My Highs and Lows of New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana

Jack was going to Atlanta for a conference and I decided to join him. I decided last minute to extend my stay because… when else am I going to find myself in this region? So many parts of USA are still unknown to me and this was an opportunity to discover new parts of this adopted country of mine.

Atlanta was a blur, I hardly remember anything about it (other than it was hot), but I remember Savannah (very leafy and romantic), and the Great Smokies (beautiful). Then I decided to take a 10 hour bus ride to visit New Orleans, one of the places I’d wanted to check out for a while, having heard so much about it.

Here are the lowlights and highlights of my New Orleans visit.

The Low – Beignets

Beignet lovers would give me a hard time over this, but I simply don’t get beignets. Just like any other tourist in New Orleans, I patiently waited in line at Cafe du Monde for my little paper bag of beignets.

I love fried stuff so I dipped my hand in the bag enthusiastically and pulled a beignet out. I was confused. There was so much powdered sugar it formed a sticky goo all over my fingers. Is there supposed to be that much powdered sugar?

And the taste? I mean, it was good. Then again, it’s a fried piece of dough. How can it not be good? But world famous good? Worth the hype good? Eh, I don’t know.

(For some reason I really, really wanted to be wowed by beignets, so I came the second time. Same experience. Undeterred, I went to Cafe Beignet to try their version of this New Orleans fried specialty. No go.)

The High – Donuts from District Donuts Sliders Brew

Delicious donuts
Delicious donuts from District Donuts Sliders Brew

Give me a regular donut piled high with all sorts of sugary goodies (but not too sweet it gives you instant cavities) and I’m your girl. I guess this confirmed that I’m just not a beignet person.

The place’s name is a mouthful but it highlights what this place does best. The donuts were creative (I had a Vietnamase Coffee, a Root Beer Float, and a Nutella donut – don’t judge), the sliders were delicious (or so I was told), and the coffee was spot on.

I ended up coming here every day, sometimes twice a day.

Location: Lower Garden District

The Low – Bourbon Street

Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street by Jensen, M

When I first arrived in New Orleans, Bourbon Street was the only familiar name in the French Quarter so that was where I headed first. For someone to whom first impression counts, this proved to be a mistake.

Tacky souvenir shops, ‘voodoo emporiums’, and an endless line of bars greeted me. There was a lot of noise, a lot of people, and a lot of bright neons. What a sensory overload!

Ugh. This wasn’t what I expected to find.

Even when I haven’t just gotten off a 10 hour bus ride, this isn’t my scene at all. As soon as I got over my initial “Where am I and how do I get out of here?” shock, I quickly fled.

Luckily I found a completely different scene only a block away.

The High – Royal Street

Colorful doors in the French Quarter
Beautiful intricate balconies of Royal Street in New Orleans French Quarter
Beautiful intricate balconies of Royal Street in New Orleans French Quarter
Royal Street, New Orleans

Just one block further on Royal Street, the atmosphere is a world’s away. Instead of bars, there were art galleries, coffeeshops, and restaurants. The balconies on Royal Street were so beautiful and intricate, many of which were decorated by flowering potted plants and greeneries.

This was more along the French Quarter that I had in mind.

More highlights of New Orleans

The food

The best meal I had in New Orleans is this crawfish etoufee from Liuzza by the Track, a small joint in the residential neighborhood 10 minute bus ride from the French Quarter.

Would you look at that size of buttery, warm, goodness? It was so delicious I wanted to lick the plate.

Crawfish etouffee from Liuzza by the Track
Crawfish etouffee from Liuzza by the Track

The World of Mardi Gras
One of the floats from the previous Mardi Gras

This was a super fun experience.

If you ever wonder about what goes on behind the scenes of Mardi Gras, this is the place to go. I learned a lot about what goes into the making of the floats and more importantly the wacky, almost unbelievable world of this world famous festival. More on this later.

MORE: The Mardi Gras Museum in New Orleans

The Pharmacy Museum

The best $5 I’ve ever spent! Try to get on one of their twice a week guided tours (Thursday and Friday at noon) where you get to learn about common medical practices New Orleans in the 19th century.

I can’t recommend the tour enough; it was both funny and insightful. It made me wonder how anyone survived that time period considering the stuff they did back then (lead lined baby bottles, anybody?)

(It also made me wonder what current medical practices that will be cringeworthy a hundred years from now.)

Our enthusiastic story teller at the Pharmacy Museum, New Orleans
Our enthusiastic story teller

Highlight of New Orleans, Pharmacy Museum

Sliver covered pills

A glass jar of leeches

A glass jar of leeches

Colorful houses in residential New Orleans

Self-guided walking tours of New Orleans

Colorful houses in residential New Orleans

Beads hanging outside of a New Orleans house

Beads hanging outside of a New Orleans house

Pink mansion in New Orleans Garden District

Pink mansion in New Orleans Garden District

I felt like I lucked out a lot with the weather. I feared the heat and the humidity of New Orleans but what I got was a sunny day with mild weather. It was a perfect walking weather.

In between food and ice cream stops, and occasional bus rides, I had a blast exploring New Orleans highlights on my feet: the leafy mansions of Garden District, the colorful houses of New Orleans residential area, and of course the ever popular cemeteries.

(What’s the deal with the this obsession over cemeteries?)

The ultimate, ultimate highlight of my New Orleans exploration? Ending each day with a salted caramel gelatoccino (espresso + gelato) from Angelo Brocato. It’s worth hunting this 100 year old Italian bakery (still run by the Brocato family) in Mid-City neighborhood.

Angelo Brocato's famous 'Gelatoccino'
Angelo Brocato’s famous ‘Gelatoccino’

Looking for more to do? Check out this alternative 3 day itinerary in New Orleans.

Have you been to New Orleans? What do you love most about the city?

Valuable Resources

  • Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders, for those who love anything weird and offbeat.
  • Resource Toolbox: How I find cheap flights, accommodations, and other travel hacks.

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6 Replies to “My Highs and Lows of New Orleans”

  1. I’ve been reading about people’s experiences with the south and I feel like I need to give it a second chance. I was there when I was in college but I heard people casually say racist/homophobic things in places like the grocery store and a beach. I basically swore I would never go back but it seems like I might be missing a lot. I really want to check out New Orleans

    1. That would’ve been such a turn off for us too. Fortunately we didn’t experience anything like that during our brief visit. In case you do return, I’d love to hear what you think about how much things have/have not changed.

  2. It’s refreshing to read about the good with the bad in one post. I’m really keen to visit New Orleans, likely next year. I really love the look of Royal Street and think that I will be of the same opinion as yourself in regard to Bourbon St. But you never know!

  3. You capture what I experienced on my first visit to New Orleans so well. I loved Royal Street, wasn’t a fan of Bourbon St (not really a drinker). Didn’t get the whole beignet thing – basically a funnel cake but I ended up wearing more powdered sugar with the Cafe Du Monde version. I love desserts around the world but wasn’t fan but figure its like so many other “must do” that are let downs. I was there for a conference as well so didn’t have much down time but enjoyed the walking tour of the Garden District and found the cemetaries quite interesting after my initial thought was “why bother” – so proved wrong on that one.

    1. I think going on a guided cemetery tour to get a background story of its history and significance is a good idea. I wasn’t organized enough to arrange one so I just tried to eavesdrop on the tours that were there and actually learned some interesting tidbits.

  4. I have never been to New Orleans, but it’s definitely my next State-side destination! It’s too bad the beignets did not live up to their expectations… Hmm, I wonder if I’d have the same reaction as you…

    Thanks for this, I’ll be sure to come back to it when I’m planning that trip!

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