It's been quite a while since we had a guest post around here, so what do you say we fix that? I've visited New Orleans twice, but this is a post I'm super jazzed about (ahem...). So I would LOVE to introduce Addie and Jeremy - they're going to take us to New Orleans today!
Hi there, we’re Addie and Jeremy Martin, a husband and wife duo who originally hail from New Orleans, though we’ve been spending the last few months traveling through Mexico. Having lived in New Orleans so many years, we’ve been able to take advantage of everything it has to offer, so we’re bringing you a run-down of our favorite places to go and things to do.
New Orleans Like A Local
You can read any tour book and get the obvious tourist stuff so today we’re skipping most of that to give you an insider’s look at New Orleans. We have four separate parts of the city featured here that you can visit. Each region provides you with a very different day living like a local and experiencing much of what New Orleans has to offer. We’ve done all of these things ourselves, and we hope that you’ll try at least a few of these recommendations next time you visit the Crescent City.
In general, our favorite things to do in New Orleans are to walk around and enjoy the sights and sounds of the city. New Orleans is a very “wet” city so we’re including lots of drinking options in our recommendations. However, we don’t recommend getting drunk, especially if you’re traveling alone. Living like a local in New Orleans means drinking fairly steadily but holding your own. If you’re walking around as much as we do, staying hydrated, and eating throughout the day, this shouldn’t be a problem.
With that said, let’s get into to the recommendations.
A Day in the French Quarter
Since it’s likely that you’ll be staying in or very near the French Quarter, we’ll start there. In this section only we’ve laid out an ideal day for you (it’s totally our ideal day in the French Quarter and one we did often).
Start your day with breakfast at Stanley, right on Jackson Square (order the Eggs Stanley!). Go early – it gets busy. Afterward, take a stroll by the Mississippi River so you can appreciate the sights and sounds of river life. You can even take the ferry over to Algiers Point to see the city from the opposite side of the Mississippi River. For lunch, walk over to the Erin Rose bar on Conti Street and check out Killer Po’Boys all the way in the back (bring cash and order the pork belly po’boy). While you’re there, grab a beer and hang out with what’s a good mix of both the local and tourist crowds. The bartenders at the Erin Rose are super cool and great to chat with.
Remember, it’s legal to drink on the streets in New Orleans (as long as it’s not in a glass bottle) so stop by a package store like Sidney’s or Unique Grocery, grab a tall beer, and spend some time in the afternoon walking around enjoying the architecture and streets scenes of New Orleans. When we lived there, we spent many days just strolling and taking in the French Quarter. Later in the afternoon you’ll probably want some coffee so head over to Café Envie at the far corner of the Quarter to grab a coffee (get it Irished if you’d like!) and enjoy watching people walk by while sitting at an outside table on Decatur Street. You’ll enjoy the colorful street life you encounter there.
For dinner, saunter just over to El Libre and get one of the best Cuban sandwiches in the city. You can also get cocktails, coffee, and beer there. Alternately or additionally, dine and imbibe at Cane + Table, on Decatur Street (they don’t have a sign so it’s a little tricky to find). They have a delicious Caribbean-inspired menu with small plates and a wide drink menu. Finish your evening walking around more and enjoying the nighttime version of street life in the Quarter.
Uptown + Riverbend Neighborhoods
This day can include as much or as little walking as you’d like. You can get on the streetcar right at the corner of Carondelet Street and Canal Street and ride it all the way to the other end of Uptown, all for $1.25 (it’s another $1.25 to get back). We recommend taking and enjoying the streetcar. It’s a good way to see most of Uptown along St. Charles Avenue and get a feel for what’s out there. For the ultimate flexibility, get a day pass for the streetcar ($3.00) so that you can hop on and off as many times as you’d like.
Uptown + Riverbend Recommendations:
- Take the street car all the way up to Audubon Park and walk toward Magazine Street and visit the fantastic Audubon Zoo. Afterward, you can also walk toward The Fly and see the Mississippi River up there, too. It’s a great place to chill out and relax.
- Ba Chi Canteen (Maple Street) for lunch—New Orleans has amazing Vietnamese food, and this one is a real winner. Get the Vietnamese-style iced coffee and the kimchi fries along with any of their phos.
- Spend the afternoon in the area exploring the neighborhoods (Maple Street and Oak Street have shopping, coffee shops, etc).
- Jacque-Imo’s (Oak Street)—treat yourself to dinner at this fun and raucous dining spot that serves authentic New Orleans cuisine (try the alligator cheesecake!). The ebullient man in the chef coat and shorts who just made you eat dessert? That’s Jack, the owner.
- See live music just next door at the Maple Leaf. They’ve live music each night, usually a brass band or some other New Orleans music (Rebirth Brass Band is every Tuesday). It’s a hell of a party.
Transportation: You can either take the streetcar or hail an Uber back to your hotel.
Mid-City + Faubourg St. John Neighborhoods
This is the neighborhood we used to live in so it’s near and dear to our hearts. We recommend to start by taking a bike or walking up the neutral ground (median) on Esplanade Avenue. It’s mostly covered with trees and has beautiful views of old Victorian mansions and ancient oak trees. Esplanade Avenue ends at City Park so it’s worth the walk (or bus ride) up there.
Mid-City + Faubourg St. John Recommendations:
- While you’re on your walk up Esplanade Avenue, grab breakfast or brunch at Pagoda Café (it’s half a block off Esplanade on N. Dorgenois Street). It’s an actual old pagoda serves a small but tasty, eclectic menu (try the sausage roll + a bottomless coffee).
- Continue walking up Esplanade Avenue and visit City Park. While there, check out the free sculpture garden, the Peristyle, and the Great Lawn. City Park is lovely, and we recommend spending as much time there as possible. You can even get some pretty tasty beignets at Morning Call Café (they never have a line like Café du Monde does).
- Grab a fried shrimp po’boy and a Barq’s root beer for an early dinner at Parkway Tavern and have a picnic with it along Bayou St. John, which has a cool evening scene where locals walk their dogs and have picnics of their own.
- If you’re visiting from November to March and you head to Mid-City on a weekend, visit the Fair Grounds Race Track during the day. It’s been around since the mid-1800s and it’s an interesting locals’ scene. Bonus: have lunch at Liuzza’s by the Track beforehand and order a barbecue shrimp po’boy with an icy cold chalice of Abita Amber beer.
- Our favorite combo: saunter leisurely from City Park over to Second Line Brewing (a fantastic microbrewery) for a couple of beers and then walk just over to MoPho for dinner (get the chicken wings—trust us!).
Transportation: getting back to the French Quarter is easy from Mid-City. You can take the #91 bus down Esplanade Ave. to Rampart St., which will get you along the back of the Quarter. Or you can take either of the red streetcar lines (from the Museum or on Canal Street) and both will bring you to the Canal Street side of the Quarter. Hailing an Uber will be easier than a cab from here.
Marigny + Bywater Neighborhoods
By now we’re sure you’ve seen much of the city, especially if you’re doing this as we’ve recommended. The Marigny + Bywater area are just down river from the French Quarter, over Esplanade Avenue. Both are great for walking, exploring, and checking out the architecture of houses. These neighborhoods are interesting because they’re mostly residential, with businesses tucked on many of the street corners. This harkens back to older times when business was done locally, before big box stores, shopping malls, and mega grocery stores blanketed the suburbs.
- Start your day with breakfast or brunch at Horn’s on Dauphine Street (order their “Guatemalan” plate + an iced coffee) and sit at a shaded sidewalk table. Linger over breakfast here and enjoy the morning.
- Walk over to Crescent Park and enjoy the view of the Mississippi River. This park is new and is very well-used by local runners and people looking to enjoy a river view.
- Grab an afternoon coffee at Coast Roast Coffee in the St. Roch Market, the Orange Couch, or the Who Dat Coffee Café. Take your time and plot your next moves while you’re sitting, relaxing, and have access to wi-fi and a bathroom.
- Some of our favorite dinner spots in the Marigny/Bywater area are Mimi’s in the Marigny (a bar with tapas), Red’s Chinese (get the pastrami kung pao), Pizza Delicious (it lives up to its name), The Joint (best BBQ in the city), and the Sneaky Pickle (mostly vegetarian).
- In the late evening, head to Frenchmen Street in the Marigny where you can have your choice of music. Some of our favorite spots are d.b.a., the Spotted Cat, Blue Nile, and the Maison. None of these shows are likely to be free but cover charges range from $5 to $10 usually, and the bands are well-worth that price.
Transportation: either walk back to the Quarter, hail an Uber or walk up to St Claude Avenue and take the streetcar (line ends at Elysian Fields Avenue).
These are our recommendations for how to live like a local in New Orleans. Do as much or as little of this stuff as you like, but when you do them, take your time. These activities are not meant to be checked off a list: they’re meant to be savored, so linger freely, be curious, embrace distraction, and meet people. Many of the people you’ll see as you visit these places are locals and going about their daily lives. We loved living our daily lives in New Orleans so much and hope that you have a great time doing some of our very favorite activities in the city.
Addie K. and Jeremy Martin are a research + writing team who primarily study people and the food/cuisine/cultures that make them unique. They’re both freelance writers, and the co-authors of the book “Southeast Louisiana Food: a Seasoned Tradition” (History Press, 2014). Jeremy also writes literary fiction, and Addie has numerous food and writing focused side projects. In 2016, they gave up place-based living to travel full-time, starting in Mexico. Follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.