9 Fun things to do in New Orleans

9 Fun Things to do in New Orleans

Our recent trip to New Orleans was the first time I had been.  When looking at the weather to plan what to bring, it said mid 60’s-70 degrees.  I quickly realized that 70 degrees  in Denver is VERY different that 70 degrees in New Orleans.  The humidity literally hit me across the face the moment I stepped off the plane and I knew that I had packed all wrong.  The good thing is the heat doesn’t bother me and I would much rather be hot than cold.

Any-who, we went to New Orleans with my sister and her boyfriend who had a conference and  wanted to tag along.  Our objective: sip some great cocktails, nosh on some great eats and listen to some great jazz music.  I’ve listed 9 things we loved while visiting New Orleans.

Bourbon Street

 

1. Bourbon Street and the French Quarter

Whether you enjoy the crazy bar scene or not, you have to at least take a walk down Bourbon Street.  We were trying to compare it to any other place we have been but,  the fact is that there is simply no place like it.  What we imagined it to be did not necessarily match our expectations. I pictured it as a similar to the strip in Vegas.  Like Vegas, it’s legal to walk the streets with an open container of alcohol. However, Bourbon Street is MUCH more narrow than the sidewalks of Vegas among other things.

As you walk down the brick and stone sidewalks, you will see bar after bar with neon lights and signs for their drink specials.  Many people try to grab your attention to get you into their bar. Street performers are everywhere.  You might see children playing 5 gallon bucket drums or people dressed as statues posing in the same position for hours.  As the night goes on, the street gets more crowded and there are many people on the second floor balconies who throw beads down.   I asked our waitress at the Cafe Beignet in Music Legends Park about the whole flashing for beads.  She said she has no idea where that comes but no one does that.  Needless to say, we did not see anyone showing their boobs for beads… sorry boys.

Frenchman Street

Frenchman Street is a short walk from Bourbon Street but found it to be less crazy and have more live music.  The bands don’t seem to start until the evening  but it is still fun to walk down during the day.  There is definitely different feel to Frenchman Street.  I heard that it used to be where more of the locals go but has changed to a more popular tourist destination over the past few years.  We walked down it one night and walked through several of the craft bazaars they have.  There you can browse and purchase many pieces of art from local artists.  There are some very talented people who create great pieces!

9 Fun things to do in New Orleans

Things to consider before you go:
  1. Comfortable walking shoes.  Depending on where you are staying, you may have a little bit of a walk to get to Bourbon Street.  I would not recommend heels or even wedges because of the uneven walking surfaces.  I would not recommend sandals  or open toed shoes either. The sidewalks can be very dirty and wet. There can also Mardi Gras beads all over and easy to slip on.
  2. Go in the morning or early afternoon.  If you are hoping to avoid the crazy crowds and drunk people, definitely go when it’s still light out and earlier in the day. As it gets later, people get drunker, crazier and it’s definitely is more busy. One good thing is that after a certain time, the road is blocked off and you can walk on the street without worrying about cars.
  3. Watch your purse or bag-  as with any busy tourist area, be cognizant of your wallet, purse or backpack.  Even though there is a good police presence in the area, don’t allow yourself to be a victim of a crime of opportunity. Put your wallet in your front pocket and make sure your purse or backpack is zipped up. Be cautious of people coming up and talking to you or asking you strange questions as they might be trying to divert your attention while someone else pickpockets you.

I don’t want to scare you into not visiting because it is a very fun and unique place to see. We did not have any problems and we walked Bourbon Street several times.

After walking down Bourbon Street,take a walk south towards the Mississippi River. There is a great boardwalk to stroll down and it is much less crazy than Bourbon Street. There are many great restaurants where you can find some great traditional Cajun food.

2. Steamboat Natchez

Steamboat Natchez

If you are looking for a fun daytime or evening activity, try taking a riverboat cruise on the Steamboat Natchez. They have several options for tours which you can find on their website here.  We did a Sunday Morning Brunch cruise but chose the option for the boat ride only without brunch. They also offer dinner cruises and heard from several people are very fun.

Unfortunately, the day we went was rainy and cold. The majority of the inside space of the boat is for the dining room. Those seats are reserved for brunch (or dinner) so we sat outside. On a nice day that would have been great, however it was pretty cold. The outside decks have quite a bit of seating and tables that is covered so we were able stay dry. The best view is up top on the top (third) deck.

About the boat

The boat has 2 other bars that are located indoors.  One is on the 3rd deck with only about 4 tables.  The other is on the bottom deck  and is a little larger but still only about 5 or 6 tables.  There is some room to stand if you just need a quick warm up.  They do off warm beverages such as coffee and hot chocolate.  An even better place to warm up is the engine room down on the bottom floor towards the back of the boat.  Here you can see how a steam engine works and watch the men in action.  There are a few bathrooms on board and you may purchase food and drinks even of you did not purchase the meal with your ticket.

Where it goes

The boat ride takes you from Jackson’s Square in the French Quarter, down the river about 7 miles,  turns around and heads back upstream to just past where you boarded and near the Crescent City Connection Bridge.  It returns you to the same location at Jackson’s Square. The Sunday brunch tour is 2 hours long.  A guide takes along the rivers you pass several docked ships, a sugar plant, oil refinery as well as other points of interest.

I would recommend doing the riverboat ride with the brunch or dinner if you are wanting a guaranteed seat inside.  It’s really the only way to see the jazz band also.  Otherwise, you can listen to them playing from the speakers outside on the deck.  Although we didn’t eat on the boat, many people said the food was great.  Definitely reserve your tickets ahead of time on their website here several days or even week in advance since they do book up. Even of you cannot get a reservation to have a meal on the boat, I would say it’s still worth going.

3. Carousel Bar

Carousel Bar

Located inside the Hotel Monteleone, the Carousel bar is one of those unique place you must stop in just to see if nothing else.  The seats around the bar as well as the bar counter itself, slowly rotate while you sit.  The movement is very slow and before you realize it, you are on the opposite side of the bar.  Not only is it a nice lounge and fun place to visit, they make great cocktails.  The bar seats fill up quick so you may have to stand and wait for a little while, but those are definitely be best seats in the house.

Cocktails at the Carousel Bar

 

4. Street Car

When your feet get tired of walking, try riding one of the iconic streetcars.  These trolleys can get you to most of the tourist destinations in New Orleans.  Tickets are inexpensive at $1.25 for a single ride or $3 for a 24 hour pass.  There are also options for a 3-day pass for $9 and even a 31-day pass for $55.  You may purchase your single ride or 24 hour ticket directly when you board the streetcar.  Note that you must have EXACT cash to purchase this way.

The easiest way we found to navigate the streetcars is just the Google maps app on our phone.  Just click on the transit option at the bottom once you have entered both your FROM and TO location.  Then click on the small train icon to pull up the stops on your route.  It makes navigating an unfamiliar city much easier!

Finding Streetcar Route on iPhone

 

Finding Streetcar Route on iPhone

5. August

Restaurant August in New Orleans

By far the best food we had in New Orleans!   It may be on the top end of your budget but if you’re willing to spend the extra, it will definitely be worth it.  We were recommended the restaurant August by our friend, Daniel, and were honestly, a little hesitant because of how expensive it looked.  We decided what the heck, we’re on vacation and tried it anyway and so glad we did.  If you love french food, definitely stop in here.  Dishes we would recommend are the potato gnocchi, the oysters, and the “breaded” flounder.  For dessert, definitely try the “dirt cake”.

"Dirt Cake" and August in New Orleans

“Dirt Cake” and August in New Orleans

6.Cafe Beignet/ Music Legends Park

We found this little oasis on Bourbon Street and spent most of our time here.  What we love about the Cafe Beignet at Music Legends Park is you can still be a part of the Bourbon Street scene minus the craziness.  They have plenty of seating outdoors, both covered and uncovered, and there is always live music.  The food is great and they have a full bar right there with the best waitresses.  What else can you ask for?

Gumbo at Cafe Beignet

Cafe Beignet at Music Legends Park

Legends

 

7. 21st Amendment

21st Amendment

Photo Credit: The 21st Amendment

One of the must have drinks to try in New Orleans is a hurricane and while many will tell you to go to Pat O’Briens, we found a better one.  The 21st Ammendment bar has great drinks and the best hurricane we found during our trip.   This bar is smaller than others and has a great atmosphere.  Like many of the bars in the French Quarter, they have live music.  It’s located just off of Bourbon Street making it a little less crowded when we were there.

Another must try drink while in New Orleans is a Sazerac which is a whiskey cocktail.  Not my first choice but my husband said the 21st Amendment made the best Sazerac he had while in red Orleans.

8. WWII Museum

The National World War II Museum in New Orleans is rated as one of the best war museums in the U.S.  If you enjoy WWII history, this is a must see in New Orleans.  Like many museums, there is quite a bit of reading.  However, they have many displays, videos, personal stories and interactive areas.  It is very educational and makes for a great rainy day activity.  Buy your tickets online here beforehand and pick them up when you arrive to skip them sometimes long  lines.

The best part of the museum is the Boeing Center which is the home to several aircrafts that are suspended from the ceiling.  You can get a close view of these pieces of history from the viewing bridges on the 3rd and fourth floors.   Be sure to take a look at rh Boeing  B-17 and P-51 Mustang.

Boeing B-17

9.Burbon House

If you are looking for some great seafood, try Bourbon House on Bourbon Street.  They have a great menu of delicious Southern food as well as a great whiskey menu which kept my husband entertained for hours! (no exaggeration!)  The food is delicious!  I wish I would have taken more photos of my meal for you to see, but it looked so good when it got to the table, I just dug right in.

We went on a Sunday night and it was really busy.  Luckily, we made reservations and didn’t have to wait.  I would recommend making reservations if you planning on eating at Bourbon house for dinner.  We used Open Table to make our reservations.  Definitely stop in, even if it’s only for a cocktail at the bar.

Bourbon House

Overall summary of New Orleans Favorites:

Bourbon Street– A must see in New Orleans…Go during the day

Frenchman Street– Lots of live music that starts in the evening

Steamboat Natchez– A fun tour of the Mississippi River

Carousel Bar– A fun bar that rotates while you sip great cocktails

Streetcars– Easy way to get around NOLA

Restaurant August– The best food in New Orleans…seriously.

Cafe Beignet at Music Legends Park– Perfect place for a cocktail, beignet and live music on Bourbon Street

21st Amendment–  Makes the best Sazerac and Hurricanes

The National WWII Museum–  Very well done and a fun activity for a rainy day

Bourbon House– Great seafood and traditional Southern food

Hyatt Regency New Orleans– We stayed here.  A little walk to Bourbon Street but a great hotel

Napoleon House– The best Muffuletta in New Orleans.  We went twice!

Europe Adventure: Part 3- London

I don’t know about you all, but the last month and a half has been a crazy, whirlwind of parties, shopping, and other various holiday activities.  This post is definitely past due but still wanted to share our 3rd stop of our Europe trip…London!

Getting to london from edinburgh

After some research, we found that taking an overnight train to London would be the best option.  Not only would we save a little money by not needing another night in a hotel, we could save the daylight hours for sightseeing.

The Caledonian Sleeper Train

We booked our tickets online a few moths prior to our trip.  The website allows you to purchase tickets up to 12 months in advance.  There are three different seating/ room options to choose from.  The least expensive option is a reclining seat and does not have a private room.  The next option is the standard room which has 2 beds and a washbasin.  One thing to keep in mind when booking the standard room is that male and female couples who want to share the room must book together at the same time.  If you are a single ticket, they will only place you with another single ticket of the same sex.  There is also a first class option that has one bed and a wash basin.  This is great for single riders who want the privacy of their own room.

The train leaves Edinburgh at 11:45 pm and arrives in London Easton at 7am.  We arrived at the train station early in order to board and get settled before the train departed.  Before arriving at the train station, we had heard that only paper tickets are accepted.  We printed ours when we purchased them online and were able to board with no issues.  A gentleman checked our tickets and helped us find the correct car.

The Train

The corridor that runs along the rooms is very narrow and can be difficult to navigate through if you have a large suitcase or bag.  Our room was not much bigger.  With two bunk beds , a ladder and a small sink basin with a cover, there wasn’t a lot of room for us to move. It took some organizing to get all our things to fit, but we managed just fine.  The top bunk was able to flip up against the wall to allow more space.

The Standard Room

Normally, we are in bed around 10pm so this 11:45pm stuff had us dragging.  We knew the ride was relatively short compared to our usual 8-9 hours of sleep, so we didn’t spend much time scoping out the rest of the train cars.  Note: the water from the sink is not drinkable, but they do provide you with a small. Bottle of water which we used to brush our teeth.

How we slept

I was surprised at how fast we fell asleep once we flipped off the lights.  The beds were fairly comfortable and we both were able to sleep relatively well even though the  train stopped  several times along the way.  Occasionally, the rocking and squealing of the brakes would wake us.  We both must have slept well and were surprised when we were awaken by a knock at our door and a gentleman telling us we had arrived.

The man at the door brought us our beverages that were included with the ticket along with a small breakfast snack.  They allow one hour to deboard the train once it has arrived in London. This gave us plenty of time to use the restroom, get dressed and pack up our belongings.

Our adventure on the Caledonian Sleeper was great.  All the staff was very friendly and it was an overall comfortable experience.  Don’t expect it to be as comfortable as a hotel, but it is a great way to save time and money.

The tower of london

The Tower is a definite must when visiting London.  We could have easily spent a whole day wandering through the museum and grounds.  Many people have said it is very busy and crowded, however, we did not have  a problem getting around.

Outside the Castle Walls

We purchased our tickets online here which saved us £1.90 per ticket and a wait in line.  The line didn’t seem too long once we go there but we didn’t want to risk it.  Before we went in, we stopped in the coffee shop near the ticket stands for an espresso and a small snack.  We did notice several food vendors near the river if you need a bite to eat before your tour.

Of course we couldn’t see everything there was to see at The Tower of London but we did have a few things that stuck out as our favorites:

1. The White Tower

With construction staring in the 1070’s, the oldest part of the castle is the White Tower.  Located in the center of the property, the White tower stands four stories tall and has 15 feet thick walls at some parts.  Not only is the structure itself impressive, the exhibits inside are fascinating.  We enjoyed the Royal Armouries which houses numerous armors of many kings.  The details and craftsmanship is incredible especially knowing the tools that were used were nothing like we have now.

The White Tower

2. The crown jewels

The Tower of London is the home of some of the largest and most beautiful jewels and gems. Here you can se two of the largest diamonds weighing in at 530.2 carats and 317.4 carats.  Not only did we see beautiful crowns of past royalty, but I remember being in awe of a gigantic punch bowl weighing 546 lbs and could hold 144 bottles of wine!

Guarding the Crown Jewels

3. Medieval palace

Shortly after you enter through the gates, climb the stairway on left to find a recreation of King  Edward’s bedchamber.  The center of the room has a replica bed including the lavish linens. Although the room is nothing like you might see in an episode of Game of Thrones, the room was a luxurious place for many Kings and Queens.

The churchill war rooms

Another place to visit on our bucket list was The Churchill War Rooms.  The War Rooms are the underground, secret bunkers where British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the British government directed the Second World War, eventually leading to victory.  This tour through the narrow corridors and hallways is very well done.  The Churchill museum, which is also included in your ticket, is fascinating.  Everyone is provided an audio tour which talks you through each room.   I would plan on spending 3- 4 hours in order to see everything.

We bought our tickets online here in hopes of not waiting in a long line.  We were glad we did because there was a large tour group that arrived about the same time and we were able to skip the line.   There is a small cafe to grab a sandwich and coffee during the tour.  After your tour, we recommend the short walk to Buckingham Palace through St. Jame’s Park.

The War Rooms

The War Rooms

 

Churchill’s Bedroom

Other Places We Visited

We did our own walking tour of London and stopped by many of the famous sites in London.  Here is just a few of the things you must at least visit when in London, even if its only from the outside.

Big Ben

Palace of Westminister

Westminister Abbey

Buckingham Palace

The London Bridge

Thanks for reading about our London trip.  I would love to hear about your favorite places to visit in London!

 

Europe Adventure Part 2- Edinburgh

Scotchy, Scotch, Scotch

The second stop on our trip was to Edinburgh, Scotland.  We picked Edinburgh to visit because my grandmother was Scottish and Marc likes scotch.  That pretty much settles it.  My grandmother grew up in Dundee, Scotland which we were unable to visit, but is still on our bucket list.

Ryanair

Choosing a Ryanair flight from Dublin to  Edinburgh is the least expensive and fastest way to get there.  I think there are a lot of mixed feelings about Ryanair.  Here are our perceptions and what we learned:

  1. Yes, it is an inexpensive flight.  Don’t expect to be wined and dined…you get get what you pay for.
  2. Make sure you have a printed  boarding pass.  They will not take electronic boarding passes.
  3. If you are flying with a non-EU passport, you must get a visa stamp when you check you bags.  No one will tell you this until you are boarding and you could be told to get one before boarding and miss your flight.  You will not have a problem getting through security without the stamp.  The gate is where they will tell you that you cannot board without it.  We almost learned this the hard way.  Ask at the counter where to get one since I have heard it varies between airports.
  4. Measure your suitcase…then measure again.  Ryanair is very strict on baggage size and if yo are not careful, you may get stuck with an outrageous fee.
  5. If you are going to check luggage, pay for it online beforehand.  It is much more expensive to pay for a checked bag once you arrive at the airport.

Overall,  our experience was good with Ryanair and will still use them in the future.

Edinburgh, Scotland -Travel Guide by A Copper Queen

Edinburgh Castle

where we stayed

Standing high on a hill in the middle of the city sits the Edinburgh Castle.   After seeing photos of this beautiful structure, we knew that we wanted to stay in this area.  We found an adorable  Airbnb apartment located in the Grassmarket area.  It is just a short walk to the most famous street in Edinburgh, The Royal Mile.  There is so much to see and visit on The Royal Mile .  We spent most of our time in this area while in Edinburgh.

Grassmarket Apartment- Edinburgh

Grassmarket Apartment- Edinburgh

View from the Apartment

View from the Apartment and Scottish Beer

What we did

Edinburgh castle

Obviously a must when visiting , the Edinburgh Castle is worth the trip.  Spending  almost the whole day here, we were captivated by the history and architecture of this beautiful place.  There is a lot to see and it can definitely be overwhelming.  Here are our favorite parts to help you hit the must see spots:

  1. View of Edinburgh:  Definitely the best view of the city.  Since the castle sits high in the middle of the city, you can see for miles.  We are lucky and had a beautiful, clear day!
  2. Prisoners of War Museum: During times of war, the prisoners were held in an area under the great hall.  We were surprised that how “comfortable” it seemed considering the circumstances.  There are many hammocks and mattresses which seems much more humane than I had expected.  There are many fascinating artifacts made by the prisoners including games, woodworking, and coins.
  3. The Grand Hall:  Not only does the ceiling in the Grand Hall showcase beautiful architecture, the whole room is packed with old weapons.  It is definitely worth at least a walk through.

Edinburgh, Scotland -Travel Guide by A Copper Queen

Edinburgh Castle

Here are a few other helpful tips about visiting the castle:

•Wear layers.  it can get a little chilly and windy when you are walking outside but warmer inside.

•Wear good walking shoes.  There is a lot of walking  and cobblestone .

•Go early in the morning for less crowds.

•Buy your tickets online and skip the line.

•Plan on a minimum of 2 hours to visit.

 

The Scotch Whisky experience

I would highly recommend visiting the Scotch Whisky Experience .  It was the highlight of our visit in Edinburgh.  Since Marc loves whisky, we decided to do the Taste of Scotland Experience which includes a dinner at the end.  We both agree that the meal was the best we had during our entire Europe trip.

First the tour starts out with a ride in a whisky barrel  through the distillation process.  It then moves to the tasting room where you learn about the different regions scotch is made and the last differences.  Although scotch is not my favorite, I did enjoy the tasting and would still recommend  the tour.  Our tour guide was very knowledgeable.

Next, we walked thorough the largest collection of single malt scotch whisky.  It is unbelievable!  The room seems to go on forever with bottle after bottle of scotch.  All of the bottles are sealed, never been opened.  Two of the bottles however, are completely empty from evaporation.  I didn’t know that scotch could evaporate that much but learned The Angels Share is the name for the lost whisky.

Eventually, we found our way out of the collection room and had dinner at the Amber Restaurant.  We can’t say enough good things about how good the food there is and are impressed how accommodating they are on food preferences.  And yes, we both tried haggis which isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds.

The Scotch Whisky Experience- Edinburgh

The Scotch Whisky Experience- Edinburgh

Whisky Barrel Ride

Whisky Barrel Ride

Largest Collection of Scotch Whisky- Edinburgh

Small Sample of Largest Collection of Scotch Whisky

Edinburgh, Scotland -Travel Guide by A Copper Queen

Dinner at the Amber Restaurant

Dinner at the Amber Restaurant

the royal mile

The Royal Mile is the street running from the Edinburgh Castle to the Holyrood Palace.  It is full of shops, pubs, restaurants and other tourist attractions.  Despite being pretty touristy, it is definitely worth walking down.  Most of our time was spent in this area,  walking up and down the “mile”.  We found ourselves sitting in a few of the restaurants and pubs to enjoy a scotch and a bite to eat.   You will find that most of the souvenir shops sell cashmere scarfs and although we didn’t have much extra room in our luggage, I did purchase a few for gifts.

The Royal Mile-Edinburgh

The Royal Mile-Edinburgh

Cute pub where Marc sampled scotch

Cute pub where Marc sampled scotch

Authurs Seat

Arthurs Seat is a high peak in Holyrood Park.  Just a short walk from The Royal Mile, we took a hike to the top on our last day.  The hike isn’t too difficult and is a relatively short 3 miles round trip.  I would allow for at least an hour and a half.  We didn’t spend too much time at the top due to it being so cold and windy, but the views are amazing and well worth the trek.  Definitely bring a jacket.  On a warmer day it would have been nice to bring a picnic lunch and stay a little longer.

Arthurs Seat

From the Top

From the Top

Arthurs Seat

Arthurs Seat

We enjoyed Edinburgh and hope to go back someday and see what we didn’t have time for.   Stay tuned for our visit to London.  I love to hear your questions and comments.  You can leave them in the box below.