How To Get A Real ‘Taste’ Of NOLA In Less Than 24 Hours
It happens sometimes.
You’re in the area and want to check it out, are at a convention or trade show and have decided to stay over an extra day, or it’s all the time you have at the moment.
While to some it may seem cruel mental punishment to spend so little time there, it is possible to get a real taste of NOLA in a small amount of time. And so, PubClub.com provides this guide on what to do if you have only one day in New Orleans with this recommended itinerary.
• Spend Your Time In The French Quarter
This is where most tourists spend much of their time and it’s what makes New Orleans such a unique destination.
The French Quarter is home to many of New Orleans’ landmarks, restaurants and one of the most famous nightlife areas in the world, Bourbon Street. It is framed by Decatur Street which runs parallel to the mighty Mississippi, and Rampart Street east to west (tho don’t wander that far, in fact, you won’t need to go past Bourbon Street) and Canal Street and the Esplanade to the south and north. For a map, click here.
Here, you will find everything you need: restaurants, shops, bars, haunted ghost tours (for those who have the time), voodoo dolls and as many shops selling beads as Waikiki Beach has ABC stores. In other words, they are all over the place.
So the first thing you should do is casually stroll through “the Quarter” as locals call it. Go in and out of the beads shops; they are playing Zydeco music that spills out into the street and it’s fun to look at all the variety of beads, as well as T-shirts and other souvenirs.
Take your time and really soak in the atmosphere.
The French Quarter is easily walkable – you could do in less than an hour if you don’t stop for any food, drinks or wander in and out of the beads shops. And if you did that, then what would be the point of being in New Orleans in the first place, right!?
• Bourbon Street & Those Colored Drinks
One thing to know about Bourbon Street is that it is way different in the daytime than it is at night. Once those 3-for-1 Happy Hours kick in – and nearly every place has them – then things really start rolling and by dark, the street is busy, the balconies are full and the live music is blasting out of the bars.
Another important factor is to be careful of all those multi-colored drinks. If you’re only there for a day, having too many of them – and in particular mixing those colors – could result in you unexpectedly laying over an extra day. While laying out in your bed with a hangover.
But you must do Bourbon Street and if you’re going to have one drink, the signature cocktail of New Orleans is the Hurricane. It’s a red concoction and THE place to get it is the iconic Pat O’Brien’s, a multi-room bar that is a Big Easy nightlife landmark (it’s at Bourbon & St. Peter streets). Get your Hurricane in the courtyard with the flaming fountain.
Another famous drink – this one is green – is the Hand Grenade. It is sold at the Tropical Isle, often in a tourist-friendly tall green plastic container. The Tropical Isle advertises the Hand Grenade as “New Orleans’ strongest drink” and if that doesn’t tell you what you can get into on Bourbon Street, then maybe you shouldn’t be on Bourbon Street in the first place.
My favorite bar among the many with local cover bands is the Famous Door.
• The Famous Food Places – Beignets, Po’Boys & The Muffuletta
To get that real “taste” of the Big Easy, you need to experience some of its food. And that means the square donuts, gumbo, Po’Boy sandwiches and of course the Muffuletta.
Your first food stop should be at Cafe du Monde in the French Market, where the “coffee is strong and the donuts are too hot to touch,” according to a song lyric by one-time resident Jimmy Buffett. Actually, the donuts are square, covered in powered sugar and are called beignets. If you really like them – and most people do – you can buy a box of the mix to take back home. Note that it is cash only there.
For gumbo, this is easy. Practically every restaurant in town has it on the menu and each one is just a little bit different. Heck, you could spend a week just trying out the different gumbos (and they all are good). But with limited time – and limited stomach space – I suggest taking care of two foods at the same time by pairing a cup of of gumbo with New Orleans’ famous Po’Boy sandwich.
A Po’Boy is like a hoagie anywhere else, but it is made with a special bread that makes it taste, well, special. I recommend getting a shrimp Po’Boy for the real New Orleans flavor of food. And the place to get that in the French Quarter is Johnny’s Po’Boy (located at 511 St Louis St.), an old-fashioned, order-at-the-counter, sit-down-with-someone-else joint that pairs gumbo with half a Po’Boy for around $10.
There is another sandwich synonymous with New Orleans and it is the Muffuletta. What the heck is a Muffuletta, you ask? Well, it’s a sandwich the size of a car tire served on round Italian bread and piled with ham, salami, provolone and mozzarella cheeses, shredded lettuce, tomatoes and probably a few other things, as well. The real key to its taste, tho, is olive salad oil.
The quintessential place to get this is at Central Grocery by the French Market (923 Decatur St). The sandwich is massive and you can get it cut up into quarter slices. For two people, get at least a half. Central Grocery is not a sit-down restaurant; it is a busy deli and market and you go to the back to order at a counter.
I suggest getting this last if you’re headed out of town the same day. You can eat it in your car, at the airport or save it for when you arrive at your destination. That way, you’ve got some room left in your stomach and you can continue to have the great taste of New Orleans when you are no longer in New Orleans.
You can also dine in one of New Orleans’ fine dining restaurants if you have the time. Brennan’s, for example (417 Royal Street), is known for its Banana’s Foster – made flaming at your table – dessert. Galatoire’s is right on Bourbon Street (209 Bourbon Street) and has been in business since 1905; gentlemen must wear a jacket after 5 p.m.
Then there is the iconic (and crowded, expect a line of at least half an hour) Acme Oyster House (724 Iberville St.), a get-down-to-it joint that serves fresh-shucked oysters by the dozens. Wash ’em down with New Orleans’ Abita beer.
This is really enough suggestions and information to fill up several days, and you will no doubt find your own things to do while walking through the Quarter.
But this guide does point you in the right direction and be sure to laissez le bon temps ruler, or let the good times roll.