Travel dates : February 11 – 16, 2016
After leaving Mobile, Alabama we continued West and pulled into New Orleans, Louisiana. We arrived the Thursday after Fat Tuesday. . .purposely timing it to show up after all the craziness from Mardi Gras (we had our Mardi Gras fun in Fairhope).
We had heard there was an RV park right in the French Quarter . . . at $100+ a night you pay for the convenience of walking to the bars and restaurants of the French Quarter. That sounds like an awesome place to stay if you’re kid-free and fancy-free but we opted for Bayou Segnette State Park about 20 minutes outside of downtown. At $20 a night – and beautiful, spacious spots, this is more our style.
The park had a lot of green space and was well maintained. The bathrooms were some of the nicest we’ve seen! We had a short walk on this boardwalk to the restrooms (and playground). We saw LOTS of adorable wild rabbits scurrying around this area – they catch you off guard when they start skittering alongside the path and we also spotted lots of birds.
Hadley was thrilled that they had paved roads and she ended up riding her bike quite a bit (actually she’s on brother’s bike in this photo). I was happy that there wasn’t a lot of traffic and overall it was a quiet, comfortable place to stay!
Panoramic from the ferry
Being about 20 minutes away from downtown you could drive into the French Quarter and try to find parking. But because our truck is ridiculously big we opted to drive 20 minutes to the Algiers Ferry terminal and take that across the Mississippi, dropping us off right downtown. You can find free street parking near the ferry terminal or you can pay $5 to park in a lot (we did both during our stay). It cost our family $8 each way to take the ferry (exact cash, they won’t give you change) and was well worth the cost of NOT having to drive into the city (and pay for parking). PLUS the ferry was lots of fun to ride and took about 8-10 minutes, it was so fast!
The kids LOVED the ferry and were so excited to see the city as we crossed the river. They couldn’t believe this was the Mississippi River. So big and mighty. . .they played in the headwaters of the Mississippi this summer up in northern Minnesota when it was no more than a trickle! I love it when the stuff we are doing comes together across various areas of the country.
Our first day downtown we went straight from the ferry terminal to the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve Visitor Center. This National Park is actually spread over six different locations. The downtown Visitor Center was right in the middle of the French Quarter on popular Decatur street.
The kids did the Junior Ranger badge here – learning all about the history of Jean Lafitte (a French-American pirate!), jazz music and all about cajun food and culture. Hadley loved the Jazz music!
After we earned our Junior Ranger badges it was time for lunch and thanks to a Yelp recommendation we ate at The Original French Market Restaurant. . . just down Decatur a bit further. We ate outside on the top balcony, in the sunshine, while jazz music played down on the street. It was dreamy. 🙂
Jeremy ordered a shrimp po-boy sandwich served with hush puppies. . .
And I ordered jambalaya. . .and we shared both meals. We do this a lot when we want iconic food from an area – we’ll each order something and share. That way we both get to try the popular menu items in a particular area (we did this in Maine with lobster rolls and in Philadelphia with cheesesteaks!). Both the jambalaya and the po-boy were delicious and we washed it down with a local beer (also shared) and the kids had burgers and fries. It was wonderful.
Then we walked over to the other National Park in downtown, the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. Just a bit further down on Decatur (on the other side of the road). What a cool place this was!
Live music was playing on the stage and there were wonderful displays about the history of jazz in the New Orleans area. I’ve never seen a park ranger rocking out in a band – it was fantastic. We all sat and listened for a long time – even the kids were mesmerized by the band. We would have LOVED to do the Junior Ranger program here but they were out of the booklets! Next time.
And then. . .as if we hadn’t had enough fun. . . we went to the famous Cafe du Monde for beignets! The line wasn’t too bad Friday afternoon and we were seated quickly. You get three beignets for $2.73 and we got two orders. Plus the kids got hot chocolate and Jeremy got the chicory coffee.
They were delicious. I generally don’t like desserts or doughnuts but can see why people rave about these. There is a TON of powdered sugar on the beignets – so expect to get messy. By the end the kids were covered in both powdered sugar and hot chocolate and were beyond happy. 🙂
That wraps up our very busy first day in downtown New Orleans. We hopped the ferry back and were home before dark!
The next day we took a break from the city and went to the Barataria Preserve – another part of the Jean Lafitte National Park system. About a 20 minute drive from Bayou Segnette State Park this place feels like it’s worlds away from the big city. There is a GREAT visitor’s center here and a lot of hiking trails! We asked the park ranger and she suggested the Bayou Coquille Trail and Marsh Overlook Trail (see map here). It was a little under 2 miles round-trip and an easy, easy walk with lots of chances to see animals.
The trails were mostly packed dirt or boardwalk. We saw lots of alligators a safe distance away from the boardwalk – which was just enough to keep you on your toes. We also saw a frog and a bunch of birds. I guess this area has a lot of snakes too. . . and as much as Liam wanted to see one, I’m glad we didn’t!
This was a great place for a walk and a slower-paced day to offset the bustle of the city from the day before.
The next day was Valentine’s Day (and our last day in the city of New Orleans) and we decided to take a riverboat cruise! I love riverboats and riding one along the Mississippi was on my bucket list. So we hopped aboard the Steamboat Natchez for a 2-hour trip down the mighty Mississippi.
Hadley looking at the massive paddle on the back of the steamboat. You can see the French Quarter in the background.
We rarely do touristy things like this, but I just loved it. We learned all about the port and the massive amount of shipping that occurs in this area, we saw the areas of New Orleans where the levies broke during Hurricane Katrina, we went by the Domino Sugar plant and we danced to live jazz music. We even got a bit sun-kissed from the beautiful weather that day.
After the steamboat ride, we ate more beignets (of course) and caught the ferry back home. We had a wonderful time in New Orleans and I’m glad we made this a stop along the way. I know there were many things missed – like the World War II museum is supposed to be phenomenal and the Aquarium looked spectacular – but we just ran out of time.
Our next stop would be this Harvest Host location in Lafayette, Louisiana for one night – it was a lovely spot (complete with alligators and turtles) and the perfect stopover on our way to Texas! Learn more about the Harvest Host program here. It’s a great way to support local businesses and get “FREE” camping.
Stay tuned for our Texas travels. . .
Have you been to New Orleans before? Have you had a beignet at the famous Cafe du Monde?