I don’t drink. Parties give me mad anxiety. Bedtime for me is around 9:00pm. NOLA sounds like the perfect place for me to visit, right? Scrolling through Google flights one morning, I found flights for $100 roundtrip and I was sold. A few months later and we were off!
Usually, I plan trips out. I have color coded Excel sheets, highlighted copies of Lonely Planet and dozens of websites bookmarked. This trip was an anomaly. The day before the trip, my friend and I still had no clue what we were going to see or do. All we knew was that we’d be eating copious amounts of beignets (which I finally figured out how to pronounce correctly: ben-yay).
We took a flight out late Friday night and arrived in NOLA around 1am. We promptly found our AirBnB and passed the feck out. The next morning, we put together a rough plan of what we were going to do and got to it. We did the same thing the next day. Instead of going through every last detail, I’ll give you the highlights of what we fit into 48 hours in NOLA (other than the 8 episodes of Yummie Mummies we binge watched at night). 48 hours was a perfect amount of time to spend in NOLA. The weather cooperated, we were not stuck in snow or cold and the food was on point. I would say it was a successful trip!
#1. New Orleans Holocaust Memorial
While browsing online, I found a beautiful Holocaust Memorial. It wasn’t out of the way of other sites we were visiting, so we set out to visit it first. After a half an hour of walking through the city, we came to the site, and this is what we found…
Unfortunately, the panels that were part of the memorial were down for renovation. So while this is listed as #1, it was kind of a fluke. If you are interested in seeing the memorial, it said it would be up in the next few months!
#2. St. Louis Cathedral/Jackson Square
After not seeing the Holocaust Memorial, we wandered towards the St. Louis Cathedral, which is in Jackson Square. The energy from Jackson Square could be felt a mile way (okay, more like a few blocks away but tomatoes tomatoes). You hear Jackson Square far before you see it and when you see it, you’re blown away by it. There are people everywhere – dancing, singing, playing music, and selling their art work.
#3. BANKSY (cue fangirl)
The film Exit Through the Gift Shop was released while I was in high school, and we watched it during English class. The film put Banksy on my radar, and made me dream of the day I would see one in real life. When I found out that there was a Banksy piece in New Orleans, I fangirled -hard. Banksy came to NOLA in 2008, post-Katrina, and left about 14 pieces scattered around the city. The rain girl is the only piece left! Many had been sold, or unfortunately, destroyed. The piece that remains is covered in plexi-glass, but you could tell that people had attempted to spray over it. Seeing the piece was almost surreal, and absolutely a highlight of the trip for me!
#4. Studio Be
This spot surprised me. It wasn’t on my mind, I had no clue what it was. I was searching on Saturday morning for cool things to do (actual Google search), and stumbled along the website for Studio Be. Studio Be is the studio for the artist Brandan Odums, a popular street artist in NOLA. His gallery is open to the public from 2pm til 8pm, and it is SO worth checking out. It’s near the Banksy piece, and the walk between the two is filled with piece after piece of street art.
The actual studio is in a large warehouse, with four or five massive rooms. Each room is filled with paintings, street art and other pieces that centered around the artist’s learnings over the years.
If I could take my students to see this gallery, I absolutely would. This was a true highlight, and I was so lucky to have stumbled upon it! It was beautiful, but above that, it was powerful.
#5. Cafe du Monde (and an assortment of other beignets)
You can’t go to NOLA and not eat your weight in beignets. Cafe du Monde coffee is something that I had grown up on – a mix of coffee with chicory for flavor. However, Cafe du Monde beignets were not something I had had before.
So… how were they? They were everything good in the world, fried into a little ball then slathered in sugar. The first beignet we had was at the original Cafe du Monde location in Jackson Square. The line to be seated was long, but the walk through line was even longer. We got seated, ordered beignets and a coffee, and watched our life change before us. They were magical. After trying those, we tried several other spots around the city. None could compare to the ones we had at Jackson Square in Cafe du Monde.
#6. Magazine Street
On our second day, we walked over to Magazine Street for brunch at the Broken Egg Cafe (note: not worth it). When we got their, it was a 45 minute wait, but thankfully Magazine Street was ahead. Magazine Street is a street full of cute stores that seemed to be popular for tourists and locals alike. As we waited for breakfast, we wandered through the stores. The area was lively, but not in a drunken Bourbon Street way. If you have some time, this was a cool area to explore! There seemed to be an enormous selection of food around as well!
#7. Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
While I was in Texas last month, we visited a sculpture garden that ended up being a highlight of the trip for me. NOLA has a similar garden in City Park, an enormous park on the north side of the city. The park is also the home to the Museum of Art and the Botanical Gardens. The sculpture garden had some beautiful pieces, however it was not very spread out. You could see all the art in less than ten minutes. This spot is worth checking out, especially if you are a a fan of modern pieces!
Another reason to get your booty up here: they have a Cafe du Monde food truck! While the quality was not the same as the OG cafe in Jackson Square, it was a welcome sight to have more beignets! The coffee there wasn’t great or fresh, but the NOMA museum cafe made a great latte!
#8. ALL THE STREET ART!
If you can’t tell from this post, or from previous travel posts – I LOVE ART. Street art, in particular, strikes my fancy. New Orleans was a city filled with it. You’d see pieces on alleys, on store sides, heck, even on people’s homes. It made walking through the city fun – as if we were on a treasure hunt.
#9. Mardi Gras World
Mardi Gras in New Orleans sounds terrible for me. I don’t like crowds or drinking. Parades aren’t fun when you’re 4’11”. However, Mardi Gras World was worth checking out. The tour is set in the factory that creates many of the floats for Mardi Gras parades throughout the city. It gave us a much better understanding of why Mardi Gras is so big in NOLA, and an insight into just how much planning, preparation and money goes into them! It was fascinating to see the various stages of float preparations and the array of floats they had. Tip: Groupon had tickets for about $10 less!
We ended our trip yesterday, with a 6:00am flight home, which called for a 3:45am wake up call. Silly me talked myself into thinking our AirBnB was haunted and got approximately 2.5 minutes of sleep. Now I’m back in rainy, dreary Chicago, tired and reminiscing hard on those damn beignets. My advice: go to NOLA. You’ll leave feeling inspired, and well fed.