What better way to start our Louisiana roadtrip than landing in the magnificent city of New Orleans. ‘The Big Easy’ serves up fun from all angles, whether it’s gazing at the awesome floats at the Mardi Gras Museum to sipping on daiquiris on Bourbon Street. New Orleans is also a food lovers heaven, from its world famous beignets to high end Louisiana fusion cuisine. We loved the city and it was great to be able to start and finish our Louisiana roadtrip here. I will definitely be returning although perhaps next time without Madames Jetlag & Mayhem in tow so I can enjoy Bourbon Street to its full potential!
Getting to New Orleans
We flew from Los Angeles to New Orleans with Delta. I decided against car hire for the first few days in order to save money on both car rental and parking. We took a taxi from Louis Armstrong Airport into downtown New Orleans, approx. 30 minutes.
I had three requirements for our New Orleans hotel. It had to be located within walking distance to the heart of New Orleans yet not right in the middle of all things seedy. As we would likely be struggling with jetlag having flown in from Hong Kong, I wanted somewhere with a suite so we weren’t all in the same room. It also had to have a pool. I came up trumps with the Windsor Court, a luxurious hotel perfectly located 5 minutes from the French Quarter and Arts/Warehouse District. Stay tuned for a more in-depth review.
Getting around New Orleans
We found it relatively easy to either walk from our hotel or take a taxi to most attractions. New Orleans has a pretty good public transport system from streetcars to buses. The only time we struggled to get a taxi was returning home from Audobon Zoo, located in the historic uptown.
What did we do?
- Wander around the French Quarter. With live music at every turn, no matter what time of day, it’s fun just to potter the beautiful old streets. If my kids had been a bit older, I would have booked French Quartour Kids which gives a time-traveling experience back to the 1830s using actual French Quarter locations.
- Interactive fun for kids at the Louisiana Children’s Museum. My kids loved pretending to be eye doctors and waitresses!
- Going behind the scenes of Mardi Gras at Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World! This is essentially a visit to the enormous hangar style workshop where all the incredible floats are made. The informative tour includes a short film and a walk around the warehouse.
- The Audubon Nature Institute has 3 attractions: The Zoo and Cool Zoo (wild and wet splash park), the Aquarium of the Americas, Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. I asked my kids to pick one and they immediately went for the ‘Cool Zoo’ option which is part of the main Zoo. This is a great place to beat the heat and we enjoyed endless trips on the lazy river and splashing around on the mini water slide. We also managed to see some animals too after a thunderstorm warning forced us out of the water section.
- Watching the free street entertainment in Jackson Square.
- Dancing down Bourbon Street. My 6 year old was fascinated by the rowdy bars and merry folk cascading through Bourbon Street. I explained that they were all in party mood and she proclaimed she wanted to go dancing down Bourbon Street too. Be warned, it can feel quite seedy in places but at 9.30pm we felt safe.
- I dragged my kids to the Presbytere (part of the Louisiana State Museum) as there was a Hurricane Katrina exhibit I wanted to see. Unfortunately this was on a Monday and it was closed. Travel Tip – always check the opening times of the attractions you wish to visit!
- Shopping at the Riverwalk Outlet Collection. Not only are the prices discounted as they are outlet stores but Louisiana is also tax free for international visitors! Be sure to ask for a tax receipt and collect your money at the airport or in the mall. There is also another good mall near to the airport, the Lakeside Shopping Center.
Where did we eat?
- Be a New Orleans cliché at Cafe Du Monde! This is the place to buy beignets (fritters covered in powdered sugar) and Cafe au lait (coffee with chicory). They have outposts around the city and expect to queue although it moves fairly quickly.
- The most delicious seafood platter at Deanie’s Seafood. Unbelievably this photo is of a half sized portion!
- Insane po’boys at Mothers Restaurant. Try the famous Ferdi Special packed with beef, ham, gravy and ‘debris’…
- Traditional cajun at Bon Ton Cafe. Think old school New Orleans establishment manned by old-fashioned waitresses and delicious food. We tested out their shrimp etouffee and delicious bread pudding with whiskey sauce.
- Louisiana cuisine with a twist at the incredible Nola by Chef Emeril. Great ambience, reservations a must. This was one of the best meals of our trip (perhaps due to two jet lagged children who were asleep at the table!)
- Two famous New Orleans desserts combined – bananas foster and bread pudding – at old school Italian restaurant Irene’s Cuisine.
- Fried chicken at Willie Maes. This had been hyped up to me as ‘the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten’ from a friend. Whilst I wouldn’t level it quite there, it certainly was delicious.
- Meat sandwich lovers will fall head over heals for a muffaletta, which originated from Italian immigrants in New Orleans. Think focaccia stuffed with meats and olive juice. It is fantastic. Get one at the Central Grocery and don’t be put off by the long line!
For more suggestions on things to do, check out the Family Itinerary on the New Orleans Official Guide