As an Au Pair, with a pretty limited time of vacation days, weekend trips were often the easiest way to travel, without using those vacation days. I took weekend trips to DC, New York and, as mentioned in the post title, New Orleans.
March was a great time to travel there, as the weather was beautiful and so a much needed break from the cold in Chicago. But except the summer months, when it gets really hot New Orleans is worth a visit basically all year round. So here is, what our two days in The Big Easy looked like and of course, use it to plan your itinerary for a visit.
If you can´t already travel to your destination friday night, or don´t want to, because that would mean that you have to pay for another night of accomodation, try taking a flight as early as possible. We flew out of Chicago with the first flight to NOLA and like that we had a few extra hours at your destination.
Getting into the city
Louis Armstrong International Airport is quite far from the center and there is no Metro in New Orleans. If you´re by yourself the airport shuttle might be the cheapest option to get into the city, but if you are two or more, a cab will usually take you to the city at a lower cost. Once in the city everything is super walkable though, so you won´t have a lot of cost for public transportation other than the airport transfer.
We decided to book our accomodation with AirBnB, because that gives you the opportunity to stay in an authentic local home. In New Orleans you can stay in one of the typical shotgun houses – all rooms in a row – for instance. So go to your accomodation, drop off the luggage and let´s start exploring!
The French Market
We started the day with a walk through the French Quarter, straight to the French Market, which is a good place for souvenirs, that aren´t too expensive. I got myself a Mardi Gras mask there (even though I didn´t go to New Orleans for this festivity). They have tons of small places to get food at the market as well. And the food in New Orleans is amazing.
Explore the French Quarter
Walking a little further along the river towards the French Quarter you get a great view of the Mississippi – and maybe the typical steam boat Natchez – on one side and the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral, which reminds me of the Disney Castle, on the other.
I´d suggest using the first day to explore the colourful, lively French Quarter with its galleries and of course the famous Bourbon Street, that seems to be a never ending party, such as the Downtown area. We opted for some local Creole or Cajun Kitchen for dinner both nights. I tried Gumbo, a stew with fish and meat and let me tell you, the local cuisine isn´t exactly light, but so delicious! Perfect to indulge.
The whole French Quarter seems like a big party at night and there´s music everywhere. Spending the evening in one of the numerous Jazz Bars and enjoying the atmosphere is the perfect way to end the first day in NOLA.
Breakfast for the sweet tooth
As mentioned before, eating in New Orleans means indulging and enjoying. And breakfast is no exception to this. A short walk from the French market you´ll find the Café du Monde, easily recognized by the huge line of people that forms outside. And everyone is there for their famous Beignets, fried dough with tons of powered sugar. Yummy!
Hopping on the ferry to Algier
After filling up and getting ready for the day we took a walk along the Mississippi to the Boat Terminal, from where you can hop on a ferry to Algier, a part of New Orleans on the other side of the river. The ferry ride offers a nice view of NOLA´s skyline and once arriving in Algier we found ourselves in one of the cutest neighbourhoods with authentic southern houses.
Learn about the world famous Mardi Gras celebrations of NOLA
If you aren´t there for the celebrations anyways, the Mardi Gras World is a great way to learn about the history and present of Mardi Gras and get an insight in the construction of all the floats. The tour starts with a movie and we got to eat a typical King Cake – which served as lunch for us – before trying on Mardi Gras costumes and taking fotos with some props. But the true highlight was when we got to see the workshop, where the floats are built and painted by artists and the props and floats are stored. I have to say, that this was impressive and the work they do is amazing.
On our way back to the French Quarter we walked through the Warehouse District, that definitely has a special charme to it and is worth taking a walk through. In fact, I liked the Warehouse District and Algiers a lot and New Orleans is way more than just the French Quarter.
For dinner we had some typical Crawfish- Éttouffée by the market again, before heading back to the airport to go back home, after a busy and amazing weekend trip.
I´d really like to go back to The Big Easy one day for Mardi Gras. Have you done it?