This one took me a long time to pull together as I have a lot to say! Two weeks ago, my best friend and I met up in New Orleans for a fun girls’ trip (three nights) and had the most amazing time. This was definitely one of the most fun trips I’ve been on in a long time. I partnered with New Orleans & Company on this and they built us the most incredible itinerary based on my (and likely your) interests: art, shopping, food, and cocktails! I have to tell you: I knew that New Orleans was going to be a fun trip. But truthfully, I had no idea just how much the city had to offer. I just found out that Breeze has inexpensive direct flights from Charleston to New Orleans and am already planning my next trip back!
New Orleans Travel Guide
Where We Stayed:
We stayed at Maison de La Luz and really loved it – I would go back in a heartbeat. It’s a sister property to The Ace and so, so chic and elegant. Every element was just perfectly designed. Our rooms were perfect, and it just felt like every little nook and corner of the entire property was thoughtfully crafted. The team was so helpful and wonderful as well… I cannot recommend it enough.
The downstairs restaurant is great too – they have an amazing breakfast buffet. I also really loved their morning coffee service – you tell them what time you want coffee and they set it outside your door.
What to do:
Rodrigue Studio (Royal Street)
This is home to George Rodrigue’s work and the infamous Blue Dog paintings. A fun thing that happened was that I visited his gallery on Thursday and then we were at the sculpture garden on Friday and we saw some of his work there as well. It’s iconic and hard to miss!
Frank Relle Gallery (Royal Street)
Frank Relle’s photos are stunning! He is based in New Orleans and focuses on long exposure night photos. I was blown away by his work.
Ashley Longshore (Magazine Street)
I have been a longtime fan and follower of Ashley Longshore (I don’t think she really needs much of an introduction but if you are not familiar, check out her instagram!), so it was really fun to get to pay a visit to her (bright, irreverent) space on Magazine Street and see her work IRL. This is an absolute must if you visit New Orleans.
Jonathan Ferrera Gallery (Julia Street)
We were particularly enamored with a hanging sculpture in the foyer here. The way that it collected and reflected light made it appear to be moving, even when it was completely still!
This was really cool. Studio Be is a 35,000 square foot warehouse and home to local artist, Brandan ‘Bmike’ Odums’ first solo project. The show depicts the stories of revolutionaries, heroes and everyday New Orleanians.
I stumbled into this store and just loved it. I love masks, costumes, and Halloween and was so excited to see all of their masks! Just a fun little spot! I wound up buying two masks… both cat faces.
I have been a longtime fan of Krewe’s eyewear (they are based in NOLA and have gorgeous sunglasses) and was thrilled to stumble upon their storefront on Royal Street. I ended up buying a pair of sunglasses.
This place is worth the trip to New Orleans alone. The front of the store is all vintage designer costume jewelry (think Givenchy, Chanel – so much Chanel, Gucci, etc). And a treasure trove of harder to find things (they have a giant case of resin jewelry), cases of little extravagances like a Gucci ash tray (love an ash tray as a trinket dish or Hermes playing cards). But the real gem is the room in back, full of antique glassware. We both lost our minds a little, each of us purchased and shipped home a few sets of beautiful glassware.
We had the most fun playing with jewels at Moss Antiques… there is a ruby ring that will haunt me!
Century Girl Vintage
This felt like stepping into someone’s really gorgeous closet. So much great vintage (my friend wound up buying a Burberry check mini skirt at a great price!) plus the brand’s signature line. Lucky for us, they have a fantastic ecommerce site too!
This was a very very cool store, it felt like you were in some cool artsy Brooklyn friend’s home. It even smelled amazing (the incense they burn is for sale, naturally!). A great spot for housewares and gifts!
Music + Museums:
Jazz Show at Preservation Hall
An intimate acoustic jazz concert in the heart of the French Quarter (on St. Peter Street). This was so much fun. The show is about 45 minutes long (we went to a 6:15 concert one evening before dinner!) and is the perfect thing to do to start out your night. I will mention that they do not have a bathroom or any drinks… so, use the restroom before you go and maybe bring a bottle of water with you (it was hot and I was thirsty!). You can get tickets here!
Drink & Learn Tour
I wasn’t so sure about this tour (big group outings are just not my thing!) but it ended up being the most fun! Hosted by Elizabeth Pearce (fun fact: she also has a podcast about the history behind our favorite drinks and does virtual cocktail classes!) walked us through the French quarter as she took us through the stories and history behind three classic New Orleans drinks: St. Charles Punch, the Sazerac (New Orleans’ official drink), and The Hurricane. It was fun and informative (and just the right amount of boozy – I couldn’t finish all three drinks but they were delightful!). I definitely recommend doing this after a meal (we had lunch beforehand).
New Orleans Museum of Art & Sculpture Garden
This museum wound up being one of my favorite parts of the whole trip! It is about a 15-20 minute Uber ride from downtown but so worth the trip. NOMA is the city’s oldest fine arts institution (it opened in 1911 with just nine works of art!). Today, the museum has an incredible permanent collection of more than 40,000 objects and is one of the top museums in the South. My favorite part was the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. We spent hours just wandering through all of the sculptures. It is one of the most important sculpture installations in the United States, with over 90 sculptures situated on a beautifully landscaped site among meandering footpaths, reflecting lagoons, Spanish moss-laden 200-year-old live oaks, mature pines, magnolias, camellias, and pedestrian bridges.
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
The Ogden Museum holds the largest and most comprehensive collection of Southern art. We particularly loved getting to see the art of Gregory Saunders (his graphite drawings look like photographs!) and the Ralph Eugene Meatyard photography exhibition (macabre but so good!). It’s also worth noting that the Contemporary Arts Center is a great art museum and just across the street. We did not go as they were in between exhibits but I would really like to visit next time!
JAM NOLA stands for Joy Art Music. The exhibit features 17 different rooms/shows of pure joy, highlighting the best of the city: the iconic art, music, food and theatrics of the city through the eyes of over 30 local artists. Definitely worth making your way through. We did not need the full hour but really enjoyed our time here.
Where We Ate:
Jewel of the South (Dinner)
This spot is famous for its cocktails (created by Chris Hannah who has won an award as US Bartender of the Year), but we had an incredible meal here! I highly recommend doing the caviar appetizer as it is served with these giant potato beignets. We also really loved the burrata and the short rib. It’s located in a beautiful 19th Century Creole Cottage – felt like we were in someone’s old home… a beautiful courtyard, a vaulted dining room… it’s a cool space (with GREAT cocktails and food.
We had a really nice traditional breakfast at Brennan’s on Royal Street. Brennan’s is a bit of an institution in New Orleans – they’ve been around since 1946! The menu borrows influences from both French and Spanish offerings. They are famous for their posh breakfast (we loved it!) and Bananas Foster for dessert (it was too early for that but it’s on my list for my next trip back!!).
Elizabeth Street Cafe (Lunch)
This may have been my favorite food of the whole trip! It’s located in the beautiful Hotel Saint Vincent on Magazine Street in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District (right near some very good shopping I might add). Their focus is on French-Vietnamese style cuisine. It’s casual but delicious. We sat in the shady garden courtyard surrounded by palm trees, munching on spring rolls, the restuarant’s signature ginger-chili oil dumplings, and more. Highly, highly recommend.
Commander’s Palace (Dinner)
It’s funny, the only other time I have visited New Orleans was a very boozy trip in my twenties and the only thing I remember vividly was going to Commander’s for a jazz brunch and being blown away by the food, the service, and the music! And so it was really special to get to go back again, this time for dinner. And my – it did not disappoint. We both had the pecan crusted fish (delightful) plus our own appetizers and then we shared the bread pudding souffle for dessert. Commander’s is in the middle of the Garden District and has been around since 1893! The restaurant is famous for its award-winning food and the incredible service. It’s like walking back in time. Also: the restaurant has won seven James Beard Foundation Awards… it is a culinary legend!
This came highly recommended both by you in the DMs and everyone we seemed to come into contact with! To be fair, we went on our third day and were feeling very full but we split a bunch of small plates and loved everything we tried, particularly the seafood salad, tuna dip, and crispy okra!
Bywater American Bistro (Dinner)
This was where we had dinner on our last night. It’s located very close to Studio Be and JAM NOLA, making it the perfect destination for after you check out those two things! We loved everything we ate. We started with a round of passion fruit Palomas (so yummy!) and then split a few appetizers and pastas. Casual and delicious… felt like a happy neighborhood spot. I love that they focus on working with smaller farms and using local ingredients.
Where we Drank:
Jewel of the South
While it is technically a restaurant and where we had dinner on our first night, this spot is all about the cocktails (it’s won several awards) so I needed to include it here!
This is the coolest bar ever – it’s in a former library! I wish we had one in Charleston as I would be a regular. The fun part was that it’s actually connected to our hotel! It’s a speakeasy style bar with mostly all red walls and shelves and shelves of books. It felt like drinking in a sexy library. Would be perfect for a date… an absolute MUST in my book.
This downtown New Orleans bar is led by internationally recognized bartender Abigail Gullo, who has proven that “mixology” combines art, craft, and science. It’s inside the International House Hotel, which also happens to have an original Banksy in the lobby. Very much worth checking out!
My boyfriend and I stayed at Maison de la Luz the last time we were in NOLA – it’s wonderful!! So glad to see you enjoyed!
The best! Every element is perfectly designed and the friendliest staff.
This is a fun list! I’ve been to NOLA a few times and always struggled with what to do while there!
We had the best trip!
I know you aren’t really into sweets but did you not get beignets? I love them. Also, this would not hold everyone’s interest but the National World War II Museum is in NOLA and it is fantastic. I’m adding the Elizabeth Street Cafe to my list for next time. Thanks!
Yes we tried them at a few places but just not for me.. I know New Orleans is famous for them but I don’t like them! We walked by the WWII Museum – it’s huge!
Nola girl here living in Houston- this is making me very homesick. What a great itinerary! I want to copy it for the next time I visit family.
We had the absolute best time!!!! Your native city is amazing.
Louisiana girl here and Nola is my happy place! My bestie and I always stay at Hotel St. Vincent, and you’re not lying about Elizabeth Street Cafe. It’s incredible. So are the cocktails in the hotel bars there. Another fun thing for a trip back is to go to drag brunch at The Country Club. Your trip looked amazing – I can’t wait to try some of the spots you named!
OOOh that sounds amazing – thanks for the rec! I can’t wait to go back.
So glad you had a BLAST!! It’s the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and it explores the art of the American South! xx
Thank you for sharing this great itinerary! I am planning a girls’ weekend there for February, inspired by you 🙂 Question – do you need reservations at the art galleries in New Orleans, or can you just pop in and out. Cheers
All of the ones we went to were drop in, but some (not the ones we went to) do require a reservation!
You did SO MANY THINGS! The hotel you stayed at has me wanting to book a trip ASAP.
it was truly the best trip!
Hi just came back from a trip to Charleston. There was a bar 5 Church… had books from floor to ceiling and hand written The Art of War on the ceiling. Gave a bit of library feel, since you were saying how much you liked the library bar in NOLA.
Oh fun! I will check it out!!!
THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS! – A GOOD FRIEND AND I ARE TRYING TO SCHEDULE A MOTHER DAUGHTER TRIP. WE WERE IN NEED OF A GOOD SOLID LIST OF PLACES TO GO, FOCUSING MAINLY ON ART, FOOD, AND SHOPPING. AND WE FOUND ONE.