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Hello from New Orleans!
Every year for the last 3 my fam travels in for our holiday celebration, and let's be honest - take any family - even one that's been plenty of times before - to New Orleans and the #1 thing on everyone's list: French Quarter boozing. It's fair. Half my family lives here, the others can't wait to get here, and in the spirit of keeping things sane I always create an itinerary with a list of other things to do before everyone arrives (keepin' 'em off the streets ya know).
Ask most people about their New Orleans knowledge and it's all beads and Bourbon Street... or that one time at Mardi Gras... and if they haven't been, that's what they want to know about. But truly: there's soooo many other beautiful ways to experience this city. And to me, it's the most magical time of the year (maybe even above Mardi Gras... GASP). I mean it though: the twinkly lights, the fog rolling in, the sometimes strange Creole or Cajun Christmas traditions, and the food - there's a pot of gumbo on at everyyyyybodies house from about the 22nd on. If you're visiting town and can't quite score an invite to a locals house for gumbo, Reveillon Dinners, a wonderful 19th-century Creole French tradition, are still celebrated in restaurants all over the city and are another brilliant way to enjoy the food of the city.
This year as I plan for our family time there’s 3 additional New Orleans to do's that are topping my list. Here they are, and if you find your way down here around this time of year (and I highly suggest you do) you won’t be disappointed.
Christmas in New Orleans
This may be one of the most glam things I'll do all year long. There's nothing quite as elegant as a Christmas Tea in a historical setting reminiscent of a royal. New Orleans has quite a few fabulous hotels offering Afternoon Tea, my favorite place for it: The Ritz Carlton Davenport Lounge. The Davenport Lounge hosts Tea 7 days a week, at 11 a.m. & 2:30 p.m., with a harp performance on the weekends. Reservations are required and can be made online.
This year the Ritz is offering a limited edition TEALEAVES Nutcracker and Organic Sugar Plum Fairy tea for the holidays (and I'm wrapping up the set as a gift AND giving away a set of the same over on instagram). My sister and I will be make a day of it, attending the Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker at the Sanger Theatre.
A Tour of the Lights
Canal Street, the original "Main Street" of New Orleans, and the old dividing line between the neighborhoods of the Creole & French-descended residents and those of the newer-arriving Americans (this is where the term "Neutral Ground" originated btw) is the center of New Orleans' lights. Start here, then take a walk over to the Roosevelt Hotel. The lobby runs for an entire city block and includes thousands of twinkling white lights. They're hanging from the ceiling and in the birch trees running along corridor, it's one of the most magnificent sights! From the Roosevelt, take a trip over to Celebration in the Oaks in City Park if you've got time, or stay at have a cocktail at the Sazerac Bar (okay, you knew there'd be some booze on the list).
Christmas Eve Bonfires on the Levees
This one is probably my favorite - and another Creole tradition: on Christmas eve bonfires (that take sometimes weeks to build) are set ablaze along the Mississippi River levees. The intention: to light the way for “Papa Noël,” the Cajun Santa Claus on his flight to Louisiana. Maybe I'm biased but I'm pretty sure this is one of the most beautiful Christmas traditions in America, hundreds of fires, families and so much wonderment. There's lots of places to enjoy the fires, our preference is a ways out of the city in St. James Parish - give yourself some time to get out there, and plan for a full evening of festivities and joy.
I'd love to hear from you guys! How are you celebrating?! And what places do I need to add to my list for 2018!?
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We’re heading to one of those magical Music City places where legends are made. It's a storied place that's launched superstar after superstar - where music makers and music lovers travel hundreds and thousands of miles just to get their fix (because after all, isn't the sound and the stage one of the truest loves?).
It was a cold evening in a sleepy Tennessee town, November 28, 1925, when across the AM air waves a radio announcer introduced Uncle Jimmy Thompson as the first performer on a new show “The WSM Barn Dance.” It was the show that made country music famous....
Yes. It's the Grand Ole Opry.
About two years ago Ben & I had one of our first Nashville dates: a cocktail hour in the backstage dressing rooms of the Grand Ole Opry. It was MAGIC! This weekend we had our second Opry date night, this time at the Ryman, the famous former home and winter residence of the Opry, for the full show experience!
I'm asked regularly:
What should I do in Nashville if I'm a lover of style
I can only make it to one venue where should I go?
My people, ya know and I've shared a post about that.
I'm asked what should I do if I've only got a weekend, and I've got a post about that too (and lots more in my book). There's truly so many ways to enjoy the city! Today I'm giving you a peek inside one of the best date nights I've had, and one of the most dazzling places in Nashville.
Go On Tour
We started our evening early to get a little Opry history lesson. To experience it all there are three tour options available: Daytime Tour, Post-Show Tour and the ultimate VIP Tour, where you’ll get to be on stage as the red curtain goes up before being escorted to your seats. (BRILLIANT.)
We checked out famous set lists and guitars and perhaps my favorite part was seeing designer to the rhinestone cowboy stars, Nudie Cohn's embroidered and embellished suits up close and personal. Nudie was the tailor to everyone from Johnny Cash and Graham Parsons to Dolly Parton and Elvis.
It's Wine Time
After the tour we stepped into Cafe Lula - named for the secretary turned manager of the Ryman - Lula C. Naff. Lula was hired in 1904, eventually going into the booking business on her own and finally taking her business savvy skills into the top position at the Ryman before her retirement in 1955.
We sampled several small plates, and I'd go back for the Smoked Gouda Chips alone. Try them. You'll love 'em.
Magic in the Music
To me, the beauty in any given Opry night is seeing country music’s newest stars, superstars, and legends take to the stage one after the next. The Opry showcases all types of music under the country music umbrella: hit country, classic country, bluegrass, gospel, Western swing, and more. In addition to having welcomed to the Opry stage virtually every top artist in the genre, the show also introduces special guests every single week.
On our night we experienced a special moment as Rory Feek, who recently lost his wife (and musical partner) to cancer, was joined by his two daughters on stage to sing a tribute song to her. We sang along to a quirky and hilarious version of "Let It Snow" by Opry members since '82 - the Riders in the Sky. We reminisced to childhood days as Restless Heart played their #1 hits from the 80's.
The show, btw is live broadcast (just as it's always been) on 650 AM WSM (plus online, on Sirius and on the Opry app too) and it was a treat to see the behind the scenes moments involved in the making of the radio show.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening was the surprise collaboration as Jason Isbell joined his wife Amanda Shires on stage (a serious talent and star in her own right!) to play guitar alongside her headlining performance.
Ben & I left the night with a new appreciation for country music, and finding ourselves fans to several artists that were totally brand new to us. It was also a magnificent reminder of the starshine that is the musical community that Nashville is made of.
Interested in Planning Your Own Opry Date Night?
The Opry highlights country talent past and present, including the likes of Minnie Pearl, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Little Big Town, Carrie Underwood, Darius Rucker, Brad Paisley and countless others. The Grand Ole Opry hosts a rotating cast of talent at its live shows every Friday and Saturday year round. Additionally, Tuesday shows run from February to October and Wednesday shows from June through August.
During the winter months each year, the Opry moves back to its most famous former home, the Ryman Auditorium. Cafe Lula is open daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and later on show nights.
Opry tickets, show information and tour details are available here.
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*this post was sponsored by the Grand Ole Opry; thank you to the Opry team for a brilliant evening. opinions as always, are mine.
This feature has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #DotComDIY #CollectiveBias
You know how you can just feel the fall coming? Even when it's still warm, and you're sure summer will never leave you... and then slowly, those blue-sky early-September days give just a hint of what's to come. There's a subtle breeze and all of a sudden it's time to get outside and feel that autumn euphoria. Of course, around here the only way to celebrate the change of season is with a road trip! Windows down drives to find a place where the mountain air gives you that little shiver of excitement for cooler weather.
This list is all the necessities to build your own road trip car care kit (right in time for those steep mountain drives and hilly terrains you'll experience on those upcoming fall travels!) Plus, as a girl who travels with her touring musician partner often, I've got a special concert giveaway at the close of the post! (hint, hint, my favorite music video ever is November Rain... can you guess what the giveaway is?!)
Read on for more, and at the close of the post learn all about why Pennzoil is my oil of choice.
Road Trip Car Care Checklist
- Paper Maps
- Motor Oil
- Jumper Cables
- Tire Patch Kit
- Water Jug
- First Aid Kit
- Work Gloves
- Bungee Cords & Zip Ties
- Flashlight / Batteries
- Rain Poncho
- Alcohol Wipes
- Utility Knife
The fabulous thing about this list, truly truly, you guys - is that it's all available for online ordering. We get our cars serviced at our local Walmart, and they've made serious improvements in their online shopping experience lately. Pickup options now include (1) delivery, (2) in-store pickup and (3) curbside pickup. I, for one, NEVER ever want to go brave the checkout line, so ordering online is my go-to. On those days I realize I forgot that one thing that I just can't travel without I chose the curb-side assistance. You just provide your name and the time you'll be there to pick it up, and a Walmart employee will bring your items to you. 🙌🏽
Keep reading to learn about my oil of choice and then find the details on that contest I mentioned above (have you guessed what it is yet?!)
More about Pennzoil:
Pennzoil High Mileage – This is what we choose for Ben's SUV, it's for vehicles with 75K+ miles (and we put tons of miles on that car). We also buy the Pennzoil Platinum Full Synthetic High Mileage for my car (it's just approaching the 75k mark. This product includes a revolutionary process that converts natural gas into pure synthetic base oil. Combining it with high performance additives means it's proven to deliver less oil burn off than conventional motor oils made from crude oil (and that's important to me!). It keeps pistons up to 20% cleaner than the toughest industry standards to help keep the engines running clean and performing strong. These oils are made with the mission of keeping engines running clean and going strong.
Okay! Now about that contest!
You'll also receive $10 Ticketmaster Ticket Cash with the purchase any 2 qualifying Pennzoil Motor oil (in-store or online) by uploading your receipt.
I can't wait to see where you all are traveling this fall, be sure to keep tagging me when you're sharing on insta! #AWanderfulLife! And keep following along, I've got lots of fun adventures to share with you guys this fall!