48 Hours in New Orleans: How to Make History

by Brian & Dana Maass on July 14, 2022 in Travel,
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Hosting over 130 annual festivals, the city of New Orleans (NOLA) boasts a long history of celebrating a tapestry of cultures along the banks of the Mississippi River. From Mardi Gras to the annual Spring Jazz and Heritage Fest, the list goes on. In forty-eight hours, you can see (and taste) some very famous and historically significant NOLA highlights, while also experiencing the most impressive National World War II Museum. 

 

Historically Sleeping, at the Higgins:

Neighboring the WWII Museum on Magazine street, The Higgins Hotel (by Hilton) spares no details on comfort, historical ambiance, and modern amenities for ideal lodging. The hotel’s grand lobby sets the Patriotic tone with American flags and war-themed decor. Follow the stars and stripes to your suite, where an electronic tablet provides all details needed to plan your museum visit. Purchase tickets directly from the tablet highlighting details, special exhibits, and current events. New Orleans’ heat and humidity throughout the summer season will also leave you singing the praises of the Higgins’ generous walk-in showers, cloud-soft bedding, and quiet atmosphere. 

The Higgins Hotel is an era-inspired hotel, which is located directly across from the WWII Museum. It is also recognized as the official hotel of the museum. Photo by Brian Maass.

Several excellent dining options at the Higgins will maximize your time and relaxation, while savoring those delectable New Orleans flavors. Late check-ins are perfect for “Rosie’s on the Roof,” where you can try house favorites like the traditional or crab beignets, sharable riveter fries (topped with brisket, bacon, and cheese curds), and even burgers (on Brioche buns) brought to your table (until 10 pm) by servers dressed as Rosie the Riveter. Fuel up for the day at the French-themed Cafe Normandy with a multi-course hot breakfast fit for a General, or grab a quick hot coffee and loaded croissant at Provisions cafe. No matter your choice, all menus at The Higgins earn a traveler’s salute. 

Day 1: Tour de Museum

Ideally, an entire day is required to explore this six-acre campus covering every theater of the war that changed the world. Keep in mind that closing is a firm 5 pm, so make haste to seize the day.  Purchase a second day of admission at a deeply discounted rate for more flexibility and extra assurance to not feel rushed. We recommend starting your National WWII Museum tour at the Solomon theater, featuring the 1-hour 4D feature film, “Beyond All Boundaries,” to set the stage for the remainder of your museum experience. Next, you should find the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion featuring a 1940’s train station simulation of new recruits heading off to war. 

Designated by the US Congress, the World War II Museum tells the story of the American experience in WWII through power imagery, and videos. Photo by Brian Maass.

Learn about New Orleans boatmaker Andrew Jackson Higgins, designer of the (Higgins) boats largely credited by Dwight Eisenhower as playing an essential role in the Allied Victory. Over twenty thousand of these boats were built by Higgins industries at the Port of New Orleans before traveling down the Mississippi River to foreign destinations in North Atlantic and South Pacific waters. Featured in the 1998 film, Saving Private Ryan, the Higgins boats explain the “rest of the story,” including a key reason New Orleans was chosen as this museum’s home.

Next, make your way to the Campaigns of Courage, to journey through the European and Pacific Theaters. If you happen to have only a few hours, spend your time here walking through simulated blizzards and jungles, where American GIs fought and sacrificed in the name of freedom. Continue to The Hall of Democracy, the Museum’s newest Pavilion, focusing on educational outreach. Other areas to view include the Boeing Center, US Freedom Pavilion (a must for war plane enthusiasts), and the John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion. 

After the museum closes at 5 pm, be sure to sample the mosaic of world-class restaurants and bars filled with creole and Cajun cuisine. Stroll down Bourbon Street and stop for a Hurricane and sing along at Pat O’ Brien’s piano bar. At Preservation Hall on St. Peter Street, you never know who might be playing on any given night at this intimate venue for live jazz musicians entertaining the city since the 1950s. Continue your evening with a late show at the famous Blue Nile on Frenchman’s Street to discover some of the best live brass and blues in town. 

Day 2: Take in The Vue

Begin Day Two at Vue Orleans, the newest (2022), most interactive, and only 360-degree observatory in the city. Inside the exhibit, you will discover an entire floor of interactive digital displays at the touchless wave of your hand over a collection of screens.  Select images of significant historical figures such as Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, Jazz Icon and Trumpeter Louis Armstrong, and New Orleans’ founder John Baptiste, to name a few. Digitally dress yourself in Mardi Gras attire, and pull up a chair for a virtual cooking demonstration by beloved New Orleans chefs Poppy Tooker and Kevin Belton. Tap your feet to virtual break-out sessions by Jazz musicians performing from Preservation Hall. Even the elevator to the thirty-fourth floor features a short film about the city. At the top, gaze down upon the winding Mississippi, while taking in aerial views of NOLA neighborhoods and landmarks.  Learn more about the city’s colorful past, and try your hand at driving a simulated steamboat down the mighty Mississippi. Allow two hours to see this family-friendly exhibit, and expect smaller crowds with shorter wait times on weekdays.

Learn about the many different cultural influences of New Orleans as you tour all of the interactive exhibits. Once you have finished the tour on the first floor, take an elevator to the top of the four seasons for a 360 degree view of the city from 407 feet in the air.
Photo by Brian Maass.

Brunching at Brennan’s: 

One of the most popular restaurants in the New Orleans French Quarter, Brennan’s is famous for their French and Spanish inspired menu.  Photo courtesy RBRG.

A longstanding New Orleans dining tradition steeped in Old World elegance, the Brennan’s French Quarter dining establishment originated in 1946. Home of the famous bananas foster dessert, Brennan’s serves an impeccable creole-inspired brunch among elegant surroundings. Located on Royal Street in the French Quarter, Brennan’s is housed in an original French Quarter mansion that has served as a private home, a bank, and the current dining destination since 1956. Reservations open online no more than thirty days in advance and book almost immediately. Planning is therefore key, with seatings available only Thursday through Monday.  Servers in classic black and white attire pull out chairs and treat patrons like royalty. Overlooking the tropical courtyard, savor entrees like the Artisanal eggs benedict with Hollandaise sauce and the chicken-fried ribeye. Add a little spice with Brennan’s house-made Bloody Mary, or sweeten up with a Sparkling Strawberry featuring mint syrup and strawberry puree.  Save room for the iconic bananas foster, flamed and prepared on a special cart wheeled directly to your table. Listen to the baby grand piano playing itself beyond the grand staircase, and feast your eyes upon artistic wall murals and white tablecloths lining the intimate dining space. Appropriate attire and well-behaved children are welcome, along with a generous appetite for one of the city’s most historically beloved and highest rated French-Creole restaurants earning an enthusiastic five stars for this experience. 

When visiting Brennan’s you simply have to have their famous Bananas Foster for dessert!
Photo by Brian Maass.

Sampling The Quarter: 

Departing Brennan’s, watch for famed Clarinetist Doreen Ketchens leading her jazz band in the Royal Street Performing Arts Zone. Duck into a few charming French Quarter shops and art galleries, observe the artists and performers in Jackson Square, and stop by St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest U.S. cathedral in continuous use. Stop to refresh in the shops of the historical Jax Brewery, and catch a streetcar to take in the historical vibe.  Be sure to try a fresh praline at Aunt Sally’s Creole Pralines (an eighty year legacy), and pick up a box for your friends back home. Peruse the French Market for local art and souvenirs, and don’t miss the adjoining Cafe DuMonde for a cup of hot coffee with a side of hot, fresh beignets dusted in powdered sugar. Be not discouraged by long lines at DuMonde. The equally delectable Cafe Beignet invites you to beignet all day at one of their four locations at Bourbon, Royal, Decatur, or Canal Streets. Along the way you just might see a “Second Line,” made up of Dixieland Jazz musicians and locals, parading with their umbrellas and handkerchiefs. This whirlwind of a trip will surely fill your cup, while leaving you thirsty for more of Louisiana’s crown jewel city. 

Check out our interactive itinerary!

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Cover photo from Aya Salman on Unsplash

Long referred to as “Team Maass,” by late editor-in-chief Julie Tereshchuk, Brian and Dana dedicate this travel article to her loving memory. Julie will be dearly missed by her TLM family. The Maasses intend to honor Julie’s adventurous spirit by continuing to share their stories with the readers through words and photos, while inspiring them to live life to their fullest.