New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans was my very first rough draft itinerary when the lock down started. A co-worker had asked for recommendations for their upcoming spring break trip. This was not my first request for New Orleans content and I realized I had to make it down there in order to have recommendations to give! I gave her a “this is what I would do if I was going” list and I kept this destination in the back of my head. Then the pandemic hit and everyone’s travel plans ceased to exist. Thus, the creation of my rough draft itinerary series creating trips for instant use when the pandemic was over – and New Orleans was the first one I made and now it is ready for prime time!
May 2021 became a fury of restarting travel and I knew New Orleans would be a good fit. Unlike our trips post pandemic thus far, they have not been very food centric and have often resulted in us cooking our own food. New Orleans was our first foodie trip! It was certainly the most striking thing that stood out while making the rough draft – just how much amazing and diverse food options the city is known for and we had to try. I was happy my brother decided to tag along for his very first trip post pandemic – another stomach to share all the food!
Flight prices were already starting to take an upward trend – as people are getting vaccinated, more people are feeling more comfortable traveling and the airlines have quite a margin to make up for 2020. Since it was a short trip, the times of the flights were important to optimize our three day journey so I definitely paid more than I would have liked for this trip but I have accepted that for the short term, flight prices are going to be more expensive than in 2019. Check out how I track flight prices here.
We flew American for the first time post pandemic and the flights were jam packed – not one open seat. For a short while, the anxiety of not having overhead space for our backpacks was gone in the wind and it has definitely come back in full force. Everything is back to normal in the travel realm domestically – the masks are the way to tell what year it is.
Our flight was uneventful, even with a tight layover in Charlotte. Though I have to comment that it was incredibly crowded in the Charlotte airport – and it was the middle of the day on a Wednesday but it was clear that at least here, travel was free flowing.
We arrived in New Orleans early evening with enough time to fit in our first meal of the trip! Now I will say with full disclosure that there are just so many amazing places to eat in this city and it was incredibly difficulty to narrow this list down – felt the pressure of picking ones that we would enjoy the most but it does not look like you can go wrong. Just avoid those tourist traps.
I learned through many resources that staying in French Quarter is not all its cracked up to be and instead to lean towards the Garden District. Our Airbnb was situated right on Magazine Street where many restaurants, shops, and cafes are located and it was also just a few blocks to St Charles street where the street car trolley is located. We also walked from here to French Quarter during the trip and it takes about a half hour. So location wise, this Airbnb is a great find! Since my brother was able to tag along, we wanted a larger space so we could all be comfortable and this Airbnb featured two separate bedrooms – quite an upgrade from our usual spots cramming into the cheapest thing we could find despite the discomfort of three adults in a tiny home – guess we are growing up! During our stay, we never felt uncomfortable in the area and it was quiet at night. We can definitely recommend this spot!
After dropping our things, we were eager to head out down Magazine St and explore before our dinner reservation! The first thing we noticed was the incredible architecture and styling of the houses – front porches, giant oak trees, gas lamps, colored shutters, intricate rod iron work – it was very beautiful! It reminded us a lot of the scenery in Charleston that we instantly adored. Along with passing many homes, we got glimpses of stores – antique shops, flower stores, clothing boutiques – and food spots from sit down dining to dive bars to cool cafes. We were loving Garden District already!
While we took our time on our walk to dinner, we were still a bit early so we hopped into The Tasting Room wine bar for a glass of wine to kick things off – their happy hour special was five dollar glasses of the wine on tap – sold. We sat outside but the interior of this place looked really cool – I can image it is a fun spot the hang out.
And with great excitement, our reservation time arrived and we made our way to Gris-Gris. When I was doing my dining research, this one became a quick favorite to add to the “must do” list so I was definitely excited to dine here!
Read the full dining review of Gris-Gris here!
On our way back to the Airbnb, it was irresistible to pass up an ice cream stop. We had passed Parish Parlor on our walk to Gris-Gris and while I took note of it being there, I knew it would be a visit in the immediate future. Is there a better sell than that of freshly made waffle cones?
We each got a scoop – I went with double chocolate (hard dark chocolate pieces throughout the ice cream), Kevin ordered the pecan pie, and my brother got the peanut butter mud pie – a vegan flavor (very cool that they offered legit vegan flavors)! We all thoroughly enjoyed our treat to end the night.
We were ready for our first full day in New Orleans! I had originally planned to spend the morning at City Park but I was nervous it would not leave enough exploration time of the French Quarter. I did not want to rush through either area and City Park is a bit difficult to get to via street car trolley – it is double the size of Central Park, housing many things including the museum of art. If we had time after French Quarter, we could fit in this visit then but I made the adjustment to our itinerary and moved French Quarter up.
First things first, gotta get that coffee for Kevin. A few blocks away was French Truck Coffee which served the purpose with a well made cup of coffee. This is a local favorite and you can find these throughout the city.
We gathered ourselves and prepared for our first visit to the famous French Quarter. For our journey in, we decided to walk a few blocks to St Charles Street to board the street car trolley. The RTA has a great mobile app that allows you to purchase and use tickets as well as explore maps, track vehicles, and give an eta on arrival times. This app is really awesome and user friendly so if you are going and plan on using the public transit, definitely download this app. We decided to purchase a one day Jazzy Pass for three dollars.
Riding the streetcar trolley was really fun – on gorgeous weather days like today, the windows are all open. This ride also made for a great little tour in seeing the St Charles Street offerings as well as the French Market as we got closer to our final destination. Once we got off, we were but a cross walk away from the start of Bourbon Street.
Read about our day exploring the French Quarter, as well as the best fried chicken in the country, here!
I could not believe I thought we could fit City Park and French Quarter into this day! I am so glad we made the decision to just stick to basics and explore the French Quarter at our own pace. City Park will be high on the list on a return trip for sure and if you have more time, definitely check it out. Once we were ready to head back to Garden District, we hopped onto our St Charles streetcar trolley – the trolley is really are fun to ride and have a pretty extensive network to get you to all the prominent tourist destinations. Once we got off, Kevin ran into Gracious Bakery for his afternoon coffee fix as we walked back to our Airbnb.
Our dinner spot was pretty far into the Garden District so I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to make our 530PM seating. I found a wine bar not far from the dinner spot so we decided to walk twenty minutes to the wine bar, then only have a ten minute walk to dinner.
We ventured deeper into the Garden District passing more and more fun shops and food options – this area has so much to offer and it is definitely more for the locals so if you want out of the French Quarter, focus some time on the Garden District.
On the way to dinner, we passed by Delachaise Wine Bar and stopped by for a glass of wine. This place had a great menu and outdoor space that I know we could have enjoyed for hours.
The final leg of our walking journey lead us into a neighborhood – a very unlikely spot for a restaurant but it is situated unassumingly smack in the middle of a residential street with only a sign on the gate indicating the true identify. It felt like we were going into a secret club, a speakeasy dinner club and we were beyond excited.
Read about our entire dining experience at Mosquito Supper Club here.
We were still basking in the afterglow of this meal on the entire walk home. I laugh that I hesitated to book this one – definitely the highlight of this trip!
One thing I wanted to do as an excursion was visit the bayou. The most common activity is hopping on a boat to jet around and see the gators, but when I was looking into companies, it seems like the fun thing to do is feed them to make them visible for guests so they are now habituated to do so. That just did not sit right with me, plus I did not need another boat ride to get me sick. I continued to look at alternative ways of exploring the bayou and stumbling upon kayaking – that sounded perfect. We love kayaking and it feels like you are way too close to the water to have artificial gator encounters.
Read about our kayak adventure through the bayou!
After our morning kayak, we stopped back at the Airbnb to freshen up before setting out for the afternoon. I planned a bit of a DIY food tour for the remainder of our day to optimize the number of places we got to experience over in the Bywater area past the French Quarter.
Read about my DIY food tour of the Bywater here!
Time to walk off all that food! We concluded our DIY food tour nearby the French Market so we decided to walk through French Quarter. It was certainly more crowded than our morning exploring this area earlier in the trip, but it was a Friday night. We then seemingly made a wrong turn unexpectedly onto Bourbon Street and the scene was shocking – I could not believe how many people there were (will we ever get out of this pandemic???).
I thought all this was more of a mardi gras thing but it is clear this is an every night kind of thing. People walking around with enormous frozen beverages, shots from tubes on the corner, beads flying through the air (particularly if there was flashing involved, and yes, it was a thing) – there were no signs of COVID other than me and my mask. Bye, bye Bourdon Street.
We returned to the quiet and calm of the Garden District – thank GOD we were not staying in the French Quarter – and made a pitstop and District Donuts for Kevin’s late night coffee and a donut.
Another fantastic day exploring New Orleans!
After a long day yesterday, I was happy to have nothing planned so we could have a relaxing morning.
Though while the boys slept in, I laid in bed wide awake. While we had an epic food day yesterday, we still had yet to try some of the staples of New Orleans – gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish étouffée. We had lunch plans already so I was running out of time to fit it all in. So I thought, what if I just order it for breakfast? That would be efficient. To save myself the trouble of finding “the place” to try these items, I had some co-workers recommend Mother’s Restaurant which is one of those staple restaurants in New Orleans so I figured while it may not be the best iteration, it would be a solid representation. To avoid getting out of bed, I was able to order for delivery so I got the following: a cup of the Seafood Gumbo, a cup of Crawfish Étouffée, a cup of the Jerry’s Jambalaya and since it was breakfast, the Mother’s Famous Buttermilk Biscuits with egg, cheese, and their also famous baked ham. I put this order in before they opened at 7AM and the food made it to us just before 8AM so not too bad.
Before we dove into the food, Kevin and I took a walk to Gracious Bakery – which ended up being is favorite coffee of the trip. As opposed to our afternoon visit earlier in the trip, the morning visit afforded us the chance to witness their beautiful selection of breakfast pastries and assorted goodies. This is certainly a special about this spot – and it is conveniently located right at the St Charles trolley stop.
These neighborhoods are so lovely – the houses are so fun to look at and compare, though I can imagine it takes a pretty penny to afford living in this area. I certainly enjoyed our morning coffee walks!
Back at the Airbnb, it was time to dig into our “A Taste of NOLA” and I have to say, it was a huge hit. While the jambalaya was too spicy for me, the seafood gumbo and the crawfish étouffée were delicious, with the winner being the crawfish étouffée. All of them had such layered flavors to develop a textured and complex taste and the seafood was a touch of sweetness. While I did not anticipate us eating it all – it was more just to say we tried all these things – we ended up eating it all. I wonder what the Mother’s restaurant workers thought when they got this order at 7AM on a Saturday! I was very pleased with my morning melding to create such an efficient plan!
We spent the rest of the morning packing up and straighten the place up with watching The Princess and the Frog in the background. I made lunch at 11AM about a 30 min walk away – a spot that came very well recommended by my brother’s friend so we wanted to definitely end our food trip on a high note – everything has been so amazing so the pressure was on.
Read the dining review of Cochon Restaurant here!
And with the conclusion of our meal at Cochon, we made the walk back towards our Airbnb. Though it was much hotter out this time! We passed the World War II Museum of which I read very positive things about – for the next trip. Kevin stopped into Mojo Coffee House for his afternoon coffee, and we all stopped into Parish Parlor for one last ice cream run.
We grabbed our bags – thanks to the Airbnb for letting us keep our bags here after check out – and called our Uber to the airport. What an incredible trip!
New Orleans certainly surprised all of us in many ways. The food was absolutely spectacular and goes far beyond the southern staples of beignets and crawfish that it is known for. Take time to go off the beaten path here and explore some authentic cuisine. The city is so beautiful and had a charm that I did not expect – it goes far beyond the party label. If you want to party, there is plenty of that to be had but if you want to relax and absorb the histroy and culture of New Orleans, there is plenty of it waiting for you.