I went back to The Big Easy this week, y’all! I mean, I literally landed back in Dallas this morning. This past Thursday was my mom’s birthday and I knew I wanted to take her on a trip, so I voluntold her to join me in New Orleans which is a place she has never been to before. Wednesday also happened to be the five year anniversary of this blog, so we had two things to celebrate this week. Celebrate, we did!
This is my third time coming to New Orleans and each time has offered a different experience. If you read my Guide to Winter Travel post, you know that New Orleans was one of my suggestions because, like many southern cities, the temperatures are more manageable. After having visited this city in the dead of summer and then in fall, I can confirm the city is just as alive in the winter time, especially as they gear up for Mardi Gras. To save time on repeating essentially the same blueprint I did the first time I came here, I will share what we did differently and what I would recommend:
◊ NOLA Restaurant
NOLA is owned by renowned chef Emeril Lagasse. My mom has been a fan of Emeril for a long time, so I knew I wanted to take her to one of his restaurants as a birthday treat. Obviously, this is on the pricier side of options when it comes to dining in the French Quarter, but not by much. This was also his casual dress restaurant, so it took the pressure off the surprise element since I didn’t need to ask my mom to pack dressy clothes for a less-than-dressy vacation.
My mom had the gulf drum and the cheesecake and I just had the short rib; she thoroughly enjoyed her meal and mine was personally too much food. But who’s really complaining about getting too much food at an upscale restaurant? The shining star for me, however, was the drinks. I had the Rose-Colored Glasses and my mom ordered an off-the-menu recommendation: the NOLA Cosmo.
Apparently the NOLA Cosmo was removed from the menu years back, so only big fans/locals know to ask for it. It was that good. Thankfully, the entire menu can be viewed online including the prices. 🙂
◊ Pat O’Brien’s Courtyard
I mentioned Pat O’Brien’s in my last post, but we went to their courtyard this time. It can be very crowded with a lot of rowdy people, but when we started to head out after not finding viable seating, the waiters jumped right in and spotted a free table for us right away. Not to mention, drinks are CHEAP. Highly recommend if the weather is nice and you don’t mind sitting near really drunk people
◊ Steamboat Natchez
I have seen and heard the steamboat both times I visited, but my mom decided we should go on a whim. On a whim meaning it was taking off in 10 minutes. It was a two-hour ride down the Mississippi with not much to look at, but it was a way to enjoy a day of nice weather.
The steamboat does offer a “with lunch” option and is complete with bars on each floor and a gift shop. I felt this was a great option to do if you are visiting the city with family instead of friends. Though my mom enjoys a cocktail as much as I do, the Bourbon Street experience was definitely not her scene. There are also a ton of people who work for the tour companies up and down the French Quarter offering discounts, so we highly recommend taking advantage of that since we ended up paying full price.
◊ New Orleans Pelicans basketball game
My dad just happened to have tickets to the Pelicans v. Clippers game to give us, but it was another great option to have since I was not visiting with friends. Saturdays are so crazy and crowded, so it was nice to have somewhere to go in the middle of the day when everyone has woken up from their Friday-night stupor and be around locals that love their team. I don’t know about other people, but I love live sporting events no matter what the sport (except maybe golf). Obviously, it’s even better when it’s free, but it was a great game and we were surrounded by very spirited people!
On top of re-doing things I have already detailed in my other New Orleans blog post, we really spent most of our time walking around or splitting up with me in the hotel room and my mom in Harrah’s casino. Despite not making it to Cafe du Monde, this trip was meant to be a vacation where the both of us could just do whatever we felt like and I think we accomplished that.
The hotel we stayed at, the DoubleTree, was part of my dad’s contributions to our trip, so I do not have the exact amount it was nightly. I do know he used AMEX rewards points and booked a few months in advance. The hotel was the French Quarter location on Canal Street and literally a hop and a skip away from Harrah’s (bonus for my mom). As far as the room goes though, we were a little disappointed by the state of it.
The safe was broken and even after security replaced it, the second one was also broken. The standing room in the bathroom was just enough for one person to stand in front of the sink unless you wanted to fall into the tub or onto the toilet. The cupboard that housed the fridge was completely damaged as well as the curtains–we both had to pull all of the curtains together and pull at once because the rod was stuck. Finally, the room was situated at the end of the hall so you would be disturbed anytime someone used the EXIT door. You may think this is an exaggeration, but I was having a phone call and the person on the other line asked, “What was that?” when someone let the door close behind them. Just imagine a slamming door in the wee hours of the morning.
Honestly, for a three-night stay and for these damages to be pretty much cosmetic, it didn’t negatively affect my experience per se. However, if I paid full price for its prime location and this was the state the room was in, I would have been upset. As a positive, the staff was more than accommodating and the concierge was especially knowledgeable. They definitely welcomed us warmly and made it easy for us to come to them with questions and concerns.
Cost (excluding food and drinks):
St. Charles Line trolley: $2.50 roundtrip per person
Steamboat Natchez: $38/person (full price)
Pelicans tickets (2): ~$30 each
It is very easy to not spend a lot of money here in New Orleans if you successfully avoid the French Quarter traps. If you are staying a hotel, ask the very-knowledgeable concierge. If you are taking a Lyft/Uber, talk to the drivers. Locals will obviously encourage you to go outside of the quarter, but if that’s not your game plan, they still know the places to go. Ultimately, I felt the trip was a success and it wasn’t until I got here that I realized how much I needed it.
Before I close the blog post, I want to thank everyone so, so, so much for the support I have had the last five years with this blog. Though it started as more or less a diary for my friends and family while I was abroad and didn’t decide to start devoting extensive time to it until around end of 2018, I still appreciate everyone who has been there through the years. When you all tell me you really enjoyed a post, compliment my writing skills, or simply ask me if I’m still working on my blog, words cannot express how much joy and affirmation it brings me. Though I do this because I enjoy it, it makes me even happier that I am bringing fun, adventure, and/or entertainment to people like you. Again, thank you so much and here’s to another five years!! ❤