I first fell in love with New Orleans’ southern hospitality after a trip to their annual Jazz Festival in April and couldn’t help but return to uncover more of the city’s charm. While it’s known for its historical French Quarter, 24-hour party atmosphere and fried food, I was keen to discover a more healthy side to The Big Easy.
Turns out there is an emerging wellness and creative scene where doing, seeing and buying local is encouraged as the community continues to rebuild after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. Here are my tips for the best healthy things to do, see, visit and eat while you ‘re there. (‘Til next time, NOLA. It’s been real…)
This historical, luxury hotel was formerly the location of two adjoining 19th century French Quarter houses. Now a colonial-creole townhouse it features a lush courtyard – where coffee and biscuits (scones with preserves) is served all day – and antique appointed rooms. When not relaxing in your four-poster bed, visit the ‘honour bar’ for a thirst-quencher and climb a chandelier-lit spiral staircase to the lace-worked wrought iron balcony and take in the atmosphere of Chartres Street below.
This buzzy, contemporary seafood restaurant in the warehouse district is a must-dine. Fresh crab claw, shrimp toast, Lousiana oysters by the dozens and dozens, salted bread balls – don’t miss this mouthwatering menu and if you dare, wash it down with a Ginger Julep.
Located in the French Market down by the mighty Mississippi River is this southern style café that offers gluten-free and vegan options and prepares food low on sodium and sugar. The crab cake poh boy (a southern-style sandwich) and vegan shake will boost your energy after a long day walking the Quarter.
You’ll line up to get in, but the local sidewalk trumpeter, belting out tunes like ‘Amazing Grace’ will keep you entertained. Once seated in this New Orleans institution all there is to order is beignets (pillowy fried donuts splashed with icing sugar) and café au lait (coffee with hot milk). Thank me later.
After one too many beignets (or bloody mary’s!), a workout is in order. Wild Lotus offers classes for all levels, in both uptown and downtown locations. I opted for a mid-level asana practice that incorporated the seven chakras. Natalia the instructor tailored each pose to the body’s seven chakras and encouraged chanting to accompany each movement. Located in The Healing Centre where you’ll find galleries, fitness classes, voodoo stalls and more.
Some say it’s Halloween everyday in New Orleans, close to true if you want to uncover ghosts, vampires and gravesites – you’ll find a tour tailored to whatever spooks you. But with limited time I decided on the three-hour Creole and Crescent bike tour with Free Wheelin’. Laura our guide clued our group of 10 in on stories of old as we rode from the French Quarter to the Marigny and Bywater neighbourhoods and onto City Park, St. Louis cemetery where famous voodoo priestess Marie Laveau is buried in one of the above-ground crypts, then back through Tremé, America’s oldest African American neighbourhood and the birthplace of jazz.
NOLA is all about the tunes. Incredibly talented performers you’ve never heard of belt out the blues, kids bang drums on street corners and brass bands jam out to appreciative crowds in the street. Bars, pubs and clubs offer live music day and night. It really is a non-stop 24-hour street party – if you want it to be. My tip is to avoid tourist-ridden Bourbon Street and hit up Frenchman Street where locals kick back in bars like The Spotted Cat and DBA.
Spend a day wandering around the hip Bywater district where you’ll feel as if you stepped onto a movie set. Boldly-hued bungalows, corner dive bars, vintage stores and colourful characters eager to start a conversation all mesh together to make for one interesting day out. Here you’ll find emerging artists like contemporary woodworker and home goods designer General Public, local arts, crafts & vintage store Bon Castor and vinyl emporium Euclid Records.
It’s hot, y’all. It wasn’t even summer when I visited yet the temps were into the 90s – that’s mid 30s in Celsius. There’s not much relief around but I did discover The Country Club on my last day thanks to an insider tip-off. With a bar, food and poolside revelry, it’s just another secret the locals don’t want you to know about. Dive in!
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