Wednesday, March 9, 2022

A Day In NOLA For Mardi Gras With Kids


When we set out on another unplanned year of homeschooling, I asked my kids what they wanted to do, see, learn about, etc. The middle mini, who has always been my wildcard, insisted that he wanted to visit New Orleans. During Mardi Gras. We had only been there once during Carnival season and it wasn't the first kid friendly activity that popped into mind. However, as our Civil Rights Trail road trip began to take shape, I realized we would be in the NOLA area Mardi Gras weekend.

At first, I looked into staying in the city for a couple of days to take in a parade or two, but the prices for rentals were ridiculous. However, our adorable Airbnb in Bay St. Louis, MS was only one hour outside of New Orleans, so I decided it would be easy enough to travel into the city and spend a day taking in the sights and sounds of Mardi Gras, with three kids and our dog in tow.

While we awoke to a heavy downpour, we made our way into the city by early afternoon and the entire trip wound up being ideal in every way. We somehow avoided all traffic, found premium parking in the French Quarter, got to enjoy City Park without crowds of people, waited in a short line for beignets, and walked down Bourbon Street with a minimal crowd of people. 

It's been interesting to return to places that we visited pre-pandemic and witness all of the changes the pandemic brought. Those changes have been to our advantage and has made solo parent traveling much easier. I had a family member ask how I handle getting food and groceries on the road. It's an easy two words: pick ups and to go.

I placed a grocery order for pick up at a Rouses near our Airbnb. I got our freshly made strawberry king cake, jambalaya, red beans and rice, and dinner rolls. Before we left our Airbnb, I placed a pick up order for Parkway Bakery. All we had to do was drive through the parking lot, up to the kitchen door, they brought out our warm sandwiches, and we took them to City Park for a picnic. We still got our delicious food and it saved us time. 

When my husband and I were in NOLA three years ago, we discovered Parkway Bakery by accident and we instantly fell in love. It's totally our type of place. I knew I had to have the minis experience the sandwiches (po'boys and poor boys) too. I tried a catfish po'boy, while the boys both got a roast beef and gravy poor boy. Elizabeth went the non-adventurous route with a classic grilled cheese sandwich.

Much like Hubs and myself, the minis loved Parkway Bakery and they quickly fell in love with City Park's large oak trees. They want to go back to New Orleans just to spend a day in City Park (which I am completely on board with). We walked around the sculpture gardens from the outside since they don't allow dogs and played in the oak trees. 

Trying to perfect those selfies.

After City Park, we drove to the French Quarter. We found paid parking right off of Frenchmen Street, so as soon as we stepped out of the car, we were greeted with jazz tunes. The French Quarter was busy, but not as busy as it usually is since they moved all of the Mardi Gras parades out of the Quarter. Regardless of crowds and craziness, I love the whole atmosphere and vibes of the French Quarter. Since we had the dog with us, we didn't make any stops in shops (not to mention restaurants), but at the time of Mardi Gras weekend, masks and vaccination cards (or a negative Covid test) were required for both. 

We ate our beignets alongside the Mississippi River, which the middle mini said wasn't special since we can see the Mighty Mississippi whenever we want. He's not wrong considering we see the river constantly. Pro tip for Cafe du Monde: go to the line to the right of the building (or closest to the river). This is a cash only line, but it's always much shorter than the other lines and before you know, you're devouring beignets and coffees next to the river.

My favorite part was seeing people get excited to see kids and a dog walking the streets. People threw beads, stuffed animals, and dog treats from the balconies for them to catch. Mom got left out (nothing new), but the kids made out with plenty of souvenirs! 

The middle mini said the Mardi Gras experience was "kinda scary." However, after digging deeper into things, I realized their French Quarter experience was overwhelming for them. From the crowds of people (which, due to the pandemic, they're not exactly used to) to the loud music coming out of shops and musicians on the street to having sooo much happening all around them, it was all overwhelming. All three look forward to going to a parade someday "soonish" and the beignets were a hit. 

When we arrived back at our Airbnb (after dark), we took some time to decompress. The kids played, Elizabeth (the youngest) made herself at home and unpacked all of her toys she brought, while the dog begged for their stuffies. I think it was a great introduction to NOLA. I can't wait to take them back again.