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Tips for New Orleans with mid 80s parents(and dog) and info regarding Birmingham airport

I am driving my mid 80s parents to a vacation place in Gulf Shores Alabama from MN. After a short stay for me, we'll drive to New Orleans for a couple days and then I will fly home. 3 1/2 weeks later, I am flying to Birmingham where my parents will meet me and we'll start the drive back home. Has anyone managed time in New Orleans with older folks and a small dog? They would like to go to some restaurants, jazz clubs and historical houses. The best I could do for a hotel is something on Canal street. I know New Orleans very well, especially French Quarter. It is 1/2 a mile from the hotel to Jackson square which is approximately where most of our activity will take place. Dog can't go on trolleys. Not sure my parents can walk from hotel to Jackson square more than once or twice a day. Dog can stay in hotel, but I wouldn't think for very long. I think we'll take turns for some things. Dad and I will go to Preservation Hall while mom stays with the dog and then dad stays with dog when I take Mom to a house tour or something. Not sure I trust them on their own to get somewhere, but I think my dad, especially, could be enjoying Jackson square activity with the dog, while Mom and I pop in somewhere. They are fairly capable, one less mobile but very astute, the other is probably the opposite. I just don't feel like I can send them on the trolley in an unfamiliar city while I walk the dog to Jackson Square. In actuality, they'd probably be fine and I'd be a wreck. But, better safe than sorry. The biggest hurtle is restaurants. I do plan to go to Commander's Palace in the garden district when we arrive and if its not hot, dog can stay in the car. From there I plan to park the car in a ramp for the duration of the stay. So I do have a lot of strategies, just wondering if others would have additional ideas. Also, if anyone knows where there are restrooms in that Jackson Square area that would be available for use. I'm thinking/hoping most hotels/restaurants are going to allow an older person to use a restroom.

The other piece I could really use some help with is this--Is there something prominent spot (like a numbered door, etc.) where I can wait to be picked up at the Birmingham airport? We will both have cells but theirs is prehistoric and they could forget to charge, etc. (Don't say get them a new phone because that's been discussed. . .) I would just like to have a fall back spot where I can tell the I'll wait if for some reason we don't have communication. I know I can look at a map of that airport, but it would be ideal if someone that uses that airport has a suggestion for an easy meeting spot where my parents can drive to and pick me up. At our airport, we always say, "baggage level, door 7", for example.

This was long and boring, sorry. I just would rather give adequate detail.

Posted by
1637 posts

Maybe have them pick you up next to the valet parking desk? It's at the far end of the Departures area.

Posted by
539 posts

I’m from Gulf Shores so if you need any info on that end I’ll help. My parents are still pretty young, in their 60’s but go to New Orleans regularly and unfortunately have a bunch of health issues and they don’t slow them down there. The market and Cafe du Monde is on the river side of Jackson Square. Plenty of clean restrooms last time I went. I can’t ever remember being denied the use of a restroom even when I was a college student during Mardi Gras! My dad and his brother went to the WW2 museum a few months ago and were not impressed at all. My sister did a sunrise graveyard tour and thoroughly enjoyed it. One of my favorite trips ever was a touristy paddle boat tour to the site of the Battle of New Orleans. I think it’s still going. Great if you love American History.

Posted by
539 posts

Also, if you are driving north from there, lots of incredible sites. Many beautiful plantation homes like Oak Alley along the way. One of the most beautiful architectural gems in America is Natchez, Mississippi.

Posted by
4159 posts

From the Hotels on Canal, the only handy trolley is the one going into the Garden District for most people, trying to take a Trolley toward Jackson Square is more work than benefit. A taxi would be more efficient for restaurants or destinations outside the Quarter, you could even use the Bicycle taxis for closer trips and into the Quarter.

Posted by
382 posts

The common place to meet arriving people in Birmingham is at the top of the escalator/stairs. All arrivals have to come that way to get to the exit/baggage claim/etc. I used to pick up my boss regularly when i worked there. You can't miss it. If you miss them there you can fall back to baggage claim.

Enjoy the Commander's Palace. i really miss that place and walking the art galleries in the neighborhood before the meal.

Posted by
611 posts

There are restrooms near Jackson Square 1) at Cafe du Monde (on Decatur Street, across the street from Jackson Square), that anyone can use, and 2) free public bathrooms tucked under the staircase to the Moonwalk, also on Decatur Street directly across from Jackson Square. The Herman-Grima House is a beautiful historic house in the French Quarter, that does great house tours. The Gallier House is also quite lovely. Both are about 5 blocks from Jackson Square. You also might ALL (including the dog) be fine with a free walking tour of the Quarter with the Friends of the Cabildo. Google them. These are very well done (slow) walking tours, that originate in Jackson Square. I'd definitely Uber, Lyft or taxi your group from your Canal Street hotel to Jackson Square area, and save your energy for once you're in the Quarter. (Check with Uber & Lyft to see if you can bring your dog....) or, you could probably hold the pup in a pedicab, which your hotel could call for you. The streetcar that goes up and down the riverfront really isn't going to be useful for getting from your Canal Street hotel into heart of the Quarter. Finally, knowing that a number of our NOLA restaurants have outdoor eating areas, I found the website bringfido.com. You can find a number of restaurants and cafes, including some in the Quarter, to which you can bring your dog (if eating outside). Hope this helps, and welcome back to New Orleans!

Posted by
2594 posts

Great tips. I still have a month and a half before we get there so additional tips always appreciated.

@jmauldinuu, We will be in New Orleans March 6-8. So the day after the parades and at the start of lent. I'm assuming it will still be crowded? Last time I was in NOLA, I happened upon Fitzel's in the French Quarter. We really enjoyed it and I'd like to take my dad. I emailed them with some questions and they didn't respond yet. I believe the website says they start at 9, but when I was there we arrived at about that time and it appeared that the band had started earlier. I'm trying to figure out a way to go there where we can get a seat without having to wait outside for a while. (My dad can't stand that long) Also, he isn't really allowed alcohol. My impression is that one should be a drink every set. Is ginger ale a drink?

Posted by
2594 posts

Also, I've been searching for a ramp within a 1/2 - 3/4 mile from Canal and Magazine that might have more reasonable rates than the hotel valet parking. I will just park the car and leave it for the two days we are there. I've done a bit of searching without much success

Posted by
611 posts

So you arrive on Ash Wednesday? Whew! Yes, the first day that you are in town, Wed., there will still be a lot of people around, probably waiting to go to the airport. However, the mood in the city will be more quiet, even exhaustion. People in the service industry are especially tired. It's the end of a 10-day non-stop blowout huge city-wide party with a million people. I don't know anything about Fitzel's, but I'm not much of a club-goer, these days. I'm guessing calling them for more info may be the way to go, and specifically tell them the date/s you may want to come to the club ("Ash Wednesday") as some clubs may not have as much going on that Wed. and Thurs. They could tell you of course, what they could do for your father re. waiting to get in. Finally, my understanding is that a ginger ale, etc., DOES count for "one drink" as there are many among us who cannot imbibe alcohol, and most of the clubs understand that. Just tell your server. It will likely be a rather expensive ginger ale!

Posted by
810 posts

If you are not going to be driving close to Oak Alley, you can take a bus trip there. It is very comfortable travel and you have plenty of time for the tour and lunch.

Brennan's restaurant for Breakfast/Brunch is our favorite! It's been a few years since we were there, but when I was growing up not far from New Orleans, my favorite was their crabmeat omelet!

Your parents may also enjoy the WWII museum in New Orleans. We took a taxi there and back to the quarter last time. It is the most interesting war museum I have been to, and have been to many. There are small rooms where you go in and sit and watch videos of WWII Vets being interviewed about their experiences. We all loved the museum.

Have a Great Trip with your parents! Wish mine were still around to travel with.
Mimi

Posted by
611 posts

Re. parking: It's going to be very expensive in the French Quarter and CBD (Central Business District) area. I don't have a great idea for you there, EXCEPT: you might look into the long-term parking in the lots along Tchoupitoulos (near the river) for the cruise ship crowd. They often have daily rates that might be worth parking there then taking a taxi or Uber to your hotel. There are also a number of large (more moderately priced) surface lots along O'Keefe, between Poydras and Common/Tulane, that may have emptied out by Ash Wednesday, and would be less than a mile from your hotel. OR: to get really inexpensive about it: Park for free on the street in the Garden District, close to St. Charles Ave., and take the streetcar to Canal Street! That might be more time-consuming than you want to do, though.

Posted by
2594 posts

Such great help! @Mimi, I've been to Oak Alley, maybe three times now. I agree its a wonderful tour. WWII is a fantastic museum and I believe my parents were there a few years back. With the dog and my dad's inability to do a lot of standing/walking it is probably too much. Plus, we really only have two days.

Now I'm a little concerned about my dates. Going to call Commander's Palace and Fitzles to confirm. I sure would like to take my parents to Napoleon's and the do have an outdoor area, but they said they can't take dogs. Maybe it needs to have an entrance from outside.

Posted by
611 posts

I would DEFINITELY get a reservation at Commander's Palace, and given that there will still be plenty of folks still in town post-Mardi Gras, right now is NOT too soon to get a reservation for Wed. or Thurs. that week. That week may already be booking up. I prefer the "Garden Room" upstairs, to the more classic dining room downstairs (if your folks can slowly climb one carpeted staircase). The lunch menu is a deal, compared to dinner menu, but either: wonderful!

Posted by
382 posts

Just one simple thing; remember it can be cold and windy at that time of year. I prefer Mardi Gras in Mobile, in part because of the weather.

Posted by
2594 posts

We will be arriving New Orleans the day after the big Mardi Gras stuff though we have plans for a couple Mardi Gras parades in Gulf Shores. Hopefully, more sedate affairs!

Posted by
382 posts

I have nothing to add regarding Mardi Gras in Gulf Shores, but you can take the ferry from Ft Morgan across the bay and visit Mobile. If you want to do Mardi Gras there I recommend finding a place by the Battle House Hotel. The parade route makes a turn there and it's a good place for loot.

Another thing to do, if you have time, is drive up to Fairhope. It's a small artists community and a nice town to walk around.

Posted by
539 posts

Mardi Gras in Gulf Shores/Orange Beach is very tame and family friendly unless you belong to a krewe. The vast majority of Mardi Gras festivities in coastal Alabama are private affairs. When I was a kid it was a government holiday and all the kids were out of school to participate. It may still be. Fairhope does a great job with it and it’s one of the (almost) best kept secret small towns in the US. Hopefully things have greatly changed in the past few years but we always avoided Mobile (the holiday birthplace) for Mardi Gras. The ferry is a good idea if you aren’t pressed for time. Bellingrath Gardens is on the way to I-10. It’s still one of my favorite gardens.

Posted by
2334 posts

Don't worry about lines at Fritzel's. I go often when I'm in town and haven't seen a line yet. Even when it's crowded inside they'll find a seat for your parents. Especially early in the evening. Yes, you need to buy something each set, but a soft drink is fine. Or order two of what you're drinking. Tip the performers when the jar goes around. They may sometimes start a little earlier than 9 but not much earlier.

On Frenchmen's Street you'll find several clubs with sets that start at 6 pm. Finding a seat for the earlier shows shouldn't be a problem. Take a look at the music calendar on WWOZ. You can pull up bands on youtube and figure out what you want to see. There will be plenty of cabs when you're ready to go back to hotel.

There are a few places on Decatur close to the French Market with live music outside. You may have to leave them parked on Jackson Square while you do a little recognizance.

As for restrooms- Cafe du Monde has them inside. A little further downriver on Decatur there are public ones. Right on the square is Stanley's and with an apologetic smile they would probably let an older person use them. Same with the coffee shop that's on the other side of the square.

You might think about taking lawn chairs. Yes, more for you to schlep and coordinate, but they could sit when they wanted.

Posted by
382 posts

Café du Monde is closed. They lost their lease.

Posted by
1545 posts

The Poydras location of Cafe du Monde is closed. As far as I can tell, the one on Decatur Street is still open.

Posted by
278 posts

See response from the New Orleans Welcome Center this morning:

Café du Monde is still and will be open 24/7 to serve you. Café du Monde Never closes.
The Morning Call lost their lease in City Park .
You will be able to have your delicious beignets !!!!!!

Posted by
1603 posts

Jules,
Check with your hotel to see if a reliable, trustworthy dog sitter might be recommended.......someone who could take Rover for a stroll while you all are enjoying dinner or jazz. I just feel for the cute tail-wagger if left in a car or a hotel for a prolonged period of time :( It would be great if the same dog sitter could be available for several time slots of your couple of day....times when you/your parents would be wondering what to do with Rover.. Might be the best money that could be spent for those few days!!

Posted by
278 posts

You might check out rover.com for the pooch. I've had friends use the service and have been very happy. Might be an easy way to have a couple of pleasant days not worrying about their four legged friend. There seem to be several listed for New Orleans with good reviews and many repeat clients. Also, doggie daycare is huge here in the Portland area. Not sure about its popularity in NOLA though. Good luck!

Posted by
2594 posts

I am back from the first half of this adventure. We had a reasonably nice drive from Minnesota to Gulf Shores, in spite some quite nasty midwest weather. Thank goodness we delayed our departure. I can't imagine what it would have been like to be in a ditch in Wisconsin with the 50 other cars with two older folks and a dog! We had an absolutely lovely time in New Orleans. Mom and Dad were able to walk more than I thought, and I wore out the dog and mom enough that they were happy in the hotel room in the evenings! That left dad and I to "trip the lights fantastic" as he told his buddies. He loved the Fitzels jazz bar and we sat with some friendly folks. We popped into Napoleon house for a drink and a Muffaletta, as big as a dinner plate which fed the three of us with leftovers for the next day! During the day we ran into "Doreen's Jazz" on Royal Street. She has preformed around the world with her small dixieland type band and personally, I think she'd rival Pete Fountain on clarinet. She plays on the street because of that tradition of street musicians in NOLA. Anyway, as it happens, mom and dad saw her 25 years ago and loved her back then. They talked to her and she gave them a CD and all three of them were just delighted and chatting like old friends. We also ran into some other small bands during the day and dad liked to talk to these younger musicians about his high school days in a dixieland band. We found the public restrooms mentioned and a few more and were happy when hotels and restaurants were willing to let us use their restrooms. We discovered that Cafe du Monde allows pets on the perimeter of the table area. In a few weeks, I'll fly to Birmingham and help them with the drive home. I am very grateful for all your help with planning and the ideas for making this a fun time for my folks.

Posted by
4657 posts

Thanks for the follow up. Pleased to hear you arrived safely and all of you and the dog enjoyed New Orleans

Posted by
611 posts

Delighted to hear that all worked our for you and your parents - and pup - to have a great time in New Orleans! What a lovely gift to give your parents - memories to cherish! Y'all come back!