Novel New Orleans: Beignets, Bars, and Books in the Big Easy

Historic, distinctive, and notorious, with a rich literary past and a celebratory spirit, New Orleans has a character all its own. Home to pirates and plantation owners, voodoo queens and vampires (or so the legend goes), it’s no wonder this city has inspired writers for centuries. And you’re in luck, because with the city commemorating its tricentennial, there’s never been a better time to visit.
From Moon Travel Guides Novel New Orleans: Beignets, Bars, and Books in the Big EasyHistoric, distinctive, and notorious, with a rich literary past and a celebratory spirit, New Orleans has a character all its own. Home to pirates and plantation owners, voodoo queens and vampires (or so the legend goes), it’s no wonder this city has inspired writers for centuries. And you’re in luck, because with the city commemorating its tricentennial, there has never been a better time to visit. After a full day of seminars, networking, and panels, get out and explore the Big Easy in all its unruly splendor. Start in the heart of the city, the French Quarter, to hit top historical and literary sites—it’s just a 12-minute drive from the Convention Center. Jackson Square and the adjacent St. Louis Cathedral are must-see landmarks in the Quarter. Stroll through the square and admire the unique architecture of the cathedral, which has been destroyed and rebuilt twice. You’ll definitely want to linger in the stacks at Faulkner House Books, a new and used bookstore in the former home of William Faulkner tucked away in nearby Pirate Alley. In addition to books by or about the author, they carry plenty of new titles and classics—snag a New Orleans-set novel while you’re there. Head down the Alley to the Cabildo, where the Louisiana Purchase was signed, then exit to the right for the Pontalba Buildings, which claim to be the oldest continuously rented apartment buildings in the United States. A unit at the corner of Saint Peter and Chartres was once home to the novelist Sherwood Anderson, who hosted the likes of Somerset Maugham, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Carl Sandburg in his salon. Tennessee Williams also called several spots in the city home—you can stake out his longtime residence at 1014 Dumaine Street, on the western outskirts of the Quarter near Louis Armstrong Park. Get the creative juices flowing at the Carousel Bar & Lounge at Hotel Monteleone, where you can sip Sazeracs in swivel seats once occupied by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Truman Capote. These authors are among the many who stayed there, wrote there, or (in some cases) simply drank there, and their books are now displayed in the lobby. Afterwards, it’s a quick walk to Crescent City Books to browse rare and out-of-print titles, if that’s your cup of tea. With its gorgeous 19th century mansions flanked with palm trees and ornate wrought-iron fences, the Garden District has served as the setting for atmospheric novels like Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Both authors drew inspiration from their time in the District—check out Rice’s most famous residence at 1239 First Street and Chopin’s family home at 1413 Louisiana Street. Shop for quirky gifts and vintage clothing on Magazine Street, peruse art galleries, or ride the St. Charles line of the trolley, which has been in operation for nearly 200 years. Don’t forget to swing by local favorite Octavia Books for a book break on their serene patio—there’s a good chance you’ll stumble upon an author event. No trip to New Orleans is complete without indulging in its legendary food scene. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, go to Jacques-Imo’s café for huge portions of Cajun and Creole favorites (but expect a wait) or try the noisy and popular Drago’s Seafood Restaurant for classics like stuffed lobster with a Louisiana twist. Splurge on an elegant Creole dinner at Galatoire’s, Commander’s Palace, or Muriel’s Jackson Square. For casual lunch options that stay true to the culture, hit up Gumbo Shop or Johnny’s Po Boys, and be sure to head to Pat O’Brien’s for their signature hurricane in a souvenir glass. Be warned—it packs a punch! Several culinary creations boast New Orleans as their birthplace, and you can’t go wrong with any of them. Eat Oysters Bienville or Oysters Rockefeller where the dishes were first created, at Arnaud’s and Antoine’s Restaurant (respectively), or try the famous bananas foster at Brennan’s, where it was invented in 1951. The flaming tableside presentation of the dessert is a quintessential New Orleans experience. If you’re craving a late night, listen to live jazz at the no-frills Preservation Hall, or take a walking ghost tour in the French Quarter for a look at the city’s dark side. You can always soak up the revelry on Bourbon Street and finish off the evening with a cocktail at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, which has been serving drinks since the 18th century, or binge on the famous beignets at Café du Monde, open all night. There’s plenty to do during the day, too, once you’ve recovered from your evening with a strong cup of chicory coffee. If you don’t want to venture far from the Convention Center, Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World offers a look at parade floats and the artistry behind them. The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum is an offbeat spot packed with artifacts both mystical and macabre. For a more traditional museum experience, check out the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, with thought-provoking sculptures and live music on Thursdays, Louisiana’s Civil War Museum, or the National WWII Museum. Want more insider tips for exploring this amazing city? Keep planning your visit with Moon Nashville to New Orleans Road Trip.
Moon guides travelers to unique, authentic experiences. Our authors provide local perspective, deeper context, and practical tools to empower our readers to travel more consciously. We promote independent businesses, environmental and cultural sustainability, and diversity. Our office is in Berkeley, CA and our authors call places all over the world home. Follow us @moonguides on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.

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