This past weekend, my husband and I hopped on a flight to New Orleans for a four-day getaway. Since we only had four days, we had to cram a whole lotta N'leans in a short amount of time.

Since I had been before, I wanted to try some different things. Here are the highlights.

Culinary History Tour, Ghost Tour, The Garden District: Free Tours by Foot

Famously delicious cuisine is a must when you visit The Big Easy. But, with hundreds of world-famous restaurants to choose from, how do you decide where to eat? Renee Whitecloud with Free Tours by Foot has your answer. Make this tour the first thing you do because you learn about food, art, architecture, history, and so much more! And, most importantly, she can recommend the BEST restaurants! The coolest thing is that this tour is completely FREE! At the end, you tip whatever you think the tour was worth.

I hate sitting idle while on vacation, so I booked TWO more tours. I attended Stacey's French Quarter Ghost Tour and the Garden District Tour with Lafayette Cemetery tour with Matt.

The ghost tour met at the steps of the St. Louis Cathedral at 7 PM. I saw a bunch of other tour guides at this time doing ghost, voodoo, and vampire tours. Most of them were dressed up in some hokey costume and being very dramatic - not my scene. Stacey's ghost tour focused more on the history of New Orleans. For instance, in one summer, over 11,000 people died of yellow fever and there were a couple of torturous serial killers discovered in the city. Random warehouse buildings were turned into makeshift hospitals and morgues. There's really no reason to make up crazy stories about vampires popping out of the shadows to snatch you up. This city offers plenty of sad, haunting, and downright awful points in their history. The Garden District Tour starts in the Lafayette Cemetery off Washington Ave. Matt walked us throughout the special burial ceremonies of New Orleans and then we strolled through all through the beautiful historic neighborhoods that New Orleans is famous for. We saw Sandra Bullock, John Goodman, Ann Rice, and Archie Manning's personal homes. And, again the tours are free - you just pay a tip!

The Garden District Tour starts in the Lafayette Cemetery off Washington Ave. Matt walked us throughout the special burial ceremonies of New Orleans and then we strolled through all through the beautiful historic neighborhoods that New Orleans is famous for. We saw Sandra Bullock, John Goodman, Ann Rice, and Archie Manning's personal homes. And, again the tours are free - you just pay a tip!

This was the home to Delphine Lalaurie, famous New Orleans serial killer. Photo: Ashley S

The National WWII Museum

Okay, I know what you are thinking... I want to go to New Orleans for my own personal little Mardi Gras. Laissez les bon temps roulez! WWII won't fit into my drinking schedule! But, it should. Even if you only have a few hours, it's worth it. From a completely interactive 4-D movie to a dress up photo booth, and walk-through exhibits that make you feel like you are really in the jungles, desserts and rubble of WWII, this museum will give you a whole new perspective on one of the most important wars that happened to mankind.

Here's a virtual tour of what you'll see when you go.

Beans and Cornbread

When you visit NOLA, you have to partake in the "Monday meal" - red beans and rice. I've eaten quite a bit of the southern staple but I think I found my new favorite version.  We found a really nice, upscale place on Frenchman Street called 30/-90. With live music and great prices, it's worth the walk through the French Quarter. Usually, red beans and rice is served all made up and isn't all that pretty but 30/90 served the rice in a little island with alligator sausage on the side. I'm kind of weird and like sour cream in my Cajun food to soften the spice but if you are hardcore, this should definitely be on your list. Oh, and the sweet cornbread - TO DIE FOR!

Ashley S

To get to Frenchman St., head toward the Mississippi and turn left on Decatur and go all the way down until you get to Cafe Du Monde. At the Y, stay on the right. Keep going until you see the fire station and stay to the left of the fire station. There you’ll find lots of fun bars and restaurants that are filled with glorious music.

The smooth stylings of the Perdido Jazz Band.

Jeremy S

Relax with a Local Brew or a Hurricane

Our hotel was located off St. Charles Ave. and we wanted to grab some lunch and relax a bit before we rushed off for our flight. We chose a place that looked like a tropical escape from the outside. The Blind Pelican offers over 50 beers on tap. The bartender recommended Abita Seersucker Summer (which was so yummy if you like craft beers) and my husband ordered a hurricane. He didn't know hurricanes come in really girly hurricane glasses but our bartender, Jimmy, fixed it PERFECTLY.

ashley s
Ashley S

Bacon Pecan Brittle

During our culinary history tour, we popped into Leah's Pralines (pronounced "praw-leens") to learn about the New Orleans staple and how it played a role in helping women of color earn freedom for themselves and their families. While we were at Leah's we sampled all kinds of sweet treats including bacon brittle. Good Lord - there are some things in this world that are indescribably good. The bacon brittle is one of those things. At $10 a bag, they are the perfect take-home treat for family, friends, dog-sitters, and yourself. If you can't make it to NOLA, they will ship it to you! 

Ashley S

Breakfast with the Locals - Surrey's Cafe and Juice Bar

As soon as we stepped foot inside Surrey's we knew that there wasn't a tourist in sight (except for us). #awkward Our valet suggested that we have breakfast at Surrey's. We accidentally traveled to the Uptown location that was under construction but quickly learned our mistake and hopped the streetcar back up St. Charles Ave.

I had the crab meat omelet. It was stuffed with avocado and Brie cheese, and topped with a creamy lump crab gravy served with a biscuit. It was pretty good but my husband's banana's foster french toast was the main attraction. It's New Orleans-style French toast stuffed with banana cream cheese and topped with a classic Bananas Foster sauce of rum, brown sugar, and butter and dusted with powdered sugar. It's a must on Magazine St.

Bonus: it's only a couple of blocks (within walking distance) from the WWII Museum.

Ashley S
Ashley S

A Second Line Street Parade

While we were in New Orlean's this weekend we saw not one, not two, but three Second Line parades. Two happened on Canal St. and one was on St. Charles Ave. What began as a funeral tradition, the Second Line has become more of a walking party. The one that went past our hotel celebrated a girl's birthday. I presume she turned 16 or 21 but there were two jazz bands and one float along with some people on horseback. It's basically a block party in the middle of a random Sunday.

The 'Second Hand' Street Bands

While we were shopping in The French Quarter, we noticed a small band on a corner really gettin' after it. They had a sign that read, "Second Hand Street Band." I assumed they were musicians from other bands that just conglomerated along the street. Perfect... After watching them a while, we noticed that some of the musicians were making their way down Decatur. We followed them and it paid off. Down on Frenchman St. a ragtag group of young men started an impromptu jam session on the corner and it was great. We grab drinks from the Hot Dog stand - yes NOLA is so weird and wonderful - and stood there for about an hour enjoying the band. But, if you are going to listen, you gotta tip!

So, there you have it. I'd encourage you to read my first blog about New Orleans. It's kind of indescribable and should definitely be your next vacation destination. Reading it isn't nearly as much fun as enjoying it for yourself!

Jeremy S