I think everyone can agree that 2020 was a crazy year. The beginning of the year was full of planning trips and getting excited about all the new experiences we would have later on in the year. Prior to cancelling a handful of exciting trips to come, New Orleans was our last trip before the world all changed.
New Orleans celebrated their 300th birthday in 2018
Before heading to The Big Easy, we heard plenty of mixed reviews. “It’s just another version of Vegas”, to comments regarding humidity and busy streets. Exploring Louisiana in February helped with the humidity issue, so if that is a concern, we recommend going when the weather is a little bit cooler. This trip was a particularly special one, since our best friend Bryan (B Wick to those who know him), joined us for the explorations. Since Bryan gets to fly on his own terms, being a pilot and all, we arrived a few hours before him. We decided to head to Joe Knows Café for breakfast. It was delicious and we recommend the giant pancakes and many varieties of donuts. From there, we made our way over to Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve.
The swamps of Jean Lafitte NHP
Jean Lafitte is spread across multiple units, and we visited three of them. The Barataria Preserve, the Chalmette Battlefield and the French Quarter Visitor Center. Our first stop was Barataria Preserve, which is a wetland area full of swamps and trails. Here we were able to gain our first glance at alligators in Louisiana. We often found ourselves wondering if the alligators were real as their stillness was extreme. Spoiler alert, all the alligators were real and no “fake” alligators were placed to try and trick us.
Up close and personal with a gator!
The trails throughout the Barataria Preserve were well marked and easy to walk on, with many boardwalks. We didn’t have any issues with mosquitos due to the time of year, but we HIGHLY recommend all proper bug repellants if going during the summer season. There is a lot of standing water and moisture.
The Barataria Preserve was a great intro to the Louisiana ecosystem
After some exploring, we checked-in to our Tiny Home Airbnb. This Airbnb experience was very cool, though maybe not for everyone. We loved the proximity to Bourbon Street and enjoyed the amenities surrounding the Tiny Home. Everything was very clean, and we had no complaints. However, the home is small (maybe obvious given the name) and you do have to take quick showers as the water is limited. This is in-part because it is meant to be eco-friendly and the property contains a community garden with food service. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here and would recommend for any couple, or pair of friends, looking to be near the hot spots of New Orleans.
The perfect eco-friendly Airbnb
After checking in, we had some time to kill while waiting for Bryan to arrive. Colin enjoyed his flight at Zony Mash Beer Project, which had a really fun vibe inside the old GEM theater. We stopped by one more bar and watched Shakira and J. Lo rock the Super Bowl halftime show, while Bryan got into town. We swung by the airport to grab him and got straight to it! Kajun's Pub, with dancing, slot machines and cheap beer was just down the road from our Airbnb’s, so it was the perfect spot to continue the evening.
Very impressive IPAs!
Day 2 was a packed day! We started out by heading to part two of Jean Lafitte, driving to Chalmette Battlefield and Chalmette National Cemetery. You can drive a loop in the Cemetery and walk around the battlefield to experience some of the reconstructed monuments and buildings. The Chalmette Battlefield is a site from the Battle of New Orleans back in 1815. The battle was fought after the treaty was signed in 1814, but Andrew Jackson led the American soldiers to victory. This win over the British soldiers was largely celebrated as a symbol of American Democracy triumphing over the British aristocracy. The cemetery was created during the Civil War and has graves from the War of 1812 all the way to the Vietnam War. We all enjoyed learning about the battle and specifics from the War of 1812, that’s not always talked about in history books. This was a special NPS site for us, as it was our first site that we had someone join us, since beginning our National Park journey!
Our first time having company at a National Park site!
After some educational exploration, we had an amazing lunch at The Bind Tiger (TBT), and then headed to our swamp tour in Slidell. We actually didn’t plan on doing the Cajun Encounters Swamp Tour when arriving to New Orleans, however, my parents (the amazing humans that they are), had sent Colin and I some money to do something fun. So, we took that as a sign to do something none of us had ever done before, and made reservations! It was AWESOME! We were able to see more gators, snakes, wild hogs and had fun hearing about some of the swamp history - especially when it comes to storms and recovery. The three of us had a great time out on the bayou and would recommend for anyone visiting NOLA.
Hard-to-beat lunch views
Out on the bayou!
Feeding the wild hogs
The historic West Pearl River Bridge
We had an absolute blast!
This action-packed day didn’t end here. We made our way back to our Airbnb and walked from there to Bourbon Street. An obvious must-see when visiting New Orleans, and it did not disappoint. Even our walk there was full of colorful homes and beautiful culture. We knew we would come back to Bourbon Street the next day, so our first round was really just to explore and experience the fun vibes of the “mini-Vegas” area. While there may not be nearly as many casinos, the street does have a lot of bars, clubs, and dancing. We had to stop into Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, which is the known to be the oldest structure used as bar in the United States. The bar is candlelit with natural stone, and contains an immense amount of history. We obviously had to grab a drink and cheers to one of the oldest bars in the country!
World-famous Bourbon Street!
Really cool atmosphere
We are on to day 3 now, and you might be wondering, “Uhm, why haven’t you talked about the food yet?” Well, our third day was full of delicious food and more New Orleans culture. We started our morning with what had become routine. A coffee run over to the St. Roch Market down the street some delicious for Coast Roast Coffee! We took our coffee to-go and headed to Jackson Square. On the way, we were able to walk through a fun farmers market full of NOLA inspired masks, street signs and fashion. The farmer’s market is held in a pavilion called the “French Market”, with Mardi Gras masks adorning the entrance.
Some fantastic coffee!
Welcome to Nawlins!
Finally, after some coffee and shopping, we made it to one of the main events for the day, Café Du Monde. Another must-visit while in when New Orleans. As expected, the beignets are amazing, and I wished I had two orders to fulfill my cravings. Although the beignets were given a 10/10 by all three of us, we’re not all so daring when it comes to branching out in the food department. Bryan is definitely the most brave, so there were many new dishes for him to try. However, we (being myself and Colin), did try fried alligator. Personally, I think anyone who says is tastes like chicken is crazy. I didn’t enjoy it. However, Colin didn’t mind, and Bryan found it delicious. Sadly, Colin and I are not seafood fans, a bummer for the key food demographic in New Orleans. However, Bryan tried both fish & oysters and had no complaints. We did try blackened chicken, and that was delicious! I would not recommend anything blackened if you are on a diet, however.
Busy as can be, but so very worth it!
After filling up on some new and good food, we made our way to a 2nd NPS site - New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. Located just down the road from Café Du Monde, it was yet another amazing way to enjoy some history. And what better place to encounter some jazz in than New Orleans?! They have events during the day and we were lucky to see Richard ‘Piano’ Scott perform. It was a fun experience, and you can follow-up any events with some jazz history within the historical park.
The famous Café Du Monde!
A very unique NPS site
Gotta love some jazz!
To celebrate our final night in New Orleans, we had to head back to Bourbon Street. We went bar hopping and enjoyed the night scene full of music and parades. Many of the bars have fun signs, including one that has a prohibition sign for a fun photo op. We had a great night dancing and people watching!
While our trip to New Orleans was not a long one, it was full of fun, food, new attractions and immense culture. From listening to live music, to drinking down Bourbon Street, to learning of New Orleans history, we had an amazing time. We definitely recommend this time of year if you are looking to avoid the Mardi Gras crowds and higher temperatures. Exploring the streets of New Orleans was an amazing experience and we can’t wait to go back to see even more of what the city has to offer.