An Insider's Guide to New Orleans, Louisiana

With Jazz Fest kicking off today, we thought it was the perfect time to ask TSG New Orleans Editor Taylor Morgan to share some tips on how to enjoy NOLA like a local. Here is her insider’s itinerary, which covers everything from where to shop, where to stay, when to visit (hint: book your tickets now!), and of course plenty of recommendations for delicious meals and killer cocktails. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Where to stay:
For travelers looking for the ultimate New Orleans experience, there’s the WINDSOR COURT HOTEL (300 Gravier Street), a quiet oasis in the middle of the downtown scene. The grand, luxuriously appointed hotel has a world-class spa where locals go to get pampered, plus the best view of downtown, which you can take in from their rooftop. The cocktails are also top-notch: “Whenever I check in, I immediately nestle myself into a high-backed chair at the Polo Lounge,” Taylor says.

The Terrell House courtyard.

If you’re interested in uptown accommodations, TERRELL HOUSE (1441 Magazine Street) is a sophisticated bed and breakfast in an old New Orleans Garden District three-story Italianate mansion that offers one of the most authentic “like-a-local” experiences in town, complete with porches, galleries, balconies, and a beautiful courtyard. “The location is perfect,” says Taylor. “It’s in a quiet neighborhood close to the city’s best shopping.”

Where to drink:
We’re aware you’re probably not looking for healthy suggestions, but bear with us for a moment (your body will thank you): PULP AND GRIND (644 Camp Street), which is located just two blocks from the Windsor Court, has the best fresh juices to refuel. Trust us, you’ll need it. They serve coffee, too, in case you need caffeine after a long day or a big night out.

Now, for the information you’re really seeking. In the French Quarter, Taylor recommends heading to LAFITTE’S (941 Bourbon Street), which some claim is the oldest bar in the U.S., for a purple daiquiri to indulge in a little day drinking. For happy hour, BRENNAN’S (417 Royal Street), a legendary New Orleans institution that recently received a facelift, has what Taylor describes as arguably one of the best happy hours in the Quarter. She advises sitting in the courtyard and taking advantage of the half-price bottles of champagne (“It includes the good stuff, too!” Taylor notes). If you’re looking for a delicious pre-dinner drink in a classic New Orleans location complete with vintage bar, pay a visit to the FRENCH 75 BAR (813 Rue Bienville) at Arnaud’s. For a nightcap, visit the DAVENPORT LOUNGE (921 Canal Street) at the Ritz downtown, where locals and travelers gather to see jazz artist Jeremy Davenport perform. Uptown, if you find yourself in need of a cocktail after a day of Magazine Street shopping, treat yourself to happy hour at the beautiful and cozy BOULIGNY TAVERN (3641 Magazine Street), which serves small plates and delicious drinks.

Left: The entrance to Arnaud’s. Right: A French 75 at the French 75 Bar at Arnaud’s.

Where to dine:
Lunch: “Lunch is huge in this town,” says Taylor. All the best restaurants do a stellar lunch service that begins at 11:30 and lingers on into the late afternoon. Keep in mind, in New Orleans, leisure time is intensely valued, and a cocktail almost always accompanies your midday meal. While there are a multitude of options, Taylor prefers to keep it classic. “A traditional New Orleans meal is such an invaluable experience,” Taylor explains. “And almost all of them will come with a twist.”

For a long lunch with friends, BRENNAN’S (417 Royal Street) and GALATOIRE’S (209 Bourbon Street) are Taylor’s go-to spots in the French Quarter. Uptown, Taylor recommends James Beard “Best Chef of the South” nominee Justin Devillier’s LA PETITE GROCERY (4238 Magazine Street), where the octopus is her favorite.

Napoleon House.

For a more casual lunch, NAPOLEON HOUSE (500 Chartres Street), which occupies a 200-year-old building in the French Quarter, is Taylor’s pick. “There are few things in life better than a classic muffuletta, Zapp’s potato chips straight out of the bag, a dill pickle, and a Pimm’s Cup,” Taylor says. CAFÉ RECONCILE (1631 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard), which serves New Orleans soul food (think: gumbo, friend catfish, po-boys) and trains at-risk youth in the food service industry, is another excellent low-key option in a historic and culture-filled neighborhood.

Dinner: For the best in New Orleans Creole cuisine, head to ARNAUD’S (813 Rue Bienville). Start with the soufflé potatoes or oysters Arnaud, dine on quail or pompano David, and finish bananas foster and café brûlot. Another great choice is Justin Devillier’s new restaurant, BALISE (640 Carondelet Street), which has a fabulous downstairs bar and upstairs balcony and serves delicious New Orleans fare.

Where to shop:
If you only have one afternoon to shop in town, Taylor suggests focusing on Magazine Street. But bear in mind, shopping in New Orleans does not just mean walking in, picking something out, and then moving on to the next store. “This is about visiting,” says Taylor. “It’s about discovering the secret gardens and little corners full of treasures. It’s about meeting the shop owners, hearing their stories, and taking their advice for which shop to pop into next.” So make an early lunch reservation and then block the whole afternoon off to browse Magazine Street from top to bottom.

Left: The exterior of Bremermann Designs. Right: Gerrie Bremermann in her shop.

New Orleans residents take their home décor seriously, and Magazine Street is peppered with expertly curated stores all within mere blocks of one another that cater to the design-minded shopper. Whether or not you’re in the market for antiques and furnishings, venture in to SHAUN SMITH HOME (3947 Magazine Street) and BREMERMANN DESIGNS (3943 Magazine Street), which is located right next door. Shaun Smith offers an eclectic mix of chic coffee table books, beautiful pillows, and antique pieces in his space, and Gerrie Bremermann, the grande dame of New Orleans design, has an absolutely gorgeous store filled with works by local artists, Fortuny accents, luxurious furnishings, objets, and more.

About a one-minute walk from your last stop is a charming courtyard, off of which you’ll find Jane Scott Hodge’s renowned linen and custom monogram shop LEONTINE LINENS (3806 Magazine Street). The space is filled with beautiful examples of monogrammed items from handkerchiefs and napkins to beddings and bathrobes—the perfect place to shop for a present (or personal souvenir). Just next door in the secluded passageway is MALACHITE (3806 Magazine Street), interior designer Melissa Miles Rufty’s home furnishings store, which offers exquisite antique finds and art, and reflects her incredible eye for color and texture.

Top: The entrance to the corridor where Leontine Linens and Malachite are located off of Magazine Street. Above: Samples of Leontine Linens monograms.

Across the street from Leontine and Malachite you’ll find MARION CAGE (3807 Magazine Street), where you can scope out the beautiful, handcrafted contemporary jewelry. About five blocks down, you’ll have the opportunity to indulge in a little sensory overload at DUNN & SONNIER (3433 Magazine Street), a longtime New Orleans favorite for flowers, antiques, and gifts.

At this point in your adventure, consider taking a detour into the Garden District in the direction of St. Charles Avenue, taking in the gorgeous houses as you make your way to the Rink building on Prytania Street. If you have a little one, be sure to stop into MIGNON (2727 Prytania Street) to check out the charming, classic children’s attire before refueling at coffee shop Still Perkin’, also located in the Rink.

Wind your way back to Magazine, and head down to CLOVER (2240 Magazine Street), a chic clothing boutique that carries beautiful clothing lines carefully selected by owner Melissa Coleman. End your approximately 1.5-mile long stroll at the shop of local jewelry artist GOGO BORGERDING (2036 Magazine Street), who creates colorful, geometric cuffs that will remind you of your trip long after you’ve left NOLA.

Where to sample the arts scene:
In New Orleans, everything is art: the cocktails, the architecture, even the crawfish boils. But when it comes to the real deal you’ll want to make sure you visit the studios of some of the town’s world-renowned artists, and the impressive institution that is the NEW ORLEANS MUSEUM OF ART (One Collins C. Diboll Circle), home to a stunning permanent collection noted for its French and American art and five-acre sculpture garden. Right now, NOMA is home to an exhibition of twenty-three paintings by Bob Dylan depicting scenes of New Orleans—an ideal diversion for those who feel like sitting out a day of Jazz Fest.

On Taylor’s not-to-be-missed list of local talents are modern furniture artisans MITCHELL AND LARKIN GAUDET (218 Mehle Avenue in Old Arabi), artist ALEXIS WALTER (see a selection of her work at Bremermann Designs, 3943 Magazine Street), pop artist ASHLEY LONGSHORE (4537 Magazine Street), and artist AMANDA TALLEY (1382 Magazine Street). “Everyone coming to town really must pop into Ashley Longshore’s Studio,” says Taylor. “But be warned: It’s best to go to after a long, boozy lunch at nearby La Petite Grocery.” [Editor’s note: We fact-checked this, and it’s true.] At Amanda Talley’s studio, you’ll be treated to larger-than-life designs pulsing with energy and style, and you can catch a glimpse of her one-of-a-kind wallpaper designs.

Ashley Longshore’s studio.

For additional art and inspiration, head to Julia Street, New Orleans’s downtown art district, where Taylor recommends stopping in JULIE SILVERS ART (617 Julia Street) and OCTAVIA ART GALLERY (454 Julia Street).

How to have an outdoor adventure:
Absorbing New Orleans on two wheels is Taylor’s favorite way to scout her city. Whether you’re looking for a bicycling booze cruise (yes, they have those in NOLA) or a more exercise-based ride, Taylor highly recommends renting a bike to explore the city. Pedal your way up Magazine Street at a leisurely pace, or commit to a city-spanning tour via the new LAFITTE GREENWAY, which heads right by popular health and local ingredient-focused restaurant SATSUMA (7901 Maple Street), with a finale in the gorgeous Crescent Park with sweeping panoramas of the skyline.

When to visit:
Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, and countless other music festivals offer plenty of reasons to take a trip to the Big Easy. There is always something going on in the city!

When to call Taylor:
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the options, Taylor can help you design the perfect itinerary based on your personal tastes. Having recently launched The Scout Guide New Orleans Experiences, a program in which she works with local tastemakers to offer small groups the opportunity to enjoy the city like an insider, she’s well equipped to handle all the details.

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