It's currently 17 degrees here in Massachusetts and we still have a couple feet of snow on the ground. I'm cautiously optimistic, given that March begins this weekend, that perhaps the worst of this winter is behind us...nonetheless - right now it's pretty frosty out and I can't help but continue to daydream about warmer places...While I travel frequently to Chicago and Baltimore, and love these two cities truly, madly, deeply, neither are renowned for being a place of warm solace, in the dead of winter. My favorite warm travel destination in the US is without a doubt, New Orleans.
New Orleans has it all - amazing food, music and architecture, coupled with an eclectic history and amazing people, if you like good food, sultry weather, interesting scenery, and day drinking, this is the place for you!
Here are my top five things to do in New Orleans
1. The last time I went we did the swamp tour - if you have an irrational fear of alligators or pontoon boats, this might not be for you. We were picked up at our hotel (there was a group of about 10 of us and I'm not sure if there's a minimum requirement for shuttle service) and driven to the departure point. The tour guide was engaging and knowledgeable about both crocodiles and life on the bayou, and I got tons of amazing pictures of both crocodiles as well as homes and boats along the river. I took the tour in October, according to the guide in the spring the flora and fauna is spectacular. We took our tour with Honey Island Swamp Tours and I would absolutely recommend them. Also, if you ask the driver nicely, on the way back he will take you through the Daquiri drive through. The Daquiris aren't the best, like a boozy slush puppy, but that's not the point. DRIVE. THRU. DAQUIRI.
2. There's a ton of good food to be had in NOLA, no doubt. I've been 3 times and every time I have eaten at Coops. Best fried chicken I ever ate. Go there, eat chicken. You're welcome. I'm posting a picture that by no means conveys the experience of eating it, which if I were to imagine is rather like being snuggled by baby unicorns and getting a high-five from Jesus.
3. If you're like me and you like to embellish yourself, and you happen to find yourself desiring souvenir embellishment, get thee to Electric Ladyland Tattoo. I'm not suggesting you get hammered and stagger in demanding a fleur-de-lis on your backside, these guys are professionals and I'm pretty sure if you're visibly intoxicated they will show you the door. However, if you're in the market for some (previously carefully considered) holiday ink, these folks are friendly, talented, professional, and clean. (full disclosure, since these tattoos were done I think both artists have moved on to different shops, but if Electric Ladyland is good enough for a comic genius like Craig Ferguson, it's good enough for you)
4. As I mentioned, food is a big part of the NOLA experience. I'm an admitted food nerd, and it was exciting to go to August (owned by John Besh! I've seen him on the tee-vee!). Im a shoestring budget traveller however, so a big dinner there wasn't in the cards, but this is the beauty of the Prixe Fixe Lunch - for a scant 20 spot (plus wine, if you want wine (you want wine), you get the fanciest lunch you will ever eat - food so fancy in fact, I got my camera out rather than settling for phone pix. The food was delicious, and it was nice to have a slightly more luxurious dining experience than I am generally accustomed to.
5. If you are offered the opportunity to see Miss Sophie Lee sing, you absolutely must go. That's all you need to know about that.
6. In New Orleans you will find, after you've been walking around a bit, you're probably getting a bit warm, and perhaps wishing to enjoy a refreshing beverage and a sit down. Now is the time (assuming it's after 11am, when they open) for a delicious Pimm's Cup from the Napoleon House (I told you before, my New Orleans experience involves day drinking, but these are *suggestions*, not orders) This guy made my Pimm's Cup and it was delicious.
So, yeah, New Orleans, you should go! Laissez les bons temps rouler!