The clocks have changed, the leaves have fallen and the temperature has definitely dropped so I’m reminiscing about one of the best family holidays we’ve ever had this summer on our US roadtrip from New Orleans to Orlando….
As a family we really enjoy doing lots of different things and seeing lots of different places on our holiday, so an American Roadtrip is right up our street. This year we decided to travel along the coastal road starting in New Orleans and finishing in Orlando - a part of the world none of us have ventured to. Molly, 10 and Sam, 7 have been to America once before (another roadtrip) so the idea of going back filled them with excitement. Don’t be afraid to travel with children to cities or about driving between destinations – a little bit of research before you go with always give you lots of options for family things to do in cities and we find the driving so easy in America, it gives a chance for the kids to have a bit of down time and play on their gadgets, plus you can stop off at some great little places that you happen to just stumble upon – & you see so much more than flying everywhere!
We have to get up nice and early, but we’re bright-eyed and bushy tailed ready to start our American Roadtrip!
We arrive in New Orleans at 4pm, after flying via Atlanta, and check in to our family room at the wonderful Blake Hotel. The Blake is situated on Lafayette Square, the second oldest park in the city, and on the route of the Street Car (tram) plus we’re only a short 10-minute walk from the French Quarter.
On a mission to keep ourselves awake we decided to walk to Decatur Street, a family-friendly area in New Orleans that runs parallel to the Mississippi River. We stopped at Star Steak & Lobster House, which had locals dining and live jazz music. Heading back we also heard some great music from House of Blues which is just two doors down.
We are only in New Orleans for two nights so today is our sightseeing day to walk around and be a tourist. We head straight to Café Du Monde, world famous since 1862 for its café au lait and beignets, a French-style doughnut generously covered in icing sugar, which tastes so good we had to order seconds and do some more people watching….Cafe Du Monde is a great place for people watching and if you’re lucky enough there will be a live street performer nearby too….our entertainment was a trumpet player over breakfast!
New Orleans can be very humid in the summer, so just wondering around at your own pace & popping in to the air conditioned shops or museums to see the Mardi Gras & Voodoo goodies is a wonderful pastime….this city is made for walking! We were lucky with our warm, sunny day & had some great photo opportunities of Jackson Square with the horse and carriages at the front and St. Louis Cathedral in the background - all facing the Mississippi River. We found artists at work, musicians playing and tap dancing street performers around Jackson Square too. The vibe was great, with each building more colourful and interesting than the last and we even stumbled across a couple of hidden courtyards. No-one was rushing around, New Orleans had the feeling that you just mosey around at your own pace doing your own thing!
The City Sightseeing New Orleans office is opposite Jackson Square, so if you fancy taking the open top double decker bus tour it offers unlimited Hop On Hop Off with 3-full days sightseeing and 3 free walking tours including a Cemetery Walk, French Quarter Walking Tour and Garden District Walking Tour.
We decided to venture out to Mardi Gras World, a museum like no other, only found in New Orleans, taking in the sights of Bourbon Street along the way. Everyone knows that New Orleans is famous for Mardi Gras and this is the place where it’s all made….by hand! Located along the River Walk, they keep and recycle all the floats giving you a behind the scenes Mardi Gras experience any time of the year. You are given Mardi Gras beads as your tickets, watch a short film about Mardi Gras history, a few minutes to try on costumes and sample some King Cake (Sam won the hidden baby from the cake so he has to throw the next party!) then it’s off on the tour.
The tour takes you from the drawing stages, through to Styrofoam carving and paper mache, to the final painting stage – the colours and details are amazing! You then browse the warehouse to see all the colourful floats and huge characters in storage. Lots of photo opportunities and giggles before we jumped on the free shuttle to take us back to Canal Street.
At no.1 Canal Street is the Audubon Aquarium of Americas. They have lots of exhibits, big tanks including a shark tank, a penguin area and you can even stroke a sting ray. Molly loved the jelly fish and seahorses and this was another fun family activity to do in New Orleans! The Aquarium is part of the same group as the Audubon Zoo, located in Uptown New Orleans, and the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, located just a few blocks from the Aquarium and you can purchase a one ticket to cover all three attractions if you wish. You can even go all I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! and try some bug tasting in the insectarium!
We ventured back to Decatur Street for our evening meal and tried Huck Finns, which promises the best Cajun Cuisine! My husband and I decided to try our first shrimp po-boy, Louisiana’s pride and joy, a submarine sandwich filled (and I mean FILLED) with shrimp…plus a little bit of salad and fries on the side which was so tasty it’s making me hungry right now!
Before we packed up and headed off we walked to Mothers for breakfast, a café style restaurant since 1938, located just around the corner from our hotel and recommended by a local. They don’t take reservations so be prepared to queue for a bit, but it’s worth the wait! We filled up on pancakes, their traditional breakfast with the famous baked ham (minus the grits for us.....sorry, I know they're a Southern favourite!), fruit and porridge then rolled out the door.
As we didn’t get a chance to do a swamp tour on our trip this is already on the agenda for when we go back….and we will definitely go back! The whole family enjoyed the city as we discovered that the Big Easy is not just for big people, our little people enjoyed it too! New Orleans have also put together their own family itinerary, just in case you need more ideas! Now we’re packing up the car and heading for Alabama’s Gulf Shores….