New Orleans – Tardi Gras
Sometimes it’s ok to be Tardi for the Party!!!
There are very few places in this country, or even the world that penetrate your spirit in the way that New Orleans does. Chris Rose said, “You can live in any city in America but New Orleans is the only city that lives in you.” We saw this quote on a shirt in the window of Fleurty Girl, a boutique company making waves in NOLA (fleurtygirl.net). Being NYers who have traveled near and far… prior to visiting NOLA we probably would have just shrugged it off and chalked it up to local pride. However, after being transformed by the City of Second Chances, we both feel very differently and actually now identify with the mantra. Within minutes of arriving in New Orleans you feel different. Changed with every breath. After a few hours of embracing the Crescent City, you wonder how you managed all your life without knowing this missing piece of your heart. And by the end of your visit, you are saying good-bye to “family members” you just met and trying to figure out how quickly you can return.
New Orleans is a truly magical place that will win your heart, change your mind and spice up your life. Known as the Big Easy, it is a culturally diverse Getaway that offers up a monthly mix of festivals, music, food, and culturally infused fun that will provide you with the perfect backdrop for whatever you are celebrating during your visit.
The NUMBER 1 TIP we can give, when you’re planning your trip to New Orleans, is: There is ALWAYS a Festival, Carnival, or Event going on in NOLA and if you can plan your Getaway around one… it’s a nice way to shape / loosely plan out the days of your stay. However and with that being said, don’t feel pressure to visit New Orleans during one of its “busier” times like Mardi Gras, New Year’s Eve, Jazz Fest, Food & Wine Festival, etc. We discovered that there is no wrong time to visit NOLA. We were a little bit bummed, at first, because we arrived in NOLA the day after all of the Mardi Gras travelers left town! We were afraid that we might be arriving late to the party, or missing out on all of the fun… but instead we learn that there is no such thing as “Being Late” in the Big Easy and that #TardiGras is the “new” Mardi Gras. Smaller crowds, better deals and everything that you would expect to experience in New Orleans at half the price (minus the parades). Tardi Gras was a happy accident and we highly recommend it!
If experiencing the legendary food of NOLA is a priority we recommend deciding on your restaurant preferences in advance. After walking around all day and working up an appetite for Cajun deliciousness, having to wait on a 40 plus minute line can be very frustrating. Research the “top rated” restaurants before dropping a mortgage payment unexpectedly and indulge in the staples of NOLA… po-boys, muffulettas, gumbo, and jumbalaya. If you really want to live on the edge go for some alligator hot dogs! Rachel loves seafood, so the crawfish was a natural choice! She tried it multiple ways (at different restaurants) and she wasn’t disappointed. If you are into Southern Spirits, the offerings of rosewater and strawberry infused tequila cocktail topped with Prosecco might tickle your fancy… as NOLA has much more to offer, than just the traditional Hurricane! Liza, on the other hand, is a Cajun at heart and jumped right into all of the sauce, dip and spice tastings that peppered the streets of the French Quarter! We say this because, regardless of your palate… there is something for everyone and every taste in New Orleans! The one Foodie regret we have and it was Acme Oyster (so close yet so far)! We tried every day to experience what we heard was fantastic food however we didn’t have the 40 plus minutes to dedicate to waiting on line. The silver lining… one of many reasons to go back.
Nowhere to Go and All Day to Get There. Definitely roam around and take in the architecture, beautiful courtyards, the eye catching colors of the City. Take a day to DO NOTHING and EXPERIENCE EVERYTHING. No plan. No time restraints. Just you, your camera and a good pair of walking shoes! The day that we spent wandering around the French Quarter was probably our favorite and when some of our most interesting pictures were taken, best meals were eaten and the most FANTASTIC memories made! In fact, the day that we didn’t have an itinerary was when we joined in not 1, but 2 Second Lines and stumble across the Free Spirit Brass Band. Both experiences were truly MAGICAL!
Don’t wear shoes that you care about, or that cannot withstand cobblestone streets. For as fancy as New Orleans is, it’s a very casual place. There is NO POINT in packing more than 1 pair of high heels (if you have a special event, or romantic dinner planned) because you won’t be able to enjoy all that NOLA has to offer in uncomfortable shoes, or with blisters on your feet! Trust Us. Sneakers, Comfy Flats, Sturdy Sandals are all a much better way to go.
Jackson Square is a GREAT place to spend the afternoon! Go and see the famous equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson as well as St Louis Cathedral, enjoy warm Beignets and Café au Lait at Café Du Monde and watch local talent performing in the street. It’s also a haven for local painters and artists to selling their work. As if that isn’t enough, you will also find musicians, an abundance of tarot card readers and musicians, and Donkey Buggies / Carriage Tours all around the square.
Wander down to Frenchmen Street. Frenchmen Street is a great place to experience live music and shopping without the Bourbon Street crowds. The Art market is a draw for sure! There’s definitely not a shortage on talent and passion in NOLA. The overwhelming talent hidden in an alley way dimly lit by strung party lights was heart-warming and something reminiscent of a scene in your favorite Chick Flick. It was almost like you walked into another time and space, as you entered the Market (just past the Fast Food Drive Thru sign). Make sure you take time to talk to the vendors / artist. We found that each one had a story to tell and a reason for why they created the beautiful pieces of art that surrounded them.
Take in the French Market, America’s oldest public market is definitely worth the visit. Packed full of eateries and vendors you WILL leave with a full stomach and bags full of NOLA. This conglomerate of vendors and wares is just past Jackson Square and before Frenchman Street. It is a happy mix of old and new, traditional and contemporary and hand-made vs. signature. We purchased our Mardi Gras Masks here, along with art (prints, photographs, etc.), and other fun trinkets. We also stumble across a table of Traditional Children’s Book, re-written specifically for or about New Orleans (The Night Before Christmas, in the Bayou and Goodnight NOLA). We couldn’t leave without purchasing an inspirational original story called, Are You A Who Dat, which celebrates the Spirit of New Orleans!
Check Out Your Hotel Online, don’t default to habit! We know that most people have a brand of hotel that they prefer to frequent when traveling, believe me… so do we! However, NOLA is a place were “norms” don’t necessarily hold up and you might be surprised if you give something new a chance! We suggest that instead of focusing on what you know, pick the LOCATION that you want to stay in FIRST (i.e. French Quarter, Bourbon Street, Cannel Street, Garden District, etc.), then search that area online for a hotel and look at the pictures provided! Do not pick a hotel based on an experience you had with that brand in another city because you might be disappointed, or miss out on some of the lovely local properties, that we found to be quite charming!
Get Caught Up In The Gitchy Itchy Ya Ya Ta Ta! Trust us, NOLA will penetrate your soul. Don’t fight it, BECOME IT! Embrace your inner Cajun, Wear a Mask in the Street, Celebrate with a Family You’ve Never Met (in a Wedding 2nd Line, or BBQ), Dance Down Bourbon, and have Lunch with a Local! These are things that you can’t do anywhere, but in New Orleans and will be part of the reason you go back!
Do Something Good! New Orleans has been through more than most, but yet they are still standing, smiling and CELEBRATING! Their spirit is undeniable and hospitality, abundant. Their history is rich, culture shared and impact profound. The music is contagious and food delicious. However, the people of New Orleans… are one of a kind and their most valuable contribution. So we encourage you to support and encourage them… by shopping with local vendors, supporting mom and pop shops, eating at non-chain restaurants, and tipping the performers you pass by. We also encourage you to lend a hand via a local charity or organization while in New Orleans. You can go to VolunteerMatch.org, or check out some of the ones we found and love (Villalobos Rescue Center, Hands On New Orleans, Habitat for Humanity). NOLA knows how to celebrate! They celebrate their culture, LIFE, passions, and resilience. You have no choice but to leave inspired and motivated to appreciate life a little bit more.
Pat O’Brien’s – is a must do! Home of the Hurricane and yes they make their own rum, is an experience that will probably go down in NOLA history and be immortalized in your scrapbook. It really is just a good time and a great place to meet people from all over. At the same time Pat O’Brien’s holds a lot of history and tradition within its walls. Starting out in 1933 as a speakeasy, Pat O’Brien’s, clearly knows how to keep the party going. Heat lamps and a water feature make it comfortable and interesting, while three bars offering different themes make it enjoyable for a diverse group. The staff is top notch! But we all agreed, it was more like going to a Gala at a friend’s house… then a local haunt. Scott (the manager) was a gracious host, Helga captured us in a Photo, and Ms. Q helped us get it together “in front of the mirror”… as if we had known each other for years and just stopping by on any given Tuesday night. Everybody at Pat O’Brien’s was awesome and there to make our night memorable.
International House Hotel and LOA – was exactly what we needed after a rough start to our trip. I can only explain Loa is the perfect pairing of Romantic Tradition and Contemporary Accents. Every detail from the lighting and furniture to the music and swanky sophistication, creates a sexy yet laid back atmosphere. The unique drink menu and one of a kind signature cocktails is the cherry on top of an already delightful experience. Both the hotel (IHH) and the Bar (Loa) are ways to enhance your experience in New Orleans!
Café du Monde – is a MUST DO! Everyone has heard about it and it’s all true! Best beignets (renamed Powder Sugar Bombs) and Café au Laits you can imagine. Bonus Tip: fan out and grab a table, servers will come to you, clean your area and take your order. Don’t be shy or embarrassed to dive into this NOLA fav, you WILL have powdered sugar all over you when it’s all said and done, but it’s a part of the fun and very worth it.
Saints and Sinners – Channing Tatum. We could probably just stop there, at Channing Tatum, but we won’t. Saints and Sinners, Channing Tatum’s restaurant / club is where Magic Mike brings his date to have some good food, a drink or two… and get loose on the dance floor. By their own admission, it’s also “Where the Red Light Is Always On!” But don’t be fooled, like many of the other establishments in NOLA… Saints and Sinners has a story / history too. In fact, its story starts in what was once known as “Storyville.”
Frenchman Street Art Market – Where old things become new, new things are classic, and Local Talent is on FULL Display. This magical nook on the corner of the street is a wonderful mash up of eclectic merriment and unique items that will ensure NOLA never leaves you.