My family and I painted the town red down in Lou’Orleans over the New Year’s holiday. We just returned from a trek through five states to arrive in the Big Easy. We traveled south through Kentucky to Tennessee, then headed southwest through Alabama and Mississippi before emerging through the border to Louisiana and finally reaching our destination spot, NOLA. Nine and a half hours of anticipation, excitement, and a little bit of claustrophobia and we were ready to explore a new city and cheer on our Cards.
Writing about our experience from a family perspective helps me relive how much fun we had. New Orleans was literally spread out across miles and miles of streets and intersections with the color red: Red for the University of Louisville Cardinals…Red for this great city: our beloved Louisville, Kentucky. I write this piece with the intent to express our hardcore fan ship for the Louisville Cardinals and how a family of four can take it easy, the family way, in the Big Easy.
From the beginning moments of our road trip when we immediately began seeing Kentucky plates with UofL Cardinal Decals all over the place, we were pumped. How fun it was to watch those cars pass by, or skirt past a few ourselves (we did have two kids in the car so we drove the speed limit.) Honking horns to each other, waving our UofL flags from our window tops, and greeting each other with the very popular “L” sign was just a rush of adrenaline. And not just for my husband and me, who really are two of those 25,000 diehard fans who drove 700 miles to be there for the team. Our 9-year-old daughter was just as excited about showing her spirit and loved it when adults did the “L” sign to her so she could display it right back. I think we have added #3 to our family’s diehard list.
We chose to stay outside of the city to save money and not be super immersed in the adult life of New Orleans. I came across a blog or two outlining some itineraries that were family-friendly and we mainly explored the riverfront and the French Quarter. I stood in a long line at the takeout counter at the world famous Café du Monde for an order of freshly made, authentic French beignets. My family and I each enjoyed one with chocolate milk and we sat on the steps of an outdoor seating area on Decatur Street and watched some street performers do their thing. I actually got called out by one which led the audience to incredible laughter and that was a fun memory-maker for my daughter and me!
We walked the French Quarter and stopped in a few shops along the way and saw the breathtaking St. Louis Cathedral. I packed free goodies from the hotel’s breakfast, snacks like muffins, oranges, and apples which we enjoyed while sitting in a grassy area along the riverfront. We watched barges go down the river (or is it up river?) We watched the Steamboat Natchez Riverboat pull away from the dock and listened to the steam horn blow as it rolled on by. While there, we dined on authentic red beans and rice, jambalaya, and gumbo as well as the best tasting seafood ever at Deanie’s Seafood. We enjoyed the fan fest at Jackson Square where the crowd was so tuned up for the team and it really showed. The Cardinal fans were everywhere, taking in the city and generating a lot of money into New Orleans economy.
We walked to Bourbon Street in the middle of the afternoon one day, just to say we did it. Got a picture on the corner under the street sign and turned around and left. It was, as I had read, not for families with kids. We had no intention of hanging out there; we just wanted the memory of saying we’d seen it. We ventured to the Riverwalk Mall and walked around there a bit the day that it was very chilly and raining. My daughter threw pennies into the fountain at Riverwalk, which was once again a very cheap way to entertain ourselves. We rode the free ride on the ferry across the river to Algiers Point and enjoyed watching the cars drive on and off the ferry.
And when it came to game day, we were part of that 1000 in the mob crowd outside the New Orleans Marriott as the players left the front entrance and loaded onto the team busses. My daughter, hoisted up on her dad’s shoulders, took it all in and later saw herself on someone else’s YouTube video and was beside herself over it. Our son, who is less than two, was asleep in his stroller the entire time. No, he won’t remember a thing about our entire trip. But he was a trooper and wore his red proudly. That was such a remarkable moment, being part of that crowd and cheering and chanting “Teddy, Teddy” over and over again.
We even found a gem of a deal for downtown parking at the Amtrak station; we parked all day in the passenger parking lot for $5.00, another big score for a family. It was within walking distance to the Superdome. As we approached the Mercedes Benz Superdome, we were in awe. Just knowing we were part of this big game gave us that really indescribable feeling you get deep down in the pit of your stomach. As the kickoff approached, we raised our white towels with the crowd and roared as loudly as we could. What a sound it created, but even more extraordinary was the sight of all of that red on our side of the dome. Wow, it was just simply, cool.
They say “Louisville First, Cards Forever.” It’s true. My family of four will be Cards fans forever. And we’ll take Louisville first, our hometown, and spread that pride again if we ever get the chance. It was a once in a lifetime experience for us. As we drove home, there were Louisville fans at every pit stop we made from Tuscaloosa, Alabama to the suburbs of Nashville. It felt like we were seeing old friends as we greeted strangers who had become buddies after that glorious win. I was reminded of home every time I saw a fleur de lis in New Orleans. They reminded me of Louisville, this river city that is home to my family and I hope always will be. Louisville fans, you represented well. Go Cards, and Louisville welcomed us all home warmly and safely late Thursday night, didn’t she? It sure was a refreshing sight for me.