Visiting New Orleans when it isn't festival or holiday season is the way to dive deep into a #livelikealocal N’awlins lifestyle. The unsustainable partying; the massive, claustrophobic crowds; the NSFW naughty behavior are (more or less) for the cliched. Daily life within the Big Easy is where the beat goes on, and, without the pain of a hangover.
Turns out, one can be decently healthy in Hollywood South. Sure, New Orleans gives us free reign to effortlessly devour it's rich cuisine as a celebrated, gout-swollen King or Queen. But NOLA is also a destination for 4th wave nut milk lattes. A Southern place where not everything has to be fried. Where many menus boast greens of the smoked, braised, roasted, and fermented variety. Those fresh, juicy palm-sized oysters! And as it was bound to one day be crafted: NOLA mixologists are concocting probiotic-rich cocktails.
If you prefer chill over frenetic while still wanting some New Orleans optics, the solution is small easy: Skip Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, and the like. Missing those annual hooplas doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a music free, non celebratory experience. The Crescent City has always been the place for casually rolling into a random spot and bearing witness to soul-rattling croons and grooves any night of the week. It wouldn't be New Orleans unless you felt privy to feeling like you’ve discovered an up-and-coming star.
The ultimate way to experience a destination is to navigate it by bicycle. Mike the Bike Guy in Uptown and the Garden District and Alex’s Bikes in the Marigny are two favorites, however, there are nearly a dozen more across most neighborhoods. NOLA recognizes its bikability and caters well — Buzz Nola and Confederacy of Cruisers are highly rated bike tours. To cruise along, winding through charming tucked away streets is to discover how neighborhoods connect and where locals eat, drink, shop, and hang. Those two wheels are also ideal for avoiding the irritating convenience (and inconvenience) of Uber and Lyft. Why do drivers consistently pick up and drop off a block or two from the programmed location?!
Cycle along Crescent Park and the Mississippi River from Bywater to the Marigny to the French Market; up Esplanade to Bayou St. John; along the Lafitte Greenway to beer garden and brewery hop. Then, sober up to cycle the St. Claude Avenue Bridge to the Lower 9th Ward. These are all eye opening, magical routes for sinking in to observe and absorb some of the city’s great energy.
Dance Your Ass Off at Dancing Grounds. Pop in for African Dance, Hip Hop, Queer-friendly Pilates and more. NYT says it’s the place to twerk. (Suggesting Jazz Johnson’s famed Twerk Party class).
Creole, Cajun, French and African influences infuse kitchens across the city. Bloody-Mary-brunch and swim at The Country Club. Jam to live music in the boozy backyard of Bacchanal. Old school Galatoire’s rocks traditional and monied New Orleans with a formal multi-course dining experience boasting the best Oysters Rockefeller on either side of the Mississippi. Dooky Chase is classic Creole: think shrimp Clemenceau and red beans and rice. Move those gams to burn off their famed fried chicken. Hit up Domiciles for their Po Boys. Cafe Degas has a to-die-for yellowfin tuna nicoise salad. Order the Doobin Loobin at Blue Oak BBQ, and counter hop the dozens of food and drink vendors within the St. Roch Food Market.
Hit up Pasquale Manale for fresh $1 oysters and well-made $4 Sazeracs. Be sure to say hi and tip legendary shucker, Thomas. Locals can go fancy or scrappy for their bivalves. A spendier seafood spot, Pêche is a celebrated treasure.
Solo Espresso is one of those tucked away secret hideouts you would never know about until, well, you do. A block north of St. Claude Avenue, it reveals some of the best espresso drinks in NOLA. Because sometimes it’s more about the cafe vibe than the beans, there’s Satsuma Cafe. Other faves: French Truck, The Orange Couch, and Hey Cafe.
Magazine Street is 6 miles of adorable shops running parallel to the Mississippi River. Window shop and more with stylish spots like St. Claude Social Club, Mignon Faget, Plum, Hemline, Peony, Bella & Harlow. For vintage, it’s all about Trashy Diva and Century Girl. Over in the Central Business District, head to century-strong Meyer The Hatter for their slick and stylish wide-brimmed hats. The Frenchman Art Market in the Marigny is fabulous for vintage costume jewelry, NOLA souvenirs, and some serious people watching. American literature lovers will appreciate Faulkner House Books in the French Quarter, and vinyl vultures will be in heaven poking through the library of local, national and international albums at Louisiana Music Factory in the Marigny.
Take in local black culture at the House of Dance and Feathers, where Krewe King Ronald W. Lewis manages an amassed collection of iconic and historic Mardi Gras accoutrements.
So many museums don’t address history accurately and from a compassionate POV of the systematically oppressed. The restored Whitney Plantation does better while showing how America’s forcibly enslaved lived and died while existing on the land. The Whitney Plantation will incite emotion and conversation. For a closer look into this piece of history, journey the 6 hour detour to Montgomery, Alabama to explore The National Memorial for Peace & Justice and The Legacy Museum championed by social justice activist, Bryan Stevenson
SEA (OR RIVER)
Take the ferry across the river on a bike and explore Algiers Point. Sunset cruise along Lake Pontchartrain or through NOLA’s canals with New Orleans Yacht Charter helmed by a dude known as Captain Vegas. Visit Grand Isle and walk along the beach to take in the damage the BP oil spill has caused and it’s effects of climate change.
If your budget permits, one of coolest-cheesy bucket list things you can do in New Orleans is host your own street party. You can literally hire your own personal brass band to parade around you and your friends courtesy of Second Line.