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20 things I learned on a girls' weekend in New Orleans

liz lamoreux

Earlier this month, I gathered with six of my girlfriends from boarding school for a girls' weekend in New Orleans. All seven of us hadn't been together in about 9 years, which is a really long time.

And it was awesome.

I totally fell in love with New Orleans and had so much fun catching up with these dear friends.

Here are a few things I learned while on our trip:

1. The beignets at Cafe du Monde are worth it. Big time. There really is a reason why everyone tells you to go there. Here's what you should know: They only take cash. The service is brisk in speed and temperament. The line moves faster than you think it will. You will get powdered sugar everywhere. And your eyes will water with joy because they taste so good. (I wish we'd gone every single day.)

2. When it comes to hurricanes that come in a glass, remember two things: First, as my friend Melissa's friend Anthony says, "You should share one. Two, you're committed to the night. Three, you're getting carried home." And second, here's what I say, "Honey, only drink the hurricanes that have the words fresh juice in the description. The rest are going to taste like cough medicine."

3. Brunch at Brennan's is a must. The food was worth swooning over. The service was wonderful. The servers brought all seven of us our brunch at once in a little parade of delight. I'm still thinking about my biscuit. And the Carribean Milk Punch someone had that was so good and I want some right now. Be sure to make reservations.

4. Bourbon Street is as crazy as you imagine. And it has some of the best people watching I've ever experienced. Do go there at least once. Do go dancing (and maybe even dance right in the middle of the street). Do stick together. Do carry tissue in case you need toilet paper. Do pay attention to the reality that people will toss beads at you even if you keep your clothes on (so keep your clothes on sweetie). Do go to Bourbon O if you're looking for some awesome music, a more mellow vibe, and the best window seat ever to watch the crowd go by. Do say yes to a ride in a rickshaw back to your hotel at 2:30ish AM even though it costs more than a taxi. (You will remember all that laughter and silliness forever and ever amen.) Do not try the grenades even if they are buy one get one free. 

5. Honey, wear flats. These streets are crazy. Not even. You will be walking a lot. No one will be looking at your feet. And when you're out late (and you're gonna be out late), you will be so happy you're not in heels. (And if you're dealing with some awesome plantar fasciitis like me, these are the best - I have them in black.) 

6. Go to Lafayette Cemetery and take a tour with Carla. She is beyond awesomesauce. I learned so much and wish we all did things the way they do things in New Orleans. 

7. It is totally okay to take a breather in the afternoon and head back to the hotel for a lie down, especially if you've only had two beignets and an iced coffee and the group is about to go on a haunted ghost tour with the promise of 2 for 1 hurricanes at the end. You will be very glad you gave yourself that gift when you're up at 2:00 AM later (hashtagwateryoursoul).

8. The bartender at your hotel will know the best restaurants around. Mine directed me to Red Fish Grill, and I ate the best sandwich there - the blackened red fish melt. It was one of the few restaurants around open in that in between lunch and dinner time. I ate in the bar and watched a delightful young man shuck about 200 oysters.

9. Let yourself set down the old stories. And they will come up as they do when you spend time with people who have known you for 25 years and are like family. Show up as you and let yourself just have fun. And commit to the promise of being better at staying in touch. Texting is your friend.

10. Do ask your friends who have been to New Orleans for recommendations. This is how we ended up eating two incredible meals away from the crowds: one at GW Fins and one at The Franklin

11. Head to Jackson Square! It's gorgeous and there are quite a few shops and restaurants nearby. Be sure to wander through the artists who sell their work on the square.

12. People are really friendly and helpful. And I found this everywhere we went - from the airport to restaurants to our hotel and on and on. Now this might not apply to your experience with tourists or people visiting for college football games (or it might - the young man in the elevator was very polite when he said "Oh you're still young ma'am" when replying to my comment of "It's okay. I was young once too" when he apologized for being a wee bit obnoxiously drunk).

13. If you're only visiting for a quick weekend trip, you do not need a car. Uber is awesome. It is easy to get a taxi from the airport (the line moves very fast, promise) and from your hotel. And the streetcars take you to the major destinations (and they are so much fun - but be sure you have cash!).

14. Flying out late on Sunday so you can go to a spa before your flight can be an unexpectedly delightful idea. (So this one isn't really specific to New Orleans but it is going to be my new rule for travel whenever possible.) Three of us had later flights so we spent our last afternoon at the Spa at the Ritz Carlton. The massage prices were reasonable, especially for the Ritz, and you could use the other amenities in the spa. We had lunch there. And we went home a bit more rested and relaxed, which was a very good thing.

15. There is so much history everywhere you look. We really only scratched the top layer with this trip. I want to go back to learn even more, probably doing a bit more research ahead of time and maybe even renting a car just so I can explore around New Orleans more. (I still stick by #13.) 

16. Frenchmen Street is a lot of fun and a bit less wild then Bourbon Street. Lots of live music. We stumbled across The Business playing, and I became a bit obsessed with their lead singer Whitney. I might have said out loud, "She is now one of my spirit animals." They were so much fun that I actually suggest you try to find out if they're playing when you're in town. So. Much. Fun.

17. If you love art, handmade goods, and connecting with makers, the Frenchmen Art Market is a must. I had a delightful conversation with Katie Schmidt, the founder and designer of Passion Lilie, and plan to spotlight her in the {i heart makers} series soon. Love love love her designs! 

18. You should have your tarot cards read or dip your toes into some of the woo woo goodness when you stumble across it. I didn't have my cards read by the lady in Jackson Square who was gorgeous with her crystals set up beautifully on her table and her kind face and I totally regret it still. 

19. There really is music everywhere. All kinds of music. So good for the soul. Make time to stop and really listen. Look the street musicians in the eye and say thanks (and even donate a few bucks). Soak it up while you're there. 

20. You will stay out later than you have in years, but honey, you will remember you have that move to have fun like you're 22 again and it will be totally worth it. (And remember #7.) As my friend Melissa says, when you're visiting New Orleans, "Come from a place of yes and keep saying yes. Then, don't be afraid or embarrassed to say no thank you."


A few more notes about our trip:

We all came in Thursday evening and left Sunday. This meant we had two full days together. Staying that third night to have those two full days is the best advice I have when it comes to a girls' weekend. Friday to Sunday, especially when flying, is not enough time to really sink into your time together and to explore a new city.

We stayed at the JW Marriott, which was a nice hotel. However, there was at least one fraternity and one sorority from Florida there for the big game. As in the entire fraternity was staying at our hotel. That was #awesomenotawesome. There was also construction, which meant one restaurant was closed, and a few other things that were unexpected. That said, the customer service was really really good.

The girls did enjoy the Ghost Tour they went on but they all agreed it was a bit long. If you can find one that is less than 90 minutes, go for that one. The Cemetery Tour was just 30, and that was perfect.

And we also decided where we're going next: Nashville in 2017. This gave us all something to look forward to when the sadness of all of us living so far away from one another set in as the weekend drew to a close.

I don't want to wait until 2017 for my next trip though and am already looking through Pinterest for ideas for my next girls' weekend (and I still need to write a post about my "mama entrepreneur weekend" in Napa this past Spring).

For my next trip, I'm thinking staying here on the West Coast just so that I can spend less time traveling and more time exploring.

Where do you recommend?