The usual Mardi Gras parades were cancelled this year due to COVID. NOLA kept the spirit of Mardi Gras alive by decorating their houses and yards (aka Float Houses and Yardi Gras. Click here for my Float House post.) In the great words of Ron Popeil, “But wait, there’s more!”
Someone came up with the idea of having the floats that had been made for parades all in one spot so people could drive through and see them. With that, Floats In The Oaks was born. The floats were placed in City Park and you could purchase tickets to drive through to see the them. Prices varied a little based on timed entrance and the package you picked. We went with the basic package to just see the floats. It cost us $11.99 and was worth every penny. At check-in, we even received a bead necklace.
It was amazing to see the floats. If you missed it, we have a video with some commentary on YouTube (see link above or below).
Although the epic parades were cancelled this year in New Orleans to prevent the spread of COVID, they tried to keep the Mardi Gras spirit alive by decorating their houses. They called them “float houses” and we were lucky enough to see some of them during our stay.
Here are some of the houses we saw while in New Orleans. (There are a lot of images, so it may take awhile to load. Sorry!)
One of the things I love about New Orleans is their zest for life. Although it is clear that the pandemic has hit this tourist town pretty hard, their resilient spirit shows in how they live their daily lives. Thanks New Orleans for bringing a little joy into this tough situation. Laissez les bon temps rouler…. even if we have to be a little different than normal.
For our visit in New Orleans, we wanted to be close enough to walk into town. Parking can be a pain in the rear, especially with a truck, and New Orleans has limited free parking (even a lot of street parking is paid parking).
We stayed at the French Quarter RV Resort. It is outside of the French Quarter (on the other side of Rampart, the dividing line), but within walking distance to things. Most places were within a 20 to 30 minute walk, and Cafe Du Monde in the Quarter was a 22 minute walk. The RV Resort was on one of the bigger streets and by the highway, so we didn’t have to try to navigate around the French Quarter (which really would not work with bigger RV’s). Being so close to the highway made it easy to get to places, even if New Orleans loves one-way streets and U-turns.
Everything in the RV Resort was paved/cobblestone. It was mostly flat, although we did have to adjust a little. There was a lamp post between each spot with a number for the site. Each site was a 20/30/50 amp with full hook-ups and cable. The connection boxes were cute and also had a light around the top. All spots were back-in. There were not garbage cans around the park; you put your trash by the lamppost and someone collected it. There was a dumpster outside the gates. Each site had a little bit of grass and/or a palm tree (not enough for shade). Each site had a bump-out of sorts for vehicle parking. We fit without a problem.
Behind the office was the pool area. The pool was open, although it was not heated. There was also a hot tub and several lounge chairs and other seating in the pool area. The pool area also granted you access to the gym (had snack and drink vending machines), breakfast area (microwave, table/chairs, free coffee), laundry room, bathrooms/showers, and the pool and hot tub.
The laundry room could also be accessed from the campground street. The washers and dryers were some of the more expensive ones that we have used: regular sized washer $3.25/load, larger washer $4.50/load, and dryers were $2.25/load. The washers and dryers only accepted credit cards. There was a sign on the washers that said no American Express. There was not a vending machine for detergents/dryer sheets, so bring your own supplies (or there were several grocery stores within walking and driving distance). TIP: If you use laundry pods, I found that they did not dissolve on cold water cycle here. Sometimes they worked on warm, and on hot they dissolved. We ended up with several items with the pods stuck on after they went through unnoticed in the dryer. It is not fun trying to get a dried on laundry pod off of your clothing.
They do accept mail, which made it really nice since we had some things we needed to order. However, they will not hold mail that arrives before your visit, so I would wait until you are there to start ordering. There was a spot for outgoing mail (envelopes/postcards) on the office counter.
FQRV was tucked into its location. Claiborne Ave and I-10 run along the entrance of the park. St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 and a processing plant was on one side, with a park on the other. The lot on the backside of the campground was under construction. It looked like they were building either a hotel or apartment buildings. It could be a little loud from air (helicopter/plane) and street noise.
The campground was gated and you needed a code for the car gate and the pedestrian gate. There was a night time security guard, although from our experience you still need the gate code to get in as you do not get an identifying hanger for your rear-view mirror. Due to its location (being near the highway and downtown area), it was not in the best area. However, the walls, entrance gate, and spikes on top of the walls, made us feel safe inside the campground. The underpasses frequently had homeless camps as well. The campground does recommend not walking back in the dark, and I would agree with that. If we were going to be out late, we drove. There were Ubers/Lifts/taxis around as well.
Although the campground did not have a camp store or restaurant, DoorDash and UberEats did deliver to the campground, you just needed to meet them at the gate.
The office had a book exchange shelf and tourist brochures by the poolside door.
WiFi is available, although it was listed as available mostly to the common areas, not through the campground. We were close enough to the pool/office, that we could get the signal. It was spotty at times though.
One con for us was the price. This was by far the most expensive campground/RV resort so far. When we booked in January 2020, we knew it would be more expensive as we were going over part of Carnival season. We paid half at booking and would pay the other half the day of check-in. However, when Mardi Gras was cancelled, the campground did not adjust what they charged us (even though the other days were more expensive due to Carnival/Mardi Gras season).
We saw some amazing breakfast images online of the food at Willa Jean and wanted to give this restaurant a try. We went early in the morning on a Sunday. It seemed like all available parking nearby were paid spots. We found a pay lot just a block down.
The inside was really cute and had a great atmosphere. My favorite decorations were the lights that looked like egg whisks. However, while the indoor seating was spaced out more than what they probably usually are, it was not quite 6 feet apart. We were seated inside, but a nearby table had someone coughing several times. There weren’t any seats open further away from him, so even though I got an eye roll, I asked to be seated outside. The restaurant had part of the street outside blocked off for some outdoor patio seating. The outdoor tables did not have table service. You ordered at the inside counter and they would call your name at the front door when your order was ready.
The chicken sandwich was by far the best. It was delicious and had a little bit of a kick to it. The sausage egg and cheese sandwich was good, but very messy with a runny sunny side up egg. The hangover bowl was ok, the grits were a little bit…chunkier…more textured…than what we were used to. The key lime pop tart was also a winner. I normally don’t like key lime, but this was subtle, more of a tart citrus taste. The pop tart shell had a flaky texture that reminded me of a puff pastry.
I am glad we tried the restaurant. However, I would not order the coffee again (expensive for the size) and would stick to the pastries and the amazing chicken sandwich.
The WWII Museum is amazing. If you haven’t been there and are going to New Orleans for a little bit then you should visit this place. It has all sorts of cool exhibits, and artifacts about World War II. There are four main buildings which are the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, the Hall of Democracy and US freedom Pavilion, the Solomon Theater Building, and the Campaigns of Courage building. We stayed here all day from about 10AM to 5PM. It was great, but if you don’t want to stay the whole day reading, I’ll explain all of the exhibits here so you can plan your trip.
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion: This area is where you sign in and get an introduction via a fake train taking you off to “war.” On the second floor is the Arsenal of Democracy which goes over some of the statistics and overall look at the countries their armies and their weapons. It explains more on the US home front. The third floor is the D-Day exhibits which have first hand accounts, weapons used, and a cool demonstration of one of the German lookout towers with a model instrument. The First floor also has a little history on The Higgins Boat and has a motorcycle and artillery gun near the side.
The Solomon Theater: We walked across this quickly and only saw a little, but it mostly consists of the movie theater, a fun, quick look at the marines and some of the supply ships the US used in the war and a gift shop.
Hall of Democracy: This is where we went for lunch at The American Sector Restaurant and Bar. It was nice enough and actually pretty nice for being at a museum. I got an Oreo sundae which was delicious and chicken and sausage gumbo. My dad got a double cheeseburger with fries. We also visited their special exhibit about the distraction part of the army that was made to keep the Nazis guessing and that made the inflatable tanks and guns. This exhibit was called Ghost Army the Combat Con Artists of World War 2.
Campaigns of Courage: This was really cool. The top floor goes over the process of taking down Japan and has a really cool building structure that first looks like a ship and then a jungle. The first floor goes over the defeat of the Nazis and looks like a desert and then the ruins of a city. This goes more in depth into the defeat of the Axis powers and has fun videos that go over most of the reading.
US Freedom Pavilion: This is a really cool exhibit that lets you see some of the vehicles used during World War II including a B-17E Flying Fortress called MyGalSal. It also has a jeep with a gun attached and an amphibious car that has a rifle rack in the front.
TICKETS: Due to COVID, you need purchase tickets ahead of time for a timed entrance. Tickets are available online. Face coverings are required. There are several ticketing options, including private tours. The General Admission Tickets are $28.50/adult, $18/child K-12. There are discounts for military, seniors, college students. WWII Veterans and children under 5 are free. The Campus Pass includes General Admission and the 4-D Beyond All Boundaries movie. $35.50/adult, $25/child K-12, $7/child under 5. There are discounts for military, seniors, college students. WWII Veterans are free.
New Orleans is great for outdoor activities, which we tend to gravitate towards. Not only do the outdoors give the boys a chance to wear off some of their endless energy, but it helps keep us active while being able to socially distance during these COVID times.
We have found a lot of parks near the city. Some of them are walking distance depending on where you are, and some require a drive to get to them. The trails have varied from dirt to wood boardwalks to paved paths. One of the last parks we explored was Woodlands Conservancy. It is tucked between two schools off of a dirt road. There is a faded sign as you get closer, but we missed it the first time we drove by. The park has a couple of walking trails and one horse trail.
We got there a little late in the day, so we only took the Uplands Trail, which is a little over a mile long. It had rained earlier in the week, so it was pretty muddy in spots (all the trails are dirt). We saw a few animal tracks in the mud and found a tree swing in a clearing.
There are ten WWII ammunition magazines at the end of the Bottomland Trail! I am hoping that the weather dries out and we can hike to go see these. That trail is 5-6 miles long, so doing that in the mud does not sound fun.
Crescent Park is located near the French Quarter, right on the Mississippi River. The park is a little over a mile long. One of the entrances is by the French Quarter Market; it is tucked behind a wall, on the other side of the train tracks. If you are anything like us, you probably walked right by it and didn’t even realize it was there. There is also a parking lot at the other end of the park.
The park has several tables and chairs, lots of lawn space for a picnic, great views of the river, and a dog park. There were a lot of runners, bikers, and roller skaters. There is a large covered concrete pavilion of sorts on the French Market side where kids were practicing their on bikes and roller skates.
It was extremely foggy when we got to the park. We were standing on the walkway right next to the Mississippi River and couldn’t see the water, much less the city. Eventually it started to clear up. Towards the end of the park, the skies were pretty clear and blue, but on our walk back there was still some fog closer to the city.
It was a really nice walk and we enjoyed the park. It seems like it would be a nice green space to walk and enjoy some beignets. 😉 (Note: It would probably be pretty hot in the summer, as there were trees by part of the path, but it didn’t seem like they would really provide shade for the trail.)
City Park is a pretty large park. You can drive and park there, or take one of the streetcars.
The park has a lot of things to do! Free things include playgrounds, walking trails, and picnic tables. Paid items include: Storyland park ($5.47, under 36″ free), Art Museum, Besthoff Sculpture Park ($5/adults, 19 and younger free), City Putt (starts at $10/ages 13+, $8/ages 4-12). There were also soccer fields, tennis courts (reservations/fee), and a dog park (permit required).
We really enjoyed walking around the park under the Spanish Moss.
On our last visit to the Park, we explored the Couturie Forest. It does not have a large parking lot, so you may have to park farther away. There is a little library nearby and a creek with a bridge to cross over. The trails are dirt/mulch. We did get to complete the arduous climb to the highest point in New Orleans: Laborde Mountain. It is a whole 43 feet above sea level! There were even chickens roaming around.
I would definitely get a copy of the park map on your phone before you go! It is a large park and we did not see a lot of signs with a map on them. It is a nice park to spend the day at.
One of the reasons for going on this trip was to learn/see new things and to expand the boys’ views of the world. We wanted them to be able to think and research, listen to both sides, and come up with their own conclusion, to not just take everything at face value.
The museum is in a really neat building and is the oldest continually running museum in Louisiana.
TICKETS: Due to COVID, you need to email the Museum to make a reservation for the day/time you want to visit. You pay for your tickets once you arrive ($10 adults, $5 kids ages 7-14). It was only open Thursday to Saturday when we were in New Orleans.
PARKING: Pay parking on street or nearby lots
BATHROOM: Yes, downstairs
TIME RECOMMENDED: 1-3 hours
The museum is on the main floor of the building, with the bathroom downstairs. They had some neat pieces of history on display. It was mostly reading with one video. There was a small gift shop as well.
We started on the left side of the museum and one of the first exhibits we saw contained a Dix! New Orleans has history to the city. Being on the water, the city had plenty of trading with ships coming and going. At one point, the city was separated into French and American sides. Canal Street separated the French and English speaking parts of New Orleans. Each side had their own currency (French bills and American/English). Per our tour guide at Sazerac House, people met in the middle of Canal Street to do business, as it was considered neutral ground. One bank there decided to create a new currency, the Dix (French for 10). It was printed in English on one side, French on the other, and was a $10 bill. It later was nicknamed a Dixie, and hence the name for the South was created.
It was interesting to see this perspective on the Civil War. There were some signs that definitely had a Southern slant to the way they were worded. There was no real addressing the issue of slavery, it was mostly facts and information about battles, soldiers, and Jefferson Davis. It did give us a few good talking points to go over with the boys.
The gift shop was an interesting mix of wooden toys (chess board, 9 pins, chalkboard, Jacob’s Ladder etc.), hats and t-shirts, patches, stickers, quill pens, and the Confederate flag.
New Orleans is known for its above ground cemeteries. The water level is a lot higher here and if you dig too deep (even the standard 6 feet can be too deep!), the coffins can actually float up and escape the ground. The solution was above ground cemeteries. These cemeteries contain both simple wall vaults and elaborate family mausoleums. Because of the heat and humidity, after about 1 year, the body decomposes and can be placed in a special bag to make room for another family member. Some of the Catholic cemeteries also offer Perpetual Care, where you pay a lump sum and the interest of that amount is used to care for the plot even after your family line may die out. Some of these cemeteries are open to the public, but some like St. Louis No.1 require you to go with a tour guide. (They had a lot of vandalism.)
We had taken a tour of St. Louis No. 1 when we were here in 2017. We learned a lot and also saw Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau’s tomb and Nicholas Cage’s pyramid mausoleum. (The tour was definitely worth it, if you are in New Orleans.)
Due to COVID, St. Louis No. 1 tours were currently suspended, so we didn’t get an opportunity to take another tour. However, there are many other cemeteries in New Orleans where you can see the above ground tombs. It is so different than cemeteries back home. While we are here this time (2021), we did see the St. Roch cemetery and Metairie Cemetery. Metairie Cemetery is a bit of a drive from the French Quarter, but it’s not too far.
The cemetery was originally a horse race track! I read two different versions of the cemetery’s beginnings. One was simply that the race track was eventually closed and was later turned into a cemetery. The other story was that Mr. Charles Howard was denied membership to the Metairie Jockey Club and in revenge bought the race track and turned it into a cemetery.
They have some amazing statues and plots. We saw a pyramid with a sphinx, a weeping angel, a horse statue, an anvil, and even a bison. The owner of the Saint’s Tom Benson, Popeye’s Chicken Al Copeland, some Louisiana governors, New Orleans’ mayors, Civil war soldiers, etc. are buried here. The cemetery also has a newer section that is still in use.
We were curious as to how much these tombs/mausoleums could cost. According to the funeral home’s website a family/private stand alone starts at $50,000. A walk in mausoleum can cost $250,000 up to several million! Land prices, materials, decorations all effect the cost.