We are a fairly diverse family of four – I am in my sixties, my wife is half of my age, and we have two wonderful little men, ages 5 and 2. This review includes the city as a vacation stop and several restaurants. Our five-year old took a week off from Kindergarten to make this trip with us. New Orleans is a favorite city for all of us and we visit once or more each year. Whenever feasible, we try to fly from Richmond International, instead of Reagan, Dulles, or BWI. The drive distance is about the same to Regan, Dulles, or Richmond for us but the pace of the air travel is a little easier on us considering our two boys. Because we were starting our vacation in the city and then continuing on a cruise, we had plenty of luggage. I’ll write about our experience on Voyager of the Seas in a subsequent article.
US Airways offered us the best value on this trip and we flew a one-stop itinerary each way. We arranged for a limo service to pick us up at the Airport and transport us to the Hyatt Regency New Orleans (601Loyola Ave), recently reopened after a complete remodeling following the hurricane. Our normal hotel in the French Quarter was booked so we couldn’t stay there. We were excited about the Hyatt as Tinovia has Platinum Status there, and we expected an upgrade from the suite we had booked. Basically, they didn’t give us an upgrade, explaining that since we had booked the largest suite in our category and they couldn’t bump us up into a higher category by policy. Our suite was too small to give the boys enough space, and although Tinovia tried hard to get us into a larger room, Hyatt Management stated that they could not accommodate, regardless of status. The hotel was beautiful, the staff was both cordial and professional, but the room was too small and the management declined to offer us anything more suitable. Considering the location (too far from the French Quarter for us), the too small suites, and their decision not to offer us a better alternative, we will not plan to stay there again.
The following morning, we moved to Loews New Orleans Hotel (300 Poydras St). We asked the Bellman at the Hyatt to get us a taxi that would hold all of us and our luggage – not a problem – so we used regular taxi transportation, mostly vans or on occasion, a larger SUV from that point on. The facility was wonderful, our suite was much more spacious, just as well furnished and the amenities were just as nice. The staff was just a cordial and professional, and the rates about the same. We were much happier at Loews and would highly recommend it as a good travel value in New Orleans. We’ll stay there again if we have that choice. One of the areas we had been researching was where to eat Thanksgiving Dinner. Before leaving home, we had settled on the Hyatt Regency, but we had left there and were not going back. We did a little additional research and made reservations at the Café Adelaide right there in the Loews. Great choice! They offered a very well prepared and presented traditional thanksgiving meal we all four enjoyed. The meal was an exceptional value at around $25.00 each and we couldn’t finish anything. The service was exceptional and we would highly recommend the Café Adelaide as a great place to eat whether you are a guest at the Loews or not. I would estimate that between 25 and 50% of the patrons were locals rather than hotel guests during the time we were there so this restaurant must have a pretty good reputation in the community.
Most of our time in New Orleans is spent sight-seeing and eating. The Café Du Monde at the French Market, Jackson Square and the area surrounding are always favorite attractions for us. We tried some new restaurants, as well as some of our regular stops this trip. Our best breakfast was on Thanksgiving morning when we walked into The Desire Oyster Bar, Royal Sonesta Hotel, 300 Bourbon Street. The food was superb, and Ruth, our server, took wonderful care of all four of us. It was a pricy breakfast, but very well done – the Mimosas were excellent and probably the reason our bill was a little higher than usual. We had a very nice dinner at Broussard’s, Vieux Carre – good service and value (we used a Groupon coupon there). Our most fun lunch was at Rita’s Tequila House, 417/419 Bourbon St where the food was good and the server, Bernice, was as good as they come! We also sampled some seafood at Sammy’s, 627 Bourbon St where we also received good value, tasty food, and good service using a Groupon coupon. For us, no trip to the Big Easy would be complete without a stop at a good oyster house. I really like Acme Oyster House on Iberville, but, as usual, there were several people in a line waiting to be seated. Felix’s Restaurant is right across the street at 739 Iberville St. We have been there before, and found the food and service to be excellent. We decided to do so again. My favorite dish at Acme is the grilled oysters on the half-shell. Felix’s has a similar dish that very favorably compares. Their raw oysters and oyster shooters were great! I think I’ll give Felix’s the edge and recommend this restaurant as the best in the area for oysters. Their food and service is excellent and their prices are very reasonable. At first, our server, John told us that they no longer offered oyster shooters (a raw oyster poured into a glass, garnished with horseradish and hot sauce, then completed with a nice shot or so of vodka) – he soon had them to us though and provided excellent service during the rest of our meal.
Our boys loved their time in the city as much as we did. The real plus for us is the time we can spend together. Our five-year old, Prezy, was really looking forward to the Beignets at Café Du Monde and the sights and sounds of the French Quarter. It was a little chilly, and he wanted to know why those ladies were standing in doorways in their underwear in some of the establishments we walked by. Our two-year old, Bash, was really fascinated by the sights and sounds – he had a ball. This was his second visit and Prezy’s fourth visit – we will be back again, hopefully, this year! My biggest regret is that our schedule didn’t allow us to make the Classic – I would have loved the game and especially the bands!
The bottom line up front: We highly recommend New Orleans as a good family vacation stop. Yes, there are sights, sounds, and even events that are not totally suitable for youngsters. I don’t think anything we saw or heard was more offensive that what one could see on broadcast TV, but you may need to be ready with some reasonable explanations. We have never encountered any issues with criminals or crime that directly impacted on us, although I will admit that there is evidence of crime and criminals around you on occasion when you are in the Quarter. The people are wonderful, the food and accommodations are great, the scenery is superb, and it is a very exciting place to be!