This past weekend, my Vanderbilt friends and I met up in my roommate’s home city of New Orleans for her debutante ball. In between attending Margaux’s party at the New Orleans Country Club and witnessing her “Welcome to Society” at the Hilton Riverside, we were able to experience a bit of the New Orleans charm. Being our second trip to New Orleans (we came in February for Mardi Gras), we arrived with the expectation of enjoying ourselves to the fullest. As always, NOLA didn’t disappoint.
Disclaimer: ALL photos in this post were taken by the lovely Sarah Pennington
Jackson Square in the French Quarter is one of the most beautiful parts of New Orleans with the stunning St. Louis Cathedral set as the backdrop. Filled with restaurants, shops, and an exquisite garden, the square is a great place to wander on a warm summer day. It even presents a wonderful view of the river. The history of the city is quite evident here, leaving you feeling a bit nostalgic for the old days of New Orleans. In order to truly experience Jackson Square, be sure to visit Café du Monde on the corner.
Café du Monde
Although it may be filled with tourists and slightly cliché, Café du Monde is a destination you must not skip when visiting New Orleans. A casual café that features a simple menu of coffee and beignets, Café du Monde in Jackson Square is a NOLA classic. When you arrive at the entrance, you may see a long line with tourists waiting to be seated, but don’t fall for that. Locals know that you don’t have to wait in line, nor will anyone come to seat you. My advice is to go in the OTHER entrance (if there are lines in front of all of the entrances, play it by ear. You probably don’t want to be rude, but you also really do not need to wait). You’ll have to navigate through the tight-packed patio filled with tiny tables and sweaty guests, and as soon as you spot an empty table grab it (it’ll most likely be filled with the empty coffee cups, mounds of powdered sugar, and half-eaten beignets). A waiter will come around shortly to clean your table and take your order. Each order comes with 3 beignets for $3, and in the NOLA heat, you really only need one. I’d advise sharing with a friend or two.
Just minutes away from the the tame and classy French Quarter lies the wild and eccentric Bourbon Street. Bars and clubs with names like “Barely Legal” and “The Swamp” feature scantily dressed women on the sidewalk at an attempt to lure tourists inside. EDM music and sidewalk bands act as the melody to the setting, while people in costumes holding “HUGE ASS BEERS” signs march through the streets. Fish bowl drinks and hurricanes are seen in every other tourist’s hands as they walk through the city that has no open container laws. Visiting Bourbon during the day is like being a lost audience member walking through the middle of a circus show – you’re slightly confused, but utterly entertained. However, Margaux advised us to avoid Bourbon at night (especially during Mardi Gras) because what may be funny during the day can turn quite creepy when the sun sets. Nevertheless, Bourbon gives tourists a feel for how truly unique the “Big Easy” is.
Find a local
The best part of visiting New Orleans is meeting up with a local. Luckily, I was able to stay at Margaux’s house for the entire Mardi Gras and for a part of my stay last weekend. Enjoying homemade jambalaya and experiencing the people who make this unique southern city so special is what visiting New Orleans is all about. They’ll take you to places you wouldn’t usually go as a tourist and they’ll give you advice on what to do when you’re off on your own. Most importantly, they’ll tell you stories about living in what may be America’s most peculiar city.
Our trip to New Orleans may have been quick, but it was nothing short of exhilarating. Although I got roughly 5 hours of sleep each night, I left with a whole lot of memories to show. New Orleans was quite the adventure, but after a busy weekend it is nice to settle back into a quieter schedule.