This trip was over 2 years in the making, rather a long incubation for a 5 1/2 day vacation! We traveled with our good friends Anne and Jack, and first tried for Mardi Gras 2015 but put it off since we both had kids graduating from high school that June. Fast forward a year, the kids were off to college, and the time was ripe.
Anne grew up in New Orleans and still has family in the area so we couldn’t have had a better set-up. We planned a full sightseeing itinerary and their knowledge and experience helped hone each day’s outings into fun, manageable, and stress-free jaunts.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I fell in love with New Orleans. The history, culture and traditions are one-of-a-kind and come together to form a rich jambalaya, a feast for the senses. We had but a taste, and are now fully primed and ready for a return trip, someday soon I hope! I wrote five articles summarizing our explorations:
- Mardi Gras: A G-Rated Rockin’ Good Time, Not Just French Quarter Debauchery!
- Mardi Gras Parades: INSANE Fun, Long-Standing Traditions, and Advice from a Newbie
- The National WWII Museum, Chalmette Battlefield, and the Creole Queen
- Mardi Gras World, the Garden District, and Lafayette Cemetery
- The French Quarter, Preservation Hall, our Culinary History Tour, and FOOD FOOD FOOD
If you read each post, you’ll note that I only mention two of the many restaurants we sampled (Cochon Butcher and Domilise’s). For basic reviews about those two and the rest of our sit-down meals, take a look at my New Orleans 2016 Trip map and click on a restaurant (the orange-colored pins). Our absolute favorite? Shaya’s delectable Isreali cuisine. This seemed a strange choice to us all – shouldn’t we be eating gumbo or crawfish or something New Orelansy?? – but Chris’s research was spot-on. We inhaled everything set in front of us, especially the brick oven pita – to die for!!
This is the point where I usually document the many lessons learned and things I’d do differently next time. I don’t have much! We planned a full itinerary (see the “Preparation” tab for details) but not overly full or complex. I have a healthy list of things I’d like to see on the next visit, but don’t feel we missed out since we hit a little of everything: music, food, history, Mardi Gras parades, etc.
We have just two gotchas, both concerning expenses. First off, our rental car was very expensive. Next time we might try to stay near the French Quarter and rely on public transportation and the occasional taxi. Second, we spent a lot of money eating out. Our pre-trip-thinking was logical: we planned to see music at Preservation Hall and evening Mardi Gras parades, so made restaurant reservations in the vicinity of each to be assured a table. In hindsight we probably didn’t need to stress so much:
- We were a relatively nimble and easygoing party of four. We could have done as our culinary tour guide suggested and simply grazed, hitting multiple restaurants but sampling just their specialty before moving on, kind of like a progressive party in the streets of New Orleans. I like the idea!
- To save both money and time, we could have had our biggest meal of the day at lunch, again suggested by our tour guide. Many upscale, renowned restaurants offer lunch specials. Get the same food at a fraction of the cost? Fantastic!
- We stayed in Metairie but ate primarily in the French Quarter and Garden District. New Orleans has fantastic food offerings all over the city and we could have ventured away from the more expensive touristy areas.
Regardless, we ate well and came home satiated in every way. New Orleans ROCKS. Plan a visit and you can’t help but “laissez le bon temps rouler”!