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Top 5 Ways To Have A Leisurely New Orleans Vacation

As a resident of New Orleans, you automatically assume the role of tour guide and ambassador to this amazing city for the multiple houseguests you receive year-round. It’s both a blessing and a curse because there’s so much to do here and a lot of those houseguests expect a tight and robust itinerary. But for those of us who aren’t 25 anymore and recovery time takes a little longer, it’s nice to have some low-maintenance visitors.

Here are five tips to cramming a whole lot into a girls’ weekend without burning out within 48 hours.

Sipping mint julep’s in Pat O’Brien’s courtyard is fun and relaxing! (image by Liz Genest Smith)

1. Take the long way everywhere you go. This might sound counter intuitive, but driving is way better than walking in this condition, and even if you’ve come to take it for granted, the scenery is a special treat for non-residents. En route to lunch in the Garden District from the airport, I took Carrollton Avenue to St. Charles Avenue to Washington Avenue. On the way, I pointed out the cool Oak Street corridor; and let St. Charles’ majesty speak for itself. A quick zig-zag down Prytania, Coliseum, and First streets covered Sandra Bullock’s, John Goodman’s, and Anne Rice’s houses, and the house where Jefferson Davis died. History, pop culture, literature – check! And, look, we’ve arrived at our destination!

2. Hit up a quaint Magazine Street café for lunch, followed by window shopping. You can’t go wrong on this one. Going out to lunch is way cheaper and far less work than dinner – and there are six miles of shops and restaurants on Magazine Street. Just pick a starting point, and browse and graze to your heart’s (or feet’s) content. Casually dressed, we late-lunched at lovely Coquette ($20 three-course lunch) and sipped some lovely wine al fresco at a delightfully leisurely pace. Then, we hit up the super fun trio of clothing and accessory shops, Fleurty Girl, Fun Rock’n, and Funky Monkey on Magazine Street, before driving east to the Felicity Street area for antiques and funky little joints like GOGO Jewelry and UP/Unique Products, with its “green-themed home decor, accessories and lighting.”

A trip to the French Quarter isn’t complete without a visit to one of the Voodoo shops, like Marie Laveau’s on Bourbon Street. (image courtesy of Beth Wyner)

3. Do the French Quarter during the day. You can kill two birds with one stone by imbibing your way through a DIY historical tour (or go with a tour company), thereby avoiding the late night party crowd and getting to bed at a reasonable hour. (I once partied with Guns N’ Roses at a place called The English Acid on the Sunset Strip – don’t judge.) After a quick spin around Jackson Square (during which time, I got sucked into a silver man’s street performance – first time for everything), we moseyed down Pirate’s Alley, checked out Faulkner’s residence and bookstore, imagined the duels that used to take place behind the St. Louis Cathedral, glanced down St. Peter Street to see the apartment where Tennessee Williams wrote Streetcar Named Desire, then popped into Pat O’s courtyard for mint juleps. Go-cups in hand, we strolled to Marie Laveau’s Voodoo Shop for some gris-gris, then ducked into Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop for a quick story about the alleged privateering that went on there, plus of course, another drink/go-cup. A couple blocks away, I shared the gruesome, sadistic history of the Lalaurie mansion on Royal Street (not to mention Nicolas Cage’s past ownership), steered us past the Brangelina compound on Governor Nichols Street, and swung into the French Market for a huge sampler box of Southern Candymakers’ crazy-good pralines.

4. Two words: Destrehan Plantation.  A quickie 20-minute drive on 310 gets you to Destrehan, where a quaint, 225-year-old, gen-u-ine River Road plantation abides. Knowing how many plantation homes used to dot the landscape around New Orleans, it’s so great to hear the story of how this place, which hosted several significant cultural and historical events and residents, was saved from the brink of ruin and restored to its current charming state. A very knowledgeable and enthusiastic costumed guide shared with us its stories of prosperity, decline, death, political and cultural influence, and deadly slave revolts. Visitors can watch costumed artisans perform craft and trade demonstrations. Note that their Fall Festival is coming up November 10-11, by the way.

new orleans seafood recipe

Local seafood and sausage are great ingredients for a local paella recipe! (image by Liz Genest Smith)

5. Cook local recipes. To prepare Chef Frank Brigtsen’s (of Brigtsen’s Restaurant) paella recipe in Louisiana Cookin’ magazine (print edition), my husband not only ran to Schaefer’s Seafood in Bucktown for fresh shrimp, he went all the way to Jacob’s in LaPlace for some sort of magical Andouille sausage, allegedly beloved by Chef John Besh. De-lish!

The best part? We got to enjoy the city at a leisurely pace, while focusing on quality one-on-one time. We both emerged from the weekend a few pounds heavier, but refreshed, well-rested, and not scrambling to figure out where we left our credit cards/open tabs. A fun, yet restful weekend — yes, it can happen in New Orleans!