Babymoon: New Orleans
One of the perks of being a work-turned stay-at-home-mom is that I can travel again with my husband when he has work trips! I used to accompany him a lot before we had Fischer, but over the past two years, I haven’t been able to as much because I needed to reserve personal days for those times when little man would get sick. (Which was, sadly, quite frequent seeing as how he spent a lot of his time at daycare sharing “chew toys”. ew.)
Husband’s company hosts bi-annual company meetings that consist of both professional and company-culture development. Besides it being awesome that spouses are included in these trips is the fact that the company aslways chooses really fun locations, great accommodations, and provies fantastic entertainment. We’ve enjoyed dinner and dancing int he National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., basked in the sunshine on a private island off the coast of Puerto Rico, honed our sorcery skills at Hogwarts in Orlando, relaxed in the Camelback Mountains..to say we’ve been pampered is probably an understatement. Recently, we were treatd to a three-day extravaganza in one of my favorite cities, New Orleans! At first I was nervious about this trip because I couldn’t enjoy the beverages on Bourbon and knew I’d be too tired to shake it late into the night on Frenchmen Street, but I soon changed my attitude.
I’ve done New Orleans more than a few times, in college and then for girls weekends and bachelorette parties. Whatever the occasion, we typically did the same things; Cafe Du Monde in the morning, laying-out in the afternoon (or recovering under the darkness of our hotel comforters), and hitting Bourbon Street for a taste of NOLA nightlife. Somehow, it never really occured to us that there was a whole city OUTSIDE of those few bar-lined blocks of debauchery and fun.
So this time, forced to experience the city sober, I decide it was time to actually learn about one of my favorite cities and really dive into the culture and history that makes it such a hot tourist spot. I started by exploring th Convention of Visirtors Bureau website online and quickly learned that there was more than enough to fill my time, from cemetery tours to historical museums, famous restaurants, landmarks, neighborhoods, plantations and more! I also realized that I needed to manage my time wisely and that I probably wouldn’t have time to do everything I wanted to do.
Here are some of my travel necessities:
French Quarter Friday!
I started my morning off with a little light reading, planning and a quick workout before indulging in a large breakfast, then hit the streets around 10am. New Orleans proved to be nothing less than the swampy, damp city that I know and love and I immediately realized my mistake in wearing jeans on this particular day. Oh well, at least they’re a baggy, boyfriend style! The following are the places that I visited in the French Quarter (which is where we stayed) along with other fun attractions you should check out while you’re there!
Located on Decatur streets amongst the reatil and sugary-goods shops, this little place is easy to miss. However, if you get the chance you should pop in for a quick history of New Orleans, including the story of Jean Lafitte, and a brief overview of commercial and agricultural activity. You can also get maps and other informational brochures of the area.
While it doesn’t house a museum, Jackson Square is a beautiful spot to rest your tired toes, have a snack/refreshment, take some pictures, and do some epic people-watching! Named for a champion of New Orleans, Andrew Jackson, the square draws 1,000’s of visitors a year (heck, it felt like that many every day we were there!) and boasts beautiful views of local architecture and landscaping. New Orleans takes its gardens seriously, y’all!
If you’re interested in architecture then this spot is a must. An excellent example of (and longest surviving) 18th century residential architecture and inside you’ll find a history of New Orleans crafts and pottery. Plus, the air conditioning is on full-blast.
As I stepped beyond the gates, I immediately felt like I was in 18th century France. This convent was the first of its kind and commissioned by Louis XV for the French Ursuline nuns. Inside you’ll find the remarkable history of their Atlantic passage, the environment and inhabitants they encountered upon arrival as well as the Catholic history of Louisiana. Outside you can frolic in the beautifully manicured French gardens.
Located across the street from the Ursuline convent, you’ll find another excellent piece of period architecture and history. The house was once owned by General Beauregard, who ordered the first shots of the Civil War on Fort Sumter. Inside you’ll find many Beauregard pieces as well as those from the last owner and famed author, Frances Parkinson Keyes. While the history of the house is fascinating, perhaps the best part is the story-telling abilities of the tour guide. Afterwards, relax and spend some time outside in the manicured gardens.
This “museum” is actually quite deceiving because when you visit the website, it’s actually made up of multiple buildings! We chose to visit the Cabildo, which is located directly in Jackson Square on Chartres Street. Besides housing the story of New Orleans and many amazing artifacts, the building itself is of great NATIONAL historic importance as it was the location of both the Louisiana Purchase and th Plessy vs Ferguson decision. Half the building is dedicated to the entire history of Louisiana (three stories!) and the other half is dedicated to Hurricane Katrina and the 10 years since. If you consider yourself any sort of history buff then you MUST visit this wonderful museum, if even to just soak up the energy of such important moments in our nation’s story.
Probably the second-most famous spot in New Orleans after Bourbon Street, this cafe is world-renowned for their utterly delicious beignets. Doesn’t matter what time you show up, there will be a line…and it’s well worth it.
More French Quarter Attractions:
- 1850 House
- Gallier House
- French Market
- Hermann Grima House
- Le Petit Theatre
Another really fun way to see and get acquainted with the city is to take one of the awesome tours offered in and around New Orleans. We weren’t able to do one because we just simply ran out of time, but I’ve rounded up some good ones for y’all to check out!
I wish I had had the time to do one of these tours because a friend of mine said the one she went on of the French Quarter was just so fantastic. Her guide was a great storyteller and loved brining the city to life. This company is small, very personal, and offers a variety of great tours from a “Dead Sexy” tour of a cemetery to sigh-seeing the “Garden District Grandeur”.
2. Plantation Tours
I was bummed that we didn’t have time to do this either. I’ve been to plantations all over th East coast for both work and play and I wanted to compare the Louisiana experience to that of the rest of the south. Oh well, next time!
- Oak Alley: One fo the most stately and well-preserved plantations in the country, also used as a location for filming such movies as Interview With a Vampire.
- Houma House: Take a day tour, eat and drink, or even stay the night. Houma House offers an un-parralleled look into life in Antebellum Louisiana
- Destrehan Plantation: This plantation is only a 30-minute drive from New Orleans so it’s a bit easier to do if you have dinner plans back in the city. It’s similar to Oak Alley but reviews say it’s more informative.
- Laura Plantation: This is touted as the most unique of the New Orleans plantations if only because it was a Creole plantation and therefore the architecture and history will differ significanty from the others in the area. If you’re looking for a more realistic view of plantation life, including treatment and life of slaves, then this is the plantation I’d most highly recommend.
3. Swamp Tours
Looking for some wildlife and environmental history of the bayou? Check out these two companies for swamp tours where you’re sure to seem some ‘gators!
Now for one of my favorite parts of New Orleans…..FOOD!!! This was a big reason why I didn’t care about coming to the city while pregnant…the dishes here are so amazing and I love Creole cooking. Thursday and Friday the food was taken care of by the company so I only had to choose a place for Saturday. After careful research, I settle on a restaurant called La Petite Grocery and O.M.G. am I glad I did. The food was incredible (we had two desseerts that were out of this world), the service was impeccable, ambiance was really pleasant and evoked the important history of the building and the decor was adorable. The location along Magazine Street was also great because it took us in the Garden District and so we go to explore some of grandest streets in New Orleans as well as window shop boutiuqes and galleries. I highly, highly recommend this restaurant! (The owner and chef, Justin Devillier, is a James Beard Award multi-nominee as well as 2014’s “Chef of the Year” in New Orleans.
Other restaurants that were recommended:
Finally, no trip to New Orleans is complete without a little nightlife action. A lot of people assume Bourbon Street and Harrah’s are the only places to hit, but that’s simply not true. While there are tons of bars and dives around the city, my favorite place to spend the after-dinner hours is on Frenchmen Street where you can wander from bar to bar listening to fantastic local musicians jamming out. On this particular trip, we found ourselves in Bamboula’s listening to an amazing group called the Caesar Brothers. They had everyone up and dancing, they were SO fun! Here are some other great bars to check out along Frenchmen Street:
Hope y’all enjoyed my re-cap of our trip to New Orleans! I shouldn’t have been surprised that New Orleans had so much to offer any sort of visitor and I’m looking forward to our next Trip back (sooner rather than later!) so I can cross even more of NOLA off my list!