Since moving to Florida, I’ve wanted to explore more of the South. When I was thinking of what I wanted to do for my birthday, spending a weekend getaway in New Orleans was the first place that came to mind. We have been to New Orleans before, but I was very young and don’t remember it. So, it was basically like going somewhere new. I’ve heard nothing but great things about New Orleans. I’ve heard how dirty and gross it is, but also how amazing it is to see in person. There is so much history here! And Bourbon Street is just too much fun.
“There is no place on Earth even remotely like New Orleans. Don’t even try to compare it to anywhere else.” — Anthony Bourdain
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We decided to drive from Sarasota to New Orleans. It’s about a 10/11 hour drive depending on traffic and how much you obey the speed limit. For anyone who has driven through the state of Florida, you know how boring it can be. But once we got out of Florida, it was really cool to drive through Alabama and Mississippi as those are two states I’ve never been to before.
The hotel we stayed at was the Hotel St. Pierre. It is right in the French Quarter, but a few blocks removed from all of the craziness. After reading some reviews, I decided on this hotel because I read that it was old and charming and right near everything but not in the middle of everything. I think it would have been very loud to stay at a hotel that is right on Bourbon or Royal Street.
Here is what we did during our weekend getaway in New Orleans:
Arrived Friday afternoon
- Cafe au Laits and beignets at Cafe du Monde.
- Walked around and explored the French Quarter.
- Drinks on Bourbon Street.
Even though we had just driven all day, of course we were too excited to relax! The first thing we did was make a bee line to Cafe du Monde. Every single person that I talked to about going to New Orleans said to go to Cafe du Monde. Every. Single. Person. As soon as I took that first bite of that beignet, I completely understood why! We did the to-go window and sat up at the top of the steps at Washington Artillery Park next to Cafe du Monde. There was a street performance going on by a dance crew that we watched while overlooking the gorgeous St. Louis Cathedral.
It’s definitely worth popping into see St. Louis Cathedral. It’s the oldest cathedral in North America, founded in 1720. Pope John Paul II visited the cathedral in 1987, and there is a nice statue outside to commemorate his visit. Even if you are not religious, the architecture and artwork inside is really worth seeing. The rest of our first day was spent just walking around and exploring. I wasn’t expecting all of the artists, fortune tellers, and street performers. It made for a great vibe.
After freshening up a bit, we headed out to check out the infamous Bourbon St. It did not disappoint. The street is closed down from cars at night, and there is also open container law here, so you can take your drinks to go, walk around, people watch, listen to music, and enjoy the vibe. We ended up at a place called Fat Catz because we heard an awesome band playing while walking by and sat there and listened to some great music.
- Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters.
- Walked around more of the French Quarter and to Canal Street.
- Coffee at PJ’s Coffee.
- Walking ghost tour.
- Out on Frenchmen Street.
This morning was brunch time! The Court of Two Sisters is a popular brunch spot, and they have a beautiful courtyard with live jazz music playing. It is a bit on the pricey side, but since it was my birthday I wanted to splurge a little. Today was spent walking around more of the French Quarter. We didn’t realize how many places there were to see. It’s so much different walking around during the day than it is at night, which is cool. Although, it seems there are always people drinking! We did end up walking down to Canal Street, which serves as kind of the border of the French Quarter. There are more hotels, shops, restaurants, and a Harrah’s Casino. This is also where you can pick up the streetcars to head to places like the Garden District and City Park. Afterwards, I needed a coffee to keep the energy levels up, so we tried PJ’s Coffee. It was good and affordable! They have several locations around the French Quarter.
While wandering around, we kept seeing lots of flyers for ghost tours. Obviously we knew we wanted to do a ghost tour, being in one of the most haunted cities in America, but there are quite a few to choose from. We decided on doing one of the walking ghost tours! If you only have time to do one tour while here in NOLA, I definitely suggest doing this one. You walk all over the French Quarter with a small group and a tour guide. (Our tour guide happened to be from Transylvania!) This is where you see the infamous LaLaurie Mansion, visit a place where the Axeman murdered a family, and hear all about some of the ghosts that still supposedly haunt the French Quarter to this day. It was a really fun, creepy, and informative tour that also tells you a little bit about the history of New Orleans. They encourage you to take pictures in the hopes of catching something supernatural on camera. Whether you believe or don’t believe, this is definitely an entertaining tour and almost something you have to do while in New Orleans.
Our tour guide recommended checking out Frenchmen Street, so that’s where we headed after the tour. This is another fun area to walk around with great live music.
- Coffee at CC’s.
- Breakfast at Music Legends Garden.
- Ubered to the Lafayette Cemetery and Garden District.
- Streetcar back to French Quarter.
- Nighttime cemetery ghost tour.
- BB King’s for dinner.
This morning we tried another great coffee place called CC’s Coffee, and then had beignets and breakfast sandwiches at Cafe Beignet in the Music Legends Garden. It was so much fun sitting here in the courtyard, and they even had a jazz band start playing at 10:00am! Today we really wanted to visit the Lafayette Cemetery and the Garden District. Normally we are all for using public transportation, however the New Orleans Music Marathon happened to be going on this Sunday morning. The streetcars were not running their normal routes, so we decided to take an Uber over to Lafayette Cemetery #1.
If you know anything about New Orleans cemeteries, you know that they are above ground. The water table is too high here in NOLA, so they cannot dig to bury people. When you get to Lafayette Cemetery #1, there will be tour guides that offer donation-based tours of the cemetery. You can also book a guided tour. We opted to pull up a self-guided walking tour so that we could go at our own pace. This proved to be really interesting and took us through the entire cemetery, stopping to point out interesting facts about the cemetery and the people buried there. If you Google “Lafayette Cemetery self-guided walking tour,” there will be a bunch you can choose from. There are also audio tours you can download and listen to. We chose this one through Free Tours By Foot.
After spending time walking around the cemetery, we then decided to explore the Garden District. There are many beautiful, historical homes in this area. Many of them are owned or used to be own by famous people. We did another self-guided walking tour that took us all over, also by Free Tours by Foot. Then we had lunch at a cute coffee shop and took the streetcar back to Canal Street. I definitely recommend taking the streetcar both ways. It costs $1.50 one way or $3.00 for the whole day. We would have done this if it weren’t for the marathon!
Tonight we decided to do a ghosts and graveyards bus tour. The one we did takes you outside of the French Quarter, and we visited three different cemeteries, City Park and Charity Memorial Hospital. Our tour guide, Toast (yes, that was his name), was really great and told a lot of interesting stories about murders, ghosts, voodoo, and the history of the French Quarter and New Orleans. We visited St. Louis Cemetery #1, Holt Cemetery, and the Hurricane Katrina Memorial/Cemetery where the unidentified/unclaimed bodies were buried. This tour was slightly disappointing in the beginning because we weren’t actually able to go inside the St. Louis Cemetery #1 or Holt Cemetery. However, the stories and information were very interesting, and seeing a cemetery at night is creepy in and of itself.
We also made a stop at City Park, which is a beautiful park during the day and a pretty creepy place at night with an interesting history. Here is where you can see the dueling oaks, where many duels took place and many people died. There is also the story of Mona. Her family lived on a mansion that was located where City Park is, and she fell in love with a sailor. Her father disapproved, and told her she would have to marry someone he chose. She ended up drowning herself in the lake, and there are many instances of people hearing noises and seeing unexplained things in this area.
When we got to the Katrina Memorial and Cemetery, you can actually go inside here. It was incredibly depressing to think about all of the people who died and that there are still unclaimed bodies. The memorial and burial tombs is simple, yet beautiful. The memorial was built on the former site of a pauper’s or Potter’s field, which is where poor people were buried in unmarked, large mass graves. It is supposedly haunted, but whether or not that’s true it is a surreal place to visit and think about what happened.
After seeing the Katrina Memorial, we visited Charity Hospital. The story surrounding this hospital is kind of insane, and I highly suggest reading about it. After Hurricane Katrina, the hospital was abandoned and has just been sitting there, even though it was fully able to be reopened. It is supposedly one of the most haunted places in New Orleans. Here are some photos from inside of the abandoned hospital from Abandoned Southeast.
After all this excitement, we just had a nice dinner at BB King’s and listened to some jazz music and then called it a night!
- Visited City Park.
- Breakfast at Toast.
- Drive home.
Today was unfortunately the day we had to head home! Before heading back to Florida, we decided to drive through City Park to see it during the day. We also had breakfast at a place called Toast that was suggested by a local. Definitely recommend! They had delicious, cheap breakfast and good coffee.
So, that was my weekend getaway in New Orleans. We packed as much as we could in, but there is more that I want to see and do. It definitely exceeded my expectations. It was sad leaving the French Quarter, but I know I’ll be back!
- Bring comfortable shoes. The French Quarter is very walkable, and I would recommend walking around as much as possible because you never know what interesting shops or places you will find (like the Museum of Death, which I didn’t get the chance to go to this time).
- Try the beignets. Just do it. You won’t regret it.
- If you want to leave the French Quarter, take the streetcar. It’s cheap and you don’t have to worry about driving/parking. Just remember it’s cash only and to have exact change.
- Stay at a hotel in the French Quarter. Some people might argue against this because it’s loud, but if you only have a few days in New Orleans this is the place you want to be. There are plenty of hotels that are in the French Quarter but slightly outside of the main area.
- Check out the art galleries. We found a lot of cool art and artists here. There were also some street markets we stumbled upon that had some interesting stuff.
- Shop! There are a lot of really neat stores here. It’s not just souvenir shopping (which, of course, there is a ton of that). There are also some really cool voodoo shops, a shop called Boutique de Vampyre, Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, and so much more.
(In case you were wondering, I paid for this trip and everything that we did. The hotel or tours do not know I have a blog or that I was going to be writing about this trip. Thanks!)
Now I want to know what your favorite things to do are in New Orleans! Let me know in the comments, so I can add them to my list for my next trip!
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