Tips + Trends

Early Riser? What to Do in New Orleans Before Everyone Else Gets Up

Orange Couch (Photo: Joshua Brasted)

New Orleans is definitely a late-night town — “last call” at bars is virtually nonexistent — with many nights out here creeping into the morning hours. But if you’re one of those people who likes to see the sun rise on purpose, you can experience a serene side of New Orleans not many people get to see. You might even get some work done or fit in a workout. Here are our favorite neighborhoods to play when the rest of the city is asleep, and what to do in each:

  1. French Quarter. The best time to be in the French Quarter is early in the morning, after the revelers have retired and before the tourists get up. Start at Woldenberg Riverfront Park along the Mississippi River, where there’s a path for walking, running or biking and plenty of benches to take in the views. Now would be a good time to hit up the nearby Café du Monde, the coffee and beignets tourist haunt that still has locals’ approval, before the crowds descend. If you’re there on a Tuesday or Thursday that’s when the French Quarter street cleanings happen (usually from 6 a.m. to noon). Admire the beauty of the neighborhood as the newly-cleaned streets glisten in the early morning sun. If you want to get some work done, CC’s Coffee House is open at 6 a.m. If it’s a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday, you can end your morning with a yoga class at one of the light-filled galleries of the Cabildo.
  2. Bywater. The formerly quiet part of town down the Mississippi from the French Quarter has exploded in recent years as an artsy enclave of hip restaurants and colorful houses — best viewed on a sunny, quiet walk through the ‘hood. Head to Crescent Park and climb up the steep, Instagram-worthy bridge (we’re serious: it’s quite steep. There’s a flat entrance further down the road if you don’t feel like climbing or need handicapped accessibility) for a pretty sweet view of the sun rising over the city. Once you’re in the park there’s some perfect views of New Orleans’ skyline. After some time in the park, head on over to Orange Couch (open at 7 a.m.), known for its namesake modern orange furnishings and a killer cafe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee). If you’re there early enough you can snag a seat in the small cafe.
  3. Mid-City. City Park, which during the year had wildflowers, tulips and other bright blooms, is a popular place for early morning running, biking and sunrise watching. Morning Call, another beignet and coffee place, is open 24 hours if you want to enjoy a New Orleans breakfast while enjoying the park. If you want lighter, healthier fare — or to get some work done — head down Esplanade Avenue to Fair Grinds Coffeehouse (open at 6:30 a.m.), which serves fair trade coffee and breakfast pastries (including vegan options). It has plenty of seating space, including some outside tables.