I know it's probably illegal for a New Orleans writer to suggest an activity that avoids eating and drinking, but as a girl headed to the beach in less than two weeks on a family vacation, I've had bikini season on my mind. It seems like I'm always eating and drinking here in New Orleans, which is normally fantastic, but like most girls I know, I sometimes get into a "health mode" which means I eat lots of kale and go to yoga class more frequently in an effort to look bikini-friendly.
To keep up with my health kick, I've been brainstorming a few things to do in New Orleans this spring that do not involve indulging in beignets and booze. It's a pretty short list because, let's be honest, we live in New Orleans and food is one of the best things about living here. But just in case you're worried about your bikini bod, too, here are a few ways to have fun in New Orleans without a restaurant bill.
Drive Fast Cars
I was lucky to be invited to try out the Exotic Driving Experience at NOLA Motorsports Park a few weeks ago. If you've never been to NOLA Motorsports Park, it's located in Avondale, La., a bit of a drive from New Orleans, but not too bad. The Exotic Driving Experience is not a New Orleans business, but its staff travels to different tracks around the country and lets people drive really nice cars at really fast speeds.
Fellow blogger Morgan Packard and I drove out to Avondale one morning to try out the Exotic Driving Experience. We sat through a mini class about being safe while driving the cars – Ferraris, Audi and Lamborghinis, oh my! – then walked with the rest of the group out to the track. I was extremely nervous because ever since totaling my mom's car at the age of 15, I've been a cautious driver. However, there's not a lot to be worried about during the driving experience because it's on a closed course and you have a friendly instructor sitting in the passenger seat who tells you when to brake.
I was allowed to drive the Ferrari around the track six times. I was a little sad when my turn was over because I was finally getting used to the car and I wanted to go faster. I ended up driving 97 miles per hour, which I thought was decent until I heard Morgan went 136 miles per hour. Maybe I need to try again.
The Exotic Driving Experience is coming back to NOLA Motorsports Park April 25-27 and May 24-26. There are also some dates in the fall. You can read more about it here.
Support Local Fashion Designers
New Orleans is definitely an up-and-coming fashion city. With NOLA Fashion Week and Fashion Week New Orleans (yes those are two different fashion weeks), there are many opportunities throughout the year to see the work of local designers, such as Jolie and Elizabeth and Stephanie Young. I've been to the last two seasons of NOLA Fashion Week and really enjoyed both. Fashion Week New Orleans is coming up this weekend, March 20-24, so if you're in the mood to see some runway shows, you can buy tickets here.
Do Lots of Shopping
One of my favorite activities in any city is shopping. If you attend Fashion Week New Orleans this weekend, I can guarantee you'll want to go shopping, too. My favorite shopping spot in New Orleans is Magazine Street because it has some popular chains, but it's mostly full of local boutiques. I like parking my car on one of the side streets in the Garden District for a little walk and a few minutes of pretending that I actually live in the Garden District.
On a shopping side note, how excited are you that H&M is FINALLY coming to New Orleans in the fall?? I am pumped.
Watch March Madness
It's time for March Madness, everyone. I'm cheering for my alma mater, Indiana University. I know New Orleans doesn't have a local college team in the tournament, but it's still fun to fill out a bracket and watch the games. Go Hoosiers!
Watch 'Mad Men,' Think About New Orleans
Watching TV is not very New Orleanian, but I've recently been hearing a lot about the show's New Orleans connections. First, there's Bryan Batt, a New Orleans native you'll recognize from "Mad Men." He'll be at the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival coming up this weekend, March 20-24.
I also randomly saw "Mad Men" star Elizabeth Moss at the Lakeside Shopping Center a few months ago. One of my friends recently saw her at Whole Foods. Does she live here? Maybe she's filming a movie here? Anyways, these are the thoughts I'll be pondering while watching the show when it premieres April 7.
I wrote a story about paddleboarding for the November 2012 issue of New Orleans Magazine. I really enjoyed paddleboarding, even though I did it in pouring rain. I'm hoping to rent a paddleboard again soon.
Like I said, my list of food-free New Orleans activities is quite short. New Orleanians live to eat and drink, so maybe I just have to let go of my worries and embrace it. Sorry, bikini bod.