A true Louisiana Christmas begins on Christmas Eve with some unusual lighting displays. The Great River Road from Baton Rouge to New Orleans follows the Mississippi River and the levee houses hundreds and hundreds of bonfires. People who live along the river spend months constructing 30+ feet bonfires, usually in teepee shapes, although we did see one shaped like a house, and set fire to them come Christmas Eve to light the way for Santa to find their homes. Ho, Ho, OUCH! We stopped to see the bonfires in all their glory at St. James Parish off La. Hwy 44, this allowed us to drive down the river road and see everything or park and join the party. The celebration would rival that of a football game; tailgating, beer drinking, music, fireworks, and enough people to fill a stadium (maybe even two).
We spent Christmas day roaming the French Quarter and made a little detour to Magazine street, unfortunately most places were closed due to the holidays. It was nice to see the Quarter a little emptier and just take in all the gorgeous architecture and the soul of the city.
It was also fun to see everything lit up for Christmas, most balconies were decorated with wreaths and beads, fairy lights and trees. The Roosevelt Hotel went above and beyond, bling-ing out their entire lobby with enough lights, trees, and ornaments to cover a city block.
We also walked down to the River Walk and saw beautiful art insulation before running into a real brass marching band who were touring the Quarter. We spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening trying to beat the heat before heading out to meet the party crowd on Bourbon Street.
Our first stop was Pat O’ Brian’s to try their famous hurricanes, the drinks were very sweet, but pretty good. If you’re planning on hanging out there, I recommend sitting inside where the live music is, as opposed to outside by the flaming water fountain (although definitely go check that out too). If you’re not planning on staying, they give you fun, extra-long plastic cups to take with you. On Bourbon street you’re allowed to walk around with open drinks as long as they are in plastic containers, however most places won’t allow outside drinks. After Pat O’ Brian’s we went to the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone, the most notable thing about this place is that the bar actually revolves like a carousel. Pretty cool, except maybe not the smartest idea when your senses are already being thrown off thanks to alcohol. We moved back to Bourbon street for some grenades in a grenade. There was a good amount of life on Bourbon street, but it certainly wasn’t one of their busier days and a good number of bars were actually closed for Christmas.
The day after Christmas was our last day in the city, and it was defined by all the food we ate. We walked through the French Market before going to eat our weight in beignets and powdered sugar at Café du Monde.
After breakfast we went back to the French Market to get drinks and sample alligator jerky while perusing everything the venders had to offer. We spent hours just hanging out at the farmer’s market listening to music and people watching before heading to Magazine street.
We stopped at District Doughnuts to pick up some yummy airport snacks before heading to Mahoney’s, who are so famous for their po-boys they were even featured on the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives,” for a late lunch. They were pretty yummy; I recommend going for the more “out-there” menu items since that’s where they made their name. Then we made our last stop at Sucre for something a little sweet and some very satisfying coffee (the nerd in me just HAD to try their butter beer latte!) before heading to the airport.
New Orleans is one of those cities you either love or hate, and despite the smell or horrible weather (rain, rain, more rain, and when it’s not raining the humidity is at 90%) I can’t help but love it. The history and architecture alone can sell me, but when you add in the heart and culture, it’s almost like a different world down there. It’s a city you can easily get lost in and spend days just exploring and discovering a new side of NOLA.