Why New Orleans Is Worth an Extra Day in Port
From its earliest days, New Orleans has been a port, above all else. Serving as the gateway between the Mississippi and the Caribbean, New Orleans has developed an irresistible blend of music, history and magic, with a mouthwatering cuisine that can’t be found anywhere else on the planet. You could spend weeks exploring the Big Easy but if you’re cruising out of New Orleans, you probably have just one day.
So whether you decide to extend your stay in this port city or cram a full day of fun into your day in port, here’s a look at some of the must-see spots and must-do activities when you cruise out of New Orleans.
If New York is the city that never sleeps, New Orleans is the city that sleeps in late. Which makes early morning the ideal time to start exploring this pedestrian-friendly city. While it gets notoriously hot and humid during the day, the quiet morning air still has a lingering trace of the evening’s chill.
As the street performers and tarot readers start setting up in the morning’s golden light, head to Café Rose Nicaud for a cup of coffee. Cafe Rose Nicaud has a long history of providing NOLA with some much-needed morning sustenance.
Dedicated to Rose Nicaud, the first known coffee vendor in New Orleans way back in the 1800s, Cafe Rose Nicaud is famous for its signature breakfast Rose Benedict — a buttery biscuit laying in a pool of cheesy rosemary grits, topped with alligator sausage, arugula, tomatoes, avocado, eggs and even more cheese. It’s what eggs Benedict wishes it was on its wildest days.
Keep your evening open for adventures and opt for a delectable lunch in a luxurious atmosphere at the upscale Bayona. Renowned by Gourmet, Bon Appétit and The New York Times for their mouthwatering fusion of French, Mediterranean and Creole cuisine, Bayona’s prime location in the French Quarter has housed restaurants since the early 1800s. It’s catty corner to one of the buildings said to have inspired the timeless song “The House of the Rising Sun.”
The appetizers are nearly impossible to resist, with their luxurious take on the Cajun style. I ordered the savory eggplant caviar and sipped on one of Bayona’s specialty vintage cocktails. I went with the Stormy Morning, combining the delicate taste of elderflower with the unique flavor of violet liquor, all intermingling with the fizz of champagne. The sweet, subtle finish lingered on the tongue after each tasty sip.
For my main dish, I went with more classical fare and tried the shrimp and grits, a Southern staple transformed into a delicacy. Bayona’s version features whole shrimp simmered in spices, with just a hint of heat, artfully arranged atop a bed of the smoothest grits you’ve ever had, blended with savory pimento cheese. Which makes two meals with grits in one day. But when in the South, eat like a Southerner, I always say.
Stretching across the banks of the Mississippi, the French Market is the place to go for all things New Orleans. From souvenirs and handcrafted art, to spices and a wide variety of hot sauces to give your food back home that NOLA heat, the French Market and the surrounding shopping district is a shopper’s paradise.
Second-story balconies are a tradition in New Orleans, and many bars and restaurants offer tables for patrons with a bird’s-eye view of the French Quarter that can’t be beat.
While usually really expensive to sit in during Mardi Gras, the rest of the year, balconies are fair game, and a stunning chance to take in the view while enjoying a drink. With the sidewalks packed with people, you’ll be relaxing in style and sipping on a Sazerac while taking it all in from above. You’ll see that there’s never a dull moment in New Orleans.
If you’re going all the way to New Orleans, you have to enjoy some of the French Quarter traditions. Try the licorice-flavored green fairy at the Old Absinthe House or a hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s. Or head to the famous Café Du Monde, perfect for a pick-me-up. While imbibing some energizing chicory coffee, a regional specialty, nibble a plate of beignets. Yes, it’s OK to ask for seconds.
With a historic focus on music, Frenchman is the place to go for live music of every variety, though the emphasis is firmly on jazz. The Apple Barrel is where I always choose to end my night of adventure, with live jazz and blues performances every night of the week. The incredible acoustics mean there’s not a bad seat in the house, and have made it a hot spot for the best musicians in the South. Plenty of artists have released albums recorded from the Apple Barrel’s historic stage.