Three days in New Orleans will make you forget about the winter, and just about anything else about which you might be worrying. This city knows how to have a good time, hence their motto: Laissez le bon temps rouler.
1. Take a taxi, for $33, from the airport to your French Quarter hotel. I chose Hotel Royal, 1006 Rue Royal, which is on the edge of the action, perfect for walking to everything, but you’ll still be able to sleep at night. We dropped our bags and headed straight for Café Du Monde, 800 Decatur St., for beignets—the small squares of fried dough covered in powdered sugar—and a chicory coffee. Mid-morning there was no line and we snuck right in.
2. Fortified with sugar and caffeine, we spent the next few hours wandering the French Quarter, which is laid out in a grid and is very easily navigated. There is so much going on at all times, you just don’t know where to look first. There is live music, street artists, historical walking tours, horse drawn carriages, antique shops, spiritual readings and voodoo shops. It’s a true feast for the senses. Our first stop was Rev. Zombie’s House of Voodoo, 723 St. Peter St., for a palm and tarot card reading, $40, an “only in New Orleans” type of activity.
3. Lunch at Acme Oyster House, 724 Iberville St. It was difficult choosing just one thing from the extensive menu at this institution, so we ordered several: a dozen oysters, a fried fish po-boy and jambalaya. Too stuffed to walk very far, we jumped on a horse drawn carriage, $50, in front of Jackson Square and took a tour of the quarter from a different perspective. The ride lasts about 30 minutes and points out many historical, architectural and pop culture icons, like where Brad Pitt filmed “Interview With a Vampire.”
I especially appreciated the pit stop at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar, 941 Bourbon St., where a waiter ran out to the carriage to take my order for a hurricane in a “to-go” cup. The hurricane became popular at Pat O’Briens bar in the 1940s in New Orleans after debuting at the 1939 World’s Fair. It’s a mix of light and dark rum, fruit juices and simple syrup with an orange slice and cherry on top.
Speaking of to-go cups, it’s perfectly legal to drink alcohol from a plastic cup on the street in New Orleans. In fact, it’s encouraged. I was travelling with my 14-year-old daughter but, due to this festive rule, I didn’t have to miss cocktail hour. You can walk into any bar and order a drink to go. This makes for a very fun atmosphere as to-go cups come in all sizes—including fishbowls—and make great souvenirs.
4. The food in New Orleans is so delicious you can’t help but plan out your next meal as you are still digesting the one you’ve just eaten. Dinner that night was at Sylvain, 625 Chartres St., housed in a three-story carriage house in the French Quarter with a menu that runs the gamut from pan-fried pork shoulder to country fried steak to their famous burgers.
5. An early start at The Old Coffee Pot, 714 St. Peter St., est. 1894, where the service is brusque, but the food is authentic. You can’t get any more real than eggs creole with a side of grits and biscuits.
6. From there, we walked through the French Quarter to Canal Street, where we hopped on the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar. For $1.25 in exact change, you can ride the oldest continuously operating streetcar in the world. Throw open the windows and watch the scenery reverse in time from 2014 downtown skyscrapers to the 1800s in an area called The Garden District, considered one of the best preserved collections of southern mansions in the United States. Our destination was Lafayette Cemetery, the oldest of the seven city-operated cemeteries in New Orleans and the backdrop for many works of fiction, including many of Anne Rice’s vampire novels.
After our visit, we walked a few blocks to Magazine Street, a mix of funky restaurants, clothing boutiques and antique/junk shops. If I had a bigger suitcase, I could have spent a lot of time at The Magazine Antique Mall, 3017 Magazine St., rummaging through aisle after aisle of New Orleans’ cast-offs.
7. A visit to New Orleans without a tour of the Ninth Ward would leave the trip incomplete. Hurricane Katrina is a big part of this city’s history now and the experience has changed it forever.
I read great things about Ninth Ward Rebirth Bike Tours, ninthwardrebirthbiketours.com, and wanted to take the four-hour tour. Unfortunately, for insurance purposes, they can’t take anyone under 15, but they offered a tour by car instead. Derrick, our guide and a masters student at Tulane, picked us up at our hotel at 3 p.m. and, over the course of the next two hours, he brought to life what happened during the hurricane and how it affected the landscape and the people who lived there. The tale he told had villains and heroes and left us with a feeling of hope and optimism.
In the middle of the tour, we stopped at Ronald Lewis’ home. Ronald is a Mardi Gras Indian and an iconic figure in the Ninth Ward. In the backyard of his home is his “House of Dance and Feathers,” 1317 Tupelo St., a tin-roofed shed filled with memorabilia. It’s a fun stop on the tour and gives you a real taste for New Orleans and its people.
8. A late dinner at Herbsaint, 701 St. Charles Ave.
9. Having a high school freshman in tow means a stop at any potential colleges nearby. We started the day with breakfast at The Camellia Grill, 626 S. Carrollton Ave., a place at which I ate 30 years ago when I visited my cousin for Mardi Gras when she was a student at Tulane. It hasn’t changed a bit. I ordered the chili cheese omelet, which made my daughter question my sanity as she said, “that’s not something you would ever eat.” But I’m all for nostalgia and so I ordered the same thing I ate all those years ago. It was amazing.
10. Tulane University, 6823 St. Charles Ave., is an extremely diverse campus. Seventy-five percent of its students come from more than 500 miles away. Located six miles from the French Quarter, Tulane holds four ratings from The Princeton Review: Great College Towns, Best in the Southeast, College With a Conscience and Happiest Students.
11. More po-boys at Mother’s. Get the famous Ferdi special with debris. Don’t be intimated by the line—it moves fast.
12. Too tired and full to walk another minute? Get in one of the NOLA pedicabs, 504-274-1300. The pricing is flexible and the service is friendly.
13. Last meal in New Orleans? Under the stars at Café Amelie, 912 Royal St.
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