visit new orleans bourbon street

All of our photos of New Orleans are of houses.

I want to use lots of cliched words about the houses in New Orleans – colorful, charming, grand, just a little off-kilter. But it’s not the colorfulness of the homes that make me want to move into one immediately.

visit new orleans white manor

Without an ounce of effort, I can picture my life in New Orleans. It involves borrowing lots of cups of sugar from my friendly neighbors, and falling in love with a previously abhorred hobby of gardening. And wearing vintage dresses and drinking sazeracs and all that jazz. Oh, and listening to jazz.

I had no idea that New Orleans would cast such an immediate spell.

Did I mention that I was able to flush out my full fledged fantasy of life in NoLa literally during one of the worst weather weekends I’ve seen in months? Impressive City of Saints, impressive.

visit new orleans

We wanted to visit New Orleans at the end of our Southern road trip because we thought we’d be ready to let loose after weeks of driving and being good guests to family and friends. We also planned our visit to coincide with an actual weekend, hoping that it would bolster our desire for drinking hurricanes on Bourbon Street.

On a warm and sultry (the perfect New Orleans word) Saturday evening, we visited Bacchanal, self-proclaimed best backyard party of the city. We’d read about this fantastic wine shop turned outdoor performance space and restaurant, which just happened to be just down the street from our AirBnb, and promptly headed down.

visit new orleans bacchanal

It turns out, Bacchanal is one of the single most magical places we’ve ever been, before or since, and we sat there, basking in twinkle lights and live music, wondering how quickly we could summon friends to join us.

The food, ordered from a open window, was delicious and had a subtle southern flare without veering into ironic. Friends and couples lingered at outdoor tables for hours, refilling their wine glasses with a new bottle purchased in the shop, or ordering just one more cheese plate.

We texted friends pictures and begged them to return to Bacchanal with us someday.

The next day, the rain arrived. We managed to get in a proper brunch at Willa Jean, a great choice from the Besh Group that hit all of the right notes, including the chunky porcelain coffee mug that I so closely associate with all things brunch. During our post-brunch walk, at our furthest point from the car, a cold rain started, increasingly heavy. Rain that chills from the inside out.

Back to the AirBnB we went.

visit new orleans willa jean

visit new orleans willa jean eggs

We meant to leave the apartment quickly to get our party on, down on Bourbon Street. We really did. But that rain. There’s nothing that makes me less inclined to bar hop than sheets of rain pelting me between stops.

So we did what any two reasonable people would do: eat beignets and drive around to look at houses.

visit new orleans julie beignet

visit new orleans drew beignet

visit new orleans cafe du monde

I didn’t expect to love Cafe du Monde, given its reputation for being the tourist capital of town. But what’s not to love about beignets, right? We ordered beignets and a cafe latte from the take out window, and wandered the covered portico attempting to eat fried dough without getting too much powdered sugar on our clothes, in our hair, everywhere.

Then back in the car for house gawking.

visit new orleans yellow

visit new orleans white house decorated

visit new orleans french flag

The houses in the Garden District were majestic, tastefully decorated for the upcoming Christmas holiday and exactly the sort of place that comes to mind when I picture New Orleans.

Thanks, Real World, for introducing me to Garden District architecture back in the ninth season of the MTV show (in 2000, if you can believe it).

That said, the Bywater neighborhood caught my eye even more. Small row houses, in a variety of arresting colors, just dripped character and charm (here’s that damn word again!). Bywater is where I plan to live and ask for cups of sugar and wear vintage dresses.

visit new orleans green house

visit new orleans peach house

visit new orleans green and blue house

(By the way, I realize that all of these house pics were taken from the exact same angle, but given the rain, I was just snapping photos from the passenger seat of the car. Classy.)

Oh, and before you think that I have no sense of horizon or straight lines, I assure you that none of the houses in Bywater have a perfectly straight foundation or window line. The peach and blue house, two photos up, was one that I especially loved because I couldn’t find a straight line on the entire house.

Before we left town, we had one final stop to make. Drew was craving a true Louisiana po’ boy, the famed sandwich that is often stuffed with shrimp but really can be filled with anything. He’s had po’ boys in New Orleans before, but hadn’t yet been to what is frequently cited as the best in town: Parkway Bakery and Tavern.

Parkway is a short drive from the French Quarter, and on a cold Sunday night, we were easily able to get a seat at the bar. Drew dove head first into his shrimp po’ boy, while I decided to try another favorite, hot roast beef. There were also fried pickles. Lots of ’em.

visit new orleans pickles

visit new orleans shrimp po boy

We can get into a debate some other time about if po’ boys are really the be all end all sandwich that people claim.

Drew would give two enthusiastic thumbs up to the perfectly crusty (yet soft!) bread, the mounds of shrimp, the perfection of simplicity. I, on the other hand, see a bunch of bread on bread, with nary a special sauce in sight to cut through the carbs. I am glad I tried the very best New Orleans has to offer because now I know that I’ll just stick to the mounds of fried pickles next time.

To each his own, I say.

New Orleans is a special place. It’s one of the few cities in the United States that really feel like its own. The midwestern capital cities may all seem like exact copycats of each other, but you would never mistake NoLa for anywhere else.

Is it the architecture? The food? The drinks? The jazz? Probably all of it. With a touch of charm.

visit new orleans: blue house


  • January 20, 2017

    My first time in NOLA was 2000 and I totally went on the hunt for the Real World cast, lol! Bummer about the weather, though.
    Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate recently posted…Blogging Basics: Tools of the TradeMy Profile

    • January 22, 2017

      Luckily, New Orleans isn’t changing too drastically anytime soon, so that means we can head back and have a proper French Quarter experience at some point in the future!

  • January 21, 2017

    Too bad the weather was so bad while you were there, sounds like you had fun despite the rain. New Orleans is a place I have always wanted to visit but I have yet to make there. Perhaps sometime this year. The food, architecture and the music all sound wonderful…the rain not so much.
    Rob recently posted…14 Ways to Save on Travel Costs in 2017- No Travel Rewards Credit Cards RequiredMy Profile

  • January 22, 2017

    I have been wanting to visit New Orleans for years, I think we have to do it on a roadtrip like you! You’re absolutely correct that this place can charm your pants off. I love what you chose to do when it was raining, drive around and look at houses! That sounds like something I would do and I love colorful homes!

  • January 22, 2017

    Mt first time in New Orleans was back in 2008 – and I have loved it ever since! The food, the culture, the gorgeous gorgeous buildings, the jazz.. you just can’t beat it, and you’re photos just brought it all back (even the ones in the rain! lol). I really need to book another trip – almost 10 years between visits just doesn’t do the city justice!
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  • January 23, 2017

    I commented in your road trip post that I’d love to go to New Orleans if I were to visit the southern part of the States. It’s mostly because of the jazz. And now, I have another reason – the houses! Like OMG, I’d be in heaven! I’d probably have to stop so many times just to take photos of those houses. LOL! Did you have any problem though with the locals there? I mean, no one was suspicious that you’re taking photos of the houses?
    RaW | Ramble and Wander recently posted…Malaysia: The Beauty of the Mah MeriMy Profile

    • January 24, 2017

      Most of the photos were taken in the Bywater neighborhood if you find yourself in New Orleans. The locals were laid back and casual, sort of a trademark of the people of New Orleans. We couldn’t resist with all of those colors, so thankfully no one really cared.

  • January 23, 2017

    Absolutely all of the above! New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in the world for all the reasons you highlighted.
    I’m so glad that you were able to see some of the beautiful homes even though the weather wasn’t ideal. Highly recommend a historical walking tour the next time you’re there.

    BTW- I suddenly have a craving for a shrimp po boy and beignets!

    • January 24, 2017

      I’m craving a shrimp po boy right now too! Hopefully we can make it back to New Orleans soon to spend more time in the city.

  • January 24, 2017

    Lovely photos. A very continental and colonial looking houses, they are. I want to go there also for the other big reason. Music!

  • January 24, 2017

    I have a problem with taking pictures of doors when I am traveling, so I totally understand wanting to take in all the amazing architecture of New Orleans! That plus eating amazing food sounds like a fun trip 🙂
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  • January 25, 2017
    Megan Jerrard

    We also loved New Orleans, and our highlight too were the houses. It was such a blast just walking and exploring the neighborhoods, – because it was the kind of setting you see in films or even maybe a fairytale. Such a charming town – hard not to use superlatives and cliches when describing NOLA!

  • January 25, 2017

    I have to say I’ve honestly never had any desire to visit New Orleans. I’m not a partyer, and it just hadn’t appealed to me. But your photos of Bywater have definitely made me reconsider. I love the architectural details, and the colors! Great post!
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    • January 25, 2017

      You certainly do not have to be a partier to enjoy New Orleans. The food, from local po boy joints to high end fine dining, is stellar. The French Quarter is great to walk around, no cocktails needed. And it has some amazing museums, especially the WWII Museum near the Central Business District. Lots to do without booze!

  • January 25, 2017

    I’ve never been to the States, but always been mesmerised by the streets of perfect houses you see on TV! I’d gladly spend a rainy afternoon driving through, admirin these gorgeous houses!