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Thanksgiving in New Orleans – Great Food, Great Music, Great Times!

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.

The Food

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. 

Cafe Du Monde was open for Thanksgiving in New Orleans
Beignets at Cafe Du Monde in New Orlenas
Underneath all of the powdered sugar, you will find some delicious beignets

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.

Fried Pork Shoulder, Grits, and Greens at Sylvain in the French Quarter for Thanksgiving in New Orleans

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

Chargrilled Oysters at Felix's in New Orleans

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. 

Central Grocery - for a great muffuletta in New Orleans

The Football

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 Saint lining up against the Falcons on Thanksgiving Day
Drew Brees lines up against the Falcons during our Thanksgiving Day matchup

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. 

French Quarter street corner in New Orleans
Antique sign with Hotel Monteleone in the distance in the French Quarter in New Orleans

The Music

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.  

Street musician in the French Quarter of New Orlenas

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

Washboard Chaz and his bandmates playing at The Spotted Cat on Frenchman Street in New Orleans
Yep, he plays a washboard and it’s awesome!

The History

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.

Tomb in St Louis Cemetery #1 in New Orleans

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

34 Comments

  • Don Carlos

    Your post only makes staying home during this pandemic all the more irritating. As soon as it’s advisable I’d love to follow your footsteps through this post. We’re ready to get out of here. (:

  • Bernie and Jess Watt

    New Orleans is always fun, but Thanksgiving is a smart time to visit – when others are with their families. Glad to see it was still lively. I imagine it will be this year too – it’s hard to put a good city down.

    • thethoroughtripper

      It was indeed little less busy than other times of the year when I have visited. I think it’s a great time to go, if it’s easy to break away from Thanksgiving at home

  • Lisa

    I’ve never been to New Orleans when in the USA, but I’d love to visit. Thanksgiving looks amazing here; the food, music, ambience and drink are calling me!

  • Kelly | Poky Little Wanderer

    Ooh we’ve never traveled during Thanksgiving although we discussed the idea for 2020 back pre-pandemic… ha! maybe another year. I’ve been longing to visit New Orleans and was extremely envious my husband went last year for a Saints game. This just confirms that I need to bump New Orleans up on my list, your trip looks like it was wonderful!

    • thethoroughtripper

      We really enjoyed getting away for Thanksgiving that year. It was a nice break from cooking. We wouldn’t do it every year – our grown kids would be sad. But they can cook their own turkey every once in a while, right?

  • Tiffany Pence

    I’ve visited New Orleans during Thanksgiving weekend, too! I loved it! The weather was a bit damp and cold, but it was better than the summer humidity. New Orleans is definitely a foodie town and brimming with culture! Your post made me think fondly of my visits to new Orleans over the years!

    • thethoroughtripper

      It really is a great place to visit on the weekend, isn’t it? And I agree that weather-wise, it’s always nice to try and avoid summer humidity

  • kmf

    NOLA is one of my favorite cities in the U.S. also – and for all the same reasons! The food, music, culture, history, people – and, of course, their cemeteries.

    • thethoroughtripper

      I’ve never had time to visit the other cemeteries through the city, but would like to some day. They are so interesting…

  • Alexandra

    It seemed like a great weekend idea! I never celebrated thanksgiving but I would love to visit the US at that time of the year, to feel the holiday spirit. Thank you for your article, it was a great one, I could almost hear the music in the streets of the French district!

  • lannie travels

    i love love LOVE everything about NOLA. The food, the music, THE PEOPLE TOO!!! so warm and kind. I was there a few years ago and stayed in the Treme. (did you ever watch that HBO show? It’s really good too). I’d definitely prioritize another visit to New Orleans for sure!!

    • thethoroughtripper

      I never did watch Treme though Anthony Bourdain wrote for the show. Might be a good one for me to check out this winter while we are stuck at home

  • Tom

    Although it’s been several years since I’ve been to, NOLA, I’ve never thought about going for Thanksgiving. Certainly looks like you had a great time!

  • Wendy White

    New Orleans is high on my list of places to visit in the US. Not sure it would be on Thanksgiving but I’d love to see the beautiful architecture and experience the delicious food and the talented musicians.

  • Becky Exploring

    I’ve always wanted to visit New Orleans and during Thanksgiving sounds like it would be a good time. This post should come with a warning not to read while hungry though! I was drooling over that pork shoulder with grits and greens! 🙂 I think I’d also love how much live music there is in New Orleans. Makes me wonder how much the atmosphere of the city has changed this year.

  • Stefan (BerkeleySqB)

    Great post, Steven. I can see you had some lovely food when you were in town. First time I hear about muffulettas, but just put them on my list. The cemetery I have only heard about, but seems a must-do. Love the pics of the French Quarter in particular. I’ve only visited Nola once, when I was sixteen. What can I say, best time of my life. I was with friends who were older and it was probably the first time I had been going OUT OUT in my life. Boy oh boy… those bars and music halls on Bourbon Street… they don’t take any prisoners…

    • thethoroughtripper

      I traveled with my nephew to NOLA once, who was around 15 or 16 at the time His eyes were definitely wide open as we walked down Bourbon street 🙂

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