First Timer's Guide to New Orleans!

New Orleans is one of my favorite US cities because of it's strong French culture. Their cajun food, lively music, friendly people, and architecture make for an incredibly exciting weekend visit. I am Cajun by heritage so I feel right at home downing fried alligator and Pabst Blue Ribbon, while listening to Zydeco/Blues music on Frenchman.


I have created a comprehensive list for a first-timer to try out the best of the best that New Orleans has to offer. Each pick has a different vibe so there is a little something for everyone! This is by no means an exhaustive list, as there are hundreds of incredible restaurants in different neighborhoods in New Orleans. This is simply a few highlights that I have enjoyed going to every year when visiting Nola.

  • Arnaud's - Impeccable appetizers and decor. You will feel as though you have been transported to a different time period! A French 75 is a must at their French 75 Bar. Duh.
  • Napoleon House Bar and Cafe - If you've never had a New Orleans style muffuletta, this is the place to try it. As a port city, New Orleans cuisine is inspired by multiple European cities, including Italy, Spain, and of course, France. 
  • Antoine's - Ever tried Oyster Rockefeller? They invented it. Great vibe and atmosphere.
  • Galatoire's -  If you're looking for a white tablecloth experience, I suggest Galatoire's. It is the ultimate for traditional New Orleans cuisine. Expect to spend some $$$
  • Acme Oyster House - Looking for something a bit more touristy and casual? Have kids with you? This is the place. They have great food that isn't crazy expensive, and you don't have to worry about being too loud - it is a fast paced and bustling restaurant.
  • Port of Call - Tired of seafood (gasp)? Check out Port of Call. A ship inspired restaurant that serves the best cheeseburgers in all of New Orleans. Get ready to be full, very full.


  • Bourbon Street - Yes yes, Bourbon Street. I figured I would get it out of the way first. If you've never been, it is worth it for the people watching alone. Grab a Huge Ass Beer or a Hurricane and prepare to be delighted by the circus that unfolds before you.
  • Frenchman Street - Adolfos, the Ruby Slipper, The Maison - all great spots to check out for some good food, live music, and a vibe that's a bit more chill than Bourbon.
  • Magazine Street - Magazine street is a host to plenty of shops, art galleries, restaurants, and of course - bars. For a more relaxed and tasteful night out, hit up Baru Bistro and TapasApolline, or The Rum House for more of a Caribbean flair.
  • Uptown - Henry's Uptown Bar, The Bulldog, 45 Tchoup, Bouligny Tavern - you really can't go wrong exploring Uptown. 


The architecture is so colorful and whimsical - an adult playground! Marigny is my favorite neighborhood in New Orleans due to it's laid back yet colorful vibe. It reminds me of Austin in some ways, as there are organic juice/coffee shops, people riding their bikes, and dogs everywhere! I feel right at home. Grab some food at Feelings and stay at the adorable b&b, Balcony Guest House, which is painted bright yellow! Cafe Amelie is another great spot for a romantic courtyard dinner if you're so inclined. Rent a bike and explore!

I could go on and proceed to write the longest blog post in the history of blogging about incredible places in New Orleans and perhaps I will another time, but I wanted to give a few simple highlights of my favorite city for a first-timer! A couple of other neighborhoods/things to do that I suggest checking out if you have an extended stay in Nola:

  • The Garden District - houses are BEAUTIFUL
  • Freret - great little coffee shops and restaurants - laid back vibe
  • Cafe Du Monde - tourist necessity
  • Jackson Square - just go see it.
  • The French Market - I doubt you will want to buy anything as it is mostly kitschy tourist items, but fun to peruse as a first timer to check off the list
  • Ride the Trolley - just to say you did.
  • Ghost/Cemetery Tours - New Orleans has a fascinating history of ghosts, voodoo, vampires, etc. If you want to be creeped out and thoroughly entertained, take a tour.
  • Mercedes Benz Superdome - go see the Saints in all their glory - Saints fans are the best in the country (if not the most entertaining).