Where we’re at: while we’re down here in the South, I’m covering my trip to New Orleans in October 2022! Thank you to New Orleans & Company for having me.
There’s always something new in New Orleans.
I feel lucky that this magical city is one I feel I know well, and have the privilege of returning to often. My sister lived here for a fun-filled few years, I’ve worked a few wonderful projects with the local tourism board, and most recently, I returned for my friend Shannon’s epic bachelorette weekend.
However, I also took the time to do something I’ve been advocating for years — a few me time days after a big group trip!
Hear me out. When you’re in a group, it’s all about going with the flow. But I’m not what one would call a “chill human” and as an avid traveler I always tend to have a wish list of things I want to do, too, that a whole crew might not be onboard for. So by showing up a day or two early or tacking a few onto the end of a trip, I can wholeheartedly enjoy whatever the group has planned, knowing I’ll have my solo time, too.
Here’s how I used it!
Checking Into The Eliza Jane
This trip, those solo days ended up on the back end of the trip, which meant they doubled as a recovery journey. Despite my requests for an exception to aging, I am indeed in my thirties now, which means those big weekends hit harder.
I can’t think of a better place to do so than The Eliza Jane. This boutique hotel in the French Quarter was a total oasis, and I felt myself relax the moment I stepped in.
My Southern friends and retreat clients told me The Eliza Jane was one of the new NOLA hot spots, and I could quickly see why. The open beams, jewel tones and dripping plants were a nod to the area’s unmistakable architecture, but with a truly modern and chic twist.
And unlike other hot spot hotels I have visited in recent years (if you follow my Insta-stories, you know who I’m shading!) the staff here were as friendly and down-to-earth as they would be at a bed and breakfast.
Now when I say this place was perfection for recharging…please behold the bath. I’m a soak kinda gal, and between the onsite gym and this gorgeous tub, I had everything I needed to get my personal wellness routine back on track after a debaucherous few days.
If you don’t feel like strolling far, there’s a restaurant onsite, Couvant. While I only enjoyed breakfast here, it was just as beautiful as the hotel it’s a part of — I wouldn’t hesitate to make it a dinner destination, too.
Taking in a New Vue
When I first heard there was a new viewpoint-centered attraction in New Orleans, I admit I was skeptical. I mean, this isn’t exactly a city known for its skyline.
It started, like its counterparts mentioned above, with an excellent closer-to-ground-level interactive exhibit celebrating the city you’re about to see from above. This one in particular was super modern and slick, with impressive technology that was fun to explore.
Next, there was a short movie about the history of the city, followed by stepping into the elevator — which became a surprise tiny theater of its own.
The top deck had two levels; one fully walled in with futuristic viewfinders that described the neighborhoods and landmarks you were looking at as you pointed them in various directions, and the other, a windy open-air spin around the city.
This would be an epic place to start a trip and get or regain your Big Easy bearings. Plus, there’s a simple canteen at the top where you can grab drinks to toast to the fun ahead!
Looking for something more swish? While it has a separate entrance, Vue Orleans does sit atop The Four Seasons, where you can sit for a cocktail at the epic Chandelier Bar.
Getting Spiritual at Spyre
“Have you watched Nine Perfect Strangers?,” my New Orleans based friend had inquired when I asked her about Spyre Center.
I understood the question when I walked up to the Garden District wellness center, a former Scandinavian Church converted to a sanctuary for health. Minimalist and contemporary, the design felt more Southern California than Southern Louisiana. But the distinctly New Orleans vibes did shine through.
I signed up for a slew of mini-treatments: a meditation in a dry float bed, a dip in the cleverly-designed hydrotherapy shed, and a Afro-beat movement class in the main sanctuary.
I especially enjoyed the class, which I found the space gave me an extra boost of inspiration for. Next time, I’d book ahead and arrange one of the wide variety of alternate bodywork and therapies available — and check out the cafe!
Eating My Heart Out
You can’t come to New Orleans and not get excited about food — eating is undoubtedly one of the big draws of The Big Easy! As always, I was drawn to hip and funky new spots and was delighted in particular by two finds. First up, Palm & Pine, conveniently located right in the French Quarter.
If you’re looking for classic local eats, this isn’t too far off — but with a twist. I think they said it best themselves when they claimed to “explore the food and drink of Louisiana, The South, and South of That (the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America).” I loved the Latin-inspired flavors of delights like the butternut squash gratin with persimmon butter and the tres leches dessert.
I love a menu with sass, and so I giggled at the “Yes, We Have A Spicy Margarita,” though ordered the “Deity in the Streets, Devil In The Sheets” for which 50% of the proceeds were donated to charity. And don’t miss their late night burlesque series!
Everyone’s been buzzing about Elizabeth Street Cafe, a French Vietnamese-style cafe and bakery down on Magazine Street. So, I couldn’t wait to meet my friend and Wander Women Retreater Catherine there for lunch one day! I swooned at the bright pastel colors and the funky fonts on the menu while we settled on an order of various rice paper spring rolls, plus dumplings and a salad (they’re also, of course, known for their bánh mì!)
I couldn’t leave New Orleans without beignets, so I ordered their dessert plate with a choice of either lychee raspberry jam or strawberry guava jam — since my trip to Mobile, I don’t think I can eat beignets any other way than in mini form with a dipping sauce! I actually really loved this as a lunch spot, not only because they had so many fun non-alcoholic beverages like flavorful spritzes and my order, a jasmine peach white tea.
Jamming out at JAMNOLA
Immersive experiences are all the rage, and I must admit — I’m their total target audience.
Enter JAMNOLA, a Crescent City-themed cultural experience that gets its name from the local highlights of Joy, Art, and Music. The Marigny is full of offbeat art galleries and exhibits, and this one seemed right at home as we ran through the doors just in time for our tour (tickets are timed and go fast — book ahead!)
After a brief pause in some interactive waiting rooms, our host guided us though the first three or four exhibits out of seventeen total. Then, we were let loose to enjoy the rest! A maximum group size of ten per time slot means you’ll have lots of time and space to explore, take photos, and maybe have a spontaneous dance party (just us? no?)
What I loved about JAMNOLA was it was totally locally imagined and created, showing off the city though the eyes of over thirty local artists. We wandered through a glitter bayou, marveled at up-close Mardi Gras costumes, became human crawfish boils and beyond.
We didn’t really totally get what JAMNOLA was all about until we got there — and while I’m sharing all my favorite photos, I’m going to leave some of my favorite quotes and experiences for you to go discover, too!
Craving even more art? I’d combine this with a visit to Studio Be, one of my favorite warehouse galleries from a previous trip, a mere two minute walk away.
Marigny and the Bywater are amazing neighborhoods first time visitors to New Orleans might miss. This is a great excuse to check them out!
And don’t stop there. All visitors to JAMNOLA receive a go-cup at the end of the tour with a QR code that provides a guide to nearby bars and restaurants that will give you discounts, too. Personally, I’m a fan of St. Roch Market, another find from a past adventure.
Part-museum, part-interactive art exhibit, part-Insta-backdrop, part pure NOLA silliness — worry less about what JAMNOLA is exactly, and more about making sure you nab a ticket time.
Okay, this one is kind of a cheat — I’ve been on Doctor Gumbo’s Cocktail History Tour before! But my girl Shannon, who also stuck around for a few days after her bachelorette, hadn’t. And no one knows and loves cocktails like this longtime multi-talented bartender.
To be fair, I did ask around to local friends and fellow NOLA travel lovers if there were any new cocktail tours on the scene that were epic. All said nope, you can’t beat the best.
Some things are worth repeating! And no surprise, given my last round was seven years ago, some things had indeed changed — new guides, new bars, new cocktails. Still on-brand? Deep history anyone who’s ever felt at home on a bar stool or marveled over a drink menu will be fascinated by, and enough tipples to get you tipsy for a good time NOLA night out.
Doctor Gumbo also runs a food history tour for those who might prefer a different type of indulgence. Whatever delicious poison you pick, one of my favorite things about tours like this is always being pleasantly surprised by things I never would have ordered myself — and, occasionally, having my suspicions confirmed with a friend to trade drinks with.
Never ones to waste a good buzz, we ended our night at The Chloe, another eat-and-stay hotspot in town, where we met Catherine for dinner — and a few more drinks.
Swinging Into Style
Ya’ll know I’m a spa and beauty treatment addict. While traditionally, New Orleans hasn’t really been known for either, there are some exciting new finds that I was hyped on.
I like experiences that really evoke the place they are in, and so I couldn’t really be more into Southern Swings Nail Bar, where you can get a pedicure right on a Southern porch swing like you’re a character in some sort of Sweet Magnolias spin-off (that’s two tv series references we’re up to in this post, for those keeping count at home…)
I love this place. They had both indoor and outdoor pedicure swings that were as comfortable as they were Instagrammable, their color and style selection was fab, and they had incredible attention to detail — my manicure grew out before it chipped or looked dingy.
While I got my nails changed up for my next trip on my way out of town, this would be such a fun spot to kick off a trip in style! And yup, they do host parties too.
Never Saying Goodbye…
Well New Orleans, I can’t wait to be back! While I don’t know exactly when my next return might happen, I can always safely say with this city, it’s a ‘see ya later’ rather than a true goodbye. And I might have some ideas.
With this trip happening right at the end of October, I couldn’t help but note what an amazing city for costuming New Orleans is. I might have to make my next trip back dedicated to all things dress up!
Whether it’s for festivals, theme parties or my beloved Halloween, I’m pretty pleased to say that for me, costuming is more than a once a year indulgence. Please leave any advice and zero judgement related to this bizarre idea in the comments.
Because if there’s one thing New Orleans knows better than anywhere, it’s indulgence, celebration, and reinvention — over and over again.
Many thanks to New Orleans & Company for partnering with me once again to tell the story of this wonderful city.