48 Hours in New Orleans

Since I haven’t yet made it to New Orleans, I’m happy that Tiffany Monaco has offered to share the itinerary of her recent trip.
Monaco — an elementary school teacher, blogger and aspiring novelist — lives in Louisiana.

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Tiffany Monaco and her husband in New Orleans

Sometimes, I think I look forward to summer even more than my third grade students. Since my husband and I rarely get the chance to get out of town during the school year, and he gets a little time off from his banking job between June and August, every summer break of our nearly six years together we’ve taken as many trips as we can possibly fit in the season.

For our first trip this summer, we decided to stay in our home state and simply travel south to New Orleans for a couple of days. Having both lived in Louisiana our entire lives, we’d been through New Orleans a couple of times before, but hadn’t yet done all the touristy things.

Happily, we can’t say that anymore.

Usually when we go on trips, we’ll drive to a destination and just play things by ear, but our getaways usually don’t tend to be in major cities; for this one, we knew we would have to research a bit more than normal and manage our time well if we wanted to do everything that appealed to us.

When deciding on a hotel for the trip, we searched for a central location so that we could be within walking distance of major attractions; the InterContinenal New Orleans was a perfect fit. Only two blocks from the French Quarter, the elegant hotel has a friendly, knowledgeable staff and big soft beds that called our names after a long day of sightseeing. The flavor is more modern than New Orleans, with all the amenities you’d expect from a big chain (pool, health center, restaurant and bar), but its overall feel is casual and welcoming. ($109 a night for single king and single/double queen bedrooms, $130 for balcony rooms, $259-$349 for suites)

As we’re both huge history geeks, we were excited to make the National World War II Museum our first stop. We’d expected to spend only a couple of hours here, but surprisingly, it ended up taking a good part of the day to explore the courage and sacrifice of the Greatest Generation. We were especially moved by the museum’s video interviews with soldiers, made all the more poignant by the fact that we were surrounded by men (young and old) in uniform with their families. ($19 for adults; free for military in uniform and WWII veterans)

A bit of the French Quarter

Later that evening, we took in New Orleans in the breeziest possible way: aboard the Steamboat Natchez, for a two-hour cruise on the Mississippi River. For a truly New Orleans-style evening — and the romantic highlight of our trip — we chose a sunset dinner cruise accompanied by the cool strains of a Big Easy jazz band. While the dinner cruise can be a bit pricey, we took advantage of coupons which helped us out not only with our night on the river, but the rest of the trip, as well. (Harbor Jazz Cruise with lunch: $35.50 for adults; Harbor Jazz Cruise with dinner: $67.50 for adults)

The Steamboat Natchez, in port on the Mississippi

The next day was almost ridiculously hot, so we decided to head up to the InterContinental’s rooftop pool for an afternoon dip. While floating around, we met a fun couple from Ohio who were on their first trip to New Orleans and eager to swap stories and sights; they had loved a nearby ice cream shop they’d discovered the day before, the Creole Creamery. Taking only enough time to dry off and throw on some clothes, we rushed our collective sweet tooth straight to a shared sundae…and the day suddenly got a whole a lot cooler. At any one time they have what seems like a hundred ice cream flavors (from key lime pie to candied bacon) and creative sorbets like strawberry lemonade, cucumber and even cream soda. ($4 – $8 for fountain classics and specialties, $2.75 for single scoop)

The non-stop party on Bourbon Street

Our touristy trip to New Orleans demanded a wander through the historic French Quarter. The neighborhood is steeped in pirates, ghosts, voodoo and a seemingly non-stop party, but we strolled right past the bars that line Bourbon Street and took a seat outside at Café du Monde, famous for its café au lait (chicory-flavored coffee with a mix of half-and-half and hot milk), spiced coffees, and beignets (square French-style doughnuts, covered with powdered sugar).

Cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe du Monde

On a caffeine-and-sugar high, we headed for the bustle of Jackson Square, one of the most iconic spots in New Orleans. Facing the Mighty Mississippi, the square is surrounded by attractions like the Cabildo (site of the Louisiana Purchase signing) and the Presbytere (which includes exhibits on Mardi Gras and Hurricane Katrina). Right at the center, the St. Louis Cathedral, founded in 1720 and the oldest continuously active cathedral in the U.S., dominates the view. Be sure to head inside to get in touch with your spiritual side or indulge in a pure dose of historic beauty; for me, the highlight here was the gorgeous stained glass, recalling the life of the cathedral’s namesake, St. Louis. (Entrance to St. Louis Cathedral is free)

St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square

This New Orleans getaway gave us a fun, romantic break and we were able to see the city in a whole different light. If you have a little more time, I’d suggest visiting some of the lesser-known attractions we’ve visited on our previous (and less touristy) trips: for a taste of New Orleans architecture, check out the Elms Mansion, or take a relaxing stroll amongst some of the finest artworks in the nation at the Sydney & Besthoff Sculpture Garden.

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Tiffany, who’s presently preparing for the birth of her twins, enjoys preparing southern feasts for her husband and doing home-improvement projects.
Check out her website: Instructions Optional and follow her on Twitter: @tiffmonaco

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See also
TWT Travel Binder: Louisiana
5 Ways to Ease Into the Big Easy

Comments

  1. New Orleans is fantastic! I unfortunately went in December of 2005 and things were a little shut up still after “the storms” but everyone I know who has been recently, has loved it! I can’t wait to go back one day.

    Melanie, you would love it there! A must visit!

  2. I grew up in ‘orleans but we, the family, moved away to Florida a while ago. Just seeing the pictures of beignets brings back fond memories.

    Have you ever been to Savannah,GA? It reminds me of some of the older parts of New Orleans.

  3. Joel, I loved visiting Savannah! I envision New Orleans, with its balconies and iron scrollwork, as Savannah with more jazz. Can’t wait to go myself, someday.

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