A conference for work brought my family and I to New Orleans. Since I would be working for the majority of the trip, my wife’s parents decided to take a short trip down to help us out and keep AnaLiza company. Traveling with people willing to help care for the baby is the ultimtae pro tip when traveling. Understandably, it can’t happen all the time.
New Orleans is an amazing baby city as long as you steer clear of certain areas, and get to know the lay of the land before you go. Petty and serious crime can be a problem in New Orleans if you venture off the beaten path, so you have to be careful. But thanks to some expert advice prior to the trip, I never once felt in danger.
The food, sights and culture of New Orleans make it one of the most unique cities in the world. We were also fortunate enough to be in the city for Jazz Fest. It was a first for everyone in the family and Karina’s first opportunity to see live music. Out of all trips with baby, this one is definitely near the top.
Where to Stay:
This hotel is close enough to all the main sites of the French Quarter, yet far enough away so that no Bourbon street yahoo will bother you and your family. Off a quiet street, this hotel gives off the vibe that you stumbled upon a local’s well-kept secret. You will be greeted by an amazing staff that once you tell them your name, they will never forget it. Karina quickly captured the hearts of everyone there, and they soon called her "baby girl" and would jump at the chance to hold the door open for us (probably just her), or assist with the stroller up and down the few stairs at the entrance.
Upon check-in in, I let the front desk staff know that we would need ice every morning for my wife’s breast milk storage, and they promptly showed up each morning on time without a single reminder. These special touches reinforced that I made the right decision to stay there.
In the center of the lobby is one of the features that at first glance I thought nothing of, but as the trip wore on I quickly grew to love. There is a giant sofa bed-type central seating area that was perfect for Karina’s efforts as she learned to crawl. Every morning to give my wife a little extra sleep time, I would take her to the sofa, speak to the staff, and have some complimentary Illy coffee and fruit. It was an amazing way to start each morning.
Off of the main lobby is an enchanting lobby bar that gets more magical as the lights dim and the day turns to night. Coming back one evening we stumbled upon a Prince tribute that the owner was putting on. All the patrons of the hotel were gathered around as he played his favorite Prince songs. Karina loved this. The owner made it a point to introduce himself to everyone who stopped by. You could tell he really wanted everyone to have a truly special time. The barkeep made amazing cocktails. I am an Old Fashion connoisseur, and this one was tops.
Our introductory level room had ample space, and the hotel provided a very cool antique looking crib. The walls seemed very thick as well, which was a good thing because baby had a few meltdowns in the middle of the night.
Ace Hotel - Warehouse District
This location in the warehouse district is surrounded by innovative bars and cutting edge restaurants. The Ace hotel perfectly captures the unique energy, music and culture that is New Orleans. The lobby bar has expert mixologists on staff and the restaurant, Josephine Estelle, has the most delicious chicken and biscuits I've ever tasted. The Stumptown coffee shop ensures an energized morning should baby decide to keep you up.
We brought Karina here twice, once to the restaurant for breakfast and once at night to check out the bar scene. From what I've heard, the rooms are well laid out and cribs are provided upon request. Check back in December for a more thorough review. My wife and I will be staying at this hotel during our next trip in Thanksgiving.
Where to Eat:
Butcher and Cochon Butcher
This is actually two restaurants. One is expensive, fancy and super delicious. The other is inexpensive, laid back and equally delicious. If you only have time for one, and don't like to take your baby to fancier restaurants, then yeah, go to Butcher and order the pulled pork sandwich. It will be one of the best decisions of your life. Cooked for over 24 hours and packed full of juices and their patented rub and sauce, this sandwich will keep bringing you back to New Orleans.
This place also had a killer Old Fashion. Mommy loved the dessert selection and feasted on a very large brownie pie slice.
We had no plans to visit this little gem in the French Quarter, but we had been walking Karina for an hour and we were extremely tired. The restaurant sits on top of a quaint ice cream shop (which is what first captured our attention), and we decided to check it out. The maitre D' at first did not have any seats for us as the restaurant had a full booking. However, the place was empty and I negotiated a deal where we would sit down on the balcony, order some apps, and be gone in the 30 minutes before the first patrons were to arrive.
The chef must be a baby fan because we were served complimentary apps, and the cocktails were very generously poured. The balcony (pictured in the intro paragraph) overlooks an amazingly ornate and old looking court house. You could hear the clatter of the street below, but rested easy knowing you were high enough to observe, but not be seen. All the while enjoying a cold beverage and tasty snacks.
We will definitely be back for the full dinner experience.
As I mentioned in the above post of the Ace Hotel, this attached restaurant has dynamite chicken and biscuits. We dined here for brunch. Karina slept the majority of the time, and we were seated in a quiet corner so that fellow patrons would not wake her. The interior is spacious with a lot of light and tall ceilings punctuated with mighty columns. Modern furniture and banquets make for a very comfortable seating situation. I also recommend the watermelon and feta salad. This lighter fare will balance out the super tasty chicken and biscuits. Did I mention that they have a chicken and biscuit dish that is to die for?
This place is the best when the weather is bad. It's also pretty spectacular when the sun is shining as well. My father-in-law spent several hours strolling with Karina through this well-curated and spectacularly-designed museum. The museum covers the wars in the Atlantic and Pacific and uses video extensively, which is the best for capturing your kids attention. The food on premise is great as well, but I recommend walking a few blocks to Butcher for the best pork sandwich (see description under food).
Cafe Du Monde
Cafe Du Monde is world famous for their chicory coffee and mountains of powdered sugar with beignets hidden underneath. Do yourself a favor and wear clothes you don't mind getting coated with powdered sugar. Otherwise eat with a knife and fork with the wind to your back. This sugar gets everywhere but it's worth it.
So when my friend told me the trick I'm about to share with you, I thought it was a joke. But while standing in line for this cafe in the 90-degree heat with a crying baby, I quickly followed his advice. Apparently you do not need to wait in the line for a table. Locals and people in the know walk around back toward the food pick-up window and simply walk into the restaurant. The waitresses will immediately seat you. This worked for us, and it worked for the dozens of people I saw come before and after us. Not one got turned away, and no one from the main line seemed to recognize what was occurring. So no fear of nasty looks. Plus you have a baby, and you can do anything when you have a baby.
Garden District - Trolley Car
A great way to fill the afternoon inexpensively is to jump on the trolley on Canal street and go towards the Garden District. See the plantation style grand houses while riding in an open trolley. Bring some water and snacks, and take it all in. When the trolley arrives at Tulane, there are many food options to choose from. To save some time we took an Uber back to the hotel.
We steer cleared of Bourbon street but the French Quarters offers some amazing walks that will bring you by magnificent historic houses, cafes and cute boutiques, and all of it is easily navigated on foot. Put on some comfy shoes and go get lost.
If at all possible, coincide your visit to New Orleans with the world famous Jazz Fest. The food, music and crowd is an amazing experience to share with your baby. But make sure to bring lots of sunscreen (for both you and baby) and something to cover baby's head. Typically the weather will be a comfortable 70 degrees, but when we went it was in the 90s. We were able to walk around with baby for about an hour until we had to head back. There are areas with water misters and air conditioning, but unless you are a smooth talker, most of these areas are reserved for VIPs. Karina absolutely loved the music, and the crowd seemed to love her. They all parted ways and made sure we had the best views. New Orleans truly loves their babies!