New Orleans, Louisiana, has been the biggest surprise so far on the trip.
This was my first time to New Orleans, Ryan’s second (but his first was very brief) and we just didn’t know what to expect. It has never been a must-see place in my imagination and truthfully, aside from the notorious Mardi Gras images and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, I didn’t know much about the city.
After only a few minutes, I was instantly smitten. The architecture! The history! The hanging ferns from every porch! The energy and music. All of it charmed each one of us and we had such a fun time exploring the city.
Let me start from the beginning …
We left Texas and drove into Louisiana. We spotted an alligator, a flamingo and turtles as we drove along the marshy freeway and knew we were far, far from Seattle :)
Our first stop was at The Chimes right at the edge of LSU in Baton Rouge for lunch.
Because we’re doing this thing all in, we like to order the food each area is known for. In this case, we tried hushpuppies, boudin balls, po’boys and red beans and rice. Ryan drinks iced tea, but hasn’t jumped over to the sweet side yet. It was a fun lunch and got us in the southern spirit.
Once into New Orleans, we checked into our rv campground (the KOA nearby which was great, by the way), grabbed a snack dinner and drove into town.
The French Quarter was alive and well on this Thursday night.
On a whim we caught a live jazz show at Preservation Hall. We couldn’t take photos once inside, but I can say that it was one of the most enjoyable hours of my life. The line starts about an hour before the show. We were near the back and by the time we made it in to the old jazz hall we were left with standing room which actually worked in our favor as the kids stood in the front doorway with a perfect view of the band. The music was fantastic, the musicians so talented, watching the kids move their feet to the music – it was pure joy.
Bourbon Street was just around the corner so after the show we braved a quick walk just to see what it was all about. Let’s just say that it is not kid-appropriate and we only lasted a few minutes, but it was so intriguing and entertaining. Music is blaring out of every building, people are everywhere, it smells terrible and yet it is colorful and lively and just plain fun. We took off before we exposed our kids to something we were not ready to explain (!) and were excited to return to the city the next day.
First thing in the morning, we braved the rain and walked through the French Quarter for a breakfast of beignets and cafe au laits at Cafe De Monde.
What’s a beignet, you might be asking? Just a delicious bit of fried dough with gobs of powdered sugar. Cafe Du Monde has been a mainstay in the French Quarter since 1862. They serve only beignets and coffee and the cafe is crowded all day long.
Just down the street is picturesque Jackson Square.
After Jackson Square and a look at the Mississippi River, we walked down through the French Quarter to the farmer’s market.
Everything was so old and charming.
(The only complaint from the kids during all this walking was the smell. It’s definitely a city with city smells).
Per a recommendation on instagram, we stopped for lunch at Cachon Butcher. It was fabulous!
We finished off lunch with a huge piece of carrot cake – my favorite – and it was perhaps the best carrot cake ever made.
Next up was a drive/walk through the historic garden district where streets are lined with very old and very beautiful homes.
The architecture is so different than homes we have in Seattle and we (and by we I mostly mean me and Ryan) had such a fun time taking in all of the details. The kids do have a bit of their parents in them and enjoy looking at houses but then they found a super cute puppy and spent most of their time petting him through the fence while Ryan and I took pictures.
After a long day of walking and site seeing, we made it back to the campground, swam in the pool, made friends with another traveling family and slept like babies.
I think what made our time in New Orleans so much fun was that we had no expectations. We ended up enjoying delicious food, saw gorgeous homes, met friendly people, experienced hot, wet, humid weather and gained a whole new appreciation for jazz music.
This is for sure a stop we’re adding to our ‘must come back’ list.
Loved reading this! One of the most interesting things I remember learning about in a trip to Charleston a few years ago was about the porch ceilings. You can see in some of your pictures (and you probably saw in Charleston, too!) that the ceilings of porches are often blue. It’s an old Southern tradition, whereby people believe the blue paint scares away evil spirits (called haints).
But other people think that the color repels bugs, so who knows :) Interesting, either way!
You’ve got to try sweet tea!! It’s the wine of the South. You haven’t truly experienced the South without sweet tea and a tomato sandwich. ;-)
we went on a family trip to new orleans when i was about 15 (almost 15 years ago now… weird!) and had a blast!!! i can still remember the sticky floors in cafe du monde and remember loving all the beauty in the garden district (i’m from az… so you can imagine! ha!) it was pre-katrina, so i’m not sure how things are now, but we were walking on the levy of the mississippi and my sister totally slipped and fell in. also something i will never forget. :) we also ventured over to mississippi and enjoyed visiting plantations and going on air boat tours. enjoy the rest of your trip… sounds like a summer your kids will remember for the next 15+ years!
oh, I LOVE New Orleans! Your pictures took me back and it was so fun seeing which pictures I had similar ones of and trying to place where things were. (: Great shots, and I’m so glad you liked it!
Love all your pics! I love the architecture as well. U will also love Charelston!
Ah, New Orleans is wonderful! A must see for us is Commander’s Palace. Best food ever!!
NOLA is the BEST! Just got back from there a month ago. We loved Cochon and Brennan’s is awesome, too. The Garden District is especially my favorite. If you come back again when the kids are older, you can volunteer building homes with the St. Bernard project – really worthwhile. Glad you enjoyed the Big Easy!
That would be awesome!
I ALMOST left a message suggesting you guys stop @ The Chimes, in BR. I figured you probably had SO many suggestions you were on overload!! I’m from Texas, live there now, but went to school @ LSU. I miss Louisiana with every fiber in my body.
ANYWAY.. Back to the point.. Sorry.
The Chimes is one of my ALL TIME fav’s, I go every time I’m in town.
If you’re still in the Big Easy, PLEASE go the the Po Bo shop on Magazine & 4th, it’s a total dive, but hands down the best Po Boys & Cheese fries in the state.
Read Zane and the Hurricane with the kids. It will give you a totally different perspective about the smells and the city. It’s a good story – I read it will my 5th graders.
Thank you for the suggestion. I’ll look into it!
I’ve never been there but your pictures sure made me feel like I was at Disneyland ! I guess that city sure inspired Walt ! Your kids are so lucky to be having such a wonderful experience with your road trip.
I’ve felt like that in a few different cites – New Orleans for sure was one. You have to think the imagineers took many road trips looking for inspiration and they did such a fabulous job bringing New Orleans, San Francisco Wharf, the old West to life!
Glad you liked New Orleans. You should head to Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC – my second home – most beautiful place. If you loved NOLA you will love Charleston – Head straight to the peninsula and the downtown will charm you.
Are you hitting any of the plantations around NO – like Oak Alley – amazing.
We just did Savannah and Charleston and FELL IN LOVE! Those posts are upcoming!
YAY !! I am SO HAPPY to hear yall loved NOLA! Oh, there is SO MUCH more to do as family there that I hope yall get to back sooner than later. It is an amazing city. I have lived almost two hours away from NOLA my whole life and have enjoyed taking regular trips down with my children. It’s truly a lifestyle of its own there and gets into your blood quickly! Our temperatures have been above average since mid May. I think about yall often when I walk outside and even I complain about the heat. I can just imaging you guys melting down here. Well, have fun and safe travels. Can’t wait for the next post.
I’m so glad you enjoyed NOLA!!! I’m a Louisiana girl by way of my mother and we used to go to New Orleans every couple of years. I haven’t been back since Hurricane Katrina, but we are going there for a couples trip next weekend to celebrate my husband’s 40th birthday!!! We are all so excited, and your pictures were the icing on the cake!
Yep the city smells, and it’s humid as all get out…..but the food, culture,sights,and sounds makes it all worthwhile!!!!
Hi Emily! Yes indeed. New Orleans is quite charming even though I haven’t been there since Katrina. And Cafe du Monde is an institution! When we took our (young) kids to NOLA, we walked around to the back of Cafe du Monde and saw the 50# bags of confectioner’s sugar. My daughter stood out front of Cafe du Monde and sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” while a saxophonist played the tune. Such a fun city to explore!! I’m really enjoying your trip!!
Love this! I also arrived in NOLA with zero expectations; just a few recommendations from friends/fam. Was merely there for work. However, I always bookend my work trips with room to sightsee. Funny, Chimes was my first meal when I arrived after my flight from Seattle hit a storm & I missed the last connection of the night at DFW. My sweet friends that I was visiting in BR ordered every local menu item & I enjoyed every last morsel. They also took me to the Houmas House Plantation and Gardens. In a word, stunning! Preservation Hall is a must; an absolute musical treat! And I highly recommend Free Tours by Foot walking tours, which are available in many cities. It would be great if every city had a Freedom Trail like Boston. Since they don’t, I’ve found these to be a great option. The guide of the “Garden District (i.e. the most exquisite homes like posted above) & Cemetery” tour I took in New Orleans, also happened to be the owner and had such a passion for her job. So, you don’t just view the exteriors; you hear the stories, the reasons for the mashup of architectural designs, see the home Disney used to inspire the Haunted Mansion… And she kept it kid friendly & humorous in a way that reminded me of the talented guides working Seattle’s Underground Tour.
I lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for 23 years. We visited NOLA many times, and yes, it is a wonderful place to visit. It has one of the best zoos in the nation, the riverboat cruise is very educational about the history and Port of NOLA. It also is a city with lots of senseless crime, which the PD works tirelessly to curb. Foodies can indluge to their delight. My only remark about your blog is NOLA had a flood, we in Mississippi had the hurricane!
I’ve been in New Orleans twice, half days both times, and neither time was enough. Definitely on my “must go back” list!
Thanks for these pictures – so fun to see your family’s travels!
When I was in New Orleans they told me the smell in the French Quarter is because it still has wooden sewage pipes so they actually leak a little and as the temperature rises the smell gets worse.
New Orleans will always be my home though I have been living in another state for nearly 16 years. Had I realized you were stopping there I would have encouraged you to stop at Audubon Zoo. Although I don’t know if it has recovered 100% post Katrina it remains my all time favorite zoo, far better than the National Zoo in DC (at least in my opinion). Yes, the city does have a not so great smell in some areas but other cities do, too. Crime is the big issue and I am hopeful that problem will be solved sooner rather than later. I’ve enjoyed following along on your adventure, thanks for the inspiration!
If you loved New Orleans (truly a nice, historic city), you will absolutely ADORE Charleston, SC. (We have been to both cities twice) Charleston has much the same feel without the smell or crime, is historic with fabulous architecture and luscious gardens and is totally kid friendly. It is one of my favorite places! Take one of the buggy tours, and everyone will learn tons of history as you explore the city. As life-long educators, we believe your adventure has to be one of the most enriching educational experiences your children (and you adults!) will ever have. Good for you! ; )
BTW, I saw DM, IA on your itinerary. When do you plan to be there? We live in a town of about 11,000 approximately 70 miles east of Des Moines.
I’ve always wanted to see New Orleans. Thanks for letting me experience some of it through you. We have a little restaurant locally called Midtown Creperie and they sell the New Orleans style Beignets.
I saw your New Orleans pics on instagram, but I didn’t know that y’all stopped in Baton Rouge!! Chimes is ABSOLUTELY my favorite restaurant here, so glad that you got to experience it!
My husband is half Cajun, from Louisiana…he took me to New Orleans when we were dating and it was love at first sight for me! The smell hasn’t always been there…that is since Katrina. I collect menus and even have one of the ones they glue to the napkin holders at Cafe Du Monde (had to walm to their business headquarters for it, but worth it), one from Mother’s, one from Emeril’s and my prized menu from Court of Two Sisters! Yeah…I LOVE New Orleans!! Hope you rode the trolly while there! Hope y’all drove to the Atchafalaya Basin/swamp while there!
I haven’t been to NO since the mid-70’s, + it wasn’t kid friendly back then!
I can only imagine the current debauchery now! ;-)
Meanwhile, another interesting thing about NO is that they cannot bury their dead, but instead, have stone “boxes” above ground.
Where I live! So glad you made it here and had a great time!
I lived here for 4 years while in law school. The City definitely has its charm! It’s too bad they can’t get rid of the crime and trash everywhere (and yes, bad smells). It’s like this gorgeous gem with a blemish. Glad you saw the sparkly side!
Hi Emily, I’ve been really enjoying your trip posts which I didn’t think I would! I’ve been following your blog for several months now and at first was disappointed to read about your upcoming trip because I so love all your design posts. But I have found myself really looking forward to reading about the different areas you’re visiting – it’s been refreshing! Thanks for sharing your trip.
I’m so glad you are enjoying the posts! I miss the design/home decorating stuff, but that will come again in September :) Thanks for following along!
We love visiting New Orleans! It is so much more than many people think it is. We visit a few times a year (family members moved there a few years back) and rarely go to the quarter! We love the zoo, Uptown, the Garden District, City Park, etc. So glad you got to experience the city’s charm!
We love New Orleans…a lot…our oldest daughter is named Nola. We were born, raised and live in the Midwest so we wait patiently (well maybe not so patiently) for each return trip. We just spent my 40th there in Jan…so hard to leave. It’s a different world there, smells and all. :) Bourbon St is something hard not to experience if you’ve never been, there are so many places that now make our list instead like Frenchman St. Glad you were able to stop by, it’s something you won’t soon forget. Until next time N.O.! : Safety travels to you, love following your adventure!
Yay always warms my heart when someone visits my city and leaves wanting to come back…when you do there is so much to add to the list …going to the World War II museum- the children’s museum (for the littles) taking a drive down the river road and touring a plantation home…so many more restaurants to try – if its during football season and we (the Saints) to be playing you (the Seahawks) you will have the most fun of your life – and win or lose the Who Dats will be fun loving & welcoming fans to our opponents…I really could go on and on but I won’t – love following your blog and getting inspiration from your decorating style – I even have a “T” wall which I love …merci beau coup
We wished we had time to see the WWII museum. I’ve heard such good things about it. And yes! We’ll come back and go to a Seahawks vs. Saints game. How fun!
It’s so funny. I’m a designer from Germany and 7 years ago I’ve been an Au Pair in the States. When I was on my roadtrip across the country for one month, I fell in love with New Orleans, too. When I got your mail today, I kept on thinking “it has to be New Orleans, it has to be New Orleans” before I was clicking the link – and see there… :)
Have a wonderful time!
Have you thought about taking trolly tours in whichever cities offer them? They are great. You learn so much about the history of the city and you can jump on and off as you please. We would always go around once and then the second time get on and off after we knew where it went and what there was to see. Your trip is wonderful and I am loving every minute of it!!! Is it going to be tough going home and getting back to “real” life?