New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in the US. I love the food, the music, the culture, and the history. Plus, wandering through the French Quarter feels unlike anywhere else in this country. A few years ago, we decided to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday. When trying to decide where to go, spending Thanksgiving in New Orleans came immediately to mind. Some quick research showed me that not much shuts down in New Orleans during Thanksgiving, and so off we went. Turns out it was indeed the perfect place. As another Thanksgiving approaches, let me tell you about Thanksgiving in New Orleans.
New Orleans has so much good food. Cajun Food. Creole Food. Soul Food. Southern Food. Eating is a big part of any New Orleans visit. What about Thanksgiving Food? It turns out that many restaurants are open on Thanksgiving in New Orleans. Some quick research on the web, along with help from OpenTable, directed us to lots of possibilities. Some were serving buffets, some were serving prix fixe menus featuring traditional Thanksgiving offerings along with New Orleans favorites, and some were just open for regular business.
We started our Thanksgiving in New Orleans with a morning visit to the famed Cafe Du Monde for chicory coffee and beignets. Beignets are a type of fried dough topped with powdered sugar, originally brought to New Orleans by French colonists. Cafe Du Monde was open and busy on the holiday.
For our main Thanksgiving meal, I ended up making a reservation (highly recommended at all New Orleans restaurants on Thanksgiving) at Sylvain – a small restaurant in the French Quarter. They were serving a Prix Fixe menu including turkey, but also allowing orders off their regular menu. I’m not a traditionalist in any sense, and do not require turkey on Thanksgiving. Instead, I had their Pan-fried Pork Shoulder which was served on a bed of grits and greens and served with a mustard jus. The food was excellent and the servers were all very gracious despite having to work on the holiday.
During the rest of our long Thanksgiving weekend in New Orleans, all the restaurants were open, and we ate lots of great food throughout the French Quarter.
A favorite was chargrilled oysters at Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar, where we also enjoyed the New Orleans standards jambalaya and crawfish étouffée. We loved the oysters so much that we returned to Felix’s a second time. I have previously featured this dining experience on my blog. Click here to read about some of my Favorite Travel Meals
Other food favorites included gumbo at The Gumbo Shop. We enjoyed outstanding seafood at TripAdvisor’s #1 restaurant for New Orleans – GW Fins. And we ate muffulettas from Central Grocery. A muffuletta is a sandwich created by Italian immigrants in New Orleans. Inside the huge round bun you will find salami, ham, mortadella, Swiss cheese, provolone, all topped with an olive salad. There is lots of debate about who serves the best muffuletta in New Orleans, but we went with the original at Central Grocery, and ate it while sitting on a bench next to the nearby Mississippi River.
Football is a huge Thanksgiving tradition in the US. And it just so happened that the New Orleans Saints were playing the Atlanta Falcons in the SuperDome on that particular Thanksgiving Day. Mrs. Thorough Tripper had a connection and was able to secure us hard-to-get tickets. It was her first NFL game and only my second, and it was the perfect way to end our Thanksgiving Day. We joined the hoards of Saints fans chanting Who Dat, as we walked from our French Quarter hotel to the SuperDome – a great Thanksgiving night party on the street. Inside, the stadium was rocking. It was so loud that my ears rang until the next day. The Saints won. And instead of leftover Turkey sandwiches for dinner, I ate an in-stadium shrimp PoBoy.
The Saints don’t always play in the Superdome on Thanksgiving. But annually, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Superdome hosts the Bayou Classic – a college football matchup between Southern University and Grambling State. This always brings lots of college football fans to town on this particular holiday weekend.
The French Quarter
I love the French Quarter with its hodge podge colonial architecture and sense of history. It doesn’t feel like any other part of the United States. I don’t like Bourbon Street and generally avoid it. It just seems like a tourist trap to me. But I love to wander and explore the rest of the The French Quarter. On the quieter streets, you’ll find interesting shops and galleries. We found that about half of them were open on Thanksgiving Day, and the others opened for the rest of the long weekend.
New Orleans exudes music. Walk down the street and you hear it everywhere. Live music coming out of bars and restaurants. Street musicians seemingly on every corner. And then just this city’s music history alone….
The Thanksgiving holiday did not put a damper on any of the music. No matter where we walked, there was always music. One of my favorite street performers was a clarinet player who sat with her band at one of the French Quarter’s busy intersections. I could hear her playing from blocks away and quickened my step to make sure I didn’t miss her set.
For another New Orleans music experience, we headed just beyond the eastern edge of the French Quarter to Frenchman Street. This is where you’ll find famed music clubs like Snug Harbor, The Spotted Cat, and Blue Nile. It’s not far to walk through the French Quarter to Frenchman Street. It was about a mile from our hotel. We spent one evening at The Spotted Cat, where we listened to a great set by a local musician named Washboard Chaz.
While walking back to our hotel from Frenchman Street, we noticed many Haunted New Orleans Walking Tours in session, and caught bits and pieces of the ghost stories being told.
In fact, New Orleans is brimming with history and lots of organized walking tours will guide you through it. Thanksgiving did not seem to put a damper on any of these. We elected to take a guided tour through above ground tombs and monuments in St Louis Cemetery #1 – the oldest cemetery in the city. I walked through it myself several years ago, but now, only guided tours are allowed to help prevent vandalism. I wasn’t aware of this when we first tried to enter. But, it was easy to get online and schedule a tour for the following day. Of course, it was much better with a guide anyway, as we learned more detail about some of the cemetery’s famous inhabitants (including a voodoo queen) and lots of the city’s history too.
A Word About the Weather
During our stay, the daily highs were generally in the 60s. We wore jackets most of the time, but we were never uncomfortable. We had some brief rain showers, but they never interfered significantly with our activities. This seemed to be typical weather for this time of year, and much warmer than back home in Utah.
I would not hesitate to spend Thanksgiving in New Orleans again. A popular holiday for sure, but tourism doesn’t slow down in this great city one bit during the Thanksgiving weekend.