A recent business trip to attend Collision Conference 2016 offered an amazing opportunity to turn a three day conference into a week long adventure exploring all of the sights and delights of New Orleans a.k.a the big easy.
New Orleans (NOLA) is such a dynamic and vibrant city – with so much to offer – whether you are travelling for business, leisure or a combination of both, amazing eats, artwork, music and cocktails are literally around every corner, so you don’t have to go far to discover something new.
If you’ve got a lot of ground to cover and not a lot of time, here are my top tips to making the most out of your time in New Orleans.
Location, Location, Location
This may seem obvious, but choosing a reputable, clean, safe and well located place to stay is crucial to ensuring a happy, healthy and enjoyable trip.
The primary purpose of our trip was for business, so we needed flexibility to work and freedom to play. As a regular business traveller, I tend to choose hotel options that cater to both business and leisure travellers. My favourite so far, are the Residence Inn properties under the Marriott chain, which are conveniently located and loaded with great amenities from free wifi and flat screen tv’s to kitchenettes and bigger working spaces that are perfect for an extended business trip.
We stayed at the Residence Inn New Orleans Downtown conveniently nestled between the warehouse and arts districts and only a short walk to convention centre and main attractions and loaded with great amenities providing us with the flexibility we needed.
Cover more ground – Free Wheelin’ Bike Tours
Getting around the core of the city is easy and most effective by foot if you want to soak up as much of the atmosphere as you possibly can. For those that want to venture a bit further afield, there are a number of options ranging from walking tours, to hop-on, hop-off bus tours and guided bike tours.
After a glowing recommendation from my friend Lindsay, we opted to see the city by bike (and get a workout in at the same time). We quickly settled on the Creole & Crescent Tour offered by the amazing folks at Freewheelin’ Bike Tours which took us on a ten mile guided tour of some of the original neighbourhoods in the “back of town”.
Starting off in the famous French Quarter, our first stop were the Marigny and Bywater neighbourhoods and New Orleans’ first suburb (Faubourg) which is home to the largest collection of 19th century homes in America and bohemian hangouts with a really laid back, chilled out vibe.
Next, we cruised over to Esplanade Avenue or “Millionaires Row” – home to the old Creole gentry of New Orleans. Also known as “Avenue of The Creoles” this neighbourhood boasts many 19th Century mansions and is lined with centuries old oak trees – it is considered to be a true New Orleans treasure.
Next we made a quick pit-stop at Saint Louis Cemetery #3 – one of the city’s most famous (but less visited) cemeteries. St Louis Cemetery has a long rich history. Established in 1854, each above the ground crypt recounts a chapter in New Orleans’ rich history—from immigration patterns to floods and yellow fever outbreaks.
Up next was Bayou St. John and City Park where we saw the largest grove of mature oak trees in the world and enjoyed French beignets and café au lait at Morning Call Cafe before heading over to the now famous Treme neighbourhood where the food and music are always flowing.
Finally, on our way back to The French Quarter we stopped at Congo Square the real “birthplace of Jazz” and where the infamous New Orleans red light district – Storyville – once stood.
Cocktails and Dreams
With so much to see you’re sure to work up an appetite. New Orleans is a foodie’s paradise and it’s pretty hard to have a bad meal in the city. Although New Orleans is not the most vegetarian friendly city, we did manage to find some really amazing food at a great price.
With a few dietary requirements to consider, we opted for places with variety and small(er) portions – favouring authentic flavour with a NOLA twist. My favourite by far was Lola’s – an amazing little hole-in-the-wall tapas joint in the Mid-City area located on Esplanade Avenue, and a favourite with the locals. The garlic mushrooms and brussel sprouts were a big crowd pleaser along with my personal favourite – vegetarian paella.
Garlic Mushrooms & Brussel Sprouts
After dinner, it’s time to play and no trip to NOLA would be complete without partaking in the incredible cocktail culture that is so commonplace across the city. For many decades, New Orleans has been described “the cradle of civilized drinking” and for many years NOLA was considered the birthplace of the cocktail – a tale immortalized by Stanley Clisby Arthur in his lively 1937 book, “Famous New Orleans Drinks & How to Mix ’Em”.
The story goes that cocktails were invented there. Except they weren’t – they just got better in New Orleans.
Still, over the years, NOLA has become home to a number of historically significant and world renowed cocktail bars including the Old Absinthe House, The Szaerac Bar, Carousel Bar & Lounge, Arnaud’s French 75 Bar and more recently Pat O’Briens (the birthplace of the legendary Hurricane Cocktail) all offering tasty, tropical delights guaranteed to get you buzzing. We loved the Hurricane and NOLA’ signature cocktail – The Sazerac.
The calm before the storm…….ready with our Hurricane cocktails
The Birthplace of Jazz
New Orleans is the birthplace of Jazz and every night, the streets and clubs of the Big Easy come alive with vibrant and soulful music. The city caters to every audience, offering everything from traditional jazz to acid jazz, there’s something for every ear. Walk along Bourbon Street any night of the week and your guaranteed to find something to suit your tastes.
Music is literally at the heart (and soul) of the city.