New Orleans, LA
We spent a week in New Orleans and were so excited to be joined by our friends from Orange County, Ben and Maureen. It was Ben and Maureen’s first visit to the Big Easy, so we hit up as many tourist spots as possible – so this will be a long post! Instead of chronological order, I am going to start with our most favorite adventures and work our way down.
World War II Museum
Yes, this was top of the list for everyone! Surprising? Yes!! Unfortunately, we had no idea this museum would be so interesting and extensive, and only set aside the afternoon from around 1:00 pm to 5 pm (when it closes). The time went by so quickly, and none of us made it through to see everything.
What was really unique and interesting about this museum, is that the stories are told through first hand accounts and historical footage. The exhibits are very interactive and emersive. This museum does the best job of any museum I have ever visited in emersing visitors into the atmosphere that the exhibits are depicting. In conjunction with current day interviews, historical footage, and historical reproductions of the scene, this museum walks you through two different fronts of the war; first was the battle fought with Japan and second was the battle fought with Germany.
I felt like I learned more about World War II in this one afternoon then I did in any history class throughout high school or college. Am I a history buff? No. But you don’t have to be a history buff to thoroughly enjoy this museum. It will give you a whole new appreciation of the massive suffering and incredible bravery of the soldiers and civilians alike. You cannot go through this museum without a profound gratitude for our present day freedom. Do not miss it !!!
Cafe du Monde
What can I say, this is a classic “don’t miss” of New Orleans. There is nothing like live street musicians and the smell of fresh beignets hot out of the fryer and loaded with powdered sugar. We visited several times, and this is the one thing I always miss most once we are gone.
Creole Queen Paddlewheel Cruise
This is a tour that was made so much better by the amazing narrator, Charles. He was well versed in New Orleans history – right up to the present day to include Hurricane Katrina. The cruise was peaceful and relaxing, we stopped at a battleground site from the War of 1814 when the British attempted to take the port of New Orleans. This cruise has several options, we took a two-hour narrated cruise, but they also offer a dinner jazz or brunch cruise.
We did not take a formal tour of the plantations, but rather drove out to the the Mississippi River where many of the plantations are located. The plantations themselves offer their own narrated tours and each plantation charges around $20 admission per person. My favorite is Oak Alley. This plantation is fronted by two long rows of 300 year old oak trees. The oaks themselves are an amazing sight to see and provide welcome shade and a light breeze from the Louisiana sun and humidity. It is easy to picture yourself as a Southern Belle (or gentleman) rocking on the front porch on a hot day with a cool glass of lemonade. Move over Scarlet O’Hara!
Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s
Of course no visit to New Orleans would be complete without a visit to Pat O’Briens bar for an authentic hurricane next to their fire and water fountain. The brick patio so perfectly captures the essence of New Orleans, and the hurricanes are ice cold and tasty. I am not a big fan of rum drinks, but Ben, Maureen, and Joel thoroughly enjoyed them. My favorite picture from the entire week was taken here 😎.
Visiting in mid-October, Halloween was right around the corner. There are a lot of “haunted” cemetery tours, but we opted for a rather tame daytime visit. We took the Charleston Street trolley to the Garden District. There is a large cemetery located there which you can visit without charge (unlike the downtown cemeteries that charge $20 and require an escorted tour guide). Additionally, it was interesting to walk along the beautiful historic homes of the Garden District. Riding the trolley was enjoyable, especially sitting next to a wide open window where you could catch the afternoon breeze.
Lastly, this brings us to the swamp tour. We had an authentic Cajun tour guide and he should have come with subtitles, as it was very difficult to understand most of what he said. I am rating this last, because even though we saw many small alligators, our tour guide’s enthusiasm for trapping and killing them (yes, still allowed for one month every year) was disenchanting. Alligators are not aggressive towards humans and mostly want to be left alone as long as you leave them alone. This was proven by our tour guide’s own admission that he is not aware of a single alligator attack as long as he has lived in the area. I am an animal lover and would rather see them minding their own business in the swamp, rather than on a handbag or a pair of shoes.
Well, this wraps up our week. We are heading to Florida next and the temps in this whole southeast have been unusually high. Hoping things cool off soon!