A Guide to the Many Sports of New Orleans

New Orleans and sporting events are almost as synonymous as New Orleans and Mardi Gras. You can truly read the city’s heartbeat through the success of the New Orleans football team. On a Sunday game day, it seems nearly every local in the city has on their black and gold. Whether you travel to New Orleans to root on the home team or the opponent, the energy is irreplaceable and a considerable part of making New Orleans a unique city in the U.S. Football is undoubtedly at the top of the New Orleans sports hierarchy, but not the only intriguing and exciting option.

New Orleans Basketball
The new hot ticket in town is for New Orleans’ basketball team. Even with a disappointing record over the recent seasons, fans of the team are showing their excitement for the future. If you are planning a trip to New Orleans and want to catch a game, you can view their 2019-2020 schedule here. Keep in mind that weekend dates tend to be the most in-demand. However, as games hardly sell out, there are plenty of opportunities for everyone.

The Smoothie King Center is in Downtown New Orleans next to the Superdome, making transportation to and from the arena a breeze. Many fans flock to downtown on gameday to take in great dining and drinking establishments before heading to the arena. The NBA regular season runs from mid-October to mid-April, and with 41 home games, there’s plenty of opportunities to catch a game, regardless of your travel plans. Find the closest Hilton Hotels to the arena before booking your reservations and travel with ease!

College Football from LSU to Tulane
Although the LSU campus is not in New Orleans, this is the second team of New Orleans. While the Saints mainly play on Sunday, LSU takes over Saturday afternoons and evenings. Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge is about 90 minutes from New Orleans, allowing fans the option of enjoying the weekend in NOLA or just west on I-10. A weekend itinerary of spending Friday night in New Orleans and Saturday night in Baton Rouge has become popular for fans of LSU and the visiting schools, and it is an experience that you should take part in at least once if you are a fan of college football.

While the cities are not far apart, you’ll want to keep in mind the traffic that can take place on game day mornings and plan accordingly if you are driving for the expected 100,000 fans in attendance. Build in enough time to have a stress-free drive, and see how your hotel can assist in your travel. Valets can make it easier by having your car ready for you right outside the front door. Due to the rather small size of New Orleans, most hotels in the area are just a short car ride from Interstate 10, so you will have plenty of options. Don’t forget to pack your purple and gold!

LSU is not the only college football team in town. Tulane University, located in Uptown New Orleans, has a very loyal fan base, and a new stadium to add to the list of excitements. Yulman Stadium opened in 2014 and is a picturesque environment to enjoy a game with friends. Tulane Athletics tends to have very competitive pricing for tickets, food, and drink concessions, making it an enjoyable full family experience.

New Orleans Football
The grand dame of New Orleans is, undoubtedly, the professional football team. Fans are still celebrating the Big Game victory from 10 years ago. Attending a game in the Superdome is unlike any gameday experience in the country. The acoustics of the stadium mixed with rampant fandom creates a loud and engaging environment. Despite the size of the Superdome, there genuinely are not any poor views of the field. In true New Orleans fashion, brass bands make their way around the arena and play during stoppages in action.

For fans traveling to New Orleans for a game, make sure to bring plenty of black and gold options for attire. You may even notice the front desk staff at your hotel wearing their team gear. Of course, don’t fret if you forgot extra apparel. There are a significant number of local stores that have offerings, and The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk has even more options.

A New Orleans tailgate is also unique in its own right. Unlike many stadiums, the Superdome is located in downtown, allowing fans to prepare for the game by visiting the many restaurants and bars within walking distance, or simply grabbing a favorite beverage and walking around town. You never know who or what you will see.

Events
In addition to the excellent local sports teams, the New Orleans sports scene rises with significant national events, both annually and every few years. The mild temperatures, culinary options, and walkability of the city make it extremely inviting to governing boards who choose locations for large national sporting events as well as the fans who attend them. The College Football National Championship game just finished on January 13, but there are many other great events on the horizon. The NCAA Women’s Final Four takes place at the Smoothie King Center on April 3 and 5 and is the culmination of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament.

The annual Bayou Classic Game between Grambling University and Southern University during Thanksgiving weekend is popular across Louisiana. Meanwhile, the annual R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl in December and the annual Allstate Sugar Bowl game on January 1 showcase some of college football’s best teams and entertainment.

The Big Game and New Orleans have been a match made in heaven historically; however, you’ll need to wait until 2024 to attend the next Big Game in this city. Still, it’s never too early to plan to attend your next big event or travel to the city to be a part of the magic, even if you don’t attend the game.

A city known for its large-scale events, New Orleans has established itself as one of the premier destinations in the U.S. for sporting events and fans, and each season brings its own excitement. With almost 30 Hilton Hotels in the city, brand loyalists have plenty of lodging options.

Adventure in Lima: The Culinary Capital of the Americas

The tourism industry in the country of Peru has been robust for decades and growing ever stronger by the year. The country holds some world-class attractions, most notably Machu Picchu, Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain, the Ballestas Islands, Huacachina Oasis, and Lake Titicaca just to name a few. There is something for everyone to enjoy. However, in this natural beauty and ancient history, tourists often forget about the capital of Peru, Lima.

Food
Over the last few years, Lima has developed into a modern metropolis that has a unique culture, history, and plenty of activities to keep visitors more than entertained. The city has also become famous for its incredible food scene that rivals other famous foodie destinations like Paris and Copenhagen. Clear examples of the quality of the food scene are the restaurants Central and Maido, which are ranked in the top ten in the world. And these two are only the tip of the iceberg because Lima’s food scene thrives on its diversity and freshness of produce. The city has a minimum of five native types of cuisines, Criollo, Chifa, Nikkei, Andean, and Amazonian, each representing a different set of people calling Lima home.

Chifa, a mix of traditional Peruvian food with Chinese cuisine, might be the most widespread food in the city. It became popular during the influx of Chinese immigrants in the 19th century. A great place to try Chifa is near Lima Centro in Barrio Chino. The Chinatown Gate, marking the heart of Barrio Chino, is surrounded by numerous restaurants serving Chifa. This area is only a few minutes’ walk from the central plaza in the city, Plaza de Armas.

Plaza de Armas
The area around Plaza de Armas, also known as Plaza Mayor, will take you a whole day to explore. Surrounding the plaza are the Government Palace of Peru, Archbishop’s Palace, Cathedral of Lima, and Municipal Palace of Lima. The Cathedral of Lima has a beautiful interior worth exploring. On the other side of the plaza is the Government Palace of Peru, used as the residence of the president. At noon daily, visitors can witness the Changing of the Guard that protects the entrance to the building.

A few steps from the plaza, you will find Basilica San Francisco de Lima and Basilica Santo Domingo. Basilica San Francisco is free to enter and explore the interior; however, you will need to pay a small fee for the tour that explores the covenant and the extensive catacombs beneath the church. The catacombs contain the remains of thousands of people and the guides do a fantastic job explaining the burial rituals of the time.

Basilica Santo Domingo, on the other hand, is easily recognizable due to its pink exterior. Inside, you can find some of the most important religious relics in the country. Walking inside the church is free as well, but if you want to explore the grounds and the tower, you will need to hire a guide.

Pisco and Plaza San Martin
A great walk from the city center is on Jiron de la Union, which is the main pedestrian street in the city connecting Plaza De Armas with Plaza San Martin. Make sure to grab a Pisco Sour at the historic Gran Hotel Bolivar, located in front of the Plaza San Martin. Pisco is a type of brandy and Peru’s national liquor. The Pisco Sour is the country’s most famous cocktail. The Gran Hotel is responsible for popularizing the drink during its heyday, when many celebrities and diplomats stayed here.

San Isidro and Miraflores
Moving away from the center and heading southwest, you will end up in two of the more upscale and touristy neighborhoods in the city, Miraflores and San Isidro.

San Isidro is the quieter of the two neighborhoods and provides an excellent opportunity to escape the bustle of the big city. El Olivar is a large park made up of Olive trees running through San Isidro. It is the perfect place for a picnic, to read a book, or just to find some shade on a sunny day. A short walk from the park, you can also visit one of the pre-Inca pyramids located in Lima. Huaca Huallamarca is a step pyramid, and it highlights different burial traditions from that period.

Miraflores, on the other hand, is home to most upscale restaurants, local shops, fun activities, and amazing views of the Pacific. The coast of Lima is unique due to the enormous cliffs that the city rests on and the separation to the beaches below. However, these cliffs do provide spectacular views of the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean, as well as make Miraflores one of the best places in the world for paragliding. On a windy day, you will see numerous instructors take off with tourists from the seaside parks along the edge of the cliffs in Lima.

One such location is the Park of Love, which is also home to the famous El Beso Sculpture, a place where locals in love watch the sunset together. A short walk from the coast in Miraflores, you will also find the Hilton Lima and its spectacular local restaurant serving specialties such as the Octopus and Avocado dish that seafood lovers should not miss. Nearby is also the La Lucha Sandwich chain, which has the best fries you will ever try, and some of the biggest sandwiches as well.

Barranco
Once the sun sets head towards the Park of the Reserve. It is a large park next to the national stadium containing numerous large fountains that illuminate at night and are accompanied by different songs based on the season. It is a great place to visit with the family; however, if you are looking to dance the night away, you must visit the Barranco neighborhood. Barranco is the artsy area of Lima and it’s immediately south of Miraflores. In the center of the district is the famous Bridge of Sighs, a perfect location for a night walk while listening to street musicians and exploring the hundreds of pieces of street art all over the district. Mayo Bar serves some of the best cocktails in the city, and you can hear great local live music at La Noche de Barranco.

When traveling to Peru, do not forget about its capital. The natural wonders that the country holds are hard to match; however, Lima’s unique culinary scene and local history make it a must-visit location if you are thinking of traveling to South America.

Our Top Travel Tech Picks for 2020

Every once in awhile, I’ll discover a new product or gadget that makes me wonder how I ever traveled without it. It’s no secret that technological innovations continue to make our lives easier, and they certainly can improve your travel experience. Make sure to check out these top picks before your next vacation!

A view out of a plane window at sunset

Miscellaneous Necessities
Anker Portable Battery Pack – Most of us rely on our phones as our sole source of navigation and communication while traveling. Carrying an extra battery pack reduces the worry of your phone dying while you’re out and about.

Universal Travel Adapter – Headed to multiple different countries? No need to pack multiple adapters. This all-in-one has you covered.

Tile Tracker Tags and Stickers – Items can get misplaced easily while traveling, and these trackers can come in handy if (or when!) that happens.

Grab: Order Airport Food (App) – Gone are the days of trekking across the airport to find your favorite food spot.

Photos/Video
Canon G7X Mark III – This camera is lightweight and fantastic at capturing pictures and videos to the same degree as some larger DSLR cameras. You can even sync your photos and videos to your phone with the camera’s wi-fi capability – perfect for on-the-go social media posting!

Gorillapod (Tripod) – Take all your photos on your own, even ones with you in them! This tripod is lightweight and flexible, so it’s ideal for travel.

Camera Drone – If you’re feeling fancy and want to get stellar video footage of your vacation, investing in a drone might be a good idea.

An open suitcase with packing cubes and clothing

Luggage/Carry-on
Away Suitcase – Are all of the outlets at your gate taken before your flight, but your phone really needs a charge? This smart suitcase has USB ports built into it, so you don’t have to stress about finding an open outlet!

Nordace Siena Smart Backpack – This smart travel backpack boasts a hidden pocket for valuables, USB charging port, 15.6” laptop compartment, sleek and structured design, designated pockets for bottles and sunglasses, and it even has a strap to attach to your suitcase handle. It’s the perfect travel companion!

Packing Cubes – If you’re as Type A as I am, these are a game-changer. Organize your clothes by day, by type, or however you choose. No more messy, exploding suitcases!

Home
Nest Thermostat – Forgot to adjust your thermostat before you left? No need to panic – just open the app and set it from your phone.

Furbo – Keep an eye on your furry friend (and even toss them treats or talk to them!) while you’re out on a day trip. The Furbo Nanny will even send you notifications for emergencies like fire alarms, or just if you’re dog is barking. Peace of mind is granted for fur-parents!

A brunette woman sitting at an airport using a tablet

Entertainment
Kindle Paperwhite or iPad Air – If reading while traveling is your thing, an e-reader can help save space while still allowing you to read as many books as your heart desires while on vacation.

Chromecast or Roku Stick – Don’t miss out on your favorite shows or movies while vacationing! These can plug right into your hotel TV.

Bose QC35 II Headphones – Silence is golden – these noise-canceling headphones are essential for zoning in on your music, podcast, audiobook, or whatever you choose to listen to with no outside noise to distract you.

Nintendo Switch Lite – I don’t have kids, but this handheld gaming console kept my nephews (and my boyfriend) fully occupied during flights and downtime on our recent family vacation to Puerto Rico.

Low-Tech
Compression Socks – A must-have for long-haul flights or just for relief after a day full of walking.

Travel Steamer – Forget the hassle of clunky irons and ironing boards. Carrying a travel steamer makes it ten times easier to achieve wrinkle-free clothes during your trip.

LifeStraw – If you’re headed somewhere that you may need to filter contaminated water into drinking water, this personal water filter is exactly what you need for filtering out parasites, bacteria, and more.

10 LGBTQ Family-Friendly Destinations

As a same-sex family, it is essential to feel safe and included, especially when traveling. When planning a family vacation, we like to find LGBTQ friendly destinations so we can relax and be ourselves, not worry about offending the locals or even worse – getting thrown in jail! When our family travels, it is crucial that our lifestyle won’t ruffle any legal feathers. Fortunately, there are so many beautiful places to visit, and where we can really immerse ourselves in the local scene.

Here are our ten picks for LGBTQ family-friendly destinations:

New York City, NY
Without a doubt, New York City is a mecca for both LGBTQ residents and visitors alike. New Yorkers have long been accepting of the LGBTQ community and is one of the most popular destinations in the world. NYC shines as our top destination pick for LGBTQ family-friendly destinations. Kids won’t have to worry about standing out and being different in this city. Plus, with so many activities, restaurants, and parks to explore, the only thing on their mind will be choosing what to do next!

Tip: Make sure to visit Ellen’s Stardust Diner to see first-hand the world’s most famous singing waitstaff! Reservations are not accepted, so be sure to arrive early or the wait can be lengthy.

Missoula, Montana
This eclectic college town, which attracts artists, actors, writers, and sports enthusiasts from around the world, is the most tolerant and progressive in the state of Montana. People from all backgrounds flock to this mountain haven known for its inclusivity and a way of life not found in any other location. Year-round outdoor activities abound as well as a thriving arts and culture scene. With Glacier National Park only a few hours away, Missoula is a family-friendly LGBTQ destination that shouldn’t be missed!

Tip: Every season is the best time to visit!

San Francisco, CA
San Francisco ranks as one of the top LGBTQ cities in the world, so it’s no wonder it is also a family-friendly travel destination. San Francisco has been leading the way for LGBTQ rights for several decades, and diversity is simply a way of life. LGBTQ families will find a plethora of activities for all ages in and around San Francisco, and no one will bat an eye at their lifestyle. Our family loves to explore Fisherman’s Wharf, which is teeming with restaurants, souvenir shops, and museums. Be sure to check-out The Exploratorium at Pier 15. Plan for at least a 2-hour visit, as the exhibits are so engaging and fascinating.

Tip: The Go San Francisco Pass can save you a substantial amount of money if you plan to visit popular attractions.

Palm Springs, CA
Palm Springs might seem like a city destined more for couples and singles, but I am here to tell you, families will be delighted at what this vibrant desert city offers. We love to visit during the winter months when the temperature hovers around 70 degrees – perfect for exploring! The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is our favorite hangout in the Palm Springs area. There is so much to do, such as feed a giraffe, hike nature trails, and even visit the wildlife hospital. The perfect winter weather makes it easier to spend hours and hours exploring.

The Children’s Discovery Center of the Desert is another wonderful place to visit in the Palm Springs area. Visitors can explore, dress up, use their imagination all day, and never get bored! The many exhibits are so engaging, especially the VW car you can paint!

Tip: Take the Aerial Palm Springs Tramway up the mountain at dusk to view a stunning sunset!

Sweden
All the Scandinavian countries are known for being LGBTQ-friendly, with Sweden being at the top of the list. Sweden ranks as one of the most accepting countries in the world. Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has been illegal since 1987, so LGBTQ family travelers will feel especially welcome. LGBTQ families will find endless activities to explore, especially in the capital, Stockholm.

Tip: Kids will love to visit the Vasa Maritime Museum. It features a 17th-century warship that sunk in the Bay of Stockholm and was salvaged in 1959.

Canada
Our neighbors north of the border are known for being LGBTQ-supportive, and they were the fourth country in the world to legalize gay-marriage. All types of families are important to Canadians and they embrace diversity with open arms. This makes Canada a welcoming destination for LGBTQ families. Canada is a vast country with cosmopolitan cities like Toronto and Vancouver, yet visitors will feel like they are in Europe while exploring Quebec and Montreal. It would take a lifetime to explore everything Canada offers.

Tip: Toronto Gay Pride is one of the largest in the world and features many activities that are fun for the whole family!

Amsterdam, The Netherlands
This northern European country is known for being progressive and culturally liberal. They were the first nation to legalize gay marriage in 2001, with Amsterdam frequently referred to as the friendliest LGBTQ city in the world. LGBTQ families will feel welcome and just like family throughout the country. We found The Netherlands to be one of our favorite European destinations, as they cheerfully accommodate kids everywhere we went. There are plenty of parks, museums, and restaurants, where kids can be kids, and parents don’t have to worry about offending anyone.

Tip: Kids will love exploring the numerous canals by pedal boat! It’s easy to rent a boat and go explore!

Thailand
The land of smiles! Although Thailand doesn’t offer any formal recognition to same-sex couples, LGBTQ families will find acceptance throughout the country, especially in larger cities. Thailand is our favorite country to visit in SE Asia, and our lifestyle has always been respected. A “short” visit to Bangkok is a must, as families will love exploring the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha (there is a strict dress code!). Afterward, hire a guide to take you Chao Phraya River. It’s a great way to see the various neighborhoods along the river.

Of course, the sparkling beaches in southern Thailand offer world-class snorkeling and diving. The kids will love splashing in the warm waters. Near Khao Lak, you can find elephant conservation camps where kids can bathe rescued elephants and lavish them with love. It’s feel-good love for everyone!

In northern Thailand, older kids will love trekking, exploring caves, and finding hot springs to cool off.

Tip: Be sure to check the weather for the time of year you plan to visit. Each side of the country can vary dramatically.

Tel Aviv, Israel
Did you know Israel is the most accepting country in the middle east and Tel Aviv has a robust LGBTQ community?  LGBTQ families visiting Tel Aviv will generally find acceptance in most establishments. Both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem host Gay Pride parades which are attended by thousands of participants. With its year-round Mediterranean climate, foodies will be impressed by the delicious fresh foods found in restaurants and local markets. With historical ruins and vast landscapes, LGBTQ families will most definitely enjoy exploring the Promised Land.

Buenos Aires, Argentina
Argentina was the first Latin American country to legalize gay-marriage, and Buenos Aires is a top LGBTQ destination. Buenos Aires hosts a large Pride festival every November which attracts over 100,000 participants. LGBTQ families will find it easy to be accepted throughout the city and will find a plethora of family activities. Even same-sex tangos have become increasingly popular in milongas (tango halls). When the kids need to run and burn off some steam, every neighborhood has a playground.

Tip: Plan ample time to explore El Ateneo Grand Splendid – a historic theater turned bookstore in the Recoleta neighborhood.

Vietnam: Explore Hội An & Nha Trang

Viet Nam (originally two words) is a beautiful country stretching along the Southeast Asian Indochinese Peninsula. You will find a fusion of French, Japanese, and Chinese influences throughout the country, and many interesting activities and historical places to visit.

City #1: Hội An
Hội An was the commercial capital of the Champa Empire between the 7th and 10th centuries. By the 14th Century, the Cham moved towards Nha Trang. There are plenty of things to do and see in Hoi An.

Sightseeing & Activities
Let’s start with the Ancient Town; it’s now a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Walking around, you will notice wooden buildings, pagodas, and pedestrian streets. Look for the Japanese bridge dating from the 18th century! The Ancient Town is the place to shop for souvenirs. Later in the evening, take any of the little boats for a short tour along the river, which is filled with lanterns.

Night markets are popular in Asia. Visit Son Tra Night Market – there are stands full of exciting food, snacks, and souvenirs. A local favorite is a sugarcane drink! It’s open from 6 PM till midnight.

Sun World Ba Na Hills is an entertainment center where you can take a cable car up to about 1,400m above sea level and visit the Golden Bridge. Two giant stone hands appear to hold the bridge, and the photos taken here are stunning at any time of the day. Plan to spend at least a few hours in this resort, as there are the Lingh Ung pagoda, ponds full of Koi Fish, as well as a French Village and an amusement park to see.

70 km southwest from Da Nanag, and completely worth visiting, is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary. There are over 70 abandoned Hindu temples and tombs constructed by the Champa Kings between the 4th and 14th centuries. It’s stunning!

Something that both tourists and locals enjoy is getting tailor-made clothes. Yaly Couture is the shop to go to – there are ample choices for fabrics and speedy service. Just show them a photo or the design of what you would like to get done, and they will make it for you! Opt for a Vietnamese garment called Áo dài.

If you want to make this trip unforgettable, pass by Pon Tattoo Studio for a tattoo in Japanese style; it’s affordable, and the artist is fantastic!

Food
Make sure to eat the traditional Phở, a broth with rice noodles, herbs, and beef or chicken, which you can find almost anywhere. If you’re looking for something unique, one of my favorite restaurants is a Spanish restaurant, Merkat, which makes delicious Salmorejo and Croquetas.

Interested in upscale? Try the superb Aubergine49 Restaurant, a dining experience featuring a contemporary menu of Eurasian cuisine by Chef Nguyen Nhu Thinh, who was previously with a 3-star Michelin restaurant. Try the Mushroom Risotto and pair it with an excellent wine!

City #2: Nha Trang
Nha Trang is a coastal city that is popular with tourists and well-known for its 6km long coastline and beach. Kauthara was the city’s name when it was part of the Kingdom of Champa. The town has a backdrop of hills and looking out to the sea, and you will find many little islets.

Sightseeing & Activities
For a cultural experience, visit Po Nagar, another Cham temple from 781 C.E. Four towers sit on Mount Cu Lau overlooking the Cai River. It is still in use as a place of worship, and you can go inside some of the towers to see relics and more.Hội An

Visit the largest market, Dam Market, for souvenirs and local products, including dried seafood, clothes, shells, bags, hats, and other local items. It’s a three-story building, and there are also numerous stalls on the outside of the complex. You will find the traditional Vietnamese coned hat called the nón lá. Feel free to bargain!

Food
Tran Phu Street runs along the seaside, and hotels, cafes, and malls line the street, which makes it perfect for an evening stroll! Try the famous Vietnamese Coffee at Runam Bistro – locals prefer it with condensed milk.

There are countless restaurants and cuisines to try, and some of the favorites are Korean and Japanese food. At Kiwami, opt for the omelette which comes sizzling! If you are looking for western food, try MIX Restaurant, which is excellent for Greek food.

Know Before You Go:

  • Locals are helpful, and Google Translate can be useful to communicate.
  • You can rent a motorbike affordably; however, be mindful of the traffic!
  • Insect-repellent comes in handy, especially in the evenings.

 

Our Top Travel Reads for 2020

For me, one of the best parts about traveling is sitting still and digging into a good book (preferably with a cocktail in hand). Especially as a new mom, it’s hard for me to find the quiet to enjoy a book unless I’m on a plane or train, beachside or poolside. In fact, my husband and I recently went to the Conrad Maldives, and I think I spent the first 8 hours in silence on our patio, reading and enjoying the beautiful scenery, wildlife, and plunge pool.

If you’re like me and want to relax with a good book on your vacations, here are some tried and true reads as well as some things I’m looking forward to reading in 2020!

A beach at the Conrad Maldives at sunset

Read It Before the Movie
I love making sure I’ve read the book before I see the movie. I think they inform each other and add color to both entertainment experiences. With so many book-to-movie adaptations coming out in 2020, make sure you’re caught up!

P.S. I Still Love You (YA Romance): To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was a Netflix hit (and launched the career of your internet boyfriend, Noah Centineo). Read the whole trilogy — To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, P.S. I Still Love You, and Always and Forever, Lara Jean –  for a perfect poolside read.

The Devil All the Time (Psychological Thriller): This book alternatively thrilled and terrified me. About the pain and damage war inflicts on people, read this if you like suspense. Tom Holland stars in the upcoming adaptation.

The Woman in the Window (Psychological Thriller): I confess – I love a good mystery. Woman in the Window is very Gone Girl, very Girl on the Train, very creepy. Agoraphobic Anna Fox thinks she sees an act of violence. What happens next takes up more than 600 pages, but you won’t feel the length of the book. The interiority of the narrator is one of the best I’ve read, and really reminds me of Gillian Flynn’s writing style.

Books at a book store

Better than Pulp
Sometimes, I want to read a book and never think about it again (unless I’m writing a blog about it, apparently). This is not an insult; I adore these escapist books and hope you will, too!

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (Romance): Evelyn Hugo is a rich, famous Old Hollywood actress with a string of failed marriages. With clear allegories to some of the most gossip-y Hollywood tales, the fictional Evelyn is strong, charming, and lovable.

The Hundredth Queen (YA Fantasy): An orphan becomes a queen and a warrior: it’s a fantasy trope, but I loved the Sumerian mythology that made this fresh and fun. A very quick read that interrogates the expectations of girls as they grow into women and the female friendships that support them.

Stillhouse Lake (Thriller): What would happen if you were married to a serial killer, and he was now after you and your children? I didn’t know I wanted to know the answer to that, but I couldn’t put this down. Another quick read, with three sequels if you really want to commit!

A woman reading in a hammock on a beach at sunset.

What I’m Looking Forward to Reading
I can personally vouch for the books in the list above, but I also wanted to share my list of books to read on my upcoming travels.

American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins (Thriller): After 16 of their family members are killed by a cartel at a backyard quinceañera, Lydia Quixano Perez and her son Luca must flee their home in Acapulco as fast as possible. Packing only what they can carry and grab in a mad dash, Lydia and Luca head for the United States, trailed by the cartel every step of their journey. This is a book that’s both hard to read and hard to put down and will no doubt spark a lot of conversation. [preview from Real Simple]

Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid (Fiction): A striking and surprising debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both. [summary from Amazon]

The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich: I loved the Round House (a lot) and can’t wait to read more Louise Erdrich. Based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winner Louise Erdrich’s grandfather, who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington DC. [summary from Amazon]

Thanks to Bustle, Real Simple, and Vogue for their recommendations, and for making me wish I had more hours in a day to read when I’m not on vacation.

The Best Things to Do in Aberdeen

Known today as the oil and gas capital of Europe, Aberdeen is uniquely able to mesh its industry with historic small-town charm. Sometimes called the granite city because many of its historic buildings were made from local granite, the city shines in the sun.  Aberdeen is the perfect base to explore Northern Scotland, as it is an easy point of access to the famous North Coast 500 and 144 minutes away from the start of the route.

Dolphin Watching at Torry Battery
With over 30 miles of beach running along the North Sea, spotting dolphins and whales, is easy to do from May through September. There is no better place to dolphin watch than the Torry Battery. The Torry Battery is an artillery battery that sits on the top of a hill overlooking Aberdeen Harbor, and it is a beautiful place with historic ruins to look at breathtaking views of the sea and bottleneck dolphins.

The David Welch Winter Gardens at Duthie Park
Located in Duthie Park, The David Welch Winter Gardens is one of the largest indoor gardens in the UK. The large cacti collection has a “talking” cactus named Spike – the only one in the world! In these gardens, you can explore tropical forests, British gardens, and Japanese gardens all in one place. Don’t skip a leisurely walk through the park during your visit – there are many statues and monuments located throughout the park that are worth the trip alone.

Old Blackfriars
Local sometimes call Aberdeen “Sin City” because many of the nightclubs, pubs and bars are former places of worship. One of my favorites is Old Blackfriars. Complete with pews and stained glass, Old Blackfriars has been serving scotch whiskey and pulling pints for the people of Aberdeen since it opened in 1719. Steeped in history with an extensive drinks list and fantastic food, you are sure to have a fun time here. Try the steak pie!

Stonehaven and Dunnotar Castle
Stonehaven is a small seaside village just outside of Aberdeen, easily accessed by a 15-minute picturesque train ride. Stop at The Bay Fish & Chips for fish and chips that have won more awards than you can count. After lunch, don’t forget to go next door to Aunty Betty’s for some amazing local ice cream. If you’re feeling adventurous, hike the 2.5-mile coastal path to Dunnotar Castle, which was once the home to the Scottish Crown Jewels during the Jacobite rebellion.

Loch Ness
A couple of hours west of Aberdeen is the home Scotland’s most famous resident, Nessie. While a sighting can’t be guaranteed, Loch Ness itself is gorgeous. The vast loch, filled with more water than all other lochs and rivers in England and Scotland combined, is best enjoyed on a loch cruise. Along the way, you’ll see the ruins of Urquhart Castle, a former residence with parts dating back to the 13th century.

Culloden Battle Field
The Battle of Culloden was the final battle between the Jacobites and the English Army with the defeat of the Bonny Prince Charlie in 1745, ending the Jacobite Rising at the Culloden battle filed. The battlefield today is a place of remembrance of those that lost their lives. Now run by the National Trust, an information center has been erected on the land to teach visitors about the historic battle and how it shaped the Scotland you see today. While the battle was brought to the silver screen in Outlander, you will not see Jamie Fraser or Outlander merchandise while on the land.

Whisky Tasting at Glenfiddich
Scotland is known for scotch whisky, which differs from other whiskeys as is it is made from majority malted barley with peat that gives it a smoky taste. What better place to taste scotch in Scotland than in one of the best-known distillers in the world, Glenfiddich. Opened in 1886, the Glenfiddich distillery takes you back in time as soon as you step on the property. The old buildings, cobblestone paths, and the sweet smell of mash are a perfect backdrop for an afternoon tasting of fine single malt. Across the road, you can also visit Balvenie Castle, 13th-century castle ruins that you can explore for a nominal fee.

Aberdeen has a quiet charm that makes you feel like you’re home, even when you’re thousands of miles away. Full of history, adventure, and folklore, there is something to experience for every traveler in Aberdeen.

A Romantic Beginning to 2020 in Dallas

The nights are cold. Another year has passed. A new year is upon us. Romance fills the air! On a big night like this, there’s only one place to be for that epic New Year’s Eve kiss – Dallas! Like everything else in Texas, Dallas is big, which means there’s something for everyone to enjoy. From stylish parties to fireworks at midnight, here are a few romantic date ideas to welcome in 2020.

Dallas skyline at night

A Delicious Beginning to the End of a Year – Al Biernat’s
Start your evening off with a delicious meal at Al Biernat’s. With two locations, in Oak Lawn and North Dallas, you can never go wrong with a juicy steak, fresh seafood, and the perfect wine to compliment the meal. For those food lovers who aren’t carnivorous, don’t fret. Biernat’s offers a tasty vegan menu. At Al Biernat’s, the staff prides themselves in excellent service and treating their customers like family. If you want a meal that’s more than amazing food and service, but one that will become a beautiful memory of a romantic evening, I highly recommend making this a stop on your NYE Dallas evening. Oh, and make sure to try to the cheesecake. Trust me! Al Biernat’s cheesecake is a timeless tradition that will have you coming back again.

The exterior of the Statler Hotel in Dallas

Celebrate in Style – 2019 Black and White New Year’s Eve Party by The Statler
It’s been said that “there’s no party like a Capote party,” and The Statler in Dallas is out to prove exactly that by hosting their annual New Year’s Party in Capoteian style with their Black and White New Year’s Eve Party. For this special evening, The Statler’s historic ballroom will be transformed into a modern-day recreation of Copate’s legendary 1966 “Party of the Century.” While you won’t find Audrey Hepburn (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) on the guest list, you will be able to share a romantic evening with your special someone, dancing to live music, enjoying refreshments, and sharing that memorable kiss in this dreamland. Get your tickets here. The party begins at 9 PM CST. So, put on your best black and white ensemble and prepare for a night of wonderment and love.

The exterior of the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas

A Musical Evening – New Year’s Eve Concert by the DSO
If your idea of the perfect date consists of a stunning orchestra performance, the sounds of the DSO are your evening’s ticket for a romantic evening. Mozart, Brahms, and Strauss are only a few names on their playlist for the night. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the DSO in concert on more than one occasion, and I can honestly say, there’s something magical about their music. It has the power to bring your soul to life. After the concert, the Meyerson is hosting a New Year’s Eve party where you can continue to close out 2019 in musical style. The concert starts at 7:30 PM CST, and the after party ends at midnight, upon the moment of that sweet New Year’s kiss. Grab your tickets here.

The Reunion Tower in Dallas lit up at night

Fireworks and a Kiss – Reunion Tower: Over the Top
Not much of a party person? Well, Dallas has the answer for you. Celebrate your New Year’s Eve with a kiss on the lawn while watching the fireworks display at Reunion Tower. A nice picnic, a bottle of wine, and a light show that will have your heart racing is the solution to the ultimate romantic gesture. Books are written about nights like this, and this could very well be the opening chapter to your next romantic adventure. The show starts at 11:59 PM CST. Pucker up and let the romance begin.

The Shops at Legacy in Plano at dusk

Everlasting Love – Roaring 2020s NYE at Legacy Hall
Some loves are timeless, such as that of Daisy and her Gatsby. Create your own love story by attending the Roaring 2020s New Year’s Eve party hosted at Legacy Hall in Plano. As one of the most popular locations in Dallas, Legacy Hall is unparalleled in its music, food, and drink attractions. While 20s attire is optional, imagine how much fun it will be with your special someone to dress up in a flapper gown or dapper suit. With the 20s being one of my favorite eras, you can bet you’ll find me here on New Year’s Eve. Grab your tickets here. The party begins at 9 PM CST.

On New Year’s Eve, romance fills the air, and the list above is merely a few places to check out in Dallas. One thing is for sure, with your special someone by your side, it doesn’t matter where you decide to go. At the stroke of twelve, that magical kiss is where you’ll be, and that’s the memory you’ll carry with you for a lifetime. Happy New Year!

Explore the Heart of Texas in Waco

In recent years, Texas has experienced a surge in population growth, as well as a significant increase in visitors to the state. The rise of the major cities like Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio have brought new entertainment, and new ideas, and created multiple dense population centers within the large and wide-open spaces Texas is known for. However, to really learn and appreciate the state, you have to go to the heart of it. And in Texas, the heart of the state is the sometimes-overlooked city of Waco. For travelers driving between Dallas and Austin, Waco has become a perfect midway point to break up the drive. The fact that the city is less than two hours from both major metropolises makes it a great destination for a day or weekend trip.

Football
When driving into the city especially on a fall Saturday, the first thing that you will undoubtedly notice is the lights of McLane Stadium, the home of the Baylor University Bears football team. It’s well known that football is king in Texas, and Waco is no exception. A city with around one hundred and thirty-five thousand residents, of which nearly twenty thousand are students, has a stadium that can hold a third of the city. If you like football, or just want to see a big game, make sure to visit when the University of Texas or Oklahoma are in town.

Fixer Upper Phenomenon
While college football is exciting, the reason Waco has drastically increased visitors over the last few years is their biggest national celebrities: Chip and Joanna Gaines. The celebrity couple who had a hit TV show renovating houses in and around their home city have turned their success on TV into a brand that attracts tourists to Waco in droves.

If you get to Waco early enough for breakfast or brunch, make sure to try their restaurant Magnolia Table. The restaurant is in a historic building in the city, and the renovation was featured on the TV show. The large building has been converted into a communal-style restaurant serving some of the family’s favorite recipes. Try the freshly squeezed juice flight and the “Our Favorite Chicken Salad Sandwich,” served on a warm croissant.

After breakfast, take a short ride to the Magnolia Market and Garden at the Silos. The historic silos that were built in the 1950s are the anchor to what is now known as the Silos District. The silos were purchased and converted a few years back by Joanna Gaines. She converted them and the area around it into a two-block complex that includes the market, silos, Silos Baking Company, herb garden, coffee shop, and a large park area surrounded by local food trucks. The market alone might take you a few hours to explore and getting your hands on something from the bakery will likely cause you to stand in a significantly long line, but it will be worth it.

Dr. Pepper
Before the recent rise to popularity from the Gaines family, Waco was especially famous for being the birthplace of one of America’s favorite soft drinks, Dr. Pepper. In fact, a few minutes’ walk down the street from the Silos District is the Dr. Pepper Museum, located in the original bottling building for the soda. Inside you can find many fun facts about the drink, as well as have one hand made for you by the old-time soda operator in the gift shop. If you are looking for a place to grab a beer after you have had your fill of soft drinks, a block down the road is the cozy Barnett’s Public House. You won’t miss Barnett’s because the side of the building has one of the more popular murals in town, “WACO.” Inside, you will find delicious food and a very impressive list of hard-to-find whiskeys.

Outdoor Sights
Across from the Hilton Waco and along the Brazos River, you will find Indian Spring Park. The park is significant because it holds the Branding the Brazos Sculpture, as well as the entrance to the Waco Suspension Bridge. The bridge was significant for the cattle drive industry and the city because it was the only such structure allowing cattle to cross the river safely for hundreds of miles. The sculpture of men corralling the cattle towards the bridge does a wonderful job depicting what the scene might have been during that period. Below the bridge, you will also find an entrance to the city’s river walk, which spans all the way to the Baylor University campus.

Archaeological Treasures
Finally, no trip to Waco is complete without visiting the city’s hidden treasure. The Waco Mammoth National Monument, a large area on the outskirts of Waco, has produced numerous archaeological finds to date, most importantly dozens of mammoth fossils. Discovered in the late 1970s, and recently pronounced a national monument, the site is famous for the largest concentration of mammoth remains. While on the visitor tour, you might even be able to witness archaeologists working on the site. The workers are adamant that only a very small percent of the area has been explored, so who knows – you might witness a discovery in person.

During your next visit to the Lone Star State, make sure you take a trip to Waco – you won’t know Texas unless you really get to know its heart!

Top 7 Neighborhoods to Visit in Istanbul

Istanbul is a well-known city that lies between two continents, Europe and Asia. Previously named Byzantium, then Constantinople, it was once the capital of the Roman and Ottoman Empires. When the Republic of Turkey was founded, the capital moved to Ankara, and Constantinople was renamed Istanbul. With a rich historical and cultural background, you will find many breathtaking things to see and do within Istanbul’s distinctive neighborhoods.

Istiklal Avenue
This street starts from Taksim Square, and the area is also known as the Beyoğlu district. You will find charming cafes, pubs, bookshops, cinemas, and passages to walk around. It’s a historical area often referred to as the “heart of Istanbul.” Look for the Flower Passage (Cicek Pasaji) to try some Raki-Balik (a clear, aniseed-flavored liquor taken while eating fish) or find the Ara Kafe owned by the famous Turkish photographer Ara Guler. A stop at the iconic Galata Tower is a must for exploring the medieval history and panoramic views of Istanbul!

Levent
Levent is a business district in Istanbul with some of the tallest skyscrapers. There are several shopping malls here – make sure to visit Kanyon, which is known for award-winning architecture. It is easily connected to the city with the Metro line.

Besiktas
This is one of the oldest historical areas in Istanbul. It is known as a cultural hub and very popular among the locals due to a large number of universities, high schools, and Dershanes (extra-curricular schools) located here. There are many cafes, shops, and houses, so start off by the Kartal Heykeli (Eagle statue). You will also find one of the oldest and most beloved sports clubs in Turkey, Besiktas J.K., and their stadium nearby. Make sure to visit the Naval Museum, which is Turkey’s largest maritime museum, and Dolmabahce Palace, which is lovingly revered by many Turkish people as it was used by the first president of the Republic of Turkey Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as a presidential residence. Dress elegantly if you would like to visit Çırağan Palace for afternoon tea at the Gazebo Lounge.

Ortakoy
This neighborhood stretches from the Besiktas district to the Bosporus. Locals enjoy visiting Ortakoy for a walk or just to hang out. Try a Kumpir (the Turkish version of a baked potato, which is taken to a whole new level with tons of toppings!) or a waffle (again, tons of toppings!) from any of the kiosks. It’s also the perfect spot for photos with the Mecidiye Camii, also known as the Ortakoy Mosque, and Bosporus bridge in the background.

Nisantasi
Nisantasi is known as a shopping and residential district, with some of the higher-end brands and new designer shops and boutiques. The many universities in this area ensure that it is booming with trendy architecture, and the art students and young professionals give it a buzzing atmosphere. Stop by Maçka Sanat Parkı, which is full of cats and statues. It’s perfect for a nice walk during the day, and in the evening dress stylish.

Bebek
There are many upscale dining options facing the Bosporus in this elegant neighborhood. If you’re craving a sandwich, visit Susam. Lucca is a great option for all-day dining or head to the well-known Nusr-et for a steak. There are several designer shops (Yargici) and historic architecture such as the Consulate of Egypt and wooden-style villas (Yalis) to look out for. You might even catch a glimpse of celebrities and paparazzi here as well. Feel free to dress casually here, since this area is well known for expats and locals who enjoy exercise through long walks along the sahil (seaside).

Kadıköy
This district is a cultural and transportation hub located on the Asian side of Istanbul. Everyone uses public transportation in Istanbul, and this is the main area for those commuting between the Asian and European sides of Istanbul. Visit the Haydarpaşa railway station, which opened in 1872. Just across from the Kadıköy Metro station, there are many shops and markets, so it’s usually crowded. You will find traditional Turkish restaurants with the typical tost and döner, as well as bars with jazz and rock music, and backgammon houses. The ambiance in this district is more working-class so you will feel the buzz of what a usual day looks like.

 

Know Before You Go:

  • Use the Metro and public transportation to get around — you will avoid getting stuck in traffic.
  • Be kind to the cats and dogs found everywhere.
  • The area you are in matters for how you dress, so plan for the district you’re visiting and dress accordingly.

A Foodie’s Guide to Austin

What makes Austin’s food scene so unique, attracting millions of visitors and residents year after year? The fact that there’s literally something to eat for everyone might have something to do with it. Whether you’re a self-proclaimed food enthusiast or a casual diner, Austin has a plate for every palate.

Breakfast
A full day needs the right kind of fuel, and there’s no better way to kick-start your morning than with a match made in bagel heaven. You may still be within Austin city limits when you visit one of the two Wholy Bagel locations, but you will feel like you’re taking a bite out of the big apple. Baked from scratch, these rings of doughy goodness are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside – the way true New York-style bagels should be. Enjoy them with a savory cream cheese such as lox or sun-dried tomato & basil, or opt for something sweet such has strawberry or chocolate chip cream cheese. You can also turn them into a breakfast sandwich with your choice of meat and cheese from the shop’s deli counter or grab a Texas dozen of 14 (yes, everything is bigger in this state) to take with you. And don’t forget a steaming hot cup of Katz’s coffee – you’ll need it for the fun-filled adventure ahead.

Diner Classics
Gone are the days of old-school diners with sticky tables, plastic condiment bottles, and yesterday’s pie. In true-to-Austin fashion, 24 Diner serves up the comfort food you’ve loved growing up, but with a local twist, using a few key ingredients to bring out a whole lot of flavor. The chicken and waffle dish, one of the restaurant’s signature fares, is baked with yeast-risen dough, butter, vanilla, and raw sugar and topped with delicious maple syrup from Vermont. The fried chicken, marinated and cooked to perfection, will definitely give you something to cluck about long after you’ve finished eating.

Burgers
Move over, boring beef patty on a bun. There is a new kind of burger in town, and it’s not afraid to be different. Hopdoddy is not your ordinary hamburger “joint.” It’s a bar complete with specialty cocktails, beers on taps, and milkshakes on a mission. Freshly baked breads, farm-fresh produce and hand-cut fries (the parmesan truffle and hot honey and sage get honorable mentions) accompany a wide variety of burger-inspired creations. From bison and Kobe to chicken and plant-based, all protein bases are covered. Feeling extra adventurous? Try Hopdoddy’s own spin on sushi – the ahi tuna sandwich with sunflower sprouts, nori chips, teriyaki, honey wasabi, mayo, pickled ginger, lettuce, tomato and onion.

Tacos
A trip to Texas wouldn’t be complete without a taste of the taco, an Austinite’s staple. Torchy’s Tacos knows that better than anyone, taking an unconventional approach to a beloved tradition. Stop by to satisfy the oddest of cravings, make a taco “trashy” by adding queso, sample the street corn, and check out the secret menu, home of the Ace of Spades, for more hidden twists.

Coffee
Mozart’s Coffee Roasters is probably one of those places you might hear about on the so-called lists of popular recommendations. Either way, locals love it, and it’s one of the most memorable spots in town. The smell of freshly roasted beans will greet you as you walk down the patio deck and sit down on a quaint wooden bench overlooking stunning Lake Austin. If you’re lucky, you may spot a swan or two swimming about. During the holidays, you’ll be surrounded by a crowd of spectators waiting in anticipation of the Christmas Light Show, an inspiring color-meets-sound extravaganza. Cold and hot brews are always fair game, regardless of the season, and they pair well with a freshly baked pastry. For a real treat, try Mozart’s Mocha Special. It’s rich, delectable, and oh-so satisfying, especially if you have a sweet tooth!

As a visitor, you may not get a chance to taste everything that Austin has to offer the first time around. If you have a weekend to spend here, you’ll probably be tempted to take the more obvious route of exploring well-known eateries often found on tourist-friendly lists of dining recommendations, but why not take the road less-traveled and view your next meal through the lens of a local?

Celebrate Christmas in New Orleans

Unbeknownst to many, New Orleans is a premier destination for Christmas celebrations throughout the month of December. The temperature is usually rather mild through mid-January, and the celebrations across the city truly never stop. From the much-romanticized dining and drinking options throughout the city to lesser-known family-friendly events, your holiday season will be enjoyable for everyone with a trip down to New Orleans.

Family-Friendly Events
Whether you plan to arrive early in the month or closer to Christmas day, there are plenty of events across the city to keep you and your group occupied. Month-long events include the legendary Celebration in the Oaks, which features amusement park rides, eggnog, and other holiday-themed drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), as well as an impressive light show featuring the ever endearing 12 Yats of Christmas. Celebration in the Oaks is now in its 33rd year and takes place daily from November 29 to January 1, with the exception of Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

The Roosevelt New Orleans, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel is another must-see month-long attraction for its lobby holiday décor, which features over 600,000 LED lights and over 50 Christmas trees. The holiday display began in the 1930s and carries a long legacy in the community. The trees will be up from November 26 through January 4. In addition to the lobby display, the hotel also hosts its annual Teddy Bear Tea, where children and their families are transported to the North Pole for a holiday celebration unlike any other.

If you already know your travel dates, some of the below events may catch your interest and do not run throughout the entire month of December:

NOLA Christmas Fest: December 20 – 31
Enjoy fun, games, prizes, ice skating, and more at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Caroling in Jackson Square: December 22
Every year, thousands of people converge on Jackson Square to bond together and sing loud for all to hear. Candles provide a soft glow while carols fly across the air.

Christmas Eve Bonfires on the Levee: December 24
Intended to light the way for Papa Noel, the Cajun Santa Claus, this tradition dates back to the earliest Cajun settlers in Louisiana.

Time to Dine
A Christmas season in New Orleans is not complete without a few indulgences along the way. For those looking for a prix fixe option to satisfy the whole family, look for restaurants’ Reveillon menus. Reveillon is celebrated each December and originally came from the Creole tradition in the early 1800s of hosting a big family meal after midnight mass. Now, some of the best restaurants in the city provide Creole-inspired menus for all to taste priced at $49 or less for four-course and three-course dinners. In addition to Reveillon dinners, make sure to try a holiday cocktail during your travels throughout the city, whether paired with the meal or on its own.

In addition, many hotels in the Central Business District and French Quarter host a Christmas Day Brunch Buffet, with live music and seemingly every category of food that you could possibly want. The Roosevelt is one of the hotels that host a Christmas Day Brunch.

Sugar Bowl and NYE
The celebrations in New Orleans in December don’t end with Christmas. After Santa makes his departure, fans of the best college football teams in the country descend upon New Orleans for the annual Sugar Bowl, which takes place on New Year’s Day, and features a team from the SEC and the Big 12. The teams celebrate with the Sugar Bowl Parade through the French Quarter on New Year’s Eve, and the festivities include a New Year’s Eve Bash and concert at Jax Brewery at night. A New Orleans New Year’s Eve may be just what the doctor ordered to bring a fresh and unique experience to a night routinely saved for overpriced open bars. Many places you’ll come across have no cover and the usual well-priced offerings.

Christmas in New Orleans is truly one of the more magical times of the year. Fine dining is on display through the entire month, there are plenty of events available for groups of all kind, and you can still catch so much of the local culture on display with parades, light shows, appearances by Santa, and even two home games for the Saints!