This post was originally published on ThreeSixtyEight. Author Kenny Nguyen is CEO of the digital experience agency based in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Collision, one of America’s fastest growing tech conferences, is in its second year in New Orleans and we couldn’t be any happier. Check out our CEO Kenny Nguyen’s guide for those new to Collision and New Orleans (who are we kidding, it’s for the locals as well).
Fast growing conferences can be overwhelming (especially if you’ve never been in the city or been to the conference before). Collision, a tech conference created by those who put on Web Summit, certainly qualifies as overwhelming, as it is a vast gathering of some of the world’s greatest minds, in the city of New Orleans, no less.
We had a blast last year but definitely learned some lessons on how to make our experience even more fun. For the sake of making this post easy to read, here are six tips to maximize your experience at Collision followed by a curated list of local food/drink/fun recommendations for New Orleans first-timers (or those that have been here before but just need a reference guide).
1. Download the Collision app.
Collision developed an app that allows attendees to make a schedule and connect with one another through a messaging function. With so many people and things to do, it’s extremely helpful. Once the app is available and updated with all attendees, we definitely recommend utilizing the app to garner new connections.
A way that we used the app to meet new attendees was to message people/speakers a list of recommendations of things to do around the city along with a little invite to swing by our after-party for fun (hint you can send them this guide blog). Nothing like a little southern hospitality to help make our state seem like the ideal place to host the conference!
2. The real fun starts after hours.
Yes, we get it, you’re tired after a full day of listening to speeches and networking. However, you can suck it up. Real networkers go all day (our executive team went through three nights straight of less than 5 hours of sleep). If you really want to get the true Collision experience, hang out after the conference at the pub crawls and after parties to meet some interesting people.
Here are some tips to stay in the loop:
- Join the pub crawls. It’s basically bar-hopping led by locals that ends at a single location. I’ll be leading one myself this year on May 1st for Collision! For more info on pub crawls, check this out or sign up to be automatically added to a pub crawl group.
- Keep posted on the Collision blog and app for event updates. Collision posted this helpful blog post last year to help attendees keep in the loop on the official after parties. Also, keep on the lookout for updates to the app. It’s updated frequently by the Collision staff with things to do at night.
- Don’t be afraid to ask around. After the GNO after-party at the Howlin Wolf last year, we just asked around to see where everyone was going and ended up bar-hopping across Fulton Street. New Orleans is a friendly inviting city, and trust me, you’ll always find a place to party. Look for the after parties that aren’t official to get some insight on the New Orleans ecosystem (for example, some local companies last year like Revelry hosted a crawfish boil that was awesome).
- Check out our after-party jointly at Cellardoor. We’ll be around celebrating Collision all week. During this time, we’re hosting an after-party on May 3rd with the Young Entrepreneur Council, one of the nation’s fastest growing entrepreneur groups. RSVP here! Last year we had over 100 people show up and had a wonderful time.
See here for more photos of the afterparty hosted by us and the YEC last year.
3. Hang around the media areas to meet your favorite speakers.
This is sketchy, but there’s a media room where a lot of the speakers go for relaxation and to meet with the press. After some talks, I noticed speakers walking out of there that I wanted to connect with. As long as you’re friendly and sincere, the speakers don’t seem to mind if you approach them and ask questions.
4. Bring chargers. Dear god, Bring chargers.
You will be on your phone most of the day/evening and it will die. Bring a charger and external battery to keep you going throughout the day (outlets can be scarce). If you totally forgot your charger, our client Mobilequbes may be there to save you with their kiosks that dispense batteries to charge your mobile devices.
5. Know why you’re there ahead of time.
We’re not exaggerating when we say Collision can be overwhelming. One of the most important tasks for an attendee is to figure out ahead of time why you are there and your game plan. Is it for networking? Is it for investors? Business development opportunities? Look through the schedule, sift through the attendees/speakers list on the app for possible connections, find the right investor, and schedule your meetings ahead of time. Our goal last year was to recruit speakers for Assembly Required, our community economic development conference series. Using the app, we scheduled meetings ahead of time with potential speakers and built relationships with them. This year, we have several already locked down for Assembly Required that we met through Collision. For Collision, you don’t rise to the occasion in planning, but you go as far as you prepare.
6. Book a meeting space.
This year, Collision is allowing you to book meeting spaces where you can unwind, work, or have your own meetings with fellow attendees. We definitely recommend doing this as you also now have a designated place to relax. Book meeting spaces here. We have a space completely booked out on May 3rd, so feel free to come say hello (or join us if we have an open chair)!
Now for the local stuff…here’s our list of what to do when you’re in New Orleans hanging out for Collision and Jazz Fest!
Here are some restaurants we recommend nearby the Collision venue (chosen based on location and how fast you can get in and out):
- Cochon Butcher – If you like delicious meat and sandwiches, this place is for you. Gets very crowded so we recommend getting there right when it opens.
- Maypop – One of Michael Gulotta’s new restaurants that specializes in Southeast Asian Cuisine. Definitely worth a check out.
- Stumptown Coffee – A great coffee shop in the Ace Hotel to handle some meetings.
- Part and Parcel – Go here for the T.A.S.T.E – it will blow your mind!
- Nine Roses Cafe – Everyone’s favorite Vietnamese spot is now in the french quarter.
- Josephine Estelle – Located nearby in the Ace Hotel. Very delicious trendy Italian food and fresh pasta.
- Balise – Great modern New Orleans food.
- Company Burger – Great burgers. Enough said.
- Seaworthy – A great oyster bar for those who like them raw. Awesome vibe as well.
- Peche – Donald Link’s seafood restaurant that’s killing it. Try the brussel sprouts.
- Domenica – Ok, I know you’re thinking pizza, what the heck? But trust me on this one. They do it very well. Also by Alon Shaya/John Besh!
- Borgne – A fancy seafood joint by John Besh. Pretty good for lunch and creative Cajun/Creole joint.
- Cellar Door – Great, beautiful place to get drinks and food near Loyola Ave. This is also where we jointly host our after-party with the Young Entrepreneur Council.
Here are some favorites that require an Uber, but are worth checking out:
- Kin – This is my favorite restaurant in New Orleans when it comes to ramen and chicken wings.
- Turkey and the Wolf – Amazing pothead type of food…very good stuff!
- Blue Oak BBQ – A new hotspot for BBQ down in Mid City.
- Dat Dog – A New Orleans staple for delicious hot dogs and crawfish etouffee fries. Found on Freret and Magazine.
- Mopho – A vietnamese-american fusion restaurant near mid-city. Very good chicken wings!
- Willa Jean – This restaurant just opened in the new Paramount property downtown. Very good bakery and restaurant by John Besh’s team.
- St. Roch Market – A food hall with a lot of great different vendors.
- District Donuts – This place has very good doughnuts with creative flavors.
- Angelo Brocato – A very delicious local Italian bakery with amazing gelato. Can be very packed, but definite date spot
- Sobou – A good brunch spot for families. Get the steak and eggs!
- La boulangerie – A great bakery on Magazine with amazing bread and pastries.
- Sucre – A dessert place where you can get delicious pastries and gelato.
- Pho Orchid – Pretty solid pho place on St. Charles.
- Dong Phuong – Very good Banh Mi that’s nationally regarded. A bit of a drive, but every bit worth it.
For trendy/romantic night, here are restaurants that are more intimate to try:
- Mais Arepas – Ever had a Spanish fried cornmeal sandwich? Sounds weird, but you can’t miss this place in St. Charles.
- Cavan – Very trendy american fare in an awesome venue uptown.
- Compere Lapin – A new french dining restaurant in downtown by Top Chef’s Nina Compton that’s very approachable and delicious.
- Three Muses – Great food and jazz! Slings amazing pork belly.
- Avo – Another hot spot for trendy Italian food. Get the short rib lasagna!
- Square Root – A molecular gastronomy experience.
- Coquette – Very good creole modern dining. Also very good brunch menu.
- La Boca – A ridiculous steakhouse that can hold it’s own anywhere.
- Cochon – If you like meat, this place is for you.
- Herbsaint – Donald Link’s flagship restaurant that specializes in seasonal southern-French cuisine.
- Jacques-Imos – Fun New Orleans food with a loud music atmosphere.
- Shaya – Alon Shaya’s new mediterranean restaurant that is killing it on Magazine street. Very hard to get a table so I recommend a reservation.
- Commander’s Palace – An obvious New Orleans staple. Try the turtle soup.
- Arnaud’s – Another beautiful and obvious New Orleans staple french type of restaurant.
- Cure – A good mixology bar that also serves food.
- August – A John-Besh staple restaurant that pushes out amazing french dishes with new techniques.
For specific New Orleans staple food recommendations:
- Oysters – Please get Charbroiled Oysters at Drago’s or Acme.
- Beignets – Beignets at Cafe Du Monde. These are a staple of the French Quarter.
- Boudin – For really good Boudin and sandwiches go to Cochon Butcher.
- Debris – For amazing roast beef debris, go to Mother’s. The ham is also legendary.
- Poboys – For amazing po-boys go to Mahony’s, Domilise’s Po-Boy & Bar, Killer Poboys, Parkway Bakery and Tavern, or Crabby Jack’s.
- Snowballs – For the best snowballs of your life, go to Hansen’s.
- Crawfish – Please do yourself a favor and go to Bevi Seafood.
For fun stuff to do:
- Ogden Museum of Southern Art – This is a really cool place downtown that has rotating art exhibits.
- Magazine Street – Go shopping on Magazine Street as they have many local vendors and restaurants.
- Shopping downtown – Check out national retailers on St. Peters and local stores on Royal near the French Quarter.
- French Market – The market is weekends are really fun when you want to buy local wares and such. Down at the French Quarter.
- Break Dancers – Go see the break dancers on St. Peters. during the weekend.
- Jackson Square – Go visit Jackson Square and visit the church St. Louis Cathedral.
- New Orleans Museum of Art – The NOMA at City Park is really fun and has rotating art displays.
- Riverwalk – Walk along the revamped riverwalk in downtown New Orleans.
- Audubon Zoo, Aquarium, Insectarium – Basic but can’t be missed: the zoo, insectarium, and aquarium here in NOLA are really nice too if you want to do cutesy stuff.
- Jazz Music – Go to Preservation Hall for some good Jazz music (Jazz fest is also happening during this time).
- WWII Musuem – The WWII Museum here is nationally famous if you’re into history. This is actually one of the coolest museums I’ve ever been to period.
- River Cruise – Ride the steamboat or ferry over the water to soak in good weather.
- City Park – Take a streetcar from downtown to city park.
- Audubon Park – Hit this place up if you want to go for a picnic. You can get there through Magazine street.
- Brewery Tour – Take a brewery tour at NOLA Brewing Company.
For you to get turnt up:
- Bar Hop downtown – Go to Frenchmen street in the French Quarter. Bourbon street is cool, but super touristy. If you do go to Bourbon, go to Pat-O’s for an awesome dueling piano bar and hurricanes.
- Go to Roosevelt hotel and get a Sazerac!
- Go to the Carousel bar near Bourbon street.
- Go see a show at the House of Blues, Howlin’ Wolf, or Tipitina’s.
- Go party at Masquerade at casino Harrah’s.
- You can always do voodoo or cemetery tours as well, but that’s mostly tourist filled.
For additional reading, here are two other posts that can help you better master Collision (let’s be real, you can’t master Collision but you can certainly get your fill).
- Welcome to New Orleans by Collision – contains insights of New Orleans’ entrepreneurial scene. Posted last year but a good read with great recommendations in companies to check out, reporters to chat with, and food.
- Launchpad’s Guide to Hacking Collision – this is a neat guide similar to this guide by coworking space Launchpad.
We look forward to seeing everyone at Collision and if you can, please be sure to RSVP to our after-party jointly hosted with the Young Entrepreneur Council at Cellar Door here. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions, recommendations, or things that I may have missed to make this post better at Kenny.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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About the author: Kenny builds partnerships with powerful brands and shares his entrepreneurial tips with the community through outlets like TEDx, Forbes and Huffington Post. He co-founded Big Fish Presentations after hearing the “worst presentation he had ever seen” and now leads ThreeSixtyEight in its mission to help brands rediscover their creative confidence.