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A Big Easy Weekend


A beautiful, colorful sunset over damp streets in the French Quarter, New Orleans.

"There are a lot of places I like, but I like New Orleans better." - Bob Dylan

Have you heard people say of martinis and/or boobs, one is too few but three is too many? I would say the same is true for the number of nights you should spend in New Orleans (particularly if you're no longer a spring chicken). For visits, I've adopted a get in, get out, no one gets hurt mentality. However, as this is a first-timer's guide, we'll have to extend that a little bit... As a previous resident of this little Cajun treat, The Crescent City is one of my favorite places in the world, and for good reason. The shabby-chic, vibrant culture is built around the idea that life should be a loud and proud celebration! Prime example: once upon a time, it was nearing Cinco de Mayo, and there was a very large sink-hole. Instead of fretting or fixing it, a party was had... known appropriately as "Sink-hole de Mayo". Destiny and problem-solving unite. So, as you can see, the people, food, art, music, and the debaucherously decadent and permissible nightlife all fold boisterously into that anything-goes spirit, making it unlike anywhere else. This incomparable city is notorious for the "no-plan" plan (and I say this as a planner) you can walk out the front door and the city will roll out a red carpet of alluring activities and impromptu bar crawls just for you. (The fact there are no open container laws + a bar every 2 ½ feet helps.) Prime example: we once stumbled upon a crawfish-boil pool party in a hidden courtyard behind a bar... where we obviously proceeded to drink Champagne and swim in our clothes. I digress. Without further ado, it's a pleasure to offer my take on how to dominate an endlessly entertaining, dignity diminishing, wonderfully weird Big Easy Weekend.

The bustling Central Business District in New Orleans. Palm-tree lined Canal Street as the Street Car passes by.

"Ain't no place like New Orleans. It's one of a kind." - Aaron Neville

Day 1 Bonjour, baybeh! Upon your Thursday arrival in New Orleans, check into your hotel, drop your bags off, and head straight to Bacchanal! Located in the Bywater, Bacchanal boasts itself as "Nola's Backyard Party" and that's exactly what it is. Featuring hundreds of wines, craft cocktails, build-your-own cheese plates, and Mediterranean tapas, sitting in the courtyard under the string lights and listening to live brass music is the perfect way to set the tone for the rest of your trip. The secret about Bacchanal is definitely out, hence the benefit of going on a weeknight. It's almost impossible to get a bad meal in New Orleans. So, once you wrap up at Bacchanal, collect your group and head to your dinner reservation at either Cochon, Pêche, or Luke. Stroll off your well-earned food coma with an after dinner beverage (Espresso Martini, anyone?) and head to Bar Tonique, a cocktail bar with curated drinks, open until 2am.

Bacchanal, "Nola's Backyard Party" is a great wine shop, with a string-lit courtyard, and features live, local music, wine, craft cocktails, build your own cheese plates, and Mediterranean tapas.

"There is no place on Earth even remotely like New Orleans. Don't even try to compare it to anywhere else." - Anthony Bourdain

Day 2 French Quarter! Depending on how early you start the day, head to Felipe's Taqueria which opens at 11am, has awesome Mexican food (important to get a base) in a casual setting, and the most deliciously dangerous margaritas, ever. From there, roam around at your leisure! For example, Molly's at the Market has frozen Irish coffees and is right by the French Market where folks can shop or grab a beignet and chicory coffee at the famous Cafe Du Monde if starting with Mexican is a little too rich for your blood. Just be warned it is typically very crowded and brimming with tourists. Next, you can hop over to Bourbon Steet, a rite of passage for a first-timer. Just don't wear flip flops and avoid the funk-puddles. Trust me. Pat O's has dueling pianos and is known for curiously strong Hurricanes. Stop by Tropical Isle for a Hand Grenade or Shark Attack (or both). For something a little more swanky and a little less sugary, head to the gorgeous Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone. Doors open promptly at 11am, so if you want a seat on the slowly spinning carousel - which you do - get there early as people begin lining up! Catch some intimate jazz acoustics at Preservation Hall! Just steps off Bourbon, this legendary venue presents concerts 360+ nights a year. At the very end of Bourbon is Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, reputed to be the oldest structure used as a bar in the country, doesn't have electricity, but does have the famous acclaimed "Purple Drink" — Those are great to stroll with if you decide to walk to Frenchmen Street since they have the consistency of concrete. (One of the best things about New Orleans is the walkability. Strolling around, drink in hand, popping in and out of dive bars, taking in the warmly-lit ambiance compliments of front-porch oil lanterns from colorful houses - Pure joy.) Frenchmen Street is eclectic and buzzing! Known as the "local's Bourbon Street", it has a fantastic Art Bazaar and live music everywhere, at venues including: Blue Nile, The Maison, and Cafe Negril... You may get lucky to catch a great local band, like Flow Tribe or Rebirth Brass Band (the very first show I caught on the very first weekend I moved to New Orleans). All of these venues have food on top of drinks, but if you need some local sustenance, grab a gourmet hot dog from Dat Dog right on Frenchmen Street — they're delicious and customizable. And I don't even like hot dogs.

"New Orleans is like the bad-kid island in Pinocchio." - Jonah Hill

Day 3 Uptown! No trip to New Orleans would be complete without brunch and there are plenty of options to choose from. A few favorites include Ruby Slipper Cafe, which has multiple locations for your convenience, Atchafalaya for their build-your-own Bloody Mary bar, The Court of Two Sisters for a fancy buffet and live jazz, or Brennan's, a Louisiana staple. From there, visit uptown spots like the classic Commander's Palace for 25-cent martinis or Tchoup Yard! Pronounced like "chop", this is a really fun Biergarden with a lively, string-lit courtyard, and features delicious food and drinks, like their homemade Crunchwrap Supreme, loaded tater totchos, and Frosé. There are also breweries nearby for beer lovers like NOLA Brewing and Port Orleans. You'll hear a lot about where to find the best po-boy in New Orleans. My vote is Parasol's where the portions are large and the sandwiches are tasty and deliciously messy — and fortunately, it's right down the street from Tchoup Yard in the Irish Channel. (Personal shout out to Third Street!) Magazine Street is really fun as well! Bustling with bars, restaurants, and shops, it also houses seedy late night spots that are alarmingly similar to dimly-lit dungeons. But, like, in a good way. If you venture to The Saint, which is open until 4am-ish, you'll 100% be yelled at by the doorman, Angus no matter what. Aw, (blurry) memories.

A lovely day in the Garden District, watching the Street Car roll by.

"How did you fall in love with New Orleans? At once. Madly. Sometimes, I think it was predestined." - Andrei Codrescu

Day 4 Bon voyage! Sunday is no place for pants or responsibilities, and rest is exactly what you'll need after the weekend you've just had! Fortunately, the New Orleans airport got a major facelift since I lived there, but I would still recommend an early flight out when it's quieter and less crowded. That way, you have more time at home to recover and reflect on what has surely become one of your favorite cities, too. Feeling a bit bashful about your New Orleans behavior? Stuff your self-judgement in a sack! Much like: what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, remember this when you depart: it wasn't you, it was the Voodoo.

Beautiful architecture and colorful houses in Uptown, New Orleans.

"Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?" - Louis Armstrong

PS — Why yes, Louis Armstrong, I do know what it means to miss New Orleans. Living there was a very special time in my life. I think this picture is a good summation of my two year love affair:


Posh hotel recommendations (+ exclusive JET perks)

★ $100 hotel credit | Welcome amenity | Daily breakfast | Room upgrade | Extended check-in/out

★ $100 hotel credit | Daily breakfast | Room upgrade | Extended check-in/out

★ $100 hotel credit | Daily breakfast | Room upgrade | Extended check-in/out

★ $100 hotel credit | Daily breakfast | Room upgrade | Extended check-in/out

★ Welcome amenity | Daily breakfast | Room upgrade | Extended check-in/out


Boutique hotel recommendations The Chloe



As there's always something to celebrate, like sink-holes, there are festivals, parties + parades practically every weekend! Meaning, you'll have a blast no matter when you choose to go. Yes, even in the sweltering, sticky summer:

→ Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day, Buku Fest, French Quarter Festival, Hogs for the Cause, NOLA Crawfish Festival, Jazz Fest, Bayou Boogaloo, Greek Festival, New Orleans Wine & Food Experience, Tales of the Cocktail, White Linen Night, Dirty Linen Night, Red Dress Run, Oak Street Poboy Festival, Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival, Krewe of Boo, Voodoo Fest, Bayou Bacchanal... and this is just the tip of the glittery, Champagne-filled iceberg.


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