We spent the weekend before Christmas in New Orleans. The city was decorated for the holidays and it was nice to get away for a long weekend.
The 20th-23rd of December we took a trip down to New Orleans. We stayed at Harrah’s again, since we had complimentary nights.
We checked into our hotel around five-ish, then headed straight to Frenchmen Street for dinner. We ate at Adolfo’s, a Creole Italian Cuisine restaurant, and although not exactly what I expected it was still good! John had the Veal Ocean with shrimp, crawfish, crabmeat, and capers, while I had a steak with a garlic mushroom cream sauce (very garlicky).
The service was wonderful, and the ambiance was cozy. It’s not a super fancy place, but still a bit romantic. You can find it located above Apple Barrel bar. We enjoyed some live music and a drink while we waited to eat. (FYI – both are cash only)
After dinner we walked up and down Frenchmen street a bit, then made our way to the French quarter. We took advantage of the nice weather and spent the rest of the night seeing everything Christmas related!
First on my Christmas list, was the Longway Tavern for a temporary Miracle Christmas pop-up bar. I’m glad I stopped here, but to be honest I was a little disappointed. There wasn’t as much Christmas decor as I had expected and the specialty Christmas drinks were priced high.
Next up was the Royal Sonesta New Orleans. This place was gorgeous and had beautiful Christmas decor. They had a gingerbread replica of the St. Louis Cathedral, which was impressive and very detailed.
The second hotel we stopped in was Hotel Monteleone. It was very elegant and low lit with simple Christmas decor. This place didn’t need any over the top decor to look fabulous though, the ceilings alone were breathtaking (along with the chandeliers).
Located inside Hotel Monteleone is the famous Carousel Bar & Lounge. Too crowded to get a spot, we hung out on the side for a bit before moving on.
Our third hotel stop was the Ritz-Carlton. They had huge toy soldiers guarding the doors which really stood out. Inside they had a gingerbread tugboat they named the “SS Bingle“. Little did I know when we were there, apparently they had a gingerbread streetcar on the third floor as well.
The fourth hotel we made our way to was the one I looked forward to most, The Roosevelt New Orleans. Their Christmas decor was so magical, walking through the door it was like I was hit with Christmas spirit.
This place was extremely crowded, and I could see why. Despite the bustling crowd, we found some sweet people to take our pictures. The experience of the Christmas glow and excitement was well worth our stop here.
Our fifth and final hotel stop was our very own, Harrah’s New Orleans. Inside the lobby was a life size gingerbread house, taller than me. The smell of gingerbread filled the lobby and it was crowded with people taking pictures of the house.
The revolving doors to the entrance had a life size nutcracker and toy soldier inside them. It was funny to watch children go round and round laughing at them.
It poured rain all morning long, so we took advantage of sleeping in and not rushing around. We finally headed out of the hotel around noon and made our way to the Christkindl Markt (Christmas Market) at Deutshes Haus. This was not at all what I expected, and I was so disappointed we wasted our time going there. There was probably only 6-8 booths, and none screamed German Christmas market to me.
After spending a total of 10 minutes at the Christmas Market, we headed back to the French Quarter. We decided to go to the French Market to browse around and eat a snack. I decided on a crepe while John had alligator sausage and fried alligator.
It was still raining, but not heavily, so we walked in and out of the shops down Decatur street (still considered the French Market). We made sure to stop in Santa’s Quarters for a new ornament to commemorate our trip.
Still a little hungry, we wandered into The Original French Market Restaurant. We decided to just grab a seat at the bar and relax for a bit. John had their Cajun boiled sausage, corn, and potatoes and they had a good flavor. I just got a side of Mac-n-cheese, and oh my goodness it was AMAZING. Hands down the best restaurant mac-n-cheese I’ve ever had.
We also stopped in Pepper Palace, which was full of different hot sauces and spices. They even had a hot sauce bar down the middle of the store.
In the evening we headed out of New Orleans to Madisonville, about an hour away across Lake Pontchartrain. We were invited to have dinner with John’s best-friend’s family, at his sisters house. The dinner was delicious and it was great to catch up with friends while in the area.
It was a little chilly out, but nice enough out to walk around. We made our way to the Garden District, which I had been dying to see. We walked part of the way, then hopped on a streetcar.
TIP: I highly recommend utilizing streetcars in NOLA, they’re cheap and time efficient. If you download the RTA app you can purchase passes on there as well as monitor when one will arrive. It’s $1.25 a ride, or only $3.00 for a 24-hour pass. We did a 24-hour pass starting on our way to the Garden District, and were able to use it again the next morning.
On the way walking, we passed through Lafayette Square, where you can see bleachers have already been set up in preparation for Mardi Gras.
This house (below), at 1448 Fourth St, was built by in 1859. Local lore says that Short’s wife complained of missing the cornfields in her native Iowa and that he bought the cornstalk fence as a gift for her. If you look closely, the corn plants are wrapped in bean vines – a common strategy for efficient cultivation of land, used by the region’s native population.
During the American Civil War, New Orleans was taken and occupied early as a strategic move to cut off Confederate supply lines; Colonel Short’s Villa was commandeered in September of 1862, and Governor Nathaniel Banks lived inside with Major General Benjamin Butler. As a result of the early occupation, New Orleans, unlike many southern cities, evaded destruction from Sherman’s March.
This is the Morris Israel House located on 1331 First Street. By the 1860s, the Italianate style was the most popular style of architecture in the Garden District. Like many New Orleans homes, this one is narrow along the street but extends far back on the lot. Large square lots that failed to sell were often split lengthwise, sometimes more than once, to form multiple lots, leaving owners with no choice but to build long, rectangular homes. Past visitors to Disneyland in Anaheim, California might recognize this house, as it was the basis for the design of the Haunted Mansion – and the house appropriately has rumored ghosts of its own.
My favorite of all the houses we saw was Buckner Mansion. Located on the corner of Jackson Avenue and Coliseum Street, it is one of the most photographed mansions in all of New Orleans. If you’re an American Horror Story fan, you’ll remember this house as Miss Robicheaux’s Witch Academy in season 3.
Wealthy cotton grower Henry Sullivan Buckner had this plantation-style mansion built in 1856. The 22,000 square foot home has 48 Ionic and Corinthian fluted cypress columns on wraparound double galleries. In addition to the sure size of the home and number of columns, the mansion also has excellent ironwork and floor-to-ceiling windows. The huge mansion was home to the prestigious Soule Business School from 1923-1983 before being turned back into a private home.
Below is the home of former New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning, as well as the childhood home of his sons Peyton, Eli, and Cooper Manning. The family are full-time residents and are a common sight in the neighborhood. A lot of footage from the documentary of the family called the Book of Manning (2013) was shot at the home.
Built in 1832, this large white house served as the main house in the Brad Pitt movie Benjamin Button. In the movie, based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald story, the lead character Benjamin Button is raised in this home. If you’ve seen the movie you can recall many of the scenes which take place on the porch and steps leading up to the home.
The house below is known as the Koch-Mays House. This Swiss Germanic Chalet was built in 1867 by William Freret for James Eustis, a onetime U.S. Senator. It’s said that the inspiration for the style of the home came from a plate in a home catalog. The coolest thing about the home’s layout is how the 3 main sections of the house are staggered to maximize the sunlight each area gets no matter what time of day it is. This is one of only three homes of this style in the entirety of New Orleans. However, it is not a practical style of architecture in a part of the country that gets as warm as New Orleans does.
Today, it is the home of the Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock. She bought the home in late 2009, shortly before her adopted son Louis was born in New Orleans. People flock to the home hoping for a sighting, but she’s rarely here. She does allow other celebrities to stay inside, though, so you never know who might come out the front gate. We weren’t so lucky on our visit to see anyone famous.
The rest of the houses I took pictures of didn’t have as much of a known history, but they were beautiful none the less. We enjoyed our time in the Garden District walking around and admiring the architecture of these huge houses.
John knew this was at the top of my list to see and although he isn’t as keen on old houses as I am, he made some discoveries of his own. Here I was looking at houses and he’s snooping in people’s backyards and through their gates!
Walking back towards the French Quarter, we passed the Eiffel Society and stopped to take a look. The iconic steel structure and glass walls that are now home of the Eiffel society were once apart of a restaurant that was perched a top a tier of the Eiffel Tower in Paris where trendsetters such as Hemingway, Coco Chanel, and Picasso once drank, dined, and discussed their day.
As time went on however, the sheer weight of the restaurant started to cause the tier’s floor to sink. The restaurant was taken down piece by piece like Lego’s in 1981 and was shipped to New Orleans in 1984. The restaurant found a new home on the streets of New Orleans when a famous French chef got wind of the restaurant’s deconstruction, and paid 1.5 million dollars to ship the freighters containing the restaurant overseas. The restaurant was reassembled 14 feet in the air and is located on iconic St. Charles Avenue.
We continued walking and kept saying if we saw a streetcar we’d get on, but we never did. We did our own sort of pub crawl walking back and stopped in some neat hole-in-the-wall places. We made our way back to the Carousel Bar & Lounge to try and get a seat this time.
We lucked out and got to sit down within 5 minutes of arriving. We both ordered a single drink and snacked on their bar pretzel mix. The ambiance was amazing, Christmas music filled the air and everyone was happy and laughing. Although our drinks were a bit pricier than I would typically get, the experience alone was worth it.
The Carousel Bar has been going round and round since 1949, and is the only rotating bar in New Orleans. It takes 15 minutes to go completely around the carousel, so as you can imagine it moves rather slowly (and for good reason).
After leaving the lounge, we walked around the French Quarter the rest of the evening. We made sure to check out Jackson Square lit up at night for Christmas, and it was just gorgeous. I loved the simplicity of decor with the red bows.
Directly in front of Jackson Square they set up a large tree, and of course we made sure to see that as well.
Heading back towards our hotel, we walked down Bourbon Street and wandered in and out of places just looking around. We stopped in Pat O’Brien’s for the first time, where I had a signature hurricane. Even though it was cold out, we enjoyed sitting outside on their patio since they had heating lamps all around.
Back beside our hotel, we walked through the Miracle on Fulton Street set up. This area was really neat and wasn’t near as crowded on a Sunday night. The 30 foot tree they had set up was my favorite tree I saw while there, it even spit out faux snow every hour from it’s top.
Before heading out of town, we both wanted to eat our favorite things. For John this was blackened alligator, which we went to Mulate’s to get. This was our second time coming here, and he swears it’s the best blackened alligator he’s ever had.
For my favorite NOLA food, it was beignets. The last time we visited New Orleans we went to Cafe Du Monde and had no wait, this time there was a line so we decided to try out Cafe Beignet.
I was SO glad we went to Cafe Beignet instead, as Cafe Du Monde is outside and Cafe Beignet is inside (it was cold). It was so cozy and nice inside, with Christmas music faintly coming from a piano in the background. The service wasn’t that great, but overall I’d recommend and go back.
Afterwards, we took a streetcar back to Harrah’s to get our vehicle. That ride was bittersweet, as we’d had a great time but were also ready to get home.
Our last stop before making our way back to Arkansas was of course, a mural. I try to hunt these down in every city we go to, especially the Greeting’s Tour ones. I also made a mental note to definitely come back to the area of this mural next time (Magazine Street).
This trip was the first time we’d ever went anywhere so close to Christmas. It was so nice to see a different city decorated for the holidays! We enjoyed our time away together, and it was a good break right in the middle of the holiday madness.
If you ever have the chance, I would definitely recommend making a New Orleans trip around Christmas time. It was truly magical, and I would 10/10 go back again.
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Next post will be back to talking about our Texas Roadtrip!
“Joyeux Noël! Joyeux Noël! Au d’ssous du beau sapin, Les rubans rouges sur les cadeaux! C’est le Réveillon, Toutes les cloches sonnent. Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong, Toutes les cloches sonnent!
Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! Beneath the handsome fir-tree, The red ribbons on the presents! It’s the Christmas Feast. All the bells are ringing, Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong, All the bells are ringing.