Have you seen my Quintessential Road Trip blog? That’ll tell you a bit about my journey to NoLA. For spring break, two friends and I road tripped through Memphis, Jackson (MS), Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Gulf Shores (AL).
We came in from Baton Rouge, which I’ll add in here because we didn’t spend much time there. We checked out the capitol building – huge and beautiful, walked around downtown – cute, but completely dead on a weekday afternoon, and wandered around LSU – great campus but I’m still happy with my choices.
The drive in to New Orleans from Baton Rouge isn’t bad at all. It’s actually very pretty in parts. There are points where you are surrounded by swampland, and others where you’re surrounded by water.
We checked into our hotel (Holiday Inn Express, New Orleans East – good and cheap, but far from everything) around 6p.m. and headed off to Bourbon street for dinner. We learned pretty quickly that Bourbon street is not somewhere you want to just “head off to” for “dinner.” By the way you’ll smell Bourbon street long before you reach it.
I’ll try to paint the scene for you:
- Smells – A NYC subway station with a fresh layer of urine, also very fresh and very good seafood.
- Sights – Old dudes with cameras around their necks, students (Tulane?) in tight, short, colorful dresses, street performers ranging from PG-13 magicians to a guy with what looked to be a dead dog in the middle of the street, a homeless person every 10 feet and someone too drunk to stand every fifteen feet.
- Sounds – Catcalling, mostly. It comes from the cars passing by, the balconies above, and the creepy guys around you. I’d say this is an experience for the ladies, but who knows, maybe guys experience it too on Bourbon. I’ve never been catcalled so much in my life. Disgusting.
- Feel – Sweaty, humid, and drunk (even if you’ve had nothing to drink yet).
Bourbon street is certainly not for everybody. The food is great, the jazz is better, but know what you’re getting into before you get there. If you’re more into the tourism scene than the drinking scene, go during the day and check out the Musical Legends Park.
Below you’ll see the Chocolate Moose Cake at Oceana Grill off Bourbon, my two best friends trying not to die on Bourbon, and bomb Lobster Mac ‘N Cheese -at the Bourbon St. Oyster House.
We pretty much stuck to the itinerary you’ll see in the Quintessential Southern Road Trip post, though we moved a few things around due to high winds and rain. The one thing we didn’t get to do that we were all sad about was a swamp tour. Definitely on my list for my next trip down there.
Day 2 in New Orleans was spent in the French Quarter and on Canal, the main shopping strip. We bought some great souvenirs, including matching long-sleeved tees that said “New Orleans Road Trip 2016.” I guess we weren’t the only ones making NoLA a main stop on a larger road trip. I also picked up some Cafe Du Monde beignet mix before even trying the beignets. I did NOT regret it. The beignets we enjoyed that day at the Cafe were phenomenal, and the mix turned out pretty great at home. Very close to the real thing, and the box was a steal at $4.99 at one of the local candy stores.
Also, if you don’t want to splurge on Cafe Du Monde coffee every day and you don’t want to stick to Starbucks, PJ’s has good coffee. They have a few locations throughout the city. I enjoyed their green tea.
We also stumbled upon (and fell in love with) a little book store called Beckham’s with a house cat (not for sale, unfortunately).
The following day was rainy and gross, so we had more of a planned schedule. We started out at Mardi Gras World. The place itself was bigger than expected (they have 18 warehouses full of floats and props), but the tour was shorter than I expected. To start, they showed a short film about the history of Mardi Gras and handed out slices of traditional king cake. Guests who wanted to could try on some old Mardi Gras costumes. I opted out of putting on something worn by thousands and probably washed by no one, but the idea was cute.
It was a one-of-a-kind experience to see people hard at work for next year already, just weeks after 2016 Mardi Gras. We saw brand new props, still only white styrofoam, finished pieces from years ago, and even Chic-Fil-A cows that the company was commissioned to design and build.
After Mardi Gras World, it was still raining, so we headed over to the Aquarium – one of the few indoor activities that the great city of New Orleans has to offer. I was impressed with its organization, because my least favorite thing is not knowing where to turn in a zoo or aquarium. The Mississippi River and Gulf exhibits were great to see considering the Mississippi was just outside and the Gulf mere miles away. It is a relatively small aquarium, though…we got through it in under an hour.
There is absolutely more than one way to “do” New Orleans, and no way is right or wrong. There’s the party scene, the tourism scene, and the casual scene, but they’re all in the same spot. You can go from the aquarium to the stream of gift shops to H&M to Bourbon Street all in the same day and have a completely different experience in each part.
It’s a very diverse city but at the same time exactly what you’d expect based on everything you’ve heard.
Just don’t turn down any dark alley’s and bring some extra money.