Last month, I flew to New Orleans to meet up with a friend from college. She was attending a convention there, and we had the opportunity to stay in a prime location for an unbelievable rate at the Sheraton New Orleans hotel. My husband and I don’t have the chance to travel together as a couple without our kids very often, so when a chance comes up for one of us to travel solo, we jump on it.
I had traveled to New Orleans with another friend and her mom when I was 14 years old, but I hadn’t been back since then. Girls trip, woohoo!
Sheraton New Orleans
When my friend told me the convention was at the Sheraton New Orleans, I briefly considered getting the Amex SPG business card to cover some nights. However, at a points rate of 10,000 Starpoints per night, using the cash convention rate was a much better deal.
The hotel has an ideal location for exploring New Orleans. It’s located on Canal Street right across from the French Quarter. It’s about two blocks down to Bourbon Street and two blocks to the riverfront.
The lobby had a bar in the center. Every time we entered the lobby from the outside, we were wowed by the good smell inside the hotel. It smelled like fresh cucumbers were infused into the air. It’s hard to explain, but if you have been to the French Quarter and know the kinds of smells there, the fresh smell of the hotel was a haven for our senses.
Our room had two queen beds and a desk. The beds were comfy.
My favorite thing about our room was our view of Canal Street!
The gym was large:
But the rooftop pool was relatively small, considering the size of the hotel (1,100 rooms!). And no hot tub.
I bought breakfast from Starbucks in the lobby each morning for a reasonable price.
I would not hesitate to stay at the Sheraton New Orleans again. It was so close to many attractions.
First Night Out on the Town
We arrived on a Saturday in the late afternoon. After we checked into our hotel, we were ready for some local food. The hotel concierge recommended the Creole House restaurant across the street.
We decided to try some regional dishes that we don’t normally eat, so we ordered the fried alligator bites. They were a bit too rubbery for my taste and hard to chew, but at least we tried them! And the coleslaw on the plate made me feel like my mouth was on fire. Burning!!! How do people even stand it?
After dinner, we decided to look around the French Quarter. It just so happened that we were there the same day as the New Orleans Red Dress Run, so the majority of people (including men) were wearing red dresses. And of course they were all completely wasted, because it’s New Orleans.
Pretty soon, we heard music and watched this wedding party’s second line march by.
We walked to Jackson Square as the sky was starting to get dark.
We decided to call it a night, as we knew we’d be back in the French Quarter again the next day.
Café Du Monde and the French Market
The next morning, we had to go to the famous Café Du Monde for beignets. The café opened in 1862 and is open 24 hours a day! The beignets did not disappoint.
Just down the street is the famous French Market. This place is huge!
I’m normally not entertained by shopping, but the shops inside were so colorful. I found so many things I wanted to buy!
At this point, I was really missing my kids, and I saw so many things I knew they would love. If they had money and were at this place, they would go crazy!
I did actually go a little crazy buying stuff for them. Guilt shopping, I suppose.
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Even thought it was only late morning at this point, my friend and I were both very hot and sweaty. New Orleans is a two-shower-a-day city. So, we decided to give ourselves a break and cool off in the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas on the riverfront.
The aquarium was the 5th aquarium I had visited this summer, but I didn’t care. It was inside with air conditioning!
We ate lunch in the aquarium food court so that we didn’t have to brave the heat and humidity outside. Aquarium admission included an IMAX movie next door, so we watched the movie Hurricane on the Bayou, which is about Hurricane Katrina.
Streetcar Jazzy Pass
Earlier in the day, we purchased one-day streetcar Jazzy Passes for $3 each. We had used the streetcar to get to Café Du Monde earlier in the day, and we wanted to explore more of the city by using the streetcars. And $3 for unlimited rides in a day is a great deal!
After a brief regrouping at our hotel, we hopped on the St. Charles streetcar. We wanted to see more of the city and admire the unique architecture of the houses and buildings. It was relaxing to just sit and watch the scenery go by.
We ended up getting off the streetcar just past Tulane University and Loyola University. We found a restaurant with upstairs outdoor balcony seating and enjoyed dinner al fresco.
I wished we had more time to explore the city on the other streetcar lines.
Even though we explored the French Quarter the previous night, we didn’t actually make it to Bourbon Street. So tonight was my last chance.
Right now, Bourbon Street is being torn up. The center of the street is blocked off by construction, so visitors have to cram onto the sidewalks for a few blocks. It made it really hard to see what was on the other side of the street.
We decided to get some frozen daiquiris to go in order to combat the heat that still lingered at night. People watching in the French Quarter is very interesting!
Of course, there is plenty of swearing, smelly puddles and debauchery in the French Quarter at night (and during the day). It’s a place I don’t want to bring my kids for a long, long, time. But surprisingly, I saw families with kiddos in strollers who didn’t seem to be phased by any of it.
On my last morning in New Orleans, we went with a group on a swamp tour. We walked a few blocks and then boarded a Gray Line bus that took us to the boat launch. Our boat, the Swamp Creature, took us on a leisurely ride through the bayous.
We saw quite a few alligators. Our tour guide joked that some of them were on the payroll. At one point, the boat stopped and the captain gave people the opportunity to feed the alligators marshmallows. In retrospect, this seems like a really bad idea, but I couldn’t stop watching the alligators jump out of the water for those marshmallows!
Everyone also had the chance to hold a rescued baby alligator.
We saw a lot of Spanish moss on the trees. It was beautiful.
It was good to get out of the city and see some of the surrounding area. Next time, I would prefer to ride on one of the airboats, as they are faster and you can cover more ground in the same amount of time.
Final Thoughts on NOLA Trip
We saw and did a lot in just 48 hours in New Orleans. I was so exhausted when I returned home (and this is the trip that pushed me to travel burnout). But if I had to do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat.
New Orleans was the perfect place for a kid-free trip. The food, the architecture, the festive ambiance….I’m so glad I was able to experience the city again. And of course, spending time with an old friend is good for the soul!
Is New Orleans on your travel wish list?
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.