In early October, my fiance and I enjoyed a visit to New Orleans, a city both of us have always wanted to visit and explore. We listened to live jazz all over Frenchman St. and the oldest jazz venue in the United States Preservation Hall, indulged on delicious Southern foods & beignets (#stillfull), walked all over the Garden District and Bourbon Street/French Quarter, and drove out to the Whitney Plantation for an eye-opening and memorable experience - it’s the only museum in Louisiana (and few in the country) with a focus on slavery in the South. Read on for more details about our long weekend getaway to NOLA!
Any trip to NOLA should come with a visit to Jackson Square, a historic park and location of where the Louisiana Purchase was signed in 1803, doubling the size of the United States. Jackson Square is located in the heart of the French Quarter and along the bank of the Mississippi River, where you can sit and watch the steamboats pass on by. It’s also a short walk to the French Market, where you can browse through local art vendors, listen to live music performances, get your fortune told, grab delicious food (we loved Alberto’s sandwiches!), and walk around with your adult beverages in plastic cups.
Although this popular tourist destination is beautiful to the eye, it has a troubled past, as NOLA was once the largest slave market in the United States. In 1860 there were more than 300,000 slaves living in Louisiana, many of which were sold through this very square. While I didn’t see many recognitions or mentions of this dark and painful time in our country’s history in the touristy locations of NOLA, the Whitney Plantation is devoted entirely to learning about slavery in the South (more on this below).
Y. U. M. We were recommended to order beignets from both Cafe Du Monde and Cafe Beignet, but opted for just visiting Cafe Beignet because the Cafe Du Monde line was always too long for our patience and attention spans. The breakfast here was so-so, but the beignets were mouth-watering! Beignets are small pieces of dough, gently fried, and then drenched in powdered sugar. Click here to read more about some of the top spots for beignets in the city.
Strolling around the Lafayette Cemetery #1 in the month of October was a pretty eerie, but cool, experience. This cemetery, or “city of the dead” as some call it, was built in 1833, apparently right after a huge Yellow Fever outbreak hit the city. Since the city of New Orleans is below sea level, they can’t bury any remains underground. All tombs are buried over ground and you’ll see many cemeteries around the city as you are out and about. Today, Lafayette Cemetery #1 is one of the most popular to visit, as it’s free and open to the public. It’s also the most filmed cemetery in New Orleans (including one of my favorite movies of all time - Double Jeopardy!).
Anyone watch American Horror Story: Coven? If so, you may recognize the first home pictured above! The Buckner Mansion was built in 1856 and is located in New Orleans' glitzy Garden District. The entire neighborhood is full of mansions with lush gardens and colorful Victorian architecture. After you stop by Lafayette Cemetery #1, you can stroll through the neighborhood at your leisure or join one of the many walking tours in the city.
The most meaningful part of our NOLA trip was renting a car and driving about an hour outside of the city to the Whitney Plantation. During our 90 minute walking tour, we entered the world of a Louisiana sugar plantation in the 1800’s. While we read that many plantations you can visit today romanticize this period of time and focus on the beautiful homes in the plantations and gloss over the slave trade, the Whitney Plantation is dedicated to sharing what life was like for the enslaved...the ones who built these plantations from the ground up. We walked through the slave cabins, the plantation church, the owner’s grandiose house, and memorials that have since been built to honor the enslaved. At the end of the Civil War, there were nearly 400,000 enslaved people in Louisiana alone.
Our tour guide Ali shared examples of misconceptions about slavery in the US and broke down the history for us in a way that was incredibly powerful and eye-opening. He explained that he’s noticed on his tours that Americans know less about our country’s dark history with slavery than folks who visit from any other nation. He also talked about the parallels from slavery in the early 1800’s to unjust mass incarceration of African Americans today. Overall, he was incredible to listen to. The history and stories we absorbed on this day will stay close to us, and my reading list has significantly grown thanks to their bookstore.
One of the most heart-breaking aspects of the tour was hearing about the stories of the children who were enslaved. “The Children of Whitney” is a series of sculptures that represent 40 enslaved children as they were at the time of emancipation. The artist purposely did not give the children eyes, which represent the lack of hope these children had at the time. Each visitor to Whitney Plantation gets a lanyard with a card showing one of the statues you will see while you’re on the plantation. Mine was Carlyle Stewart who was 7 years old when set free in 1860.
For more information, I’d highly recommend visiting www.WhitneyPlantation.com.
As far as nightlife in NOLA goes, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of Bourbon Street! Bourbon is lined with bars and loud clubs and is definitely a big party scene. It’s fun to walk around and people watch, but we preferred Frenchman St. over Bourbon St. because that’s where you'll find most of the (awesome) live jazz. Apparently, Frenchman St. is what Bourbon St. USED to be like, before it got super touristy and rowdy. Frenchman St. is just a short 1-2 miles from the French Quarter and is the hub of live music for the city. I’d highly recommend eating tapas and grabbing drinks at Three Muses and listening to the live music there, and then walking around to see what spots peak your interest next.
Our final night in New Orleans was spent at our hotel’s Carousel Bar before seeing a concert at Preservation Hall (which we would 100% recommend!). This bar was named by Vogue Australia as one of the top 20 bars in the world. The seats rotates as you sit and the cocktails were some of the best we enjoyed in the city. No matter where you stay in NOLA, I’d definitely recommend planning to enjoy a drink or snack at this magical bar!
Until my next Getaway from LA trip - happy adventuring, my friends! xoxo
WANDER BEYOND THE CITY LINES...
As much as I love to explore L.A., it's good for the soul to getaway every now & then. Join me as I escape from the city to explore new locations, both locally and globally!
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