It has been a long time since I visited New Orleans.
I’ve been in the city many times, but I’ve never visited New Orleans.
We travel with our kids several times a year, and I often wondered how the city of New Orleans could translate into a family-friendly travel experience.
I planned a few activities and left room for unplanned adventures.
NOLA: Day One
The weekend started with a performance of “Hamilton” at the Saenger Theatre. This was a theater goal that was high on my list and we had tickets! I’m still singing all the songs.
I digress with a little bit of history.
The Saenger Theatre was built in 1927.
It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
The theater was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Efforts to restore and rebuild this grand theater into a state-of-the-art performance arts theatre began in 2011 and the doors of the theater reopened in September 2013.
The interior of the Saenger Theatre is elegant and grand, and though it is modernized, it has the feel of a place from the golden age of theater.
“Hamilton” was about three hours long and we were famished after the performance. But where do you find somewhere to eat in New Orleans after 11:00 p.m.? The person at the front desk of our hotel had the answer.
Right across the street from our hotel on Poydras Street was a restaurant called Daisy Mae’s Southern Fried Chicken & Breakfast. Breakfast sounded good to everyone in my family.
I ordered the chicken and waffles and was not disappointed. The portion size was generous and I’ll admit that I enjoyed every single bite. This was a tasty way to end the day!
My first day in New Orleans was unforgettable. What kind of excitement and discovery would the second day bring?
NOLA: Day Two
The plan for the day was to visit the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and the Aquarium IMAX theatre. I purchased tickets online to avoid the long lines and large groups that are usually present on weekends. Tickets are valid for a year after the date of purchase, and this was an added benefit just in case our plans changed.
My last aquarium visit was over a decade ago, and I had not visited since Hurricane Katrina. The Aquarium was reopened in 2006 and the marine life that perished in the aftermath of Katrina had to be replaced.
I entered the Aquarium and the first exhibit I encountered was the Great Maya Reef.
Walking through each exhibit was a trip down memory lane, and it was refreshing to see the Aquarium and its “residents” back to their position as a vital part of the New Orleans community.
My favorite feature in the Aquarium was a limited-time exhibit from the Washed Ashore Project. “Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea” featured stunningly beautiful sculptures made entirely of marine debris removed from Pacific Coast beaches. Next to each sculpture was a sign with the name of the art piece. The signs also encouraged Aquarium guests to locate the objects that were used to create each sculpture. To think that discarded flip flops, plastic bottles, and even magic markers could be used to createg art was unbelievable and eye-opening.
This was an exhibit that really made me think about the types of products I purchase and use in and around my home. I am committed to doing an even better job of making sure that I can up-cycle, reuse or recycle the things I buy.
New Orleans was founded in 1718 and celebrated its tricentennial in 2018. There are three sculptures around the city that make wonderful photo memories to commemorate a visit to the city and the 300th anniversary. I found one sculpture right outside the Aquarium in Woldenberg Park.
It was a beautiful day and I could see the spire of The Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France in the distance. I considered this an invitation to continue the journey into the heart of New Orleans.
A crowd was gathered on the steps located near Washington Artillery Park and we stopped to watch the performance of one of the most popular entertainment groups in the French Quarter, the Dragon Master Showcase. I remembered these guys from a visit to New Orleans in the late 90s, and they were still entertaining people of all ages.
If you have watched any group performing in their city for a living, you know that donations are always welcome. During certain segments of their performance, the members of Dragon Master Showcase ask for donations with a touch of humor.
After the performance was over, my family and I met the guys of the Dragon Master Showcase. They autographed the DVD we received for our donation and I can honestly say that they have easygoing personalities and they are kind to their audience and fans.
The Dragon Master Showcase performs across the street from Jackson Square and you can see St. Louis Cathedral from the steps of Washington Artillery Park.
The Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis, King of France (St. Louis Cathedral) is one of the most photographed structures in New Orleans. It is the oldest continuously active Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States. When viewed from Jackson Square, a statue of Andrew Jackson stands in the foreground of the Cathedral.
Visitors are welcome to take a self-guided tour of St. Louis Cathedral except when there are scheduled events taking place inside. On the day of my visit, there was an event in the Cathedral, so I took several photos of the exterior of the building.
After this short stop, there was one more thing I wanted to do before my staycation in the Crescent City came to an end. Every time I visited New Orleans, I watched streetcars slowly making their way through the city, and I wanted to buy a ticket and take a ride.
I boarded a streetcar with my family on the Saint Charles Streetcar Line and paid a one way fare of $1.25/per person. After we all boarded my husband inquired about transferring to another streetcar that would bring us closer to our hotel and paid an extra $0.25/per person for the transfer.
TIP: If you board a streetcar spontaneously, be prepared to pay your fare using cash or exact change.
If you plan ahead, there is an app to pay your fare and online options for several types of “Jazzy Passes”.
The dark green St. Charles streetcar is the oldest continually operating streetcar line in the world. In 1973, the St. Charles line was added to the National Register of Historic Landmarks.
My streetcar experience was enjoyable and I plan to purchase a 1-day Jazzy Pass the next time I visit the city. I would love to see different parts of the city via the other streetcar lines.
Two days in New Orleans only scratched the surface of a city that is rich in history, culture, and delicious cuisine. I already have a list of museums and restaurants that I want to visit when I have the opportunity to spend another weekend there.
My NOLA staycation was one of my favorite vacations. If you have a staycation experience that was amazing, let me know about it in the comments. Who knows, it could have the makings of an excellent vacation for me or another reader.