Welcome to Marie Claire's new series on weekend travel, designed to help you make the most of your glorious two days off.
New Orleans is magic, and those who say otherwise are downright liars. A bit much, but come on—there are only so many places where you can eat all the things (including beignets with *so* much powdered sugar) and drink in the streets while listening to jazz and folk musicians, know what I mean? So when Diner en Blanc—a white, pop-up dinner that happens in cities around the country—invited me to join in on the festivities, I was down to visit one of my favorite cities I've been to thus far in my short time on this planet. Here, a quick and handy guide to everything you need to know about spending two food-fueled days in The Big Easy.
Where to Stay
I recommend Le Pavillon, a Greek-inspired hotel that features a nightly PB&J bar (no joke) which is located in the French Quarter. (It also has a small, rooftop pool and very nice customer service.)
Another great option? Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery, which is located three blocks from the French Quarter in the art district, and is set in a restored 19th century warehouse.
What to Do
Always make sure to look up festivals and attractions before you head to a city—otherwise you'll miss out on some pretty dope things, like the Dinner en Blanc, a pop-up dinner party (where you are asked to wear all white, naturally) which featured a secret location you were told day of. You later made your way to the location before setting up your table, chairs, and picnic dinner for a night of dancing, fireworks, and even a second line. And people do *not* skimp on the details—think: multiple courses, designed centerpieces, and more.
Plus there may be this guy:
For a bit of history, hit up the acclaimed National WWII Museum. For some fun (and some great pics) book a swamp boat tour—there's many to choose from, so pick your favorite. Walk through Frenchmen Street to eat, drink, and be merry—and see some amazing homes while listening to live music down the street. Wander through the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral then head through art vendors to Jackson Square, before heading to Cafe Du Monde for some much needed beignets...
What to Eat
Cafe Du Monde is a must, but be ready for long lines. (There is more than one location, though the original is on Decatur street.) Willie Mae's for the fried chicken, period. Dooky Chase's is an institution, with lifetime James Beard award winner Leah Chase (93-year-old star of "Lemonade" and a Bey/Solange favorite) at the helm. (If you're lucky, you'll see her come out from the kitchens from time to time.) Speaking of James Beard (AKA the Food Oscars), Shaya's chef just won one—so you know, that's also a definite bet.
If heading out of the French Quarter, book a table at Atchafalaya, for some of the best shrimp and grits you'll ever have. (Go for the brunch, stay for the three-piece band and the bloody mary bar.) Another great brunch option is SaBou in the W, which has a Burlesque brunch.
For drinks, there are a ton of options, and you'll need to hit some touristy spots to really do it all. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop (lots of history!), Pat O'Briens (order a hurricane), the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt hotel (order the sazerac, duh, or a gin fizz), and—of course—the Carousel Bar in the Montelone Hotel. (It has a real, rotating carousel inside the bar and great cocktails.)
Of course, you can always take your cocktails to go! Drinking on the streets is part of the appeal of New Orleans, as we all know.
For some Old School New Orleans flavor, head to Casamento's in Uptown or, if staying in the French Quarter, Royal House for some Oysters. Commander's Palace is a staple, and the 25 cent weekday martinis are A+.
You can also *must* head to Bacchanal Wine (this will require a taxi or Uber, since it is a bit out of the way) but it is just, so worth it. There's a wine shop in the front and bars at the top of the stars and down in the courtyard—seat yourself (make friends and join a table!), order some grub (make your own cheese plate!), grab a bottle of wine and glasses and listen to some awesome music for the best NOLA night.
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1. Get to Bacchanal early, but don't be intimidated by a line—it moves very fast. If you're going to drink wine, grab a bottle in the beginning (instead of by the glass inside) and make your own cheese plate for some delish snacking.
2. Organizing a bachelorette? Pull a Hannibal Burress and—if you can swing it–get your own damn parade for the day. This is real, you can do this—for a set (relatively cheap) price and easy permit. Here's how.
3. Tipitinas features Sunday dancing and music with free red beans and rice starting at 5 p.m. (They also have great bands for as little as $20 a pop.) Thank you, Anne, for the tip!
Where would you like to see next? Let us know!
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Samantha Leal is the Deputy Editor at Well+Good, where she spends most of her day thinking of new ideas across platforms, bringing on new writers, overseeing the day-to-day of the website, and working with the awesome team to produce the best stories and packages. Before W+G, she was the Senior Web Editor for Marie Claire and the Deputy Editor for Latina.com, with bylines all over the internet. Graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University with a minor in African history, she’s written everything from travel guides to political op-eds to wine explainers (currently enrolled in the WSET program) to celebrity profiles. Find her online pretty much everywhere @samanthajoleal.
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