Vacation is a time when you can eat whatever you want without feeling too guilty, and the best place to take advantage of this unspoken rule has to be New Orleans. French and Spanish influences come together to create Cajun cuisine, which is incredible and native to this small part of the country. Plus, there’s excellent seafood, loads of Southern fare, and, of course, plenty of places to grab a drink to wash it all down. And, if you stay in the French Quarter, you’ll be within walking distance to some of the country’s best eating!
There's inspiration just about everywhere you look in New Orleans, but there's nothing more inspiring than a strong drink. The Carousel Piano Bar & Lounge in the city's French Quarter is proof-- it's been a favorite of writers pretty much since it opened in 1949. Hemingway, Faulkner, Capote, Tennessee Williams, even the guy who wrote Forrest Gump have frequented the establishment. The bar also used to be home to the Swan Room, where famed artists like Liberace would regularly perform (and have a drink after the show, of course). It's not hard to see why people like it so much; the fact that it has an opulent, rotating, carousel-themed bar in the center of the room really sets it apart from other bars in the French Quarter.
Central Grocery is a must-see for foodies. The old-school grocery store is loaded with imported goods from across Europe (mostly Italy). Grab some fancy olive oil or jars of giardiniera as souvenirs, and pick up a muffaletta for the road. A muffaletta is a massive sandwich made out of a whole loaf of bread, with layers of Italian meats, cheeses, and olive salad—it’s one of New Orleans’s many signature dishes.
While you digest all of that, work off some calories by tapping your toes to the beat at Preservation Hall. The house jazz band gives 45-minute performances throughout the day here, and almost every single show is filled to capacity. The purpose of Preservation Hall is to (of course) preserve the art of New Orleans-style jazz, and the institution definitely fulfills its goal... after a show, the tunes will be stuck in your head all night!
For a change of pace from the muffaletta you bought from Central Grocery, make a reservation at Antoine’s. You’ll need to dress up, and you’ll probably want to prepare yourself for the bill at the end of the meal, but every bite will be worth it. The elegant menu of French-Creole cuisine (don’t skip out on the oysters Rockefeller, which were invented here) is to die for, and remember to save room for dessert because the bread pudding is out of this world. It’s also worth it to stop by during lunch for their $20.00 lunch special and 25-cent martinis (limit three per customer)!
The Holiday Inn French Quarter - Chateau LeMoyne is a conveniently located right in the French Quarter and serves as a cozy home base for your adventures through New Orleans. With its private courtyard and restaurant featuring live music, the hotel has the classic architecture and atmosphere that you expect just off Bourbon Street, and you get the familiar comforts of a Holiday Inn. This hotel even has a saltwater pool that’s prefect for beating the New Orleans heat!
If you’re looking for activities to fill in the time between meals in New Orleans, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum is a great little stop. Voodoo, New Orleans history, soda fountains, questionable medical devices, and more all combine together to paint a fascinating picture of what life was like in the 1800s through a unique lens.
Inside the Southern Food & Beverage Museum in the Riverwalk Marketplace, you’ll find the Museum of the American Cocktail. Here you’ll learn the history (and art) of mixing drinks, from the nineteenth century through Prohibition and into the present day. It’s an interesting stop on a foodie tour of the city. Some days, they even have a bar where you can sample some of the drinks you have learned about!
Okay, so no one is sure if the real pirate Jean Lafitte actually frequented this drinkery, but it’s one of the oldest bars in the country and one of the oldest buildings in New Orleans! They serve up classic Southern cocktails such as Sazeracs, hurricanes, planter’s punches, and, of course, dangerously tasty absinthe drips!
The French Quarter (actually, the whole city of New Orleans) has so many museums and restaurants that it would take weeks to explore them all, but as long as you’ve got a hotel nearby and some things to do in between meals, there’s nothing stopping you from eating (and drinking) your way from Bourbon Street to the Mississippi!
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