To celebrate Mardi-Gras, we've compiled a list of the favourite things we did when in New Orleans aka NOLA for a couple of nights in December 2019: from spirit hunting to eating delicacies and enjoying the local sights... All of the following were tried and tested independently, after we did our own research and some recommendations by locals. "Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler"!
When? We loved being there in December (after driving from Dallas TX and before heading to Washington DC via Nashville) as it was very quiet (definitely not recommending to go around Mardi Gras with a dog, way too busy and hazardous for humans let alone with a pup) and a lot cleaner than we expected. The weather was wet and cool but not too cold. People were super welcoming and there's so much history and sights to see that we recommend spending a few days in the area.
The downside of visiting with a pup during the Winter period was that the restaurant patios were closed therefore eating out with a pup was tricky due to federal and local laws*... however it was not impossible! We often used Bring Fido during our USA trip to find those places!
Where? To be able to stay near the French Quarter whilst on a budget, we opted for AirBNB and picked a cosy studio apartment in a traditional bungalow, "Maison Dupré Studio", which cost us about £35 per night. The private studio with wifi has an ensuite bathroom, a small kitchen (with mini-fridge, an electric cooktop and a microwave), as well as a television and sofa. The hosts were super helpful when we had an issue with the wifi and sorted this in no time!
How to travel around? Please note that public transports are not allowing pet dogs in New Orleans, so we drove to get to places.
1. 4 in 1 Witches, Ghosts, Vampires & Walking Tour with Witches Brew Tours
As we only had one full day and evening to spend in NOLA, and wanted to make the most of it, we picked the evening "4 in 1" tour that takes you throughout the historic French Quarter of New Orleans. On the menu: the tales of the city's past and more recent events, from devastating hurricanes to paranormal (ghosts, vampires, voodoo, cemeteries, witchcraft...).
Our guide, Josh, was super knowledgeable and entertaining, we learnt a lot during the tour, including little known facts like the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, celebrities purchasing haunted houses, the origins of vampires and voodoo (it's not what you think of!). The only spirits we saw that evening though were those served at MRB Bar & Kitchen, where we stopped by half way ;)
As the tour takes place outdoors, dogs are allowed to join providing they keep their owners on leash. The bar we stopped by halfway also allowed all of us in!
Cost: $25 per adult plus charges.
2. Beignets at Café du Monde
The iconic café by the Mississipi river serves what are described as the best "café au lait" and beignets. We did not try them elsewhere so cannot compare, however can confirm they were delicious and even ordered a second serving! It is very busy, but worth joining the queue as the line moves fast.
There are mixed reviews as to where and if dogs are allowed on the covered terrace, it seems to depend on the time of the day and how busy it is. We were told by our waiter to sit at a table by the handrail so we could sit to have our food on the terrace and keep pup on the outside pavement close to us, however that quickly ended with a quiet and well behaved pup (sad puppy eyes to try the beignets) under the table and no one said anything to us.
3. Wandering Around the French Quarter
A good chunk of our day was spent wandering around the French Quarter, admiring the gorgeous and brightly coloured Victorian houses with their intricate wrought-iron features, and taking photos. Heading to Bourbon Street in the morning meant that the street - notorious for being dirty and hazardous due to its perpetually inebriated crowd (locals and tourists!) - was surprisingly clean (it gets cleaned every morning) and quiet!
The locals were super friendly, the sights often surprising! Whilst dogs are not allowed on historic Jackson Square, walking around it and along the nearby Mississippi River is a must!
4. "Dive Bar" Experience: Dinner and Drinks at the Three Legged Dog Tavern
The city of New Orleans (or NOLA) is known to be home to delicious cuisine and its potent cocktails. Whilst we arrived too late in the day to try the famous crawfish oil (local tip is to get to the restaurants when they arrive, around 5pm) which we later ordered from a takeaway, on recommendation of our local guide we headed to the Three Legged Dog Tavern after the tour to try local cuisine and drinks.
The local hangout spot is serving affordable drinks and hearty food and reminded us of an episode of TV Series "True Blood". It was featured in Netflix's season 1 (episode 4) of "Ugly Delicious". Staff is super friendly and the place is entertaining. The Tater Tots were a must! Dogs allowed inside as the kitchen area is separated.
5. Explore Bayou Sauvage & Peak at an Abandoned Theme Park
On our way out of NOLA, we headed to Bayou Sauvage Ridge Trail and wildlife refuge to experience the swampland that Louisiana has to offer. Whilst our experience was gator free (sadly, or probably not) the 3/4 miles dog-friendly boardwalk (which is wheelchair accessible and a very easy walk) meant that we could enjoy all the sights of the area without getting our feet wet!
Volunteers and park rangers have worked hard at the refuge after it was severely damaged during Hurricane Katrina. Thanks to their dedication, it is back to a state that encourages bird migration once again.
Talk of Katrina.... en route to Bayou Sauvage, we drove past Six Flags New Orleans, an abandoned amusement park that was devastated by the storm. Too curious of the eerie sight, we tried to get as close to it as we could, bearing in mind that entering it is illegal and for good reasons: it is quite the dangerous place!
We definitely recommend checking some of the hilarious Google Reviews that were left in recent years!
Have you every been to NOLA? Or want to go? If so what places do you recommend or want to see?
*Across the United States, the laws and city ordinances governing where you can take your pet vary greatly. Typically, dogs are not allowed in restaurants unless they are service animals, which are protected under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).
According to the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), allowing pet dogs in public places and restaurants is limited and restaurants have to meet strict requirements for dogs to be allowed anywhere near the premises. Dog owners are required to vaccinate their dogs and are also responsible for their pet’s behavior and any damage it causes when in a public area. The FDA states that in a restaurant, dogs are not legally permitted to enter any location where food is being prepared.