About a month ago, over dinner on a particularly stressful week, some girlfriends and I decided to plan a little getaway to New Orleans around Halloween. I'd been once before (with Raina and Mandy about seven years ago) and had always wanted to return, so it seemed like as good a time as any. Since Raina used to live there, she played tour guide—planning a perfect trip packed with some of the best food, drinks, live music, shopping, and sightseeing around the city. Here's what made our four days in the Big Easy so much fun:
4:00 p.m. Kick off the trip with Sazeracs: We arrived at our hotel, dropped off our bags, and met back downstairs at the Ritz Carlton bar for Sazeracs, the official cocktail of New Orleans. It quickly became one of my favorite drinks after my first time in the city back in 2011 and I've been ordering it ever since (though half of our party couldn't get it down since it packs quite the punch). We lounged for a while, eating truffle fries, deviled eggs, and homemade chips in an onion dip before going upstairs to change for the evening.
6:30 p.m. Walk to dinner in the French Quarter: It was a beautiful night so we walked to dinner, down Bourbon Street, which is the quickest way to acclimate to the city. Though it's not exactly my scene, the lights, loud music, and people sauntering in and out of bars does immediately make you feel like you're far from home. For dinner, we went to Longway Tavern, a quaint French bistro with fantastic food and a beautiful courtyard. We ate under the lights and had the radishes with butter and caviar, chopped salads, chicken and steak sandwiches, the bolognese (insanely good and so inventive), and the chocolate mousse. We got daiquiris to go (a must as you wind through the streets since you can walk around with alcohol) and went over to Preservation Hall, a historical spot to hear live New Orleans jazz. We sat in a beautiful, old room—with a couple of fans hanging from the ceiling and a seven-person jazz band that brought all of us to tears with their music.
10:00 a.m. Grab an iconic breakfast: We woke up to rain, so we took our time leaving the hotel, which felt very luxurious. Then we bundled up (a mistake since it was wet outside, but also hot and muggy) and walked over to Cafe Du Monde for beignets and chicory coffee. It's probably about the most touristy thing you can do in the city, but well worth the hype.
11:00 a.m. Visit an over-the-top art gallery: After our indulgent breakfast, we made our way over to Magazine Street to visit one of Raina's friends, Ashley Longshore, whose gallery is filled with incredible, hyper-realistic art like five-foot tall lollipops, oversized bedazzled lipsticks, a sequined couch, etc.
12:00 p.m. Do some shopping on and around Magazine Street: We continued walking around the area, popping in and out of little shops. Our favorite one was Pilot and Powell, an incredibly well curated high-end boutique where I scored a sequined Rachel Comey skirt (and drooled over some architectural Marni earrings and an Edie Parker satin evening bag). Since we were all still full-ish from our breakfast, we decided to walk a while over to Krewe, a New Orleans-based sunglasses shop where they treated all five of us (seriously the sweetest!) to new eyewear.
2:00 p.m. Have po' boys with local beer: I received a lot of recommendations for places to eat and one of the spots that came up multiple times was Parkway Bakery & Tavern. It's a no-frills shop with the best sandwiches, which I can confirm since we ordered nearly everything on the menu. My favorite, by far, was the golden shrimp po' boy, which I had with a beer on tap and Zapp's Voodoo Chips.
3:00 p.m. Walk around the French Quarter and stop for a sweet treat: We strolled around inside Voodoo Authentica, a tiny shop that sells voo-doo related items before walking over to Leah's Praline's for a little treat. We left with some praline, brittle, chocolate-covered Oreos, homemade Snickers (so good), and peanut butter cups for our walk back to the hotel. Once we returned, everyone but me went to the sauna/steam room, but since I'm not a big fan of either (probably because I'm constantly dehydrated), I opted to hang back to do a little work and rest.
6:00 p.m. Braid bar followed by dinner: One of the perks of having a professional hair stylist on the trip is that things like impromptu braid bars can happen on a whim (thanks, Ash!). Before our dinner, we piled into Raina and Ashley's room and took turns getting our hair done. And without any coordination, we all opted for long-sleeved dark dresses, which definitely only added to our witchy vibe. We went to Compère Lapin, a Creole-meets-Caribbean restaurant run by 'Top Chef' finalist Nina Compton. The space was gorgeous, as was the food, and we opted to share a bunch of smaller plates—the veggies were a stand-out—before heading back to our hotel for board games.
9:00 a.m. Skip breakfast in lieu of a leisurely stroll: By Friday morning, after many indulgent meals/snacks/drinks, we woke up feeling a bit heavy, so went for a long walk along the water. New Orleans is obviously such a fun, nighttime city, but there's something lovely about the early morning when it's quiet and still.
12:00 p.m. Go for Halloween Brunch at a classic institution: Raina managed to snag us a reservation for brunch at Arnaud's (a million thank you's to Robert LeBlanc, owner of Longway Tavern, among several other fantastic New Orleans-based restaurants, who got us in), which is nearly impossible unless you're a well-connected local. We'd picked up masks at Walgreen's and questioned whether they'd be a little too much for a daytime meal, but as soon as we walked in, we felt immediately underdressed. Though I'd heard so much to be true, New Orleans leans into a holiday and Halloween is no exception. Most of the tables were occupied by coordinated groups of women in some of the best costumes I've seen (we pretty much decided on the spot that we'll be attending again next year with much better get-ups). We drank Bloody Mary's with our meal, which ended with Bananas Foster, a slew of other desserts and watched impressive performances by the hostesses to 'The Monster Mash' and 'Thriller.'
3:00 p.m. Buy monogrammed bags for ourselves as keepsakes: After brunch, we headed back over to Magazine Street where we visited Leontine Linens, a darling shop filled with the prettiest linens, robes, and accessories, all of which can be customized with shades and monograms. We got coordinated eye masks (thanks, Mand!) and silk jewelry cases in candy colors that I can't wait to arrive in a couple of weeks.
5:30 p.m. Visit a wine-and-cheese-shop-meets-outdoor-restaurant (with live music): Of all the things we did, I most wish we had a spot like Bacchanal Wine in L.A. The concept is simple (and so so appealing)—in the front, you visit the curated wine shop where you buy what you want and then bring it back with you to the charming patio in the back. We also chose several cheese and meats from the shop, which they transformed into a beautiful charcuterie plate that they brought out with homemade bread, olives, and nuts. There was a band playing under the string lights, surrounded by communal tables where we pulled up chairs alongside another group with which we became fast friends.
8:00 p.m. Go on a ghost tour in the French Quarter: Given my love of anything scary/spooky/unsettling, I was really excited about our ghost tour. New Orleans has so much history, built on a swamp with a rather unsettling past, so it was a must on our list. We hired Ghost City Tours to do a private tour, which was nice since we weren't joined by any intoxicated strangers and everything our guide told us about was 100% historically accurate. It was also a nice way to walk off yet another full day of eating and drinking... though we did end up having one last meal at the hotel upon our return (for club sandwiches and fries) before calling it a night.
8:30 a.m. Take one last walk for coffee and gifts: We were extremely fortunate that the weather, for the most part, was ideal the entire time. Aside from a couple hours of rain, the rest of the time was cool, crisp, and clear. The final morning was no exception and we walked to French Truck Coffee for some caffeine (and a bag of Ethiopian coffee for G) before winding in and around the streets for the next hour or so. We also stopped at Nola Kids, a cute shop filled with great gifts for kids, where I picked up a few treats for Sloan: a shell that transforms into a mermaid (a staple, naturally), sequined pouches (I needed one too), a heart-shaped crayon, and plaid dress for the holidays. Our final stop of the trip was to Central Grocery, the home of the original Muffuletta, a classic Italian sandwich, to take home with us. We ate them with Zapp's Voodoo chips once we got through airport security as perhaps the most perfect way to end our food tour of New Orleans.
We left with tighter pants, full hearts, and a reminder that there's nothing quite as special as a long weekend away with friends.