In this episode, I talk to Mark Bologna of the Beyond Bourbon Street Podcast. Mark is New Orleans native and full of incredibly useful information for NOLA visitors. New Orleans is such a culturally rich and exciting city with a ton to offer. I’m so happy that Mark was able to sort us out and act as a fantastic tour guide. Here we go:
There are a number of historic and exciting neighborhoods in New Orleans. Mark suggests, for first-time visitors, be sure to check out, at the very least, the French Quarter, Garden District, Algiers Point, and Marigny. Combined, these communities will give you a really neat picture of the city.
Gambling (of course)
Harrah’s is where you’ll play and stay. The casino and hotel are actually in a good spot if you’re a gambling fan and have some comps available in the TR system. An insider bonus: Acme Oyster house inside Harrah’s is operated by the same folks who run the famed favorite of the same name in the French Quarter. Mark assures us that the food is just as delicious but you won’t have to wait nearly as long.
It’s easy to get around without renting a car. Ride-sharing is prevalent and most of what you’re going to do will be walkable or be accessible by streetcar. Further, parking at the hotels is getting expensive.
Where to Stay
Stay in the French Quarter or Mark’s favorite spot, the Central Business District or Warehouse District. With the latter, you get a break from the craziness. There are plenty of affordable options, particularly in the summer, in those neighborhoods.
Specifically, The Old 77 Hotel is in the Warehouse District and only a few blocks outside the French Quarter. The Old 77 is a sponsor of Beyond Bourbon St., with the code BBOld77 will get you 25% off and a $10 credit to their coffee shop. Another fun hotel is Le Pavillon. It’s right the edge of the Central Business and Warehouse Districts. It’s an older hotel that is said to be haunted, but rooms are nice, there’s a decent bar, and you can usually find great rates.
If you’re points and miles concerned and looking for a chain, there is a Westin in the French Quarter right on the river. Be sure to request a river view room.
Things to Do
Tours are really popular in New Orleans and they have a myriad of themes, from cemetery to architectural. If you’re going to do only one, Mark suggests taking a streetcar to the Garden District tours. It won’t take much time to get there, only 10 minutes or so from the French Quarter, and they’re easy walking tours. They’ll discuss the unique architecture and some of the famous residents. One Mark really enjoys is Two Chicks Walking Tours, which gives a good mixture of cemetery and architectural insights.
If you’re into people watching, it’s imperative to simply wander the French Quarter. There are plenty of tours, but early in the day before it gets super hot, is a prime time to take a self-guided tour. With the open container laws, you can wander the French Quarter with a plastic cup, take in the sounds of the street musicians, and experience the great atmosphere.
Where to Drink
You have to go to Pat O’Briens on Bourbon St. to have a hurricane. Frankly, they’re not the best, but it’s a famous, fun spot that’s part of the New Orlean’s experience. If you’re looking for quality, just outside of the French Quarter is the Carousel Bar. It’s a rotating bar, as the name implies, but instead of horses, you sit on barstools. Mark is very fond of the Bombay Club. It’s a small place with live jazz music and makes a mean old fashioned.
Other unique options include the tiki-themed Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29, which is a fun hotel bar serving exotic drinks. Another would be Palace Cafe on Canal St. It used to be a musical instrument store, but on the second floor is a little bar called the Black Duck Bar which is home to the New Orleans Rum Club. It’s a kind of secret and unexpected experience many first time visitors likely don’t know about. Compere Lapin, located in the Old 77 Hotel, has a fantastic bar with tremendous drinks made by top mixologists. It certainly isn’t cheap, but worth a visit. Cure is in the uptown area, but recently won a James Beard award for their bar program and is a great place to take a break from the French Quarter.
Where to Eat
If Mark only had one meal left on this planet, he’d have it at Mr. B’s Bistro, so that should tell you something. Don’t let the name fool you, this is no casual pub. Featuring a dynamite menu of classic, fresh Louisiana fare, this is a can’t miss spot. It’s also imperative to try a muffelleta at the small, Italian market Central Grocery. You should also definitely get a po-boy if you’ve never had one. A great place to grab one is at Johnny’s in the French Quarter.
For something a little more fun, Mark suggests getting a snowball. These are not snow cones. Snowballs are made with finely made ice, making it feel like freshly fallen snow. There a number of syrup flavors, making them a fun, inexpensive treat on a hot day. One of the best places to grab these cold concoctions is Hansen’s Sno-Bliz.
What’s great about New Orleans is the plethora of options for every budget. With over 1500 restaurants, plenty of inexpensive lodging, and a great bar scene, New Orleans should definitely be on every avid traveler’s list.
Be sure to listen to the full episode as Mark and I discuss even more locations and tips and tricks to navigating the city. Also, follow Beyond Bourbon Street on Instagram and Twitter for beautiful pictures and frequent updates. Thanks for listening!