- Total cost for a week: $1,000
- Weather: 50s-80s, slightly humid
- The old trolley
- Hermann-Grima Historical Home
- House of Blues
- Catching world-renowned street performer Doreen Ketchens in the French Quarter
Based on my trip, here is a quick list of my itinerary and places to hit. All places and things I highly recommend.
- NOLA Museum of Art + Sculpture Garden
- City Park
- Magazine Street
- Hermann-Grama House tour
- French Quarter + French Market + Mississippi River
- Doreen Ketchens in the French Quarter
- Garden District
- House of Blues
- Preservation Hall
- Cafe du Monde for beignets and some cafe au lait
You know when you watch a movie expecting nothing, but then it turns out to be pretty damn good? My favorite movie of the year was New Orleans.
I chose NOLA because I was in a conference in Dallas and wanted to add a bit extra to the trip, since I was only a one-hourish plane ride away. It was a toss between NOLA and Nashville.
After asking a few friends who had been to both, NOLA won by a hair, so off I went! Plus the ticket from Dallas to New Orleans was only $79. Wanna get away? Yes, please.
I didn’t know what to expect, but I thought it would be mostly touristy and slightly boring? I didn’t put any expectations on it, and it worked in my favor.
Not only was the weather fantastic, NOLA felt like a cool combination of a tropical city and neighborhood all rolled into one. Green doesn’t begin to describe NOLA. The streets are mostly lined with lush palm trees and towering, old, mangled up oak trees.
I liked the slower pace of NOLA. As with most of my trips, I had to work during the day, and the aftermath of a conference usually entails lots of phone calls and follow-up meetings. I made sure to spend at least one weekend there so I could spend all day exploring the city.
I was holed up in some coffee shops that would give Seattle a run for its money. One awesome place was Z’otz Coffee. I ended up buying a big bag of their hickory blend coffee. So good!
I paced everything out, and took my time with long walks through the park (City Park), and absorbed the rich history and culture of ‘Noleans.
It was definitely touristy in the French Quarter, but nothing I couldn’t handle.
Architecture and unique homes
I stayed in a large historical home 5 miles out from the FQ. The owner told me it was destroyed by Katrina, but that he bought it for a mere $200,000, and since then, pumped as much money into it.
My room was huge. I even had a sitting room with a large guillotine window that might as well have been a door that opened to the roof/patio area.
I learned that these types of windows are typical of the style of homes in the area. I think guillotine windows should just replace every door in all homes.
The house also had a tiny house in the back!
I walked around a lot. I walked to coffee shops, Magazine Street, to the grocery store, and to the trolley. The Garden District was one of my favorite places for a stroll, but I also liked the low-key vibe of the homes where I was staying called Leonidas.
I was drawn to the bright color schemes of the homes, the large wrap-around porches (and traditional patio swings) and charming window shutters.
Who is Doreen Ketchens?
My first day wandering around the FQ, I came across Doreen Ketchens performing on the street with her trusty clarinet and band. There was a large crowd gathered around, so I stayed to watch. She sang a soulful, slow jazz version of a song I don’t know the name of, but was so deeply moved by her voice and mastery of the clarinet. I dropped $5 in her bucket and did some Googling.
I discovered she’s quite famous and once played for President Kennedy. She’s traveled the world, has a number of albums (nothing on Spotify unfortunately), and plays regularly in the FQ. Here’s her Yelp review.
If you ever go to NOLA, you MUST see her.
House of Blues
I bought a ticket for $20 and prayed it would be music I could tolerate. The band, Spafford, was really cool. They rocked out on their guitars, and apparently they’re known to do improv jam sessions that can last as long as half an hour. I’d describe their music as indy/rock? I loved them!
It was Halloween when I went, so everyone was dressed up in costumes, and the band wore animal onesies.
Upon recommendation from the internet and a few people, I was told this place is the shiz. It’s kind of a staple in the FQ for traditional jazz music, and for only $15 a ticket, I thought why not.
There’s a long line and it’s standing room only, unless you start standing in line an hour before the show.
It’s much more intimate than the House of Blues — they don’t even have a sound system. I’m not a really into traditional New Orleans jazz. To me, it sounds like Disneyland music. (Don’t even ask me about smooth jazz… listening to that is like death by 1,000 paper cuts.)
Nonetheless, the lovely band took requests from the audience and encouraged people put money in their hat.
Hermann-Grima House tour in the French Quarter
Like most people, I’m extremely curious about the interior of homes. In any neighborhood. Anywhere. What does it look like inside? Naturally, I wanted to see the inside of one of these homes in the FQ, so I booked a guided tour of the Hermann-Grima home.
The tour lasted for an hour and was $15.
We toured the inside, and walked through the parlor, rooms, and slave quarters in the back. When the tour guide opened the front door, the smell of old slapped me in the face. Even though it stunk like a second hand shop and an old motel, it was really well-preserved and so fascinating.
I learned the home was privately owned by a family named Hermann (wealthy German) and later sold to another family with the last name Grima.
The house was built in 1831 and had no running water or electricity. Some of the furniture was original to the house. I thought the canopy beds were especially creepy. The canopy part reminded me of the inside of a coffin.
I wish I could’ve taken more photos, but I had a feeling it wasn’t allowed (no one else had their phones out), so the ones I snapped were outside when the guide wasn’t looking.
Trolley… my favorite thing in NOLA
There’s an old trolley that costs $1.25 and although it looked like mostly tourists (mainly over the age of 50), I hopped on every chance I got. I took it to the FQ, Garden District and to Magazine Street.
It takes about an hour to get to downtown/FQ area, which was only five miles away from where I was staying. It’s slow…
One time, the trolley driver stopped the car, walked across the street to a hotel, and disappeared for about 15 minutes. Confused riders looked at each other, and then glanced around to look for her. We concluded that she went to the bathroom.
Another time, an adorable and very southern grandma sat next to me and told me she was going to Walmart to get some buttons and fabric for something she was making. I learned she has three grown sons, one of whom plays in a band in NOLA. She was so warm, but also very matter-of-fact.
When I wasn’t taking the trolley, I took the bus, which was also $1.25. Transfers are only a quarter.
NOLA Museum of Art
I took the bus for a short ride to City Park and checked out the Museum of Art.
It was $12 to get in, and although smaller than other city museums, it was worth it because it had an adjacent garden sculpture with a pond and artwork made for the picturesque outdoor setting.
They also had a coffee shop next to the garden sculpture. I grabbed a cafe au lait and waited for the museum to open at 11am.