Way back in the third grade, 8-year-old Carly and her family took a magical trip to the City of Mystery: New Orleans. Despite the fact that 16 years has passed since I have been to NOLA, I still (remarkably) remember it vividly. I believe it has to do with the fact that Nawlins is such an unforgettable, beautiful, European-like and fun city, that it would be hard to actually forget it.
My father had a business trip to New Orleans, and since my mother’s parents had just recently passed, we figured it would be good to all go on the trip and get away for a bit. New Orleans was definitely a great place to be able to somewhat forget about things for a while because there’s just so much to do, and so much history in the city itself. New Orleans is different than any other city that I have been to in the U.S. One of its nicknames is the City of Mystery, and I couldn’t think of a more perfect name for it, considering it truly is somewhat magical. I feel like there’s something in the air there, maybe it’s because there’s still so much French Creole influence and so much culture that it carries throughout the air.
We started our trip by heading to the gardens to go on the Botanical Garden Tour. I still remember the beautiful gardens because this is actually where my mother got her inspiration for her garden at our family home. The gardens are full of over 2,000 varieties of plants and flowers from all over the world, and also containing the nation’s largest stand of mature live oaks. What’s amazing about this garden is that it began in the Great Depression as a project of the Works Progress Administration (oh my god, I remember that term from history class in high school! See, we do need that stuff in life!) The garden opened in 1936 as the City Park Rose Garden, and was NOLA’s first public classical garden. You can tell that it was made during the Art Deco Period from all of the sculptures, and just the layout of the garden itself. New Orleans Architect Richard Koch, Landscape Architect William Wiedorn, and Artist Enrique Alférez, all contributed their talents to the garden to make it the beauty it is today.
After the gardens, we naturally needed to even the trip out a bit and get some boy stuff in for my dad and brother, so we took an alligator tour with the Bayou Pierre Alligator Park. Yes, we did actually feed the alligators! It was so much fun and a little terrifying at the same time, but the fun outweighed it. I mean, it seems like a dream for a 5 and 8-year-old to be able to feed a dangerous alligator! Not only is it a fun thing to do, but you can get a mini alligator head as a souvenir in the gift shop! My brother still even has his, as you can tell below. It’s still one of his favorite things!
Of course, we naturally made our way over to the French Quarter for some sight seeing and good eats! The French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, so how’s that for historic?! The architecture is beautiful, and is clearly European inspired. Fun fact: most of the buildings were actually built during the Spanish rule of New Orleans, despite having a heavy French influence today. As most of you probably know, the famed Bourbon Street is in the French Quarter. We made our way over there for some cold beers on that nice hot day. Just kidding!!! But we did stop there for lunch at a pub.
Another item on the NOLA to do list was the Garden District Historic Homes and Victorian Mansion Tour. To be honest, this is the one thing I don’t remember (probably because I was 8 and didn’t find the fun in walking through old houses,) but my parents remember it vividly and say that it was fabulous!
Finally, what I still miss and remember most about New Orleans was taking a Paddle Boat Tour on the Mississippi River on the Creole Queen paddle boat. Toyota sponsored this night, so we had a fantastic Creole/French/Authentic New Orleans dinner, complete with Jambalaya and frogs legs, (yep, still remember it!) There was even a Dixieland band playing so we could all dance and have fun. Overall, it was a great night!
As much as I love traveling to new states and cities, New Orleans is somewhere where I would absolutely love to visit again, just to see if it’s as magical as I remembered. Of course, after Hurricane Katrina, I understand that it won’t be exactly the same, but I still want to see it again because it was so mystical and beautiful. I hope my memories from 16 years ago still inspire you to go visit the gorgeous New Orleans!