Trip to New Orleans - New Orleans New Years!
Updated: May 26, 2021
Hi everyone! My latest adventure took me to New Orleans, Louisiana for New Year’s Eve. This is my travel story about my trip to New Orleans and how I celebrated New Year's Eve in New Orleans.
So here it goes.
We decided a couple of weeks ago that we would be spending NYE with two of our best friends, Kristian and AC. We tried to pick a southern city that had a lot of culture and things to experience, but wanted to keep it within driving distance, and we landed on New Orleans. We left on Wednesday night (12/30/2020) and came home on Saturday afternoon (1/2/2021). I really think that trip was the PERFECT length - Nola is an action packed city, so any longer than that would have been pretty exhausting.
Trip to New Orleans : Where We Stayed
We booked our trip through AirBnb and chose the new Sextant Hotel because of how nice it looked, and how cheap the price was. The total for three nights was about $475 - that includes the actual hotel plus all of the fees included when booking through AirBnb. We all paid a little less than $120 a person. I was super surprised at how cheap it was - I expected Nola on New Year’s to be outrageous.
The Sextant Hotel was beautiful! The check in process was easy and our room was exactly what we needed - two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, and a living room. The Sextant is a brand new hotel. I literally felt like we were the first ones to stay in our room. That being said, it seemed like the hotel was about 85% done and was lacking the last 15% of final touches and fine details. But it didn’t affect our stay at all - we had no complaints about the hotel at all. I can’t imagine how nice it will be when it’s totally finished!
Trip to New Orleans : Transportation
We live just about 5 hours away from New Orleans, so we decided to drive to keep the cost of the trip to a minimum. Once you get to New Orleans, parking can be a bit tricky. There are a ton of lots all over the city where you pay by the day to park - luckily, there was a lot right behind the Sextant, and we paid $80 up front for the whole trip (I honestly don’t know what normal rates are but I do know they vary based on expected traffic - since NYE was expected to be a busy weekend, parking might have been a bit pricier than normal). Once we parked, we never really moved the car. We used Uber and Lyft or walked everywhere we went. New Orleans is a beautiful city to walk through, so if you’re just out for a casual stroll I highly recommend walking everywhere. We did Uber a few times when we were dressed up/in more of a rush, and every trip we took was shorter than 10 minutes.
Trip to New Orleans : New Orleans Itinerary
Our travel day. We left Birmingham after work on Wednesday (about 6:30) and got to New Orleans around 11:30pm. We checked in and went right to sleep.
We woke up on our own time and eventually found our way to the French Quarter. We started with breakfast at Cafe du Monde for some beignets and cafe au lait. The wait here can sometimes look pretty daunting, but it usually goes fast and it is WELL worth the wait!
Then, we walked down to the French Market and looked around. No one bought anything, but I really love looking at all the local art. We then made our way back to Jackson Square and went to the St. Louis Cathedral - it was closed due to COVID, but it’s still beautiful to see from the outside. We then walked to Bourbon Street because we wanted to see what it looked like in the daytime compared to the party that was sure to be there that night. We ate lunch at The Gumbo Shop. After lunch, we Ubered to Magazine Street. We were in search of the best King Cake in NOLA, and we were told it was at Haydel’s Bake Shop (more on that later).
Afterwards, we went back to the hotel to relax and start getting ready for the evening. We got ready, took pictures, and then played some card games so that we could save some money and have a few drinks at the hotel before we went out. We Ubered first to Harrah’s Casino and stayed there for about 1.5 hours. I lost $20 but I look at that as an entertainment fee to make myself feel better. We then walked towards Bourbon Street and stopped for food at a hole in the wall bar called Cajun Mike’s. Bourbon St. closed at 11pm due to COVID so we were actually only there for about an hour or so. We went back to the hotel, fought to stay awake until midnight, and then crashed. My watch told me we walked 8.5 miles that day!
We, again, woke up on our own time and ended up at breakfast/brunch at about 10:00am. We chose Surry’s Cafe and Juice Bar because it was a short distance from our hotel. We ate and then walked our way down Magazine Street. Magazine Street is a really long street, and after about 30 minutes of walking, we realized how close we were to being back at Haydel’s Bake Shop and decided to trek on to get another king cake. We got there and they were out of king cakes (SAD DAY), but it was still some good exercise and beautiful scenery. It was well after lunch at this point, so we decided to Uber back to the hotel and rest up. We all took a nap (it might seem lame to take a nap on vacation, but let me tell ya - Nola will do that to you!), and woke up just in time to watch the University of Alabama football team play in the first round of the college football playoffs (we won - ROLL TIDE!). We then got ready for dinner and played a few more card games. We went to dinner at a place on Canal St. called Palace Cafe, and then Ubered downtown where we had to meet our group for an 8pm Ghost and Vampire Tour of the city! The ghost tour was by far my favorite part of the trip - we booked through French Quarter Phantoms. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and entertaining and we had a blast. That lasted about 2 hours and then we went back to Bourbon St. We went to Pat O’Briens and stayed there the rest of the night. We got Digiorno pizzas (did y’all know those are better than delivery?) and went back to our hotel to watch American Horror Story - we were inspired by our ghost tour. That didn’t last long before we all crashed.
Saturday we woke up and had to clean/pack/load up the car. The nice thing about the Sextant being more of a hotel was that we didn’t have to do anything except load the dishwasher before we left. We ate brunch at a place called Slim Goodies Diner and then went to Haydel’s for a king cake for the road (the promised us they would have some today and they did!) We left Nola at about noon and got home around 5pm.
Trip to New Orleans : Food and Drink
I am a true believer that it's impossible to have a bad meal in New Orleans. Seriously. I was once told by a native - if it's bad, it doesn't stay in business long. With that in mind, take our recommendations for what they're worth, but feel free to venture out and try new places!
Cafe Du Monde: 5/5 stars. This is a Nola MUST. Sure, it's touristy and sometimes you have to wait. But the beignets are out of this world and it's just one of those things you have to check off your Nola bucket list.
The Gumbo Shop: 5/5 stars. It's right off Jackson Square, so it's pretty accessible from everywhere. Two of us had the chicken gumbo and two other had a seafood trio - gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish etouffee. We also all split the alligator sausage and it was surprisingly delicious!
Cajun Mike's: 4/5 stars. We all got poboys. This hole in the wall diner was not on our radar - we almost walked right past it. The food was delicious and the bartender was even better! He made the experience what it was.
Surry's Cafe and Juice Bar: 4.5/5 stars. We got HUGE breakfast burritos with potatoes and we were pleasantly surprised at how cheap they were!
Palace Cafe: 4.9/5 stars: I got the Pasta St. Charles and it one of the best meals of the trip. We also got alcohol flights - a rum flight and a mojito flight. The flights were good but they were pretty pricey and not my favorite of the weekend.
Slim Goodies Diner: 4/5 stars. The only thing I didn't love was that the menu was pretty overwhelming. It all looked so good (and I'm sure it was), but it was a lot to read through.
Haydel's Bake Shop: 5/5 stars. By FAR the best king cake I've ever had. So good that we went back for more!
Bourbon Street drinks: This obviously depends on if you like to drink or not. We had a hand grenade from Tropical Isle as well as a hurricane from Pat O'Briens. Both of these drinks are pretty famous New Orleans drinks - another bucket list kind of thing. I don't know that I would drink them regularly, but you have try if you never had before!
Trip to New Orleans : What We Loved.... and What We Didn't
Would Do It Again:
Legitimately, I would not change much about this trip. As for my favorites, I would ABSOLUTELY do the ghost and vampire tour again. I also would go back and eat at every single restaurant we went to - we ate goooood in Nola!
Might Do Differently:
The only thing I could possibly think to do differently would be to plan a little more ahead and make reservations at certain restaurants. We went during COVID of course, so we never really had to wait. If the city had been busy, it would definitely benefit you to plan your trip out because the restaurants get crowded during peak times.
I give this trip to New Orleans or should I say New Orleans New Years a solid 9.7! The only part I didn’t like was losing money in the casino, but it was definitely an experience (and let’s be honest - I should have stopped while I was ahead LOL!). The food, the culture, and the other activities more than made up for the money loss. I HIGHLY recommend going and spending some time in this amazing city!
As always, please comment or reach out to me with questions, and of course let me know if you go on this trip!