We did a lot of research about places we wanted to see, and most importantly, the food we wanted to eat so I thought I’d share our trip here for those who are interested!
To start, we stayed at the SpringHill Suites Downtown in the CBD (Central Business District) or Warehouse District (every Uber and taxi driver called it something different). It was about a half a mile, or 10-15 minute walk, from Canal Street and the French Quarter and ended up being the perfect location for accommodations. It was nice to head into the Quarter with all the hustle and bustle, but even nicer to have somewhere quieter to sleep.
My sister-in-law, Kelly, and I flew from Ohio on Thursday afternoon, while my mom and sister, Michelle, followed a couple hours behind from Florida. Michelle was on spring break from teaching so she flew down to visit my parents and grandma in Florida earlier in the week.
QUICK TIP: Kelly and I took an Uber from the airport, and while it was only 25 minutes or so it ended up being $90 due to the $75 minimum! We later found out it’s a flat rate of $36 for 2 people via taxi.
DAY 1Kelly and I dropped our bags at the front desk and headed out on foot to explore the surrounding area. We didn’t make it a block before we were enticed into a corner dive bar called The Den at the Howlin' Wolf where we drank some local brews, a Abita Strawgator (a strawberry lager), while eating gator balls (so good!) and savory beignets.
When my mom and Michelle arrived a few hours later we wasted no time in heading to the French Quarter on a mission to get some of the famous Café du Monde beignets and cafe' au lait. We went to the original on Decatur St. and while we were prepared for long lines, at around 4 or 5 pm, we were able to grab a table pretty quickly.
QUICK TIP: The little glasses of water (not shown) are for washing your hands of the powder sugar! Kelly’s friend, who’s a local, shared that tip with us so we could pretend we knew what we were doing!We walked across the street to Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral.
It was only high 60’s - low 70’s over the weekend, and a little muggy and overcast, but to me it was ideal for a city where we walked to most of our destinations. Not to mention somewhere that gets well over 100 degrees in the summer!
We spent a lot of time wandering around the French Quarter, drinking hurricanes and people watching.
QUICK TIP: There are no open container laws and you can get alcoholic drinks to go! We grabbed drinks and walked around till our buzz wore off, then grabbed some more!We stopped for a late dinner at The Royal House Oyster Bar (on Royal St) and stuffed ourselves on charbroiled oysters (officially converting this oyster-hater), crawfish, crabs, and fish.
After dinner we headed down the street for the world famous (lots of famous food in this city) bananas Foster at Brennan’s.
The bananas Foster was good and three of us enjoyed that, but my mom got the crème brûlée and it was amazing! I might even go as far as saying it was better, but we definitely were there for the experience so it was nice to have both!
After filling up on dessert we decided to walk off some of it by hitting up Bourbon Street. We didn’t have plans to stay long since we had heard a lot of unsavory reviews, but we knew we had to at least experience it for ourselves!
It was noisy, busy, and not so much our scene (maybe 10 years ago I would have been more into it), but it was only 10pm so it was also pretty tame and a neat experience to walk down. I could see how it could get pretty crazy as the night goes on, and during Mardi Gras and some of the bigger festivals. If you’re looking to get drunk, hit up some nightclubs, or generally just be around that sort of thing, this is the place, but 30 minutes walking through was enough for us and we kept our distance the rest of our trip.
DAY 2Friday, we were paying for all the indulging we did the day before. Even though we had less than a half day after our planes landed, we were so excited to be there that we felt like we had crammed all the “traditional” NOLA things in on Thursday, so it was nice to slow down the pace.
We took our time waking up and getting ready and grabbed a streetcar to The Ruby Slipper for a late breakfast. Breakfast is my favorite meal, so I loved this place, and we each shared a little bit of everyone’s meals and everything tasted amazing. Just don’t forget the mimosas!
We took advantage of our location on Canal Street and headed back to the French Quarter to wander around a bit.
It was nice to leisurely wander around and enjoy all the sights and people watching. The architecture is always a big interest of mine when visiting new cities and the French and Spanish influence didn’t disappoint. We enjoyed the street performers, some are definitely better than others, but the traditional blues/jazz groups were usually really good.
After reading a lot of good reviews, I convinced the group to check out Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World.
QUICK TIP: We decided on the tours/museums we wanted to go to before we left and my mom found discounted tickets on Groupon and Living Social.They offer free shuttles so we called them up and walked less than 5 minutes to one of their stops (they pick up from several of hotels and have stops all over the French Quarter).
As a crafter I found it fascinating! The tour starts with a short video sharing a little history and explanation of how the Mardi Gras parades are funded, designed, and you learn about the krewes (which I honestly had no idea about). Then they take you through the shop where the decorations are made and the warehouse where some of the floats are stored.
It’s a working shop so there were artists working on decorations and pieces in different stages of completion.
I was really into the paper flowers, (I’ve made one or two in my time), and was stoked to see all the floats from the Krewe of Orpheus lined up with thousands of paper flowers of all shapes and sizes.
The tour ends in the warehouse and you’re able to hang out as long as you’d like walking through and, dare I say, touching anything you want!
We grabbed a shuttle back to the French Quarter and walked around some more and grabbed a late lunch at Gumbo Shop where we enjoyed the inner patio and ate po boy’s, gumbo, crab cakes and daiquiris.
QUICK TIP: We had tried to go here the night before but the line was down the block. We found that we were eating and drinking all day so going to the more well-known places on off hours (we grabbed lunch here around 3:30 or 4) made for lots of available seating and no wait time.Afterwards, we made are way to Café Beignet for some dessert. I have to say, in the Battle of the Beignets, I’d have to go with Café Beignet, they were handmade, a little bigger, and fluffier.
It was a nice spot to sit and people watch as well, and my mom and I hung out while Michelle and Kelly did a little window shopping.
To end the evening we did a ghost tour through the French Quarter. I loved it, it was a hoot hearing about the ghost/horror stories as you walk through the area. Our tour started at 8 which meant it was dark most of the tour which added to the spooky factor. It also helped that our tour guide was very energetic and he helped get everyone in the mood. A couple places I recognized, most notably the LaLaurie mansion, which was home to Madame Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates plays an awesomly horrific, heavily fictionalized Delphine Lalaurie in American Horror Story Season 3 Coven).
DAY 3Our last day was Saturday and we had only a couple things on our agenda, but it ended up being one of my favorite days.
We started with a walking tour through the Garden District. While I wasn’t that impressed with our guide (he spoke softly and while it’s a quiet neighborhood, when cars go by it was near impossible to hear him), it was a gorgeous area and between the live oaks and architecture it was impossible not to be impressed.
It was also home to many famous people, including Archie Manning (seen below), John Goodman, and Sandra Bullock.
Also, another location of American Horror Story, the Buckner Mansion aka Miss Robicheaux’s Academy from the show.
The tour ended in Lafayette Cemetery No.1 and we walked around touring one of the city’s iconic above ground cemeteries.
I was fascinated with the traditions including the "unlimited interment", where a familial tomb could be reused as needed following the "one year and one day" time frame in which a natural cremation process occurs due to the high temperatures and humidity reached. After the time period, the coffins are removed and tossed, while the remains are put in a bag or simply swept towards the back, making room for the next occupant!
After our tour we had plans with an Ohio transplant, one of Kelly’s friends, Meredith, who made New Orleans her home several years ago. Meredith was extended invites for us to join her at her friend’s annual crawfish boil. I have to tell you, when I found out this was part of our plans, I was pumped! For those that don’t know Mike and I host a crawfish boil every summer at our house, (we’re coming up on our 4th annual) but I obviously had never been to an authentic Louisiana boil, so I was excited to see how it was done!
The food, people, and atmosphere were awesome. Michael and Don live in Lakeview which saw a lot of flooding after Katrina. They have spent the last several years renovating their house and just moved in a few months ago. They added a lot of quirky art and features like a hidden pantry with a light wall feature that alternated colors intermittently.
They also had the most stocked bar I’ve ever seen in a private residence (not to mention some bars I’ve been to)! They had caterers and bartenders keeping everyone’s plates full of crawfish, alligator sausage, oysters, and dirty rice, and our cups full of hurricanes!
After the party Meredeth acted as tour guide and took us around neighborhoods outside of the French Quarter. For only living there a few years, she was super knowledgeable and you could tell she genuinely loved the city she now called home.
She drove us through a modern cemetery in Mid-City, and we stopped in City Park and the Hurricane Katrina Memorial on Canal St.
Michelle expressed interest in seeing some of the areas most affected by Hurricane Katrina, so Meredith drove us around the Lower Ninth Ward which was devastated with flooding after the Industrial Canal levee broke. It’s where Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation is trying to rebuild the community.
It was almost a surreal experience. The area looks like a shell of what I imagine it looking like before the hurricane. There are colorful, futuristic houses built by the foundation, like the coral one below designed by Thom Mayne, that can float if necessary.
Among houses like this one that was fortunately brick so it was able to endure the flooding, but obviously isn’t habitable, and probably won’t ever be.
It was a very humbling experience. There is a small park/memorial with two foundations left after the storm with small plaques to show the storm details, devastation of the flooding, and mission of the foundation.
Meredith also drove us through the Upper Ninth Ward through Musicians' Village which was a collaboration between musicians Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis and Habitat for Humanity to create the village for New Orleans musicians who lost their homes during Katrina.
After our very eye-opening tour, we decided to lighten up the mood and grab a snoball. I had read in my research that a snoball - shaved ice, syrup, and condensed milk on top, was a must in the city. The girls made fun of me when I mentioned this at the beginning of the trip, but Meredith came through and took us to the best snoball place (better than Hansen’s she said) Plum Street Snoball.
I got the Ice Cream/Nectar combo with condensed milk on top and it was amazing! Who’s laughing now?
We grabbed dinner at Liuzzas an Italian/New Orleans fusion restaurant in Mid-City, which something I learned through our trip is that while New Orleans is kind of known for their French influence, outside of New York, New Orleans saw more Italian immigrants than any other city in America. That random fact means that you can’t go wrong grabbing Italian food in New Orleans!
QUICK TIP: Meredith suggested getting the “Frenchuletta” which is a muffuletta on french bread. It was so good!By the end of the evening we were exhausted, but we managed to rally and hit Frenchmen Street. We walked around and enjoyed the cute little art market, that look unassuming from the street, but open up to these magical little night markets.
We were fading fast at this point, but we managed to end the night at back at Café du Monde for some beignets and cafe' au lait. Officially ending our trip where we started!
Overall, I fell in love with New Orleans. I’ve wanted to visit for years, but Mike never was interested. After our trip, I know for a fact he would love it, and I’ve already got a list of things I want to do next time!
Anyone else have favorites they want to share? Any places that I should have checked out? Please share, because it might not be soon, but I’m definitely going back!