For starters, I am SO happy we did not go to New Orleans during Mardi Gras. We actually arrived four days after Fat Tuesday so much of the aftermath was still up, it just wasn't during the actual carnival season. We had spent quite a bit of time preplanning out (on a ridiculous and amazing google sheet) our 3.5 days in the great city of New Orleans. Honestly, much of our agenda was finding the best food places and experiencing the artistic elements of the city. I flew in from Seattle and Hannah flew in from Detroit on Friday evening. Travel is always a bit exhausting, so Friday was just an Uber ride to our Airbnb and some time finalizing our schedule to get as much out of the trip as possible. A piece of advice when traveling with friends that are coming from different locations: always Always, ALWAYS check when the flights are supposed to land before booking them. Something we mistakenly did not do and I landed a good 3 hours earlier than she did. In case you were wondering, yes I waited for her, I was not about to pay for a 35 minute Uber ride from the airport by myself if I didn't have to.
From the start we had many different placed mapped out as great food options, however, we found our favorite places were suggested by out Uber/Lyft drivers. We began with breakfast at Oceana Grill for some mimosas and seafood omelets. Our agenda for the rest of the day was to explore the French Quarter, Jackson Square, The French Market, eat beignets at Café du Monde, get in some people watching on Bourbon Street and find ourselves some more seafood. If you've never been to Jackson Square & The French Market, my best comparison (though not the most accurate) would be Pike Place with the different food vendors, tourist stops and local artists selling their pieces. After wandering around Jackson Square (I picked up a lovely painting) we headed to the ALWAYS long line at Café du Monde. The line does move fairly quickly but is pretty long nonetheless and we easily waited for 30-minutes. Now you may be thinking are the beignets REALLY worth it? The answer is 100% yes. You need to get them from Café du Monde at least once. Moving on from one of the best pastries ever, I think my favorite drink by far was our post-lunch piña coladas from Organic Banana inside the French Market. Since I was coming from a lovely 30ish degrees & snow, 70 and sunny with some humidity is VERY warm in comparison. The piña colada hot the spot for sure. We finished up the day wandering around downtown & dinner at Felix's Restaraunt and Oyster Bar.
We began our morning with breakfast at a cute & very popular (based on the fairly lengthy wait time) place called Surrey's Cafe & Juice Bar. From there we made our way to French Truck Coffee. Being from Washington I find myself always looking for a good cup of coffee when I travel. French Truck was definitely what I was looking for and needed from the previous 2 days without it, I know I have a love of coffee problem. From our coffee pitstop, we walked over to Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World. I think when people say New Orleans you automatically think Mardi Gras. What better way to learn about the carnival season than from the company who lives and breathes Mardi Gras all year round? Of course, actually coming for Mari Gras would be a perfect way but that is beside the point. It's a really cool perspective to see how much work goes into each piece of all the floats and props in the parades. Favorite two facts I learned: They recycle and reuse everything they possibly can (they have pieces from the 70's they still use and two they have never repeated a parade float, ever and finally once the Carnival season is over they have already begun the production for the next year. After the tour and some time spent running around and exploring the different pieces in their one of many warehouses we headed to Peaches Records. A coworker suggest heading to Peaches after finding out I loved vinyls, saying the shop would blow my mind. He was right, it totally did. They have a massive selection of records that I have never seen anywhere else and the best part is you can buy from them online as well. On our way back from Peach's out Lyft driver suggested we get dinner at ACME Oyster House and while waiting in line we took advantage of some beverages from Mango Mango Daiquiris. If you haven't noticed a seafood theme you will very soon. Our other suggestion from the Lyft driver was to head over to Preservation Hall for live jazz music. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band did not disappoint either. We were all crowded together in a tiny little room to watch them play with one stipulation: no photos of videos of any kind. They said they wanted to play music for the people no the peoples phones. It was amazing and so refreshing to experience a concert without any distractions! We then finished off the day with some beignets but branching out to Cafe Beignet because it was much closer, less crowded and had good coffee & chai tea.
On the first day, our Uber driver has told us if we do anything outside of the city we HAD to do a swamp tour to see the gators. So, Monday morning rolled around and we went out and got a rental car to do just that. We got breakfast at what one might call a traditional breakfast diner and of course stopped for coffee. This time we stopped by Rue de la Course, a coffee shop that was located inside what used to be an old bank. It was very cool to see how they had renovated it. After coffee, we drove out to Oak Alley (I had wanted to see the oak trees). Something I did not take into account was how sickening it feels to be inside the mansion. Sure it was beautiful but it was also hard to be there knowing what really happened there. Growing up on the west coast we don't have houses that were built by slaves, standing there inside the mansion felt wrong. The Oak Alley Foundation does make sure to talk about it & wants the visitors to understand the horrible past these plantations have which I appreciated but it is an experience I do not think I will ever repeat. After our time at Oak Ally, we drove to Airboat Adventures (I think you know exactly what that means) SWAMP TOUR!!!!! We spent I believe an hour or so on a fan boat at sunset seeing alligators up close, taking in the beauty of the Louisiana bayou and learning about the history of New Orleans from someone who sent their entire life there which is super cool! We finished the evening with alligators dogs from Dat Dog & rolled ice cream at Freezy Street.
For our final day in New Orleans, we didn't have much time to explore after breakfast at St. Roch Market but made sure to get get some coffee at a really cool coffee place called Fair Grinds that is completely fair trade coffee, farm to table food and partners with community groups in several countries. Nothing makes me happier than finding these types of business gems when I travel. Our final stop was to make sure we had some poboys before heading back to the airport. It's understandable that nearly everyone who has been to New Orleans says it is one of their favorite places because saying New Orleans is amazing is an understatement. Until next time NOLA!