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Pursuit of it All

Exploring New Orleans: 3 Must Visit Spots for Your Mini-Vacay

I love a good mini -vacay, don’t you? When you are in a lull or don’t have the time or budget to spend on a prolonged getaway, a long weekend can really serve as a source of fun and excitement. My husband and I love to steal away whenever possible to do a little exploring – be it day trips to a nearby city or hopping on a plane to explore a new area. Recently the stars aligned and we were able to steal away with a fun group of friends to visit the iconic city of New Orleans.

We rented an Airbnb with the crew near the French Quarter and proceeded to spend our next few days exploring, eating and drinking our way through the unique atmosphere that is New Orleans.

Now I have had the opportunity to visit the New Orleans a few times and while I don’t consider myself an expert, I certainly feel like I am familiar with the area and what it has to offer. But despite having visited before I still always find new and unique experiences in this great destination. One of my favorite things about NOLA is the fact that there always seems to be fascinating history or more depth associated with even the simplest experiences. I love a good discovery!


3 Spots I Fell in Love With During My Trip to New Orleans


1. The Pontchartrain Hotel

The Pontchartrain Hotel is a unique establishment that has been a fixture in New Orleans since 1927.  Situated smack in the heart of the historic Garden District, the Pontchartrain is a short distance from some of NOLA’s most popular attractions, including Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, the Magazine Street shopping district and, of course, the French Quarter.

Noted guests of the Hotel Pontchartrain have included Cole Porter, Richard Burton, Henry Kissinger, Tennessee Williams, Rita Hayworth and The Doors. Tennessee Williams worked on his play A Streetcar Named Desire while actually staying at the Pontchartrain. It is prominently featured in the AMC Mayfair Witches series.

Photos via The Pontchartrain Hotel

One of the things that made me fall immediately in love with the hotel is its design. The interior is a mix of classic and modern styles with luxurious rooms and suites and a rooftop bar that offers incredible views of the city. While we didn’t stay at the hotel on this particular visit, we did spent quite a bit of time in Jack Rose living room sipping sparkling rosé under the Ashley Longshore portrait of Lil Wayne. (IYKYK) So relaxing!


2. Napoleon House 

Napoleon House is a historic landmark located in the heart of New Orleans. This notable restaurant has been serving up classic New Orleans food since 1914 and is a must-visit spot for travelers. (Especially if a great vibe is your love language.) 

Napoleon House was built in the early 1800s by a wealthy merchant named Nicholas Girod with the intention of it serving as a residence for Napoleon Bonaparte in exile. As fate would have it, Napoleon died before making the journey to New Orleans and the building remained unfinished. It wasn’t until 1914 that it was transformed into the restaurant it is today.

Because the building’s original purpose was to serve Bonaparte, much of the decor in the restaurant reflects that history. The walls feature portraits and the bar is made from the same marble that was intended for his tomb. The building’s old-world charm is evident throughout, from the classic architecture to the antique furnishings and faded plaster walls. You’ve also gotta love the fact that patrons are able to leave messages across its walls. (Which I also did, of course.) Napoleon House has been featured prominently in movies like JFK, Runaway Jury and Now You See Me. 

I highly recommend ordering what they are best known for –  classic Creole and Italian-inspired dishes. We tried the red beans and rice and both the “Muffuletta” sandwich and salad which were delicious. 

Their signature cocktail – a favorite of locals and visitors for over a century –  is the Pimm’s Cup. (Our friend Tom tried it and reported it to be fantastic.) I was obsessed with their Bourbon Milk Punch, though. Made of Benchmark Bourbon, sugar, vanilla, half & half and sprinkle of nutmeg, it was so refreshing and dangerously good!

3. Bar Manilou

For an unforgettable cocktail experience with a unique spin, I highly recommend visiting Bar Marilou, a charming hidden gem right in the heart of the French Quarter. This speakeasy is famous for its amazing handcrafted cocktails and immaculate vibes. (We found out about it on TikTok, believe it or not!) 

Bar Marilou used to be part of the historic City Hall Annex, and now it’s found a home in the former law library. With its deep red walls, fancy fabrics, cool art and dark wood, it is impossible to not be totally captivated. The main bar area is quite intimate and only fits up to 100. Guests who are staying at Maison de la Luz have an exclusive way in through the reception area and a secret spot that can hold up to 12 people hidden behind a bookcase door. (So fun!)

Bar Manilou in New Orleans

Bar Marilou’s menu is all about French cuisine, featuring unique cocktails, curated natural wines, craft beer and tasty small plates. We fell in love with the Pommes Marilou (crispy layered potatoes, crème fraîche, bowfin caviar, chives) and the Bar Burger (wagyu, barneveld blue, pickles, lettuce, onion). The real stars were the drinks, though. I highly recommend the La Luz Espresso and The Bungalow Mystery.

You can find Bar Marilou in the Warehouse District of New Orleans. It’s a good idea to book ahead because this cool spot fills up pretty fast.

4. BONUS: The Magical Garden District 

Whenever I find myself in New Orleans, I always make sure to carve out a good chunk of time for a visit to the Garden District. There’s just something about the area that I find truly enchanting. During my latest trip, we dedicated a good deal of time to wandering around, admiring the history and sheer elegance of the homes that line these streets.

Now, I get it, most folks head to New Orleans for the wild times in the French Quarter, and that’s a blast, no doubt. But me? My heart belongs to the magic of the Garden District. Think tree-lined streets, lush greenery and stunning mansion homes. It’s like stepping into an oasis, a world away from the hustle and bustle of Bourbon Street.

The backstory on the Garden District is pretty interesting. It started in the 19th century between 1832 and 1900 and was home to a bunch of plantations. But as time passed the land got divvied up.

The district’s layout was actually the brainchild of Barthelemy Lafon, an architect with a knack for planning. Initially each block held two houses surrounded by impressive gardens which is how the Garden District’s catchy moniker came to be. As the years rolled on, however, more houses popped up as lots were split creating a charming and eclectic mix of 19th-century mansions rubbing shoulders with later Victorian-era homes.

My personal love affair with New Orleans began in college with the discovery of Anne Rice novels (Interview with a Vampire, Mayfair Witches, etc.) so some of my favorite spots in the Garden District center around my love for her fiction and her life.

For example,1239 First Street is one of a few homes that Anne Rice lived in and owned in New Orleans. It is considered by fans to be “The Mayfair Witch House”, because it was the inspiration for a location in her The Witching Hour, Taltos and Lasher novels. The house is also known as “The Rosegate House” because of the rosette pattern of its fence. I personally think the pattern looks more like skulls, but to each his own.

If you happen to be a fan of AMC’s Mayfair Witches series (based on the Anne Rice novels) and visit the Garden District, know that they weren’t able to film inside her actual former home, but instead shot that series in the Soria-Creel mansion on the same block at 3102 Prytania Street. (We were a bit confused and it took us awhile to figure that out when we were out exploring.)

Another interesting Anne Rice location is the St. Elizabeth’s Orphanage Asylum, now known as The St. Elizabeth Condos located at 1314 Napoleon. This was her last New Orleans home. (47,000 square feet, by the way!) It has a fascinating history having operated over the years as an asylum, orphanage, tourist attraction and museum for fans. She restored the property and hosted vampire balls at St. Elizabeth’s before it became developed into what is now luxury condominiums.

I always wanted to go to one of the balls and was super-regretful that I didn’t attend while they were being offered. Regardless, the property is still amazing to view when touring the Garden District.

If you are a fan of the American Horror Story TV series you will want to head over to the Buckner Mansion. (1410 Jackson Avenue) You’ll recognize it as the exterior of Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies. The mansion, which dates back to 1856, is 20,000 square feet, stands three stories tall, has three ballrooms and is reputedly haunted. I’ve been told you can rent the place for a night to see if that’s true. It is now firmly on my bucket list of haunted things to do.

For me, it wouldn’t be a visit to the Garden District without visiting Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. (Just a half-mile southwest of Buckner Mansion.) This cemetery was established in 1833 and is one of the oldest cemeteries in New Orleans. Unfortunately it hasn’t been open to visitors for a few years now and is still undergoing repairs but you get the vibe from just looking through its gates. I’ve visited and taken tours before it was closed to the public and was blown away by the history and creepiness.

If you are planning on taking a trip to New Orleans and want to visit this area, the easiest way to get to the Garden District from the French Quarter is the St. Charles Streetcar line. It covers a distance of 13.2 miles between the French Quarter and the Central Business District of New Orleans. We took the streetcar a few times during my last visit and it was a great experience! Fun fact: the St. Charles streetcar is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world.

As you can tell, our long weekend getaway to New Orleans was nothing short of magical. From the historic charm of The Pontchartrain Hotel to the flavorful delights of Napoleon House and the hidden gem of Bar Marilou, our adventure was filled with unforgettable moments and discoveries. And let’s not forget the enchanting Garden District! Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or simply seeking a unique experience, New Orleans has something for everyone. So, if you’re planning your own mini-vacay or looking for a destination that promises excitement and wonder, consider the vibrant and captivating city of New Orleans. It’s a place where every visit feels like a fresh adventure waiting to be explored. Safe travels!


Blogger. Marketer. Deadline juggler. Flibbertigibbet. A fan of all things glitter and girly, Jen’s passions include gabbing with girlfriends, running marathons, sipping (okay, gulping) cocktails and waxing poetic about the tortured soul of Professor Snape. Rarely found without her nose in a book (or her iPhone), she acknowledges that her level of geekery might not be for everyone. Consider yourself warned. Her ultimate goal in life is to be a professional wanderer of the internet or Amy Poehler’s BFF. (Both totally accomplishable, of course.)

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