This past weekend Jeremiah and I took a mommy/daddy vacation! This was our first vacation without the kiddos in over two years, and it was sorely needed!
Wednesday, I started having anxiety about traveling 5 hours away from the boys for three days. The anxiety quickly subsided once we hopped in the car Thursday afternoon to begin our vacation. Destination: New Orleans!
I have never been to New Orleans before. Jeremiah has been once, but only stayed for a few hours, so he didn’t get to enjoy much of the city. The weeks before we left, I researched and researched until I thought my eyeballs were going to pop out all the different activities and sights to see in New Orleans. So, I had a color coded rough itinerary for us to pull from on our trip. We wanted to make sure our time was spent wisely!
We pulled into New Orleans around 9:30PM. The skyline and lights were amazing! The parking was not. Every other road is one way. People walk in and across streets without warning. Parking garages are confusing. We were frustrated before we even got to our apartment. BUT we were on vacation! The apartment was cute, bigger than a hotel room, had a balcony that you accessed through a window (super cool), and had a full kitchen.
We stayed in a one-bedroom apartment on the end of Carondelet Street closest to Bourbon Street; we were only a one-minute walk from Bourbon Street. We didn’t waste any time. We threw our luggage in the apartment, and after taking a quick look around we headed to Bourbon Street. Yuck. Bourbon Street was not our favorite. By the end of the trip we didn’t want to see it, or smell it, anymore. We ate at Hard Rock Cafe, and surprisingly had an awful experience. Our food was cold, over-cooked, and tasted awful. We didn’t care. We were on vacation.
Fun fact: Carondelet Street and Bourbon Street are essentially the same street. They are separated by Canal Street. Canal Street used to be a large grassy median. It was named Canal Street, because original settlers were going to build a canal in place of the median and marked it as “Canal Street” on all the maps. The canal was never built. The reason Carondelet Street and Bourbon Street have different names is because the original settlers did not get along. Different nationalities settled on different sides of Canal Street and named the streets after their own nationalities. They were not allowed to cross Canal Street. If they did cross, they would most likely be killed. If someone on one side needed to do business with someone on the other side, they had to meet in the middle, on Canal Street, which at the time was a grassy median. Therefore, New Orleans locals call median’s “neutral ground.”
Airboat Swamp Tour
Friday morning, we woke up bright and early for an airboat swamp tour. We were picked up at a hotel 30 seconds down the road from our apartment and shuttled 25 miles out of New Orleans to a swamp. Our shuttle guide was great. He informed us of monuments and buildings we passed along the way as well as gave us facts about New Orleans. He cracked jokes the entire time. Once we arrived at the swamp, we checked in and a few minutes later boarded an airboat! What a neat experience sitting in the front row of the airboat. The tour was almost two hours long. We chased alligators. We caught and held an alligator that was four years old. It wasn’t slimy at all! We learned how to tell how old alligators are, how to judge their size just by seeing their heads in the water, how to tell if they are male or female, and so much more. We did some donuts on the airboat and got sprayed with water. We went down a canal and saw houses that were only accessible by boat. They only received power from generators. These houses were mainly weekend houses except for one. We met a resident of the swamp who had lived there since he was 6 weeks old. He was about 65 years old. He lives completely off the land and was friends with our tour guides. He invited them to go frogging that night.
Fun fact: Alligators love marshmallows. That’s how the guides got them closer to our boats. They tossed out marshmallows and the alligators gulped up every one of them.
The French Market
After the airboat swamp tour, we had an amazing lunch at Redfish on Bourbon Street then found our way to The French Market. Think high-class flea market. Vendors were back to back in several rows. They sold all types of souvenirs related to New Orleans among other things. Being our first day, we didn’t buy anything. We wanted to see what else was offered. Still, it would be a great place to buy souvenirs or local goods.
After visiting the French Market, we walked a few blocks to Jackson Square. Jackson Square is a small park with a large iron fence surrounding it. Around the fence local artist setup their artwork and sell it to passing locals and tourists. It was interesting to look at the many different types of artwork. There were prints, wood paintings, fitted canvas painting, canvas sheet paintings, as well as other types of art.
St. Louis Cathedral
On the back side of Jackson Square we found St. Louis Cathedral. It was beautiful. We had to go inside. Pedestrians are free to tour the cathedral if they keep a reverent attitude. It’s impossible not to keep a reverent attitude. The architecture and details within the cathedral are breath-taking. The next day, we wondered back by the cathedral and saw a large crowd blocked off by police lines. Of course, we had to see what was going on. Everyone was waiting to see the King of Spain enter the cathedral for mass. I was too short and missed him when he entered, but Jeremiah got to see him!
Ride on a Street Car
By this time, it was time to get ready for the evening. We had been walking around most of the day and desperately needed showers. We had seen the public transportation system, which are street cars. They don’t go everywhere in New Orleans, but it seemed to be sort of like an above ground subway system. You could hop different cars to get close enough to where you were going to walk. So, being tired and a bit a ways away from our apartment, we tried a street car. They looked kind of like train cars. The inside was much cleaner and nicer than we were expecting. We were able to purchase a day pass for $3. You could ride it as many times as you wanted in those 24 hours. We used it again a few times the next morning!
After taking showers and getting ready for the evening, we took our first Uber ride to Pat O’Brien’s. By the end of the trip we took at least 5 more Uber trips. It was so easy. The app shows you exactly what kind of car is picking you up and where it is. We didn’t wait for more than 2 minutes for any car we requested. All the cars were super clean on the inside too!
Pat O’Brien’s is a small place. There are several wooden tables packed together in a dimly lit room with a small stage at its front. On the stage are two baby grand pianos. We sat ourselves, and were quickly greeted by a waitress who simply said, “Are you having two hurricanes?” Well… yes, we are! (We had heard before we came that hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s were a must.) Each piano had an artist playing, but they weren’t playing their own songs. People from the audience were sending up cocktail napkins with requests and a tip. The artists were required to play whatever the napkin said. They took turns “dueling” it out. The songs could be from any era or genre, which made it a lot of fun. After we caught on to how the process worked, Jeremiah took up our napkin with requests. Over the next hour we sipped our famous, and strong, hurricanes and listened to everyone’s requests being played. We had a lot of fun at Pat O’Brien’s. I got into the duels by singing along and clapping. At the end of the trip, we agreed this was one of our favorite parts of the vacation.
After Pat O’Brien’s we had a steak dinner at Brennan’s and headed in for the night, with Uber escorting us to our apartment.
Cafe du Monde
The next morning, we rode the street car some ways down Canal Street, then walked down N. Peters Street to the original Cafe du Monde. I was so excited. When we got close, we noticed there was a line half a block long outside of the cafe. We were sure it would take us hours to get in. Within 15 minutes we were seated and ordering! Their menu consists of beignets and coffee plus a few other drinks. We had a plate of beignets and orange juice. They lived up to their famous reputation; they were delicious!
Riverwalk Outlet Mall
We walked back to Canal Street and rode the street car again to the end of the line. From there we could walk to Riverwalk Mall. There were a lot of great stores in the mall, plus air conditioning. When you’ve been walking all morning, that’s a great feeling! The mall was built along the Mississippi River. There were amazing views of the river from one side and the city of New Orleans from the other.
The French Quarter
Most of Saturday afternoon was spent walking. We walked around the French Quarter looking at the many shops. There are more shops and restaurants than you could count. Every turned corner brings more. We walked until our legs were sore. According to my Apple Watch, approximately 9.46 miles for the day.
Saturday evening was our big finale. We took a dinner cruise on the steamboat Natchez down the Mississippi River. When we first got on the boat, we found amazing seats on the top deck at the stern. Sitting directly in the middle, we overlooked the steel and wooden paddle that churned the water with amazing force. We had a wonderful view of the Crescent City Connection. These bridges are the fifth longest of their kind. We also learned how to tell what country other boats, such as the large tankers we saw, were from. At 7:45PM we went to the lower deck to sit down for dinner. We finished just in time to watch the sun set and enjoy the rest of our cruise gazing at the lights of the city and listening to the serenity of the river. The cruise was a peaceful finale to our vacation, and I so very much enjoyed the company of my handsome husband.
After the cruise, as we were walking back to our apartment, we stopped by the casino, Harrah. I usually love slot machines, but I think I was worn slam out. I couldn’t get into it much. Within an hour, we lost our money and headed back to the apartment to go to bed.
Sunday morning, we woke up early and got on the road by 8:30AM. Every minute we were closer to our boys. We were ready to come home for sure.
This vacation was very much needed. We learned new things and gained new experiences. My husband is an amazing man, and I wouldn’t have wanted to experience these new things with anyone else.
The one thing I regret not doing was a ghost tour. Most of them are walking tours, and it was supposed to rain the entire weekend, so we never ended up scheduling one. In the end, it only rained on us once, and it was when we were in the shuttle returning from the swamp.
I recommend visiting New Orleans at least once in your life. There are so many wonderful places to visit for all different reasons. Whether you are looking for entertainment, history, culture, ghosts, water activities, shopping, etc., you can find it in New Orleans.