the French Market, avoid getting food there though because it tends to be overpriced to cover the cost of renting a stall in the market. But you can find a lot of touristy trinkets there. That will take you past Jackson Square, the Cathedral, and Cafe Du Monde. A word about beignets, Cafe Du Monde’s are decent, but you go for the experience. For the best beignets I suggest Morning Call in City Park. Open at all hours it is fantastic. And you can explore City Park a bit.
Make sure you check out some of the big hotels like the Roosevelt, Monteleone, and others for their holiday light displays. They should still be up and are a great sight to see. Don’t forget the Carousel Bar either for a unique experience.
It gets missed a lot, but Royal Street is a block away from Bourbon towards the river and has a lot of great shops. Really just walking up and down the streets of the French Quarter and exploring/drinking is a lot of fun.
Drinking wise if you can, get a Pimm’s Cup and a Sazerac while in New Orleans. Both cocktails have a long history in the city and you rarely get the elsewhere in the US.
Outside of the Quarter, St. Charles Avenue is a lot of fun and I’ll always recommend Avenue Pub for their excellent selection of beer and Cooter Brown’s for their dive bar feel with a great beer selection as well. Near Avenue Pub there is a micro-distillery and restaurant called Lula with some nicer fare. Pizza Domenica is also a local place if you need something greasy.
Magazine Street has a lot of unique shops and restaurants if that’s your thing. Honestly I’d start listing places but it is easier to just go to Google.
Now let’s talk food. As y’all know I’m a big proponent of food. If you’ve never had it, absolutely get some gumbo and jambalaya down in New Orleans. Even if it is just a cup or bowl you have to give it a taste. Personally I trend towards chicken and andouille. But many folks love seafood in theirs.
Sadly it isn’t crawfish season. You may find a few places offering crawfish, but I’d be suspicious of where they got it and how fresh it is. The season usually starts in mid-January and peaks starting in March. Good new though, you’ll be able to find some shrimp and more importantly oysters! Try them raw if you’re adventurous.
Finally let’s talk po boys. Roast beef, oyster, shrimp, and sausage are probably the most traditional, but you’ll see plenty of options everywhere now. The big thing you’ll get asked is if you want it “dressed.” Traditionally that means lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo. If you don’t want something from that just say, “No tomato,” for example. If you want none of it then answer no.
As for places to eat. The list is long. If you’re up for something fancy then Commanders Palace or Brennans are historical options. I highly recommend Cochon Butcher for lunch. There aren’t many bad places for food, just avoid chain restaurants. No need to eat at any of those here.
Beer wise New Orleans has seen a big explosion in craft beer. Abita is the grandfather of craft beer in New Orleans and a personal favorite. But NOLA brewing is excellent as is Second Line Brewing and Urban Shift. Parish Brewing and Covington can also be found in the city along with Tin Roof Brewing. Plenty of excellent options if you want to stay local.
For anything else, just ask in the comments. I’ll be around all week.