I’m not going to lay down in words the lure of this place. Every great writer in the land, from Faulkner to Twain to Rice to Ford, has tried to do it and fallen short. It is impossible to capture the essence, tolerance, and spirit of south Louisiana in words and to try is to roll down a road of clichés, bouncing over beignets and beads and brass bands and it just is what it is.
It is home. – Chris Rose
I’ve been really fortunate to live in a bunch of cities throughout the U.S. None of these places are quite like New Orleans. NOLA has a spirit you could never hope to capture, an essence that embeds in your soul, and you’ll find yourself living a life you never thought you were capable of.
It’s magic. And those that fall in love with it never truly leave, for it will always call them home.
The following are a few of my favorite spots in the city.
Where to Eat
In a city known for its food, it’s hard to pick just a few recommendations. However, if you’re looking for fresh Caribbean food, you have to stop by The Rum House. Known for Caribbean tacos and rotis, The Rum House has everything you could wish for: seafood, chicken, lamb, beef and pork that’s jerked, roasted, fried, seared, grilled or marinated to perfection.
Have a sweet tooth? Sucre is the place to go for decadent desserts, including French macaroons, homemade gelato and a host of tasty chocolate treats. The restaurant does its best to use local ingredients and will ship sweets anywhere in the U.S.
If you’re looking for a local favorite run by a NOLA native, try Brigtsen’s. Frank Brigtsen is a James Beard Award-winning chef who seeks to serve the best Creole/Acadian food possible. The menu is constantly changing and is filled with Creole spices and catch of the day.
Where to Drink
Visit the one of the most popular bars in the city. Pat O’Brien’s Bar made their mark with The Hurricane. Join in the group sing-a-long with the entertainment at the Piano Bar. If your goal is a good buzz and a good time, Pat O’Brien’s is the perfect choice.
Want to enjoy some of the best live music in New Orleans? Get a drink at Tipitina’s–named for one of prolific piano player Professor Longhair’s songs–a bar founded on a love of music and devoted specifically to local talent. Tips always has amazing local talent and is a guaranteed great time.
If you like a little history with your drink, head down to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Boasting the oldest building to be used as a bar, Lafitte’s survived the French Quarter fires in the 1700s and is named after Jean Lafitte, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans. Enjoy live music and iconic drinks like Purple VooDoo, which is Everclear and bourbon.
Where to Play
Of course, there’s Mardi Gras (or Carnival), the city’s most famous parade/circus/street festival? It’s truly impossible to describe Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras is the love of life. It is the harmonic convergence of our food, our music, our creativity, our eccentricity, our neighborhoods, and our joy of living. All at once. — Chris Rose
The French Quarter Festival is a free, three-day weekend celebration of New Orleans’ music, food and drink. Watch over a dozen free performances, including traditional jazz, contemporary jazz, rhythm and blues, funk, Latin, swing, rock and more. At the same time, sample specialty drinks and taste New Orleans’ signature dishes like jambalaya, po-boys and etouffee, prepared by some of the best local restaurants. There’s also an art show, tours of private gardens in the French Quarter, and fireworks.
Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong changed the course of American music with his signature voice and masterful jazz stylings. Satchmo SummerFest, a three-day jazz festival, started as a way to honor this New Orleans son’s 100th birthday in 2001, but has continued as a way to honor his legacy and celebrate New Orleans’ musical history. Enjoy music, food, drinks, the “Satchmo Strut” of Frenchmen Street nightclubs, an art contest, music history seminars and more.
One of the best ways to enjoy NOLA is simply to wander and watch. People watch your way through the French Market, browse galleries in the Art District, shop for art or antiques on Royal and Chartres streets, go clubbing on Frenchmen.
Or you could always do what I do, simply follow the sound of jazz in the air and see where you end up.