To me New Orleans was the home of Bonjovi & Hurricane Katrina. I also knew it had something to do with plantations, slavery, southern food & that some of the vampire TV shows I watched was set around that area.
I had no idea it was a cultural gumbo and a place I would fall deeply in love with.
The New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau had a giant list of things to include in our schedule. We had to diarise the activities in New Orleans, because with only 2 weeks we found that we needed every single day to discover one more element of this distinct and refined parish.
The last authentic steamboat cruising the Mississippi River. We had our taxi driver drop us off at Toulouse Street to collect tickets for this opportunity.
Boarding was between 11 and 11:30am. Tickets were $38.50 per adult, children 6 - 12 $20.25 and children 2 - 5 $8.00. This includes a buffet lunch. Without lunch the prices drop anywhere from $8 - $10. Buy them here.
When we boarded they were expecting us and had saved us a magnificent table inside, close by the food, music and beside a window to watch the view.
We decided to eat first since the kids were hungry and had our first taste of “Nawlin’s” food: rice and beans with delicious sausage mixed in, fish, salad, ochre and bread pudding. The food quality was as expected on a buffet, but we were stoked on the delightful addition to the Guatemalan beans and rice we had been expecting.
After we ate we decided to check out the steamboat and views. A live narrative talks about the Mississippi during the beginning and during the journey. We checked out the back of the boat where the paddle was…
Before heading to the gift shop for a play as boat captains…
And then checked out the engine room.
I had dreamed for a long time of seeing the Mississippi dreaming of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Fin and runaway slave heroes. It was a fabulous experience soaked in history and culture. We only travelled 4 miles down stream and I wish it had been longer, but it was the perfect time for the kids. And without the kind gentleman offering them their New Orleans beads we may have had some entertaining to do, but they were fairly happy the entire time.
We disembarked back at the lighthouse and waited for our streetcar to take us home. You can read all about streetcars here.
New Orleans School of Cooking
A festive Creole/Cajun cooking demonstration featuring lunch and a lesson. They say it’s impossible to have a bad meal in New Orleans and I’m starting to think they are right by the looks of my food post, check it out.
We got to the cooking school early and had a great time shopping in their store trying different dips and oils.
When the bell was rung they called out a roll call and everyone was let into a large room to take a seat. I was initially a bit disappointed; as I had thought it was a cooking class and had promised the kids they would be cooking.
As it turns out it was a cooking demonstration, not a class. This made it very hard for the kids as they had over 2 hours to sit still and quiet, unprepared with no electronics or toys. But they did well with the paper & textas handed to them by a kind staff member and later we had several lovely ladies praise the kids and us on how well they did, phew!
Anyway the kitchen is in a fabulous position with mirrors above so you can see how and what they are cooking. And everything that is made, of course is given to you as a 3 course meal.
First up biscuits, which are close to our scones. Then we were served spinach, shrimp and artichoke soup, which was my personal favourite and Mia’s. Mains was crawfish etoufee, which as a non-seafood eater I did not enjoy, but my non-seafood husband loved. Lastly we finished with bread pudding. I have never enjoyed bread as a dessert and this one didn’t tickle my taste buds, but for the bread pudding enthusiast I am sure the pina colada bread pudding would be outstanding.
The whole lesson was informative and interesting as the Master Chef masterclass mixed in history and stories into the performance. The class was very full so I highly recommend booking early. Prices are $25 per person, more information on their website.
In the French Quarter is a market. I love a good market, especially when I am in need of sunglasses. $6 and I had me a fine looking pair.
We checked out all the stalls selling shirts, bags, food, drink and more. It’s a great market and certainly worth a visit.
Festivals – Bayou Boogaloo
New Orleans is known for it’s festivals and actually every weekend we were there, one was on. We decided to pick the Bayou Boogaloo, which was on the bayou just a short walk from where we were living.
It was free entry and stretched out quite far. There was plenty of free music on the stages where people stretched out in the sun to listen and relax. We made our way to the family tent where there was free arts and crafts, a climbing wall and slide that my 3-year-old son conquered very courageously and also music lessons, which my daughter thoroughly enjoyed.
We tasted a few of the different food stalls and genuinely were very impressed with this free event. Was bummed when I forgot the second weekend that the Greek Festival was on.
This park is colossal. Directly opposite our apartment is the most amazing park, which I can only liken to Central Park in New York City. Jogging tracks, boat hire, playgrounds, amusement parks, a museum and more.
We went one morning to take the kids to the playground. The Stanley Park is a mammoth playground that the kid’s loved. Just near is a cute café selling beignets and drinks, which happened to have sold out of water on the day we went, but instead sold us aluminum coke bottles.
Also in the Park is Storyland.
We took the kids to Storyland one afternoon. It is $3 each to get in, so total $12. The park is a little dated and in need of a spruce-up, but the kids did not seem to mind. They got to climb all over a fire truck and go down a dragon slide, visit a pirate ship and walk through the Three Little Pigs houses.
Next-door is an amusement park with small rides for kids. You can get an all day ticket for around $22 or each ride can be purchased for $3. We let the kids have one ride each. My son chose the carousel and my daughter was turned away from several scarier rides for being too small before she decided on the spinning teacups. After that my son had charmed his way onto one more ride for free and Mia joined him. They loved the amusement park better than Storyland.
Hop On Hop Off
The big red buses are here in New Orleans. We started our tour at St Louis Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in New Orleans.
Tickets are $29 with kids under 5 free, over 5, $10. Tickets can be purchased online.
The bus does a complete 2-hour circuit and comes every ½ an hour. Wear sunscreen, my forehead got a nice beetroot colour from our journey on the top level.
The bus makes it way down Canal Street, past Harrah’s Casino, the Superdome, WWII Museum, Garden District, Magazine Street, St Charles, Mardi Gras World, Arts District, Jackson Square and the French Market.
We made stops at World War II Museum, French Market, St Louis Cemetery and finished on Canal Street.
I love hop on hop offs they give you so much advantage when travelling with little kids to see everything, hear the history and learn something and then if something really catches your eye to get off and check it out.
After the Holocaust Museum we saw in Israel this museum was quite small. I found it interesting the American take on the war, celebrating the hero’s and mourning the lost when in comparison to the Israeli one, which was mostly the lost, of course. For any US citizen this would probably be a patriotic crowning glory to us it had some factual information that we found interesting and the kids loved all the big planes set up in the back of the museum.
One tip, however, with the Hop On Hop Off bus you get a free ice cream scoop at the malt shop here. Just have to prove admission to the museum. The ice cream scoops were huge and it was some of the nicest ice cream I have ever had. Highly recommend a stop there.
They also do have some movies showing, however we were told they are not really suitable for under 5, which we completely understand. Even walking through the museum we had some tough questions to answer.
There are really amazing cemeteries in New Orleans since everyone is buried above ground. St Louis Cemetery has a giant pyramid said to belong to Nicholas Cage for his death. You can do some great tours or just wander around and check out all the different tombs.
Louisiana Children’s Museum
The kids had been so well behaved on “Mummy & Daddy’s Day” that it was time for them to have some fun and when we heard there was a Kids Museum we knew it was a must see.
This museum is a little worn out looking and slightly disheveled. The carpet is thin, some of the walls are peeling and some of the attractions are dated, but kids don’t see that stuff. Our kids had mad fun running from one exhibit to the other with the bubble room the ultimate favourite where even I had extreme fun.
The grocery store upstairs was also a hit, as well as the café restaurant and my 3 year old loved the toddler room.
Downstairs they had a laser height measure, which was great to update all my records on the kids growth since we hadn’t done that since we left Australia April 2012. My 4-year-old had grown 10cm and my 3-year-old 8cm.
Along the Mississippi is an indoor, air-conditioned walkway housing multiple tourists and clothing stores. We had a great time digging out some bargains and sending gifts back home for family members.
This one's not for the kids. The lovely gals I met in Belize came down for the weekend and took me out on the town.
We went a Friday night and Saturday night to Bourbon Street and that street is a real eye opener. People are throwing beads off balconies, hoping for a boobie flash. There is a transvestite directing traffic on a crone, hoping on cars and slapping backsides. Voodoo shops are open with freaky people working the stores. Hot dog stands are everywhere. Bars, clubs, more bars. Honestly I am not sure how to start or explain. We managed to get to one of the oldest pirate/vampire bars in the town, as well as visit a few others as well. I'm glad I did it, I don't need to do it again... but it is awesome people watching that's for sure.
As you can see you will be kept busy in New Orleans and this is not even half of it! So many photos, head to our New Orleans Photo Journal to see them all!