Wednesday, February 6, 2013

New Orleans

Around the same time that we went to New Orleans, several other people were planning trips.  So I thought I'd make a quick travel guide.

Lodging
We stayed at the Prytania Park Hotel.  We loved it.  If you are an "off the beaten path" type, this is a great hotel.  It was extremely affordable, had tons of character, and was really close to the #8 bus (technically the streetcar line, but the streetcar was under repairs.  The bus was actually quieter and faster.)  It was also super-walkable to a bunch of really tasty restaurants and a nearby bike shop.  The Garden District is quiet and charming, and the main strip of downtown where all the fancy hotels are seemed to be pretty full of loud drunks and near high priced touristy food places to eat, though if you walked a few blocks, you got to some pretty nice dining.

Things to Do
We had some trouble with this one.  It turns out that 5 days in NOLA was a long time to spend there, and we somewhat ran out of things to do.  I would think 3 days would have been fine.  I would only recommend a 5 day trip if you know the weather will be good, or you are going during the summer, etc.  The weather was lousy for most of our trip, which put (literally) a damper on a number of fun things.

We went to the Aquarium of the Americas (which featured a ton of stingrays, including some you can pet, and sea otters, which were really cute.)  It was a small aquarium, probably not worth the entry unless you have kids or really want to pet a stingray (though they don't let you stay at the tank all day, sadly), but it was generally very nicely done - the exhibits were informative and interesting, though the oil rig exhibit that talked about how great oil rigs were for the environment which turned out to be sponsored by the oil companies, seemed a bit over-the-top.  However, it only took about 2 hours to get through.

We went for a daytime cruise on the Creole Queen, which was very nice, though a bit chilly, and went up to the battlefield where Andrew Jackson and his troops held off the advancing British soliders and saved the country from British rule (nevermind that a treaty was already signed, pretty much everybody left that part out.)

We hit the Presbytere and this one is highly recommended.  It has a fantastic Katrina exhibit that really goes through everything that happened and is quite interesting.  There is also a Mardi Gras exhibit upstairs which is a nice bonus, but was definitely not worth the price of admission.

We went on the free guided tour of the French Market/Quarter, which was fun but I definitely wouldn't plan your day around it.

We rented bikes and rode out to City Park.  This day, the weather was not on our side.  We had planned to do a long bike ride along the Levee trail but the wind was horrible that day (and not great the rest of the time, except the last day.)  If the weather is nice, definitely rent bikes and ride around.  It would be really lovely.  But we did a quick 2 hour tour, and the guy from A Musing Bikes could not have been nicer about being flexible with our rentals (though the shop did not open when it was supposed to, so call ahead.)  We also took the streetcar down to the Audobon Park and walked around there.  The streetcar ride was neat, because St. Charles St. has a bunch of really fantastic architecture and is also near Tulane, which was fun to see.

We walked around a lot - we walked through the French Quarter, we walked up and down Royal Street, which is full of awesome shops and art galleries, and is much slower paced than Bourbon St.  We walked up and down Bourbon St., which feels like a weird mix of Times Square and The Block here in Baltimore (or whatever your strip club district is).  It's also odd to feel like you are the only one not drunk, when it's 11am.

Dining
Green Goddess - We waited a looooong time for a table (we went at 1pm, so everybody who had come for lunch was still lingering) but the food was very good.
Crescent City Brewhouse - My sandwich was good but M's was better. (He got the Catfish Po'Boy).  He liked their beer.  They also have a walk-up bar outside.
Slice Pizza - pizza was reliably tasty.  Would be a good post-drinking meal after spending an afternoon on Bourbon St.
Three Muses - they have Angry Orchard on tap, live music, and delicious delicious food.  Tons of vegetarian options.  Highly recommend the feta fries, and everything else.
Filipe's Taqueria - a good, fast, casual lunching place, with a bar and a lot of space. It took a long time to get a burrito there, but it was a solid choice.
Mia's Balcony - near our hotel, very tasty for lunch.  We had a gift card and did several tapas.  Not necessarily worth traveling out of the city for, but if you are staying in the Garden District (and you should), well worth a visit.
Melange - we had a fancy New Year's dinner here, it was very nice.
St. Charles Tavern - this place was pretty good and open 24 hours.  We went for brunch after New Years, because we were tired of the hotel breakfast.
Cafe Du Monde - go at night, rather than in the morning.  The beignets are still delicious, and the people watching is even better.  Plus, the line isn't around the block.  Don't wear black.

Drinking
Pat O'Briens - If you are looking for a real bourbon street experience, in which you feel like a giant tourist and get really drunk really fast, this is probably the right place to go.  The patio is lovely though, and you can see why a lot of people might spend a whole day, and a lot of money, consuming large amounts of alcohol on the patio.  We had one drink and left, partially because it started to rain and mostly because I needed a nap.
The Avenue - this is a beer drinker's bar, and they had cider on tap.  The food looked good but we only went for "Crafty hour" which, sadly, does not involve drinking and doing crafts.
Rusty Nail - this is a smoke free bar, but because we are idiots, we sat outside.  Which meant we were effing cold, and we were where all the smokers were.  Once we went inside, we got to choose between the really loud front room and the super quiet loser back room.  Then a drunk girl tried to befriend us and things got really awkward.  It felt like we were doing a lot of work just to watch the Redskins-Cowboys game and so we eventually left and went to Slice Pizzeria, but their TV was tiny.

Do you have favorite bars, restaurants, or things to do in New Orleans?