As a French Quarter local, I often dream of opening a salad place.
It would be open Sunday, Monday and Tuesday—the days when most other places are closed—and would be the antidote to all the Crawfish Monica, Hand Grenades, Mango Mango slushies, muffalettas, fried chicken, fried okra, fried shrimp and fried hand pies.
I haven’t built this restaurant in the real world yet. However, I do have places I deeply enjoy in this city—when all the calories and cocktails have been overly consumed, and I long for something fresh, but still delightfully New Orleans.
From museums to outdoor pedicures, kayaking to putt-putt, here’s the ultimate itinerary for visiting Nola without only visiting a bar or restaurant.
- Custom wig fittings at Fifi Mahony’s
You absolutely have not done the French Quarter properly until you’ve stopped in Fifi Mahony’s and had a wig session. These are no garbage plastic one-size-fits-all Halloween wigs. These are works of art, from fooling your family that you got a chop and went brunette to shocking everyone with a towering up-do in cotton candy pink, featuring sprinkles and ice cream cone accoutrements.
Each season, Fifi’s displays their new, elaborate creations in the windows, and they also sell a great array of sparkly costume jewelry, headpieces and makeup. A second location exists in the Bywater, with a full-service salon inside. Prices start at just $40 and go upwards, depending on how dramatic you want to get.
934 Royal Street
Fifi’s Bywater Beauty Parlor
3212 Dauphine Street
- Mani-Pedis on a Magazine Street porch
With your very own personal swing chair on the porch, dip your toes in warm soapy water as the manager hands you a complimentary Champagne. The people watching is divine, as shoppers stroll down Magazine. Southern Swings is the perfect place to find a little pampering in the safest way possible. Masks are required, temperatures are checked and the prices for gel, acrylics, nail art or mere simple pedicures are very reasonable. Walk-ins are welcome but if you’d like an outdoor swing, it’s best to make a reservation.
Southern Swings Nail Bar & Spa
4422 Magazine Street
- Scour Dr. Bob’s in the Bywater
You can’t miss Dr. Bob’s Folk Art Yard, as you drive down Chartres, through the Bywater, hugging the levee. Look for the giant dinosaur made of red metal and the blinking road signs directing you into the art-strewn gravel parking lot. Inside, Bob Shaffer’s pieces are displayed floor-to-ceiling, many bearing his signature quote: Be Nice or Leave. From wooden painted frames enclosing seven-foot alligators made out of painted bottle caps to colorful cartoon renditions of famous Jazz musicians, there’s art big and small, for one and all.
Dr. Bob’s Folk Art
3027 Chartres Street
- Go golfing in City Park
Somewhere exists a video of me, falling over, clutching my stomach laughing on my birthday in July. My boyfriend had attempted one hole at City Putt six times, eventually shanking the golf ball so hard, it ricocheted off a metal grate and flung into a small river nearby.
City Putt isn’t hard by any means, but it will challenge you enough to remain fun. Place a few bets, appreciate the artistry of the designs—focused on Nola moments like alligators and carousel horses—and soak in the beauty of City Park all around you. They do sell drinks (Ahem. It’s cans of White Claw).
City Putt at City Park
- Kayak through historic Bayou St. John
Kayak-iti-yat is just one of a handful of companies who will get you into a kayak and out on the waterways of New Orleans. We like their Big Easy Bayou Tour, because it combines a sunny day of light kayaking for two hours, with an architecture tour of the historic Bayou St. John neighborhood. This area is home to grand homes dating to the late 1700s, including several Frank Lloyd Wright designs and plenty of West-Indies styled structures. In the warmer months, you can also do a twilight paddle.
- Soak up seriously amazing Sazerac history
Ok, you’re probably going to want to have a drink after visiting this place, but the old adage is true, “No great story ever started with someone having a salad.” The Sazerac House is truly is one of the coolest museums in the city, if not the entire country.
Guests are welcomed to a gleaming bottle wall with over 1,000 bottles and a gift shop with apparel, aprons and cocktail kits. Beyond it is the Distillery Exhibit, where a 500-gallon capacity still produces Sazerac Rye Whiskey, viewable from two stories through a glass front facing Canal Street. Upstairs, the tour begins where you’re transported back to the 1800s, through incredible modern technology. Using hidden motion sensors, mirrors are activated to reveal a series of animated films and historic advertisements in one area, while in another you can sit down for an animated bar experience. Sampling cocktails at sporadic stations is also part of the experience.
“We are truly an exploration of New Orleans history, as told through the stories of its cocktails,” says Miguel Solorzano, General Manager. Admission is complimentary, but be sure to make reservations online.
The Sazerac House
101 Magazine Street
- Take a Swamp Walk at the Barataria Preserve
From downtown, it’s only 20 minutes by car to the Barataria Preserve in the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve. A visitor’s center welcomes you past the car park, and you can pick up information from brochures and park attendants, before heading out on several swamp walks. Wooden boardwalks wind you at water level on each, moving you beneath dripping Spanish Moss, past Cypress groves, squirrels, butterflies and, yes, snakes and alligators–most often visible in the warmer months.
Lookouts and picnic tables provide spaces to sit and quietly enjoy the swamp and there is also great signage along each route, explaining the history of the area, fun facts on flora and fauna and plenty of alligator statistics.
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve