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Things to Do On A Short Vacation to New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans, LA, USA

Louisiana, particularly New Orleans, has been on my bucket list of places to visit. With the pandemic contributing to limited international travel, my husband and I set our sights on a location more domestic, and somewhere neither of us has been before. Thus, our trip to New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA, for short) was born.


Our Itinerary

Our trip was a short 3.5-day long adventure. Although some people may find this timeframe to be a bit short, maybe rushed, the time we spent on the trip was actually "just right" -- enough for the change of scene, appreciation of the architecture and city, and enjoyment of local popular places. Towards the end of our trip, we were a bit "fried out" from all the fried foods we've eaten throughout the trip. 

Day 1

Flew into Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)

My husband and I started our morning early and caught the first flight over to New Orleans, landing into MSY. The flight was like every other flight we've taken while leisure travelling -- a smooth and easy process overall. We arrived on time and as expected to MSY. 

Where we stayed:  Hotel Mazarin

Our first order of business was, of course, checking into the hotel and ridding ourselves of our (literal) extra baggage. Deciding to book our entire stay with Hotel Mazarin was a no-brainer. We just wanted a safe place, located in a not-too-noisy part of town, but also walkable to all the main sights and attractions.

We tried to check in once we arrived to the hotel, but our room wasn't ready. As with services many hotels offer nowadays, we checked our bags with the front desk and had our luggages stored temporarily until our rooms were ready. We went to pick up dinner in the meanwhile. 

After picking up dinner, we were pleased to find that our room was ready for check-in. We picked up our luggages and headed up the elevators to our room. Our room was spacious and clean. The room didn't face the main street, but it was of less importance, since most of our time was spent exploring town.

First meal:  Olde NOLA Cookery

Our first meal in Lousiana was at the Olde NOLA Cookery, and we each settled to try their "taste of New Orleans," a sampler of gumbo, crawfish etouffee, red beans and rice with smoked sausage. We thought it would be a great primer and a way to get to taste a bit of everything.  

We waited quite a while for our food to be prepared, since we didn't order ahead. However, it was nice to know our food was being prepared fresh rather than quickly (or, most likely, prepared ahead of time). Even with bringing our food back to the hotel, the food was still nice and hot. The food overall was okay, although the price was a bit on the higher end. The flavors weren't spectacular or anything really special, sadly. The portions were reasonable and enough to keep my husband and I full and satiated, without being overstuffed. It's hard to say if we recommend going back, but we do recommend trying something else. 

Walk around Woldenberg Park (night edition)

After dinner, my husband and I took a stroll to Woldenberg Park, which houses the Steamboat Natchez and overlooks the Mississippi River, to watch the sunset. The park is a long, paved (non-grassy) stretch. There weren't too many people at the park when we went, but there some joggers, couples, groups of friends all enjoying their time exercising, walking, or sitting to eat/chat/people watch along the stretch. 

The stroll was nice and enjoyable especially without the crowds. Going in the evening was a great choice, since we also had the opportunity to enjoy watching the Steamboat Natchez with all of its lights lit up. 

Day 2

Walk around Woldenberg Park (morning edition)

Our morning began again with yet another stroll through this park, this time to catch a glimpse of sunrise. It was a cool morning, and we picked up some beignets from Cafe Beignet for breakfast at the park. Afterwards, we conveniently walked over to our next stop -- Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral.

Visit to Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral

Jackson Square was just a short walk away from Woldenberg Park. It was, quite literally, across the railroad tracks and up some stairs. The St. Louis Cathedral was quite a sight to see. From afar, it's appears very castle-like with it's metal statue directly in the center and the cathedral itself enclosed with a contrasting dark wrought iron gate. Up close, a cathedral appeared towering and bright. My husband and I wish we could have caught a glimpse of the inside, but a glimpse of the outside will have to do, given the COVID times.

Gator and swamp bayou tour with Grayline New Orleans

My husband and I knew for sure wanted to do a gator and swamp tour while in Louisiana. It was an activity that was also suggested to me by a close friend who came to Louisiana pre-COVID. Because of COVID and capacity restrictions, my husband and I had booked tickets well in advance. We opted for a platoon boat tour.

The gator and swamp bayou tour by Grayline New Orleans included coach bus transportation from a designated parking lot near Woldenberg Park to the swamp dock area. Round trip transportation itself to and from easily took over an hour. 

The swamp tour docking area was most crowded initially when all the different tour groups we're waiting to dock. The crowd thinned out as tour group by tour group docked their different assigned boats. 

Our tour guide and boat captain brought the group to different areas of the swamp. It was really hit-or-miss whether or not we were able to find alligators out and about. There were several times where we caught smaller alligators suntanning by the shore side. Eventually, we reach the deeper part of the swamp, where there were medium-sized alligators swimming about. About midway through the tour, the tour guide and boat captain brought out a small alligator that tour guests were able to hold and take pictures with. It was a fun experience overall and something I recommend doing while in Louisiana. 

Street car ride to and walk around the Garden District

When my husband and I got back to town, we caught a streetcar trolley and took it to the Garden District. The Garden District has several tree-lined streets and historical homes. Walking through the quiet neighborhood streets and appreciating the styles of each home and the style of wrought iron in their fences made it feel like I was on a Hollywood set of some Victorian era movie. I definitely recommend visiting the district if you enjoy architecture or photography.

NOLA Poboys

Our last stop of the day was to grab some food at Nola Poboys, a food place recommended by the same close friend. The poboys from this eatery were are fresh made to order and had a little kick to it for seasoning. You have a choice of how spicy you want the seasoning to be, so it really caters to everyone's spice tolerance level. We both got one shrimp poboy each, and the poboy from here was very solid and the best of our trip. We enjoyed the freshness of the seafood, a small kick with each bite, and the fact that our sandwich was not overly soggy by the time we made it back to our hotel to eat. The sandwiches did take some time to make after we had ordered, so we recommend ordering ahead if you plan to take your food to go.

Nicole's Trip to NOLA

Day 3

Breakfast at Cafe du Monde

We started off our morning similarly to yesterday with a walk again at Woldenberg Park and a beignet and coffee breakfast from Cafe du Monde. We had gone to the large Cafe du Monde location. The cafe was crowded with a lot of people dining outdoors, as well as a long line of people getting their orders to go. The line moved efficiently, since most of the orders were either beignets themself or paired with a cup of coffee. We had our beignets this morning paired with a cup of coffee.

Local French Quarter walk

After finishing our breakfast, we started the day with a local walk around the French quarter. We visited several main streets walking around and enjoying the different styles of each building. Some buildings were lined with hanging flower plants from the wrought iron balcony fencing, others with just the plain undecorated wrought iron. We passed by several small shops and museums, some of which were closed on this day. Because of COVID and the fact that we walked around earlier in the day, there weren't many people around, which was great for photo-taking and being able to enjoy the walk at a leisurely pace!

Lunch from Mambo's

We each had a shrimp poboy. The poboy was pretty average. The sandwiches were not as flavorful as that from NOLA Poboys and the sandwiches ended up being soggy by the time we reached the hotel. The serving size was definitely enough to keep us stuffed, but we wished we had given another place or a different food option a try instead.

Louis Armstrong Park 

We wanted to check out the surrounding local neighborhood, while staying safe, of course. The nearest park by foot was Louis Armstrong Park. The park had a large area of water with an active fountain in the center and a paved walkway so you could literally walk a circle around the park. There are several statues of notable people in NOLA's history and art pieces scattered throughout the park too. The entrance we took included walking past the auditorium, also located inside/near the park grounds. The auditorium area, unfortunately, was worn down with broken and boarded windows rampant and graffitied walls present. There were other couples and visitors at the park, but nothing too crowded at all. There were also some shady looking people passing through, particularly at the auditorium side of the park. My recommendation is to bypass the auditorium and look for the entrance that says "Armstrong."

Dinner from Oceana Grill 

As above, we were hoping to find a different food place to try, so Oceana Grill was it. We each ordered the fish poboy this time. We were surprised and a bit disappointed to find that the food was similar (if not, the same) as that from Mambo's. There wasn't anything different about the poboy from here. It was the same size, same flavor, same sogginess (after walking back to the hotel to eat), and the same to-go packaging. The only real difference was the plastic bags used because of the branding and names of the restaurants. It's a reasonable place to try for a first-time poboy, but I would probably try something else from this place or save my stomach space for a better poboy place. 

Sweet treats from Southern Candymakers

Making some time to try some local, handmade sweets worked out perfectly, thanks to a suggestion from my sister-in-law. Having been to NOLA before and a fellow foodie as well, she suggested that we visit Southern Candymakers and give their pralines a try. When we arrived at the shop, one of the workers patiently answered our questions about the different candies, and another worker was working on another batch of pralines. 

We didn't want to end up with more food than we were able to finish, for lack of a refrigerator and microwave in our hotel room, so we each tried one of their original creamy praline and one of their king cake praline. We went back to our hotel to enjoy the treats, and I am glad we did because I probably would have purchased more if we were still at the store. Each bite of the praline was accompanied with a piece of pecan and fluffy, creamy, butterscotchy, sugary goodness. The king cake praline was equally delectable and creamy, but decorated with purple and green sprinkles. I definitely stopping by to give their handmade sweets a try!

Day 4

Breakfast at Cafe Fleur-de-lis

For our last few hours in NOLA, we decided to take our breakfast craving to Cafe Fleur-de-lis. I settled for the big easy breakfast, while my husband went for the seriously southern breakfast. The cafe was busy, to our surprise, since it was early in the morning. As with all of our other food ventures this trip, the food took some time to prepare since we didn't order ahead. The food portions were plentiful -- it made us a little more than satiated. Both breakfasts were typical and reminiscent of your typical American breakfast, and made us wish we had chosen something else off the menu, something a bit more...Southern and Louisiana-y to close our trip with. 

Flight back to Norman Y Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC)

Our flight back was simple and no fuss with the airport not as crowded as pre-pandemic times. Despite all the fun we had being tourists and the change of scene, it is always nice to be back home. 


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If you've made it to this point, I think you can agree with us that we were a bit "fried out" after our trip. I remember telling my husband that it would be a while until I wanted to eat fried anything again! Although our trip was short, it sure was filled with lots of things to do. The only other thing I had wished we had time to do was a plantation tour, since that seems to be unique to the South. 

Have you been to NOLA? If so, what activities do you recommend doing?

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