Robert and I have been talking about going to New Orleans for a while now, but since our main focus (for far too long) has been to pay down debt, it hasn’t happened. Luckily things have been improving on that front, so when our good friends Jason & Paula mentioned they were planning to go to New Orleans for their anniversary in September, we decided to tag along. The group grew to eight, half of us had been to New Orleans before, the other half, including me, had never been.
Flying on Spirit Airlines
The group was planning to drive down in a mini-van, and because there wasn’t enough room for everyone, I wasted no time volunteering to fly down instead, and my friend Drew opted to join me. (13+ hour drive or 2-hour flight?) Luckily, we were able to find affordable tickets on Spirit airlines. I had never flown Spirit and hadn’t heard the best things, but the flight was short, and we were able to send an extra bag each with the group traveling by van and avoid bag fees, so I figured I’d give it a shot.
Drew and I left early Wednesday morning. (The rest of the group drove down Wednesday night.) I was actually surprised by the flight. I knew not to expect any “freebies” on Spirit Airlines. (No in-flight drinks or snacks – not even water, only one small carry on item was free – small enough to fit under the seat in front of you.) I heard the seats were cramped, but honestly, I didn’t notice much of a difference over Southwest or other economy airlines. (I’m also an average-sized person, so someone like my husband, who is 6’4, would be extremely uncomfortable and would likely pay to upgrade to a bigger seat, but that the case with pretty much any airline.) Boarding the plane was typical, and both flights there and back were on time. I would definitely fly Spirit again, and not just for shorter flights.
What we ate in New Orleans
I kept hearing about how great the food is in New Orleans, and it did not disappoint.
Since the trip was centered around Jason & Paula’s anniversary, which fell on the Saturday of our trip, we booked a reservation at GW Fins. The highlights of the meal for me were the Lobster Dumplings (similar to lobster ravioli in a creamy sauce) and the Bread Pudding (I’ve ordered a lot of Bread Pudding in my life and this was by far the best, most creamiest version I’ve ever had). I don’t usually order creme brulee for dessert, but we got an order and it was the best I’ve ever had. I also heard good things from the people who ordered the salmon and the swordfish. Definitely make reservations if you go.
After dinner at GW Fins
Pro Tip: Find a husband who can double as your bodyguard
We also had a really fantastic meal at Paladar 511. Highlights for me were the Braised Lamb Angioletti (stuffed pasta) and the Chicken Liver Pate. We didn’t have reservations, but called ahead and were seated right away on a Friday around 6pm.
We were staying about two blocks from the St Roch Market food hall, and ended up going there for breakfast multiple times, as well as stopping by in the evening to pick up some desserts and pastries.
St Rioch Market
What we did in New Orleans
There is more than just food and live music (and drinking) in New Orleans. Although those things can (and should) be the main focus on your trip!
At the top of our mutual To Do list was an airboat tour. We booked one with Air Boat Adventures in Lafitte at 2pm on a Friday afternoon. Our group was big enough that we could have gotten a small airboat all to ourselves, but we booked last minute (the morning of) and ended up on a 30-person boat with some other groups, which was still a lot of fun. Because we had a van, we drove out (otherwise you can pay extra and they’ll pick you up), it about 30-45 minutes (depending on traffic). The tour was about 2-hours long through the Bayou Barataria. We saw a few alligators in the water, our tour guide pulled one small-medium sized alligator out of the water to show us, and he also brought along one of his pet baby alligators, which we were all able to hold. Riding around the bayou was pretty, but hot (temps were 90+ in the afternoons the entire time we were there), although when the boat was zipping along, the breeze felt really good. If you go: Book in advance, bring a hat or visor that you can secure to your head, bring sunglasses and sunscreen, bring a bottle of water, bring cash to tip your guide, and also keep in mind that you’ll be going at fast speeds in an open-air boat, so skip the dangly earrings and pull your hair back.
This is Fluffy (behind me is Paula)
Second on our group To Do list was a walking tour. We also booked this last minute, so our options were limited, but we ended up with an 8pm tour on Friday with Voodoo Bone Lady Tours. We did the 5-in-1 tour, it was about 2 hours long, and we hit up 6 spots throughout the French Quarter, with a 15-minute break in the middle at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar for drinks and restrooms. Our tour guide was Randy, and he was so great! Lots of personality and energy and great at telling stories. Also, he had a great voice to project to our group in the very busy French Quarter.
About to start our walking tour
At the top of my To Do list was to enjoy some live New Orleans music. I had heard that Preservation Hall can be a bit of a pain to get into, with really long lines, but Drew and I made a last minute decision after dinner on Wednesday to see if we could get into a show. By the time we got in line, it was 9:45 or so, and the last show was at 10pm. However, the line wasn’t long and we easily got in. I doubt we’d have the same luck on the weekend, but who knows. Preservation Hall itself is very small and antiquated – no a/c, dim lights, wooden walls, wooden benches to sit on, and no bar or restrooms (although you can easily hit up the many bars on the block – if you weren’t aware, in New Orleans you can carry drinks out of the bar, so everything is served in plastic cups, and you can essentially BYOB to Preservation Hall). The set lasted an hour, and I loved every minute of it. (Even with the drunk chatty people in the audience, WTF.) As a former band nerd, it was amazing to listen to some of the best musicians around. If you go: Bring cash, get in line and then have someone from your group grab drinks and take turns running to the restroom, bring a water bottle, bring a hand fan, dress for no a/c. They do an hour-long set every night at 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10pm and are open to all ages.
In line for Preservation Hall
One of the unexpected things I learned about New Orleans is that they are the home of the National World War II Museum. Robert and I visited on a Saturday afternoon (scoring discounted tickets as a veteran and a student, respectively), and it wasn’t too crowded, although there were a good amount of people there. We spent about 3 hours in the museum and I feel like I easily could have spent another 1-2 hours there, so we’ll definitely visit again the next time we’re down there.
National WWII Museum
In addition to all of the ticketed things we did, we also spent some time checking out the local art and other wares. We stopped by the French Market a couple of times, the Palace Market on Frenchman Street and checked out the artists of Jackson Square.
Palace Night Market
Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral
And of course, we popped into various bars.
I don’t remember which bar this is, but Paula snapped this great shot.
Where We Stayed in New Orleans
Given the size of our group, AirBnB was the way to go. We stayed in the Marigny neighborhood, in a 3 bedroom home with a pool in the backyard. Given how hot it was (80 overnight, 90+ in the afternoon), the pool was well worth it.
What to Wear in New Orleans
I grew up with four seasons, however, I’m used to some relief when the weather is extreme. From what I’m told, the south has no relief in the summer. I tried to wear as little clothing as possible (shorts, tanks, dresses, even a romper). I wore a lot of sunscreen. While I was down there, I bought a small parasol at the French Market and voila – instant shade. Which helped a little. I also was not above ducking into whatever shop I happened to be walking past when I started to feel like I was overheating. The St. Louis Cathedral was also a great place to visit when you’re feeling hot. Our AirBnB had a washer & dryer, so we were able to wash our sweaty clothes.
We did a lot while we were there, but there’s still a lot more to see in New Orleans! We’ll just have to plan another trip 🙂