New Orleans: With Kids

I've been SO eager to share this post with you guys!

Our resolution this year was to travel more. Specifically, to swap getting stuff for experiences. Instead of a ton of gifts around holidays and birthdays, we've chosen to pick a place on the map and go.

James and I share a birthday month! We're five days apart. So this year we headed to New Orleans, which is a place I've particularly wanted to visit over the past few years.

We went into NOLA a bit blind. The day before we left, I was on Instagram asking you guys what we should do and where we should eat. First of all, thank you for all of your recommendations. There were some places we visited from your suggestions, and plenty of other places you guys recommended that we wish we would have had time to visit.

We were actually advised not to go to New Orleans with children, that it wasn't safe; that the Quarter was not appropriate for children; and that we definitely should not stay in a hotel in the Quarter.

So with all of that being said, what follows are my thoughts and experiences on traveling to New Orleans with children as well as a review of the places we dined.

WHERE WE STAYED:

We stayed at The Merchantile Hotel. The description was an "all suits boutique hotel within walking distance of the quarter."

Pros: Being an all suits hotel, we liked the fact that we could have a larger space for the children, for the same price as other hotels in the area. The kids slept on the pull-out couch, and we had our own room, which was large enough to set up the pack-and-play.

Another pro, the price! *Family Trip Tip: Check Groupon for deals on hotel stays! You can save a significant amount of money! We found this hotel on there and saved roughly $250 for the days we chose to stay. I always try to find a more inexpensive hotel if we aren't planning to be in the room often. In this case, there was so much we wanted to do that we, on average, didn't come back to the hotel until around 10 PM.

It was quiet; we didn't hear the street in our room or any loud guest, which was perfect for the baby. The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful. There were several restaurants nearby, which was great when we didn't want to go into the Quarter to eat.

Cons: Although marketed as within walking distance of the Quarter, with children, in summer, it's not a good idea. It's just under a mile away, and there was no way we were walking that.

There's no room service. I didn't check on this before our stay, I just assumed, as a boutique hotel, there would be.

There's a nice bar in the lobby, but no restaurant either. They offered a continental breakfast, which consisted of pastries, all of which were sweet, and some fruit.

We had to pay $42 a night to valet. OH EM GEE, I have NEVER paid that much to valet. The worst part is, there are literally NO OTHER OPTIONS to park. The street stays full, and there are time limitations. It's not just where we stayed, that's pretty much everywhere in downtown New Orleans. The lowest price I saw to park overnight was $32. Even the self-park options are astronomical.

WHERE I SUGGEST TO STAY:

This brings me to my next point. DO STAY in the French Quarter if you have children. Not only did we pay the $42 night to valet, but we also spent another $30-$40 a day to drive a mile to the Quarter and park. Can't Uber with kids. We ended up spending about the same, if not more, on parking, as we did on our ENTIRE hotel room stay. That's crazy, right?!

The French Quarter, depending on the time of year you visit, is totally fine. It would have been so convenient to stay where all of the attractions, dining, and shopping were. That paired with the savings on parking, makes it a no-brainer to stay in the Quarter. HOWEVER, avoid Bourban street. It's where the party is. My mom and I went down it, and it was milder than downtown Nashville in my opinion, but it was like 5 PM. I'm sure at night it gets wild.

WHERE WE ATE:

I don't think you can go wrong with where you choose to eat. We didn't have a meal that we didn't like. We enjoyed some above others, but generally, everything tasted good.

MERIL: This was the first place we ate when we got into the city. Located within walking distance of our hotel, it was by far my favorite meal of the trip. Dustin and my mom had the swordfish, and it was delicious. I had the most tender, flavorful lamb I've had my entire life. My favorite part, the fantastic lemon cotton candy served with an extreme sparkler! The kids LOVED it!

NAPOLEON HOUSE: A place to get a taste of New Orleans for those that don't like spicy foods. It's located in the French Quater, with both inside and small garden seating. It was a great place to grab a quick bite. The restaurant was full, yet we received our food quickly. I ordered the gumbo and half salad. Although I don't mind somewhat spicy food, it was surprisingly flavorful without any heat. It was so mild the kids ate it. I could have had three more bowls.

CAFÉ DU MONDE: Is it a tourist trap? Yes. Is it still worth it? Also, yes! We went on Friday a little after lunch, and although at max capacity, we didn't have to wait AT ALL. People rotate in and out rather quickly. You can order to-go or sit down to be served. The beignets were you know, beignets. I've had them at other places. They're generally not my favorite dessert, but they are good! It's more about the experience, I think. The coffee, Au Lait, however, absolutely perfect! I strongly suggest pairing the beignets with a cup!

WARNING: Literally, every other time we were around Café Du Monde, lines were wrapping around the building. Both early morning and at night. If you get the chance to go during the week and not the weekend, that's your best bet.

MONTY'S ON THE SQUARE: The next notable place; it's located directly across the street from Café Du Monde. We all enjoyed an extensive and definitely delicious breakfast. Dustin and I both had a crab cake benedict served on a biscuit and topped with creole hollandaise. Their cheese grits were perfectly creamy, and their home fries had just the right amount of crunch on the outside while still maintaining the soft potato inside.

NEW ORLEANS CREOLE COOKERY: This is where I plug Groupon again. We made reservations here (although honestly not needed) because we purchased a Groupon for $120 worth of food for $60! What a steal, right? Another one located in the Quarter, if you're looking for spice, you're going to get it here. We all had a smorgasbord of seafood. James fell in love with their alligator sausage we got as an appetizer. Naturally, he ate all of it. We weren't blown away by any one thing here as we got seafood we could likely get anywhere, but it was all adequately cooked which you might not realize IS relatively hard to find when you order seafood.

There were SO many places you guys suggested that we didn't get around to. Even restaurants we attempted to go, but unfortunately, were too late to get reservations at a time that worked for us. I've included a list of them below so that you, unlike my unplaned behind, can actually map out and make reservations ahead of time for the places you'd like to dine.

Brunch at Willa Jean.

Broussard's

Erin Rose

Desire Oyster Bar: This one is on Bourban street, which I DO NOT recommend taking the kids down.

The Ruby Slipper

Brennan's

Jazz Brunch at Court of the Two Sisters

WHAT TO DO

Tours: (Again, check Groupon for deals) We scheduled two tours, and the first was Lively Tours. We planned it for 10 AM. It was a 2-hour tour, starting in the Quarter and ending in cemetery 1, which is the oldest. It was all historical and entirely appropriate for children. The kids did just fine, although they, at 5 and 3, couldn't have cared less about the history. It was when we got to the cemetery, with very little shade, that James began complaining. I would suggest trying to schedule an evening tour with children just so that the heat is less of an aggravation for them.

The second tour was Johnathan Weiss dark history tour. This one, we scheduled in the evening for just my mom, sister, and myself. Virtually, it was the same tour with the added, "This is why it's haunted." We got through about 30 minutes of the tour before my sister became overheated and was ready to leave. I was too, not going to lie. Two tours are too much, at least in one day.

GARDEN DISTRICT TOUR: American Horror Story Fans and history buffs alike will love a walk through the Garden District. In addition to Buckner mansion, you might also spot the homes of Anne Rice, Peyton Manning, and Sandra Bullock.

SHOPPING: There are so many neat little shops around the French Quarter and specifically around the square. They have a charming kids shop called Little Pnuts Toy Shop that we all just loved. They have the cutest boutique gifts that include sushi stuffed animals, a plethora of great children's books, and the cutest clothing, hair, and even mobiles to shop.

AUDUBON AQUARIUM OF THE AMERICAS: Located on the Mississippi, it's rated one of the best aquariums in America.

SWAMP TOUR: A lot of these are airboat tours; however, Cajun Encounters Tours Inc, offers several tour options and one is on a flat bottomed boat which would be a great way to explore the bayou with your littles!

STEAMBOAT NATCHEZ DAYTIME JAZZ CRUISE: Knock out lunch and an activity in one place! There are different cruise options, but all have live jazz!

THE SQUARE: One of my favorite moments was hanging out in the square with the kids. Simply enough. They played in the grass, we took in the city, and then it POURED on us. They played and splashed in the rain; it was one of those memories that last a lifetime.

Where should we travel to next?