The idea of visiting New Orleans for the first time can trigger a number of different emotions depending on the type of person you are. Some may have Mardi Gras on their mind, others may want a more quaint experience. Regardless of your interests in visiting NOLA, I’ve compiled a list just for you sharing what I loved from my first visit to New Orleans, and what I would do differently on my next visit.
Figure out your food intolerance issues prior to traveling
I’ll start with my worst part of the trip, and honestly a solo experience compared to the rest of the group I was with for the few days. This might sound like a no brainer, but my goodness did I feel absolutely miserable. I really only started feeling better the final day of our trip after days of feeling hopelessly sick.. (a little TMI) I literally had to puke into a shopping bag on the trolly on our way back to the rental and pretend like nothing happened. Of course people joked that I partied too hard (or that I was pregnant) but it wasn’t my proudest moment. I had been traveling a lot and couldn’t figure out what my body was so sensitive to… but it made for a not so great trip. So if you can, figure out your sensitivities before traveling.
Choosing the right district
Choose which district in New Orleans you’d like to stay in for your first time could make or break your first experience. The district will be based largely on the atmosphere you’d like to experience. I’m so grateful our first time in NOLA was spent at the Walker Mansion on St Charles Ave in the Garden District because it was just quiet enough while also being just close enough to walk or trolly to all the areas we wanted to visit. But you may want to look at areas in the French Quarters if you want to be a short walk to everything.
Make dinner reservations.
We didn’t plan this out as well because we visited a little after Mardi Gras and thought we’d miss the busy crowd. From the words of the Uber driver, “it’s always like this”. My group really wanted to experience a Louisiana cuisine with live jazz music playing, but we ended up having bar food instead, the only place with seating. I was pretty disappointed to have spent most of my week having Mexican food with a slight Louisiana twist, especially coming from Arizona.
The wait for Café du Monde is worth it
Ordering from Café du Monde was quite possibly one of the most touristy thing I did in New Orleans. I almost didn’t go because the line was so long, but I promise you, the wait was worth it. But definitely prepare for it, and for powdered sugar to be quite literally everywhere. Because I was feeling miserable half the trip I almost didn’t order but I’m so glad I did.
Look up the times for Second Line Parades
I only knew about this only because a local wedding photographer has shared images. Second line parades are an experience where you can walk behind the bands performing. It’s something I would have loved to experience in person. Unfortunately, I missed it my first visit and will have to come back another time. From what I’ve read, they happen every Sunday except for during the hottest months of the year (July and some of August). Definitely reach out to a local to find out more specifics!
It has a distinct smell
People told me that Paris smelled bad, but truthfully I felt like NOLA had a very distinct “we drank too much and pissed on the street” and strong sewage smell for a number of streets. I know Mardi Gras was the week before, but that was definitely an experience I didn’t mentally prepare for. This wasn’t something that bothered me a lot, especially coming from living in the city at the time, but it’s something to mentally prepare for if you aren’t used to the city experience. Which brings me back to choosing the district you want to stay in wisely. I absolutely loved where we stayed and would happily come back to stay in the Garden District the next time I visit New Orleans.
Have you been to New Orleans?
What was one of your favorite or least favorite experiences during your visit?
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