If you’re wondering why New Orleans keeps popping up on your newsfeed, I promise you’re not alone. It turns out NOLA is the number one travel destination of 2018, and has topped all the major lists for where to visit this year. I was unaware of this when I ventured out to New Orleans this January (an unlikely place for a mother/daughter vacation that turned out to be one of the best yet).
We covered a lot of the French Quarter on this trip, sampling some great food and learning about the diverse New Orleans culture along the way. We visited during Carnival Season, so it was an especially exciting time to see the city as it prepared for Mardi Gras.
If you’re among the many planning to visit New Orleans in the near future, check out my suggested itinerary items below! Please note: This was a mother/daughter trip, so even though we stayed in the French Quarter, we did not spend much time on Bourbon Street (especially after watching the streets get cleaned in the mornings!).
What We Did: The Highlights
City Sightseeing Hop On/Hop Off Tour
Longtime readers of my blog are probably aware that these tours are my favorite way to begin exploring a new city! We hopped on and off the trolley at different popular stops throughout New Orleans, and because the weather was unseasonably cold, we ended up extending to a three-day pass. Our tour guides were excellent and each provided their own unique flavor.
Mardi Gras World
You can’t go to New Orleans and not experience Mardi Gras in some way! At Mardi Gras World (which happened to also be a convenient stop on our bus tour), we watched artists and craftsmen as they built and designed Mardi Gras floats for this year’s parades. We learned about the holiday’s history, as well as the work that goes into building the floats. On our way out, we were invited to try on costumes and have a piece of King Cake. Mardi Gras World is a must-visit for anyone traveling to New Orleans for the first time, and only takes about an hour and a half.
Any time I visit a city with a lot of history, I like to take a ghost/cemetery tour. The Haunted History Ghost Tour did not disappoint! The tour gave a lot of background into the city’s history (including Katrina-era), and fully reaffirmed my belief in ghosts!
Gallier House and Herman-Grima House
I grouped these two historic homes together because you can purchase a discounted ticket that grants admission to both houses and they are located within a few blocks of each other. Learn about the families who inhabited these homes, the architectural styles they used, and the historic context.
Garden District Walking Tour
No trip to the Big Easy is complete without a trip to the Garden District, a quieter neighborhood of New Orleans lined with oak trees, historic homes, and adorable shops and cafés. Our hop on/hop off tour included a walking tour of the Garden District, but if you don’t have time for that, it is still a beautiful place to wander.
Where We Ate
Café du Monde
Forget your diet — beignets are a must on any New Orleans trip! We visited the iconic Café du Monde around 7 a.m. on a weekend and managed to arrive before the crowds lined up. A few tricks to get in quickly: Be sure to grab a table as soon as one becomes available. Get there early if possible to avoid the wait; otherwise, you can get your food relatively quickly if you grab it to-go from the window. Know what you want as soon as you sit down — the restaurant is so busy that it’s likely your server will collect the bill as soon as your food arrives. Luckily, the menu is straightforward and limited, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble deciding what to order. My suggestion: a plate of three beignets and a cup of hot chocolate! Make sure you bring cash.
This restaurant in the Garden District was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on the Food Network. New Orleans is known for its cuisine, but of all the food we ate on this trip, the sliders and waffle fries at The District were my absolute favorite meal. Grab a donut to go on your way out! To stay in theme with Mardi Gras, we ordered the King Cake donut.
Located in the French Quarter, Remoulade is the more casual, budget-friendly sister restaurant of Arnaud’s. I ordered a delicious lemon marinated grilled chicken, but the restaurant also serves po boys, seafood, burgers, franks and more.
I’m not much for seafood, but I did break out of my shell at Deanie’s Seafood, trying out the fried catfish and charbroiled oysters. While I struggled with the texture, I actually really liked the lemon butter flavor! The restaurant also serves a variety of gumbos, salads, sandwiches and other seafood.
I saw more of this coffee shop than Starbucks!
Have you traveled to NOLA recently? Share your favorite spots in the comments section below!