If you like fun, then you will like New Orleans. Period.
It should go without saying that rarely does anyone need to be persuaded to take a NOLA weekend trip--I mean, the food, the good-time culture, and the warm weather should be enough--but thanks to some new famous residents and untapped indie shopping, there's a whole other reason to head down...regardless of whether or not it's Mardi Gras time.
While the city is overflowing with tourist staples such as Cafe Du Monde, Pat O'Brien's, and pretty much every bar on Bourbon Street, there's a slew of under-the-radar gems that you should know about when you want to venture off the French Quarter. So after you've gorged on beignets, sipped some daiquiris, eaten a shrimp po'boy, and finished your Sazerac, consider this your to-do list:
UAL, 518 Chartres Street: Meet the best-kept designer secret of your life, United Apparel Liquidators. This jam-packed shop comes stocked with brand new items from labels like Rag & Bone (!), Isabel Marant (!!), and sometimes even Chanel (!!!), all at 60-percent to 90-percent off. With only a couple of locations in the South, it's a high fashion fantasyland that's almost too good to be true.
Exodus Goods, 518 Conti Street: Solange has been one of New Orleans' biggest proponents these days, whether she's taking street style shots in front of candy-colored storefronts or helping with the new clothing store, Exodus Goods. Founded by sisters Darlene and Lizzy Okpo (of New York label William Okpo) along with Armina Mussa, the sunshine-y boutique sells brands from Brooklyn, Africa, and everywhere in between. Oh, and a bonus? The shop itself is an Instagrammer's dream.
Swap Boutique, 5530A Magazine Street: Smack dab in the Magazine Street drag is this consignment store gem. We found an Elizabeth & James pencil skirt for $30, and a Calvin Klein Collection slipdress for $40. Watch your wallet....
Krewe du Optic, 800 Common Street: Inspired by the city's different "krewes," each handmade frame from this local eyewear company is unlike anything you can find elsewhere. With careful details like different tinted lenses, metal bridges, and flattering shapes like the rounded "Lennon" or the upswept cat-eye, they're both classic and totally fresh.
The Country Club, 634 Louisa Street: This pool-slash-bar-slash-restaurant is nestled in the Bywater, off the beaten tourist path--which makes it awesome, if you ask us. Chill out in the (um, clothing optional) backyard amidst the palm trees or go for one of the rowdy brunches for a seriously unexpected NOLA experience.
Bacchanal Wine, 600 Poland Avenue: It's a hipster wine bar that feels way more like Williamsburg than Louisiana. You can buy wine (and cheese!) up front, then head out to the backyard and drink while listening to live music.
Kingfish, 337 Chartres Street: Solange brought Beyonce and Jay-Z here when they visited--so obviously if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for us. Whether you play it safe with scallops or go big with octopus, the food here is incredible.
Commander's Palace, 1403 Washington Ave: Located in the picturesque Garden District, this bright teal restaurant is a NOLA staple. Go for the James Beard Award-winning chefs, stay for the 25 cent martinis...yes, seriously.
Antoine's, 713 St. Louis Street: End your New Orleans visit on an indulgent note by getting dressed up for a fancy brunch at Antoine's. This legendary French-Creole restaurant is 174 years old and was a key location during the Prohibition. So if you're lucky, the waiters can take you on a tour through the trap doors, secret rooms, and establishment's awesome history.
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