New Orleans is a second home for my family. Because my husband’s family lives 45 minutes away in Gulfport, Mississippi, and because I have family in Louisiana, we end up there about once a year. And every year, I make my list of places to visit and things to eat (heavy on the “eat” list). Here I share my picks with you.

1. Croissant D’Or

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While I appreciate a beignet as much as anyone, Croissant D’Or is my go-to for fun, splurgey breakfast. They’ve got an amazing assortment of French pastries and bread (and you’ll want to take some home too), as well as killer coffee. Sit in the back patio area for fun ambience and quieter backdrop. Or sit in the front window and people-watch. It’s just far enough from the heart of the French Quarter that you’ll see fewer tourists here.

2. Mulate’s

 

While my husband thinks this place is too touristy and overpriced, my son and I adore Mulate’s. Mainly for the great Cajun food and the dancing. Every night around 7, an authentic Cajun band strikes up the accordion and washboard and starts crooning in Cajun French. We’re fluent in French and can’t understand it all. The food is rich and just the right amount of spicy.

3. Gumbo Shop

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This is a new addition, since we visited Gumbo Shop for the first time last visit. My 9-year-old is a fanatic for gumbo (a thick, spicy soup served on rice, for the unitiated), and claims this to be the best he’s had.

4. Jackson Square

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Enjoy the local art hung on the wrought iron fence surrounding the little park in the center of Jackson Square. This is a classic spot for a photo of Andrew Jackson on his horse in front of St. Louis Cathedral. While I could do without the tacky silver/gold hucksters, I do enjoy the impromptu jazz performances that pop up just in front of the cathedral.

5. French Market Restaurant

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Here’s a great story. When I was very pregnant with my son, my husband and I meandered through the Quarter in search of crawfish (I HAD to have them). We were ready to give up, and stopped to rest my swollen feet. All of a sudden, I smelled them! Crawfish! I turned my head and saw a window full of boiling crawfish in the window of the French Market Restaurant. They were as good as they smelled, and we now visit every trip. If you happen to catch the stuffed flounder on the menu (it’s not always there), my husband highly recommends it.

6. The Presbytere

Part of the Louisiana State Museum circuit, the Presbytere offers a great peek at a local tradition:  Mardi Gras. There’s an amazing selection of costumes from the Zulu and Indian clans, as well as floats and plenty of history.

7. Cafe Du Monde

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Of course this top tourist spot makes my list. There’s a reason people flock to Cafe Du Monde: it’s good old fashioned fun! I learned this lesson from my parents as a teen: when it’s uber crowded, stand near a table that looks like it’s almost done enjoying powdery goodness of beignets and cafe au lait. Then stare. Hard. They’ll leave, and you get the table before someone else!

8. Armstrong Park – Jazz in the Park

We always stay in Treme, and this visit, discovered the summer jazz event, Jazz in the Park, just 2 blocks away in Armstrong Park. If the idea of an overcrowded and hot Jazz Fest doesn’t appeal to you, this is a much calmer way to enjoy local jazz. We heard several bands, including one of teenagers that beat the pants off of many adult jazz bands! There are also vendors selling food and gifts.

9. Central Grocery

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Come hungry to Central Grocery. While you can shop for unique Italian food items, you can also get great deli sandwiches. My mom’s favorite is the Muffuletta. It’s big enough to share, so don’t be greedy.

10. The Little Toy Shop Too

This toy store has a great collection of toys for all ages. It beats Target in terms of uniqueness, and makes for great gifts. My son is 9, and while he found less than younger kids would find, he still spent a good 15 minutes browsing.