We decided to go to New Orleans during spring break with the kids, despite of its reputation for being a wild place. Everyone had warned us, “NOLA is not for kids!” But we were determined to make our trip kid- friendly as much as possible and also to prove that new Orleans can be enjoyed by kids (less than 21 years of age) as well.
We arrived in New Orleans in the evening and after settling in our hotel at the Hyatt Regency, my husband and I planned to go to Bourbon Street (making this night as the only time for adults). We took a cab there and as one might expect, the crowd was full of loud drunks. The place smelled of alcohol, marijuana, and vomit that made it less interesting.
Famous for their world renowned beignets, Cafe du Monde was the place to eat breakfast. There was a long line to enter the restauran despite the cold and rainy weather. While my sons and I waited in the line, my husband scouted for a table inside the cafe. A few minutes later, he waved for us to follow him inside. I wondered how he quickly found a table when the line was at least a mile long. Apparently, you can skip the line if you opt to eat inside the cafe. Strangely enough, everyone was waiting in line to eat outside (which didn’t make any sense).
The kids loved watching the servers line up at the counter while waiting for the beignets. They then fill their trays with plates of beignets to bring over to each table. Each plate came with three pieces of beignets ($2.75 each). Customers pay as soon as they receive their orders. The beignets were delicious.
There is also a take out counter behind the café. Once you exit the restaurant, there’s a window at the back where you can watch them make and fry the beignets. It was quite an entertainment to watch the man roll up the flour, cut, and then dump in the deep fryer. While I stood there, I was thinking of the fat and calorie content of each of the beignet I just ate.
We went inside St. Louis Cathedral while waiting for the rain to stop. The church was beautiful, reminds me of the Catholic churches in Europe.
Situated along the Mississippi River, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is one of the top museums of its kind in America. It was fascinating to see all the different ocean creatures. Due to the rain, we couldn’t get there earlier causing us to miss the Imax presentations.
By late afternoon, the kids were exhausted from all the walking, we decided to go back to the hotel. My husband and I spent the evening with a glass of wine and hors d’oeuvres at the hotel’s Regency club and the kids opted for a pizza delivery.
We took a trolley in the morning to the Garden District and made a reservation at the Commander’s Palace. While waiting for a table, we decided to visit the Lafayette Cemetary No.1. which was just right across the restaurant. Many of the tombs dated back to the 1800’s or older. The cemetery reminded me of the old cemetaries in the Philippines.
It was time for lunch at Commander’s Palace. This turquoise and white Victorian building has been a New Orleans landmark. The restaurant’s history is a glimpse of New Orlean’s antebellum past. It was the home of one of the city’s wealthiest families and the lonely gentleman owner was rumored to have frequently brought in paid lady friends with him.
The restaurant’s décor was simple but elegant. The food was fabulous. My husband and I especially enjoyed the 25 cent martinis that were only available during lunch (each customer was limited to three drinks). With this price, we expected they would skimp on the alcohol but after two drinks, I started to feel a little buzzed. Our younger son is a picky eater and was disappointed to see the menu did not include child’s meal. Bu they were willing to accommodate him and customize his order. They offered grilled chicken and shoestring potatoes. My older son and I ordered the Lenten special (seafood gumbo, a fish entree, and a soufflé). My husband had the pork tacos. Everything was amazingly delicious.
The Commander’s Palace provided a brochure with suggestions of places where to walk in the Garden District. It highlighted some of the famous homes such as the house where Benjamin Button was filmed and the home of Anne Rice (author of the Interviews with the Vampire). The structure of the houses were a true representation of the old Southern style homes in Louisiana.
After a few hours of walking and searching for famous landmarks, we all took a break at Sucre, another popular cafe on Magazine Street. We had tea with French macarons and a gelato. We took the St. Charles trolley back to our hotel, a fun ride for the kids.
Dinner was at Emeril’s. We asked to be seated at the counter when we made our reservations weeks in advance. The action in the kitchen made the dinner experience enjoyable (especially to the kids), overseeing how the foods were prepared. Watching the sous chefs scream at each other will make you think you were watching an episode of Hell’s Kitchen. The food wasn’t really that great as we had anticipated. The portions were alright—not too big or too small— but the prices were high. The chocolate souffle was not moist at all and was quite dry. Although he service was attentive, we waited over an hour for our main entrees. I would recommend this place (with children) only if you’re seated at the counter but with the service so slow, they could become impatient and grumpy. There were no kids meal, by the way, so Jude wasn’t very happy. No one offered an alternative and so decided not to order anything.
I have looked forward to visiting the plantations. We decided to rent a car for the day instead of taking the organized tours. Economically speaking, this was the best option. The tours can get really expensive and with a family of four, it could cost over $300. Our first stop was the Oak Alley Plantation, located in Vacherie, about an hour away from New Orleans. It has been the previous locations for many movies, (including Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise). The grounds were so beautiful, lined with massive oak trees. The tour inside the mansion was conducted by guides in their period costumes, a nice touch that added more beauty to the plantation’s Southern ambience. We also saw the slaves quarters, giving us more insight of life during the Slavery period.
At the end of the mansion tour, we were lead to a drink stand where they were selling mint juleps. It was our first time to try mint juleps and I would describe it a combination of lemonade and iced tea with mint. We had lunch at the Oak Alley Cafe and we really enjoyed the food. I ordered grilled shrimp po boy sandwich (that was probably one the most delicious po boys I’ve had). Jude was very happy that they had a ton of kids meal options in the menu. The prices were surprisingly inexpensive.
On our way to Laura’s Plantation, we passed by the house where the movie, ’12 Years A Slave’ was filmed. The house was a private property and I can only take a picture from a distance.
Laura’s Plantation was very different from the Oak Alley. It’s a lot more colorful, reminiscent of its Creole heritage. The house were built on posts that stood above ground. They too had slave quarters, like all the other plantations. The dysfunctional yet fascinating story of Laura’s family went on for several generations. I asked our guide what was the difference between the Creoles and the Cajuns, he said that the Cajuns were a lower class than the Creoles because the Creoles were the society’s upper crust
Our goal of making this trip a kid-friendly vacation was successful. The kids were definitely entertained and the trip even proved to be educational. Joshua’s favorite was the Plantation tours and Jude, being nine, found the trolley ride enjoyable. New Orleans, in spite of its reputation during Mardi Gras, can be a kid friendly city (as long as you don’t take them to Bourbon Street at night).