My move from Denver to New Orleans was both exciting and tragic. After months of planning, my husband, beagles and I arrived Uptown in early August … 2005. My husband was eager to begin his new future at Tulane Law School. Our eyes were bright with possibility, yet we were completely unprepared for what was to come. I barely had enough time to unpack all of my treasured belongings before the storm hit; most of them were wedding gifts that would be enjoyed much less than the lifetime that was intended. We lost everything. Because we only had a few weeks here before the storm struck, the city we now know is the one that has since been rebuilt.
We are the reNew Orleans.
For me, falling in love with the city was not easy. In fact, there were times of disdain and loathing before love grew in its place. I look back now and think, if only I knew then…it would have been so much easier. I would have saved myself from so many puzzled looks and confused nights.
The top 10 things I wish that I would have know BEFORE I moved here!
- Mardi Gras does not take place in one night on Bourbon Street! It’s a several week long season dedicated to debauchery, excess and family time. Yes, FAMILY time. We place our young children atop huge ladders (with a seatbelt and parent to anchor it, of course) and let random strangers throw heavy, hard shiny beads at them. All while we sip a cocktail and enjoy the company of our fellow parade goers (whether we know them or not). At the end of the night, our kids had more fun here than at Christmas! And, the good news is, they get to do it again and again for weeks! There’s football in the street, music, bright lights, good convo, sweet treasures and a fun FREE time had by all. It’s extremely excessive and extremely fantastic. Schools are closed, workplaces run at a minimum and we, the good people of New Orleans, enjoy all that our great city has to offer!
- Taking your kids to the Quarter during the day can be fun! When we go, we stick to Decatur Street and take a candy store tour. There are a bundle of local candy makers up and down Decatur Street that will be happy to provide your little one with a sweet treat to keep them happy while you shop the local markets. On a cool day, it’s a mommy favorite! Personally, I can’t not get a milk chocolate and cashew tortue. On the way back to the car, you can walk by the river and enjoy the sights and sounds.
- Taking your kids to feed the nutria…I mean ducks…is an experience none of you will forget! There is an AWESOME park in Metairie called Lafreniere Park. It’s a sanctuary for birds that the kids love. I take my kids there to feed the roving hordes of fearless ducks, chickens, swans, turtles, egrets and … nutria. It’s a great place to exercise, let the kids play, and even take a ride on the carousel. This one will be a definite favorite for your family.
- Get to know your grocers. New Orleans is blessed to still have several local, family-owned grocery stores for your shopping pleasure, with each having their own specialties. For example, Dorignac’s is the best place to get alcohol, beef and bakery goods. Langenstein’s is best for their prepared foods (“better cheddar” dip topped with some pepper jelly… yum), fried chicken and meat department. Don’t waste all your time at the corporate grocers; you’ll get that small town southern service at the local grocers. I’ve really come to enjoy knowing my deli person and my butcher, something I never knew I was missing before.
- City Park has something fun year round. StoryLand, Casino Building, Playgrounds, Putt Putt, Carousel Gardens, fishing, boats, nature walks, golf…the list goes on and on. My favorite is the Celebration in the Oaks in December. It’s romantic, fun and family oriented. You can get some tasty rum punch and walk through the park. My boys love the train display. Heck, I love the train display. If you’ve never been, go! It’s truly something you must see!
- Jazz Fest is the Super Bowl of festivals, but French Quarter Fest is free! New Orleans is NEVER in shortage of fun things to do, and Jazz Fest tops most locals’ list of favorites. It’s becoming a religious holiday, and you must go and perhaps, bring your children! However, French Quarter Fest should not be overlooked! You don’t have to pay for a ticket (so you can leave freely in the event of a toddler meltdown) and you can roam the Quarter and get EXCELLENT festival-style food from top rated New Orleans restaurants all while listening to all the music you can handle! It may not be (insert fave national band here), but who needs them!? This is New Orleans! Let your kids dance, eat and enjoy the local sounds.
- Mardi Gras parades are not random. It’s actually one of the more organized things that New Orleans does. Parades are run by Krewes, each one having their own traditions and scheduled parade. You’ll find your favorite! If given the opportunity, don’t pass up on the opportunity to ride. It’s like being a rock-star for a day. I happen to enjoy NYX the most!
- The Saints and LSU are a religion, not a sport, so tread lightly if you disagree. Even if you don’t get it now, chances are, you will. The Saints in particular were instrumental in the city’s recovery, serving as a source of PRIDE, COMMUNITY, and a sign of REBIRTH. Don’t mess with them boys. Note that kids often wear their Saints or LSU clothes to school on Fridays to show support! I was not a huge football fan prior to moving here, but the gathering of the entire region every Sunday en masse all in support of a common goal eventually won my support.
- For my kids, the Zoo, Aquarium, Children’s Museum and such are not just places for field trips. We go often, and since the city is geographically small, it’s SO easy to hop from one place to the next! If you become a member of many of the local family venues, there are even members-only events at night that make for a great family date night! For example, the Zoo hosts a Halloween party called Boo at the Zoo that is incredible for all ages.
- Last, but certainly not least, most of the world is separated by the proverbial six degrees of separation. In NOLA, it’s more like two. This city brings new meaning to the old saying, ” it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Just this past weekend, I was at a hotel at the last minute, on a busy weekend, trying to get the room we wanted. As it turned out, I knew the hotel manager’s mother. We got to talking, and ultimately he was able to work some magic to help my husband and me out! He even sent a bottle of wine and fruit basket to help complete our much needed stay-cation. AMAZING! Thanks, Bradley! Most people here are extremely friendly and truly willing to help. If there is something you’re struggling with resolving, ask around. Someone will likely have a solution that you wouldn’t have known to consider.