We spent a winter weekend in New Orleans celebrating our first anniversary — and, even as a New Orleans first-timer, I can confidently say there’s no better time of year to visit. We had the best time eating, drinking…and eating and drinking. I’m already scheming a trip back to we can explore a bit more besides the restaurant scene (though isn’t that all one does in New Orleans?).
A WINTER WEEKEND IN NEW ORLEANS
Why spend a winter weekend in New Orleans? You’re going to avoid the heat and humidity, duh. I’ve realized that I absolutely do not like trips where I’m hot. There’s nothing fun about sweating. So, if I’m going to visit a notoriously swampy city, it needs to be in the middle of winter. It was in the 50s-60s throughout our stay in the Big Easy and I couldn’t have been happier.
Plus, if you visit in December, you can’t beat the festive atmosphere. I swear, if I could take every trip around the holidays, I’d be a happy camper.
HOW TO GET TO NOLA AND HOW TO GET AROUND
We took a direct flight out of DCA to New Orleans on Southwest (another one of our Companion Pass trips!). Super easy and it was a quick uber to our hotel.
We did not rent a car. And, that was totally fine. However, next time, we probably will spring for a rental. There were spots we wanted to check out that weren’t in the general vicinity of where we were staying and, to be honest, spending $ on ubers more than a couple of times throughout a trip starts to get old — particularly if it’s not because we’re drinking.
WHERE TO STAY IN NEW ORLEANS
This past summer, Adam spent 5 weeks in Saipan for work and stayed in Hyatt — which means we had lots and lots of Hyatt points to burn, plus, Adam needed one more night for the next status. So, we chose to stay at a Hyatt Unbound Collection hotel, The Eliza Jane. Located on Magazine Street, the Eliza Jane has a boutique feel — it’s a charming, stylish hotel housed in an old warehouse and named after Mrs. Eliza Jane Nicholson, the first female newspaper publisher in the country.
We had a cozy but well-appointed room and loved the convenience of the location. I was apprehensive since I’d never stayed in a Hyatt and it’s not one of the historic hotels you hear about in New Orleans, but I would 100% recommend a stay here.
WHERE TO EAT IN NEW ORLEANS
I think I’m still recovering from all we ate while in New Orleans. It was food, food, food 24/7 for two days straight. No regrets, but let’s just say I was glad I switched back over from yoga to barre the week before (oh! that’s a post for another day). It’s worth noting that we made reservations at all classic NOLA restaurants — I usually like to explore some newer, trendier places, but Adam felt like I needed to check these off the list first.
- Bayona: Our first meal in New Orleans was at this classic institution in the French Quarter. We did a three-course lunch special, all of which was delicious, but I’m still dreaming about the Cream of Garlic Soup.
- Brigsten’s: We found out about the classic Christmas menu, the Reveillon menu, while at Brigsten’s. This old-school restaurant in a Victorian cottage is a must-visit, as long as you have a reservation. BTW, the pecan pie was incredible.
- Commander’s Palace: I’ll be 100% honest, I was apprehensive about going here. I assumed it would be touristy, just pushing people in and out. Yes, they’re super busy, but it’s for good reason — the food is awesome. Plus, I would say most of the groups around us were locals celebrating special occasions. In fact, the owner seemed to know many of the groups. I got the Hot Chicken Biscuit, the Duck, and the Pecan Pie. Each one was a home run. However, I did realize I’m not a fan of Turtle Soup here.
- Emeril’s: We made this reservation kind of as a joke — I can’t recall exactly, but we must have watched Emeril at some point early on in dating and it’s become a thing. But, this ended up being THE best meal of our trip. Don’t miss the barbecued shrimp or the chocolate soufflée.
Also, is it worth mentioning that I had my first Krystal Burger while in New Orleans?! You should be 0% shocked that I insisted we make a fast food stop following afternoon drinks and before dinner. And, if you’re looking for pralines, I was happy with the chocolate-dipped ones I got at Southern Candymakers (I did a lot of googling before choosing a place to pick up pralines).
WHERE TO DRINK IN NEW ORLEANS
As soon as we got into New Orleans, we hit the streets and found a drink to tide us over until our 1 PM lunch reservation. Adam has been to New Orleans more than a few times, so he made sure we hit some of the classic party-goer spots, while I added a few hip haunts to the itinerary.
- Old Absinthe House: Our first stop was the classic French Quarter haunt. I ordered an Irish Coffee and we took a spot by the fire (not really necessary given the 55-degree day, but nice for the ambiance). It’s dark, maybe a bit dingy, but a good place to walk in and grab a quick drink.
- The Elysian Bar: Honestly, I wish we’d done dinner here. You walk through one room of antiques into the next, all giving off the vibe of an intentionally faded and French-inspired Southern mansion. We had cocktails and paté on the back patio…but I could have hung out here all evening.
- Justine: Where Elysian Bar goes for faded French Southern, Justine prefers NEON French Southern. This is technicolor tradition — and it’s amazing. I ordered a 1789 cocktail, Adam ordered something fruiter per ush, and, of course, we split the fries. My typical pre-dinner bar order.
- Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel: You can’t beat the Christmas decorations at the Roosevelt Hotel — it’s worth walking through just to admire the twinkly trees (hopefully you don’t hit it on a day when they’re doing a children’s brunch…). But, we were lucky enough to snag two comfy seats in the Sazerac Bar with milk punches in hand.
- Brieux-Carré Brewing Company: A cozy little microbrewery just off Frenchmen Street, this is a great spot to grab a beer and kick back on their patio. We spent an afternoon hearing catching up on football games and taking a few hours off from eating.
- Maple Leaf Bar: We bought drinks…and then they refused to turn the ACC Championship game on any of their many, many TVs — and were huge jerks about it.
- Ale on Oak: This is where we ended up instead of Maple Leaf. When Adam realized the cocktails were only $8, he may have ordered a few….
AND, BECAUSE WE ALSO DRINK COFFEE…
- The Orange Couch: We popped in here on the way from Brieux-Carré to the Elysian Bar, and it’s a bright, minimalist local spot with decent iced coffee and, not surprisingly, an orange couch.
- Café du Monde: Of course, of course, we had to visit Café du Monde for some chickory coffee and beignets. I only wish I’d brought a tin home of the coffee. Also, we went on Monday morning and there was no line. Don’t try to go on a weekend.
I PROMISE I’LL DO SOMETHING BESIDES EAT AND DRINK NEXT TIME…
But, seriously. I’ve got nothing else for you because literally all we did was eat and drink. We planned on going to a show…but we were too full. We thought about going to museums, I wanted to go on a ghost tour — clearly, none of that happened. Next time, though, I swear, we’ll do some cultural stuff. And, you can guarantee, I’ll share it with you.