Enjoy 2 days in the city of Jazz: a first time visit to New Orleans

Enjoy New Orleans like a local

Enjoy New Orleans like a local …sorta

Your first time visit to New Orleans: Getting There

This will be a great glimpse if it’s your first time visit to New Orleans. I am not a NOLA native, but I have spent countless hours in this city. We had a mini vacation open up for us so we decided to spend 2 days in New Orleans, LA. We drove three hours from Pensacola, FL to New Orleans (NOLA). The drive was sunny but there were state troopers lurking to catch unknowing speed demons. By the time we arrived to NOLA it had begun raining and we had driven through 4 states! (That sounds crazy, I know!) Yay for interstates!

Before any trip, I recommend checking out these useful free travel apps to plan a smooth vacation! As with any place we go, we live as the locals do.  We booked an airbnb to be closer to the action, near Frenchmen street. Our home was  a 1900s shotgun house with 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a small entry room with a rustic fireplace. It was quite cozy. The interiors were decorated with “junk” such as broken hair clips, tools, screws/bolts, etc. but were ALL placed together to create art. This art was found on the walls, the table tops and the window sills, I LOVED it! This house was meant to be in New Orleans.


Parking, King Cake, Jackson Square, & Coffee 

Here is how to experience New Orleans like a local…sorta. We arrived to the French Quarter and paid $18 to park for 3 hours *gasps*. Parking is not cheap here! We usually do NOT pay to park but rather walk everywhere, but since it was raining and we were limited on time, we drove. Our stroll through the French Quarter consisted of puddle jumping and dodging rain drops. This city below sea level does not take long to dampen. We needed coffee to fight the rainy blues and ducked into PJ’s coffee house. PJ’s is the Starbucks of Louisiana, there are franchise throughout the state. After coffee and King Cake we headed towards Cafe Du Monde and Jackson Square

What is King Cake? Pure Deliciousness! “Originally, king cakes were a simple ring of dough with a small amount of decoration. Today’s king cakes are much more festive. After the rich Danish dough is braided and baked, the “baby Jesus” is inserted. The top of the ring or oval cake is then covered with delicious sugar toppings in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. The tradition of King Cake Parties have evolved over time, and the “lucky” person who receives the slice of cake with the baby is asked to continue the festivities by having the next King Cake party (or at least purchasing the next cake for the office).”(http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/kingcakes.html)

1.Jackson Square-I was pleased to see that Jackson Square was filled with artists this day. We admired artwork hanging on the wrought-iron gates, saw costumed couple posing for pictures, marveled at the street magicians, and got jiggy with it for the street musicians and dancers.

Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras Parades, Frenchmen Street

2. Bourbon Street-Our walk continued towards Bourbon Street where the Krewe De Cork Walking Parade was about to begin. The rain let up and the fun was about to begin!

Bourbon street is always quite the sight, day or night. If this is your first time visit to New Orleans, you MUST visit Bourbon! We met guys with hats made of wine corks, caught beads as big as fists, and passed women wearing nothing but nipple glitter. Yep, you read that correctly. To make it even better, they had signs that read “Face Painting”, however, their lack of clothing “painted” a much different scene. (See what I did there?)

Also, on Bourbon, is Sinners and Saints, Channing Tatum’s bar!

We had an early dinner at Mona Lisa’s pizza shop and ordered the DaVinci. This was a thin crust pizza topped with bacon, artichoke, and Italian sausage! *drooling* The crust was perfectly crispy having cooked in a brick oven. YUMMY!

3. Frenchman Street-Nightfall brought more rain but we ventured on. For your first time visit to New Orleans, you must listen to jazz! We decided upon Frenchmen street for the jazz halls and artists’ quarters. We found live music at a bar called 30*/90* or 3090. Marina Orchestra was jamming through their music set and got the whole bar dancing.

Their sound is unique, “A EUPHORIC BRAND OF ROCK N’ ROLL STEEPED IN LATIN AMERICAN, CARIBBEAN AND AFRICAN MUSICAL STYLES” . We indulged in local stouts into the late night.

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Metairie, Haydel’s Bakery, Baby Cakes

The next morning brought with it SUNSHINE and much needed quality time for Michael and I. It is so nice to be on our own time frame. This is why we are working so hard to build an online business, so that our time is ours to control! Anyway, this is for another post.

4. Ruby Slipper-We decided on breakfast at the original Ruby Slipper for a mid morning Brunch. Afterwards we drove into Metairie, LA to get Michael an early birthday present. I would not go to outside of the city if this is your first time visit to New Orleans. NOLA will keep you busy!

5. New Orleans Baby Cakes-We arrived at the baseball stadium and found the perfect hat. Once known as the Zephrys, this minor league team is now called the Baby Cakes. It is literally an angry baby with a bat,  popping out of a king cake! (look at the hat he is wearing) Michael collects minor league hats so I let him indulge on this one. It is quirky as hell! He looked sexier than ever though with his low man bun and fitted cap!

6. Haydel’s Bakery-While we were in Metairie, we stopped by Haydel’s Bakery off of Jefferson HWY for king cakes. At $15 a cake we bought two and felt we were stealing it! I am also not ashamed to say that we ate both cakes within 4 days!

French Market, French Quarter, Beignets, & More Coffee!

7. French Quarter-On the ride back to NOLA we watched traffic slow to a crawl as the afternoon parades were setting up to roll. We parked again, this time paying $30 total (only for convenience), and ventured back to the French Quarter and the French Market.

8. French Market-The French market is an open-air flea market filled with voodoo, crafts, local flavors, and hand-made clothes.

While on Frenchmen, I also picked out my birthday gift. Hand made earrings (as pictured above) and I met the artist herself of Twisted Earth Artistry. Each layer is hand painted and hypoallergenic. Shop local to enjoy New Orleans like a local! FYII would stay in the Garden District upon my visit.

So, if this is your first trip to NOLA, here are some food you must try in New Orleans! Of course, no visit is complete without beignets at Cafe Du Monde. Cafe Du Monde is a MUST for a first time visit to New Orleans. I don’t care that it’s touristy, it’s damn good!

What is a Beignet? Straight amazingness! According to Cafe Du Monde *ahem the Experts*, “Beignets were also brought to Louisiana by the Acadians. Today, the beignet is a square piece of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar. They are served in orders of three.”

9. Cafe Envie-Late afternoon hit and it was time for COFFEE! We indulged in a latte at Cafe Envie which has beer drafts at one end and an espresso maker at the other. New Orleans always finds a way to sneak the booze in but this is how you Enjoy New Orleans like a local!

Before leaving town to go home, we stopped by the water where the Natchez steamboat was docked and took in the city-scapes as the trolley line chugged along, touristy but still a nice sight at sunset.


New Orleans is ALWAYS a fun time because you can make it as mild or wild as you want. I’ve had the chance to get to know NOLA very well over the years. Here are more suggestions!

  • Run a 1/2 marathon with the Rock N’ Roll Marathon Series
  • Go to the VooDoo Music Fest
  • Run the Red Dress Run (in a red dress, of course)
  • Brewery hop between Crescent City brewery and Nola Brewery
  • Celebrated a best friend’s bachelorette party on Bourbon Street! (or just go to drink, I mean, who needs a reason?!)
  • Indulge in a Voodoo shop
  • Get a psychic reading

This trip was relaxing with no big plans to keep. Total money spent for the trip between lodging, gas, food, and birthday gifts came to ~$370.

Have you ever wanted to visit New Orleans? Tell us in the comments below!

Be Well and Travel Often!


Enjoy New Orleans like a local

first time visit to New Orleans

*This is not a sponsored post, all opinions are my own**

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About Author

Maegan and Michael are Adventurous Southerners who share their world journey and approach to living the travel lifestyle. You can expect humor and lighthearted banter blended with REAL travel stories and tips. Maegan is a registered dietitian, while Michael has an excerise science background, but both are outdoor lovers, and revel in the beauty of cultures unlike their own. Now, Maegan and Michael are working towards expat life through remote work. Join the adventure. Do you love to travel? Does your full time job or career prevent you from living the life you dream of? This is the duo to follow. Feel free to contact us if you have questions.


  1. Elise says:

    Have always wanted to visit New Orleans! And the food sounds divine! Will definitely make it one day!

    1. maegan89 says:

      With so much to do, you will not be disappointed!

  2. Fun! It’s been years since I’ve to New Orleans. The food and music were definitely my favorite parts, especially seeing the band at Preservation Hall.

    1. maegan89 says:

      I’ve never been to preservation hall but would love to catch some big band music there!

  3. Sheena says:

    A really nice post. Keep it up! Hope to go there someday.

    1. maegan89 says:

      Thank you! It is always a fun time!

  4. This is what I call a very useful and detailled article! Thank you, it has some very nice tips!

    1. maegan89 says:

      Oh thank you! My aim is tell my experience by giving fun snippets for others to try when they are planning their trip!

  5. Shari says:

    Never have been to NOLA, but it sounds like an interesting place to explore. Thanks for the tips!

  6. NOLA is a great place for coffee! I like Cafe Envie, Cafe du Monde, and even PJs. My mom is from Metairie so I’m glad that you went there. I didn’t know the Zephyrs have changed their name to the Baby Cakes and started selling strange hats. Have you seen the New Orleans Pelicans King Cake Baby mascot? It is truly the stuff of nightmares.

    1. maegan89 says:

      Yeah apparently they changed it within the last year! No, I have not seen the pelicans mascot! Googling now haha! (*just saw it* WHAT THE HELL ARE PEOPLE THINKING! VOODOO!) hahaCheers!

  7. This looks like such a fun trip!! I’ve always heard lots about New Orleans (because of Mardi Gras and everything) but I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve read an actual trip experience there. You make me want to go so badly!! Also those King Cakes sound SOO good. I’m a sucker for sweets/quirky markets so it sounds like New Orleans is right up my alley. I’d be curious to try a psychic reading too… why not?!

    1. maegan89 says:

      The food is heaven! We did not each much Cajun food on this trip but that is some good eating too! haha

  8. Jennifer says:

    Wow – looks like you had a great time. All the food sounds amazing! YAY for eating so much cake, haha. Can’t wait to see this city myself and experience Mardi Gras!

    1. maegan89 says:

      King cake is my vice bc it only comes once a year haha

  9. Liza says:

    New Orleans looks like an awesome place! Can’t wait to go there one day)

    1. maegan89 says:

      I’m sure you will love it! There is something for everyone!

  10. A friend of mine recently visited New Orleans for Mardi Gras and it looked like so much fun! Reading about the king cakes and French Market makes me want to go and explore the city 🙂

    1. Maegan says:

      Yay! I love NOLA. There is something for EVERYONE!

  11. Marta says:

    Sounds like such a fun couple of days! I agree that the Beignets at Cafe Dumond are not to be missed- pure deliciousness!

    1. Maegan says:

      Yes they are!

  12. Sounds like you had a gf great couple of days! I did a similar trip with a friend of mine who was a local. So much to see in a couple of days. I can’t wait to go back. I did get a reading. So worth it!

  13. […] street musicians-Night one brought us cheap sandwiches, wine, and jazz music which reminded me of New Orleans, a funky city close to my hometown. What great energy and fun was had by […]

  14. Courtney says:

    Love this guide!! I want to visit New Orleans sooo much!!

    1. Maegan says:

      Yay! I am so glad you found it helpful!

  15. […] 4. Enjoy 2 days in the city of Jazz: for a first time visit to New Orleans […]

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