Over the Christmas break, we decided to take our four children to New Orleans for 5 days. New Orleans was always a bucket list destination for my husband and I. But, there consistently seemed to be a reason not to go. When our kids were younger, there were always “better” places to go. This usually translated into a destination with a shorter or direct flight, and where the primary focus was on pools, beaches and amusement parks.
However years later, we saw an opportunity to visit New Orleans for New Years Eve. We were so excited to finally go and being there for New Year’s Eve was icing on the cake!
My first reaction after our trip was – Why did we wait so long to go! It was an amazing place with much to offer. For sure there were some adult oriented activities and areas, especially at night (in particular, Bourbon Street). However, there were some wonderful museums, walks, historical tours, and adventures to swamps and old plantations that were interesting and fun for our family. The food was impressive and the atmosphere was exhilarating.
Here is our five day itinerary. My children were 12, 13, 15 and 19 years old at the time of this trip in December 2017.
Day One – Arrival in New Orleans
Getting to the Hotel
Our flight arrived just before dinner. We rented a car from the airport and drove to the French Quarter. Once there, we found ourselves in narrow one way roads filled with cars and people.
In order to reach our hotel, we had to go through much of the French Quarter. We crossed Bourbon Street, a pedestrian zone at night. It was 6:30 pm on a Wednesday and Bourbon Street was already crowded with people, having drinks and looking for a good time.
We stayed at the Omni Royal Orleans in the heart of the French Quarter. It was a fantastic location. Notwithstanding it was a mere block or two from Bourbon Street, it was a very quiet hotel.
That night, we walked around the French Quarter looking for a place to have dinner. The French Quarter was packed with restaurants suitable for all budgets. We stumbled upon Galatroise, a restaurant that has been in business for over 110 years. We had a superb meal that was rich and delectable. The service was exceptional.
After dinner, we soaked up the festive atmosphere of the French Quarter, including a walk on Bourbon Street.
Back at the hotel, we headed to the hotel bar on the main floor. There was a pianist and singer who were fantastic. Outside, the streets around the hotel were filled with pedestrians, buskers, and musicians. We had a terrific sight line to the action.
We went on a walking tour of the French Quarter. This was a very interesting two hour tour offered by New Orleans Legendary Walking Tours. The first hour was focused on the French Quarter, its history and architecture. The second hour was spent in St. Louis’ Cemetery No. 1. We learned all about the after-life, ghosts and burial rituals, all important to New Orleans’ culture.
For lunch, we went to the Oceania Grill around the corner from our hotel. Throughout our stay, there were lineups to get in every time we looked. However, the food offered was primarily fried and was disappointing.
We went to the National WWII Museum. This was an exceptional interactive museum that educates the visitor about America’s role in WWII. It offered many different experiences that were all outstanding. There were separate exhibitions for the German and Japanese campaigns. There was a pavilion with WWII aircraft and a submarine that you could tour. Also, there was a 4D movie narrated by Tom Hanks explaining the US experience in Europe and Asia. It was excellent.
We went to dinner at the Pelican Club. This was a creole restaurant in the French Quarter and the food was delicious.
For brunch, we drove 10 minutes out of the French Quarter to Elizabeth’s Restaurant. This restaurant was awesome. The neighbourhood in which it was situated had a funky feel. Everything on the menu was made from scratch. There was a few breakfast favourites on the menu, but for the most part, each entree took traditional breakfast food and gave it a little twist. For example, there was praline bacon, fried catfish and eggs, and my favourite “Redneck Eggs” (fried green tomatoes topped with poached eggs and hollandaise).
This afternoon, we drove an hour outside New Orleans for a swamp tour offered by Pearl River Eco-tours. This was a highly enjoyable afternoon spent on a flat boat exploring the Honey Island Swamp and White Kitchen Nature Preserve. It was interesting observing the natural habitat of the swampland. We saw many birds, and even some feral hogs. Our captain was a local and gave us great insight into life on the bayou.
We went to an Italian restaurant called Marcello’s Restaurant and Wine Bar just outside the French Quarter. The food and service were excellent. However, what made this restaurant unique was that you chose your own bottle of wine from racks of wine scattered throughout the restaurant. The prices were a little more than purchasing a bottle at a wine store but were far less expensive than a normal restaurant. My husband was like a kid in a candy store. He disappeared a couple times to scout out the wine and discuss options with our waiter.
For breakfast, we again left the French Quarter and drove a short distance. We ate at a restaurant called Horns. It was fun visiting another neighbourhood breakfast spot filled with locals. Although the restaurant was busy, our food that day was just ok.
We drove around 1 1/2 hours to Oak Alley Plantation. We had a guided tour of the “Big House”, walked the grounds on our own and explored the slave quarters. This was both a beautiful day in the countryside and a very interesting window into the past.
On our return to the French Quarter, we went to Cafe Beignet and ate beignets. Beignets are a New Orleans’ tradition. They are a cross between a french pastry and an doughnut. They were served warm and were delicious!
Tonight was New Years Eve. Dinner was unremarkable (so unremarkable I can’t remember the name of the restaurant). We ended up about 30 minutes away in a suburb of New Orleans. It was one of my husband’s few “oops” moments in choosing restaurants on our travels (his job!).
Afterwards, we went back to the French Quarter for New Year’s Eve. The French Quarter was overflowing with revellers. We went to the streets around Jax Brewery and watched a 25 foot fleur-de-lis drop on its roof at midnight. Then, the fireworks began. The streets were filled with excitement and laughter. It was a wild experience to be apart of.
We headed to the airport. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in New Orleans and will be back.
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