I love traveling. I love exploring new cities. I love trying new foods. I love learning the history and culture of places I’ve never been before. And now, I love that I can do all these things with my son. It’s so amazing watching him discover the world and I feel so blessed to be able to travel with him and my husband. Although the world is vast, there is so much to see in our own backyard and lately, we’ve been making a point to plan trips to different placed within the United States.
Our most recent trip was to New Orleans, Louisiana.. or as I’d like to call it, the lawless city of sin (because anything and everything goes, or so it seemed). Let me preface this by saying that I had a lot of fun and would recommend visiting once in your life.. but probably leave your morals and your children at home.. both of which I did not do. I also did not visit Bourbon St after 1030am.. because I just can’t keep up.
New Orleans is a culturally diverse city with a hybrid of Spanish, French and African-American influences. Louisiana became part of the United States with the $15 million Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and today is well known for it’s Creole/Cajun food, jazz music, above ground cemeteries, and party scene (drinking in public is legal). The history, ghost stories and voodoo sparked my interest in the city and the tales of amazing food sealed the deal for me. After booking the trip, I played Disney’s Princess and the Frog on repeat as background noise at home.. you know, just to get prepared.
But, unfortunately, Disney has a way of making things look much more beautiful than they are in real life. They forgot to mention how dirty the streets are (despite the fact that they are cleaned with soap daily), the constant smell of urine and smoke, and unfortunately, the large homeless population. And so, it was not an ideal spot to explore with a baby, however, we still had fun, found plenty to do and would recommend visiting once in your life.
We booked three nights in the city which was plenty, especially because we are not big partiers (even without our baby in tow) and the nightlife is pretty wild. I also booked two tours during the day which were my favorite part of the trip (see below). Planning meal time can be slightly more challenging with a baby so I only made one reservation in advance which I regretted because many restaurants that came highly recommended did not have any last minute availability. So, if you’re planning to head to New Orleans, book some tours and make dinner reservations in advance!
We traveled Saturday to Tuesday which was perfect.. we got to see the craziness of the city during the weekend, but also a slightly less busy beginning of the week. Jackson did amazing on the flight down and back.. when he wasn’t sleeping or eating, he was busy smiling and entertaining our neighbors.
Our first stop was for beignets and coffee, obviously. There are two main beignet shops in New Orleans and you will find them both around every corner, it seems. Cafe Du Monde is more well known, however, we preferred Cafe Beignet. Although both were delicious, Cafe Beignet’s donuts were superior, in my opinion, and the lines were shorter. When in the city, you must compare and contrast both spots for yourself.
We were slightly overwhelmed by the chaos when we arrived and since we needed real food asap, we ended up grabbing dinner at Fogo de Chao because we know it’s delicious and was located across the street from our hotel. You will not find a single thing Creole/Cajun inspired on the menu but it was a safe bet and desperate times called for desperate measures.
After dinner, we wandered around the city, caught a wedding walking down the street, admired Jackson Square and ended the night early with a beautiful sunset from our hotel room.
Our second day I made reservations for a jazz bunch at The Court of Two Sisters. I couldn’t believe the beautiful courtyard they had hidden away from the street (and then discovered many of the buildings have amazing courtyards) and this was a great spot to try lots of different foods. We tried jambalaya, chicken and sausage gumbo, crawfish, turtle soup and shrimp stuffed omelettes.
After brunch we had a Ghost, Vampires and Voodoo French Quarter tour. Whether you’re into spooky stories or not, ghost tours are so much fun to do in new cities because they always delve in to the history which is fascinating.
We listened to tales about New Orleans very own vampire, Count de Saint-Germain. Legend says he was a very charismatic, ageless man who hosted lavish parties at his beautiful home (below). On one evening, he invited a woman into his home and allegedly grabbed her arm with super-human force, breaking it and bit her neck. She was able to escape by jumping off the balcony and also breaking her legs. The following morning, when Saint Germain was supposed to present to the police station for questioning, he and most of his belongings had vanished. Upon searching the home, police found bottles and bottles of Saint Germain’s favorite drink – wine mixed with blood.
We also heard the story of the horrific events that occurred at the hands of Madame Lalaurie in this beautiful mansion. She was a wealthy socialite who also hosted lavish parties but was known for mistreating her slaves. In 1834, a fire broke out at her home and, while trying to control the flames, multiple mutilated enslaved people were found suspended by their necks, with limbs stretched and torn. Today the building is said to be haunted. Actor Nicholas Cage briefly owned the property in 2007 before losing it to foreclosure two years later.
After our ghost tour, we stopped for a quick self guided tour and tasting at The Sazerac House. If you enjoy bourbon/rye you should definitely check this out. They offer free tours and tastings every 20 minutes (I think?) and throughout your tour, they make you 3 different and delicious cocktails to sample. For dinner, we tried shrimp po boys and fried alligator which tasted like chicken to me.
Our third day was the Swamp and Bayou tour! I’m not sure which tour I enjoyed better.. both were so interesting and fun! The tour picked us up in the city and we drove about 40 minutes south where we hopped on a boat and cruised down the river. Seeing alligators in the wild was so cool.. we don’t have these prehistoric/dinosaur looking creatures in New England. The tour guides fed them marshmallows so they’d come closer to the boat and we even got to see the spot that inspired the set for Princess and the Frog!
After the swamp tour, we took an Uber to the garden district. I enjoyed meandering around the quieter neighborhoods and admiring the beautiful homes. We grabbed some donuts at District Donuts (not very impressed, unfortunately), peaked into Lafayette Cemetery No.1 and ate a casual dinner at The Rum House.
New Orleans was a city I always wanted to visit and I’m so grateful we got the opportunity. The culture, food and history are one-of-a-kind and it’s a place unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. I recommend visiting with an open mind, trying all the unique dishes and bringing your party pants!