New Orleans: A Guide to Local Sights and Restaurants

Before moving to Washington, D.C., to join the AHA in August, I had a whirlwind three years in Louisiana, where my weekends were chock full of crawfish boils, Mardi Gras parades, and warm nights touring the narrow streets of the Frenchmen District. Like many tourists and transplants to the area, I began exploring New Orleans within the confines of the French Quarter. With the aid of friends native to the area, however, I slowly broadened my horizons and discovered a rich, vibrant community in greater New Orleans. Drawing on those memories and memorable experiences, I offer here a list of things to do while in New Orleans, especially for the more adventurous historians looking to really explore the city.

Many of these spots are local favorites, and beyond the neon-lit glitter of the French Quarter. 

Daytime Attractions

City Park-New Orleans
At 1,300 acres, City Park is one of the largest urban parks in America. City Park is home of the New Orleans Museum of Art and the largest collection of mature live oaks in the world. Come for a jog, a leisurely walk, or to eat a po’ boy along the bayou.

Laura Plantation
One of the most popular plantations in Louisiana, this plantation was recommended to me by one of the archivists at Louisiana State University. The Laura Plantation is distinct in both its size and its creole style architecture. This plantation is a good 30-minute drive outside of New Orleans, but it is worth it if a Louisiana plantation is on your bucket list (and it should be!).

National Park Service French Quarter Visitor Center
Everyday at 9:30 a.m., park rangers lead riverfront tours of the Mississippi River. Twenty-five free tickets per tour are given out, beginning at 9:00 a.m., so be sure to get there early!

Must Eats

Breakfast/Lunch Options

Antoine’s Annex $
In the heart of the French Quarter, this café offers both delicious/yummy breakfast pastries and gelato!

Cake $
Also in the French Quarter, this café and bakery offers pastries as well as delicious brunch options. Try the French toast made with fresh challah with homemade orange-pecan syrup, it’s my personal favorite.

Finally, I cannot pass up an opportunity to recommend Café Du Monde. Famous for its beignets and café au lait, you cannot leave New Orleans without visiting the landmark. Tip: do not visit when you are wearing black clothes; it is a rare feat to eat a beignet and not get powdered sugar absolutely everywhere.

Dinner Options

Cooter Brown’s Tavern & Oyster Bar $

Known for its muffaletta’s and oysters, it also has a great beer selection.  

Jacques Imo’s $$$

My favorite place to eat in New Orleans—hands down. The restaurant is in mid-city, and you can enjoy the magnificent architecture of the Garden District on the drive up. While you are waiting for a table, visit the Maple Leaf Bar next door. It’s one of the best bars in town.

Cochon $$$

Located in the Warehouse District (alongside the French Quarter), Cochon is a local hit. Make reservations early!

Nightlife

In a city renowned for its nightlife, it was hard to offer just a few picks. I settled for a mix of easily accessible spots in the French Quarter, while offering a few of my favorite spots throughout the city.   

The Sazerac Bar, Roosevelt Hotel

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, French Quarter

Pat O’Brien’s, French Quarter

The Bulldog, Uptown/Garden District

Maple Leaf Bar, Uptown

Blue Nile, Frenchmen District

The Spotted Cat, Frenchmen District

In addition to these attractions, Perspectives on History has several articles focused on life and travel in New Orleans, including:

Welcome to New Orleans! by Debbie Ann Doyle

A City Built on Baubles by J. Mark Souther

Visiting New Orleans with Children by Andrew Goss

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