The Nutcracker Ballet In Houston, Texas

The Nutcracker Ballet in Houston, Texas by the Houston Ballet will enchant and delight the whole family for years to come!  Houston Ballet’s annual performance of The Nutcracker Ballet is one of the most dazzling, magical versions of The Nutcracker you will ever see!    

To start your evening off in magical wonder, you can catch a lighted carriage ride in Downtown Houston.  When you arrive inside The Wortham Center, you can take a classic family holiday photo in front of one of the tallest, most bedazzled Christmas trees in Houston.

The Wortham Center lobby is filled with all kinds of memorable souvenirs and also hosts a gourmet pasta and salad dining experience before the show.  Patrons can also enjoy champagne and desserts while they wait.

The Wortham Theater stage is decorated in the finest regalia of the year. A beautiful golden frame filled with satiated cherubs adorns the stage around the stately red curtain.  

When the Houston Ballet Orchestra plays the first notes, the audience is hushed in awe of the glorious splendor of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.  Clara, masterfully played by Monica Gomez, delivers a first-rate performance.  The Nutcracker Prince, regally played by Connor Walsh, enchants every heart!  Aoi Fujiwara dances beautifully as the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Clara and The Sugar Plum Fairy make every little girl want to become a ballerina by their spellbinding performances!  

The orchestra plays the perfect rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker.  The costumes and the set are both magical and memorable as well!  And the entire cast in The Nutcracker presented by Houston Ballet is truly the “best of the best!”

We especially enjoyed the enthralling Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, Russian, Danish, English and French dances in Act II.  At one point during the performance, snow falls from the ceiling and sparkle confetti showers the audience at the end!

Rating: 5 Stars!  Absolutely “best of the best!”


Renaissance Festival in Houston, Texas

The Texas Renaissance Festival

The Renaissance Festival is one of Houston’s best-kept secrets.  Located about 45 minutes Northwest of Houston, The Renaissance Festival transports visitors into Medieval times.  Fairies, knights, princesses, and other costume-themed festival-goers fill the landscape with festive revelry, hearty fare, and unique shopping.  The Renaissance Festival also hosts an enchanting garden forest which gives visitors a serene respite and leisurely nature walk away from the crowds.  Camel rides, elephant rides and various children’s rides and games also attract many families looking for unique experiences in Houston, TX.

The Texas Renaissance Festival is fun for all ages!

See photos from the event here:

Rating: 5 stars!  Best of the best!


The Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market

Each year, The Nutcracker Market in Houston, Texas draws 100,000 visitors during it’s annual debut in November.  Merchants and artisans display colorful, festive and desirable gifts, apparel, jewelry gourmet food, and an abundance of holiday-themed items.  If you are looking for the ultimate Christmas-shopping destination in Houston, this is it!  

The Nutcracker Market is full of gifts and other items which glitter, sparkle, shine, and draw any shopper to a feast of wonders and delights.  

When we were planning to visit The Nutcracker Market for the first time, my daughter wisely asked me, “Mom, what’s your budget?”  I gave her an estimate.  “You know there will be sparkly things there, right?” she said.  She is savvy and astute because it’s so true!  The Nutcracker Market is a holiday shopper’s paradise!  It is the “best of the best” in holiday shopping.

The Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market presents a wide array of all-things-Christmas as well! If you want to have a special day with your daughter, a shopping outing with the girls, or a family shopping extravaganza for the holidays, this is the event for you!

The Nutcracker Market draws visitors of all kinds.  It is a wonderful Mama-daughter holiday event which can become a cherished tradition for years to come!  

The Nutcracker Market is presented by The Houston Ballet prior to its annual run of The Nutcracker Ballet.  Find out more about The Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market and The Houston Ballet Nutcracker at

Best of The Best: The Pacific Northwest – Washington State

Best of The Best: The Pacific Northwest

If you are looking for one of the most pristinely beautiful destinations for hiking and camping, we recommend the Pacific Northwest.  

The Pacific Northwest contains some of the most iconic natural beauty the United States has to offer.  We spent 12 days hiking and camping in Washington State.  It was one of the best travel experiences we have ever had.

What we loved most about it is that we were immersed in the beauty of nature in a landscape that was truly vibrant, pristine wilderness, and contained an abundant variety of picturesque natural beauty.

One of the questions we always have before we visit a place is, “Does it really look like the pictures we see online?  Or did someone photoshop it to make it look better or more beautiful or more colorful than it really is?”

We have traveled many places.  We have found that sometimes travel sites will market a beautiful beach but you get there and the water is not clear and turquoise blue or the forest is not vibrant green.  In the Pacific Northwest, it’s different.  These colors are true!  And we pride ourselves on taking authentic, actual pictures.  So what you see really is how it looks!  

One of the places I was most surprised in my travels is Antelope Canyon.  People have always photoshopped it!  The canyon looks very drab and is not vibrant in real life the way it is in pictures.  But as I said, regarding the Pacific Northwest, it really is vibrant and colorful!

We visited Olympic National Park, North Cascades National Park, and Seattle, Washington and surrounding areas.

Olympic National Park is an ethereal piece of paradise which draws Instagrammers and travelers, alike, for iconic photographable places.  

Olympic National Park is home to Rialto Beach, Hoh Rainforest, Lake Crescent, Shi Shi Beach, and Cape Flattery.  

Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach is reachable by visiting the Mora Campground.  We enjoyed camping at the Mora Campground.  When you hike to Rialto Beach, the coastline is rocky so you will need good water/hiking sandals.  We trudged through medium-sized rocks and occasional water for 1 1/4 miles to reach Rialto Beach from the parking lot.  It is important to know where you started from because if you go to see the sunset, on the way back, all the terrain tends to look similar at dusk and dark.  

Hoh Rainforest

Hoh Rainforest is a temperate rainforest in the Pacific Northwest.  The moss-covered trees and unique tree formations make it surreal and other-worldly.  Hoh Rainforest is highly promoted through marketing and travel and for this reason contained more crowds than any other place we visited.  

Lake Crescent

We especially enjoyed camping at Lake Crescent. Lake Crescent is a gorgeous, clear-water glacier lake with turquoise waters.  We enjoyed a delicious meal and dessert at the lodge there.  We camped at the Fairholme campground.  We originally thought camping in one of the forests would be our favorite camping, but it turns out Fairholme Campground was our favorite.  It offers an exquisite combination of forest camping and glacier lake views.  Our experience there was so peaceful and it offered great respite and renewal for anyone seeking to find a place to be still and take in the wonder of the Pacific Northwest in a beautiful setting.

Shi Shi Beach

Shi She Beach is located in a remote area near Cape Flattery in the Pacific Northwest.  To get there, it is a 12-mile round-trip hike from the parking lot.  We hiked through both dry and then muddy trails for several miles.  When you get to the descent, you will follow a long, steep trail down (and back up).  Once you reach the shore, you will need to hike almost 2 more miles to arrive at Shi Shi Beach.  

We are explaining this because it was not clearly described in most of the travel books and research as well as websites online.  Rather, it makes it seem as if going to Shi Shi is much closer and easier than one would plan or think.  This is important to know because it is a very isolated area and will be very dark on the way back if you get delayed.  All of this is part of the adventure, of course!  But it just requires knowledge and planning for you to have a wonderful adventure without those kinds of unexpected surprises.

We enjoyed experiencing the wonder of Shi Shi, its regal rock formations, immaculate tidepools, and solitude.  We brought a travel picnic along and one of our favorite moments on the hike was sitting on a rock eating our delicious travel picnic and immersing ourselves in the beauty of this pristine and tranquil wilderness.

Cape Flattery

Cape Flattery is located on the Northwest tip of the United States.  It is a place of iconic beauty and requires a fairly short hike to get to the well-developed trails and overlooks.  En route to Cape Flattery, we ate a delicious and hearty breakfast at a restaaurant in the Indian Reservation territory.  We also visited the grocery store – which contains a large totem pole on the outside.  When we camped in Mora campground a few days before, we heard a man a few campsites over conducting a Pow Wow.  It lent to an authentic travel experience in the area for sure!

Sol Duc Falls

We spent the night in Sol Duc Falls and hiked to the various waterfalls.  Sol Duc Falls is a beautiful park and contains a wide variety of flora and fauna.  Deer unabashedly grazed right next to our campsite.  Sol Duc Falls hosts a rustic lodge from the FDR era.  They have thermal waters (which are not in their natural form but rather have been converted to swimming pools).  The facility has showers to rinse off after your dip in the sulphuric thermal waters.  In addition to enjoying the beautiful waterfalls and bright green nature trails, we enjoyed a delicious skillet cookie at the Sol Duc Lodge restaurant!  Desserts are always a delight!  Especially when you get to sit and enjoy them for a refreshing pause after being on the go to fulfill your travel mission!

North Cascades National Park is the Northernmost remote park in the continental United States.  Mountain vistas, glacier lakes, and serene forests adorn this lesser-known wilderness.  We highly recommend it.  The park has a helpful General Store.  We enjoyed breakfast and dessert at a wonderful mountain bakery called 5bs bakery.  Everything is made from scratch.  The chocolate cake was especially decadent and rewarding after our hike through the North Cascades.  

Regarding North Cascades National Park, when you research online, there are articles about how North Cascades National Park is a dangerous park because of the sheer cliffs and remote location.  In our experience, we found it can be just as safe or dangerous as any other park; that often depends on the wisdom of the traveler or hiker.  

On travel safety, if a person takes great care to stay on the marked paths, they will have a greater chance of staying safe when hiking or climbing.  Regarding its remoteness, if you take bear spray, you will be able to defend yourself against bears or other dangers as needed.  In our experience, it was a remote and wonderful park.  We are so glad we visited.  When you read about park accidents or travel accidents anywhere, they are oftentimes the exception, not the norm.  Be smart, safe, and situationally aware and you will more than likely be able to enjoy a very wonderful time at this or any park.

All in all, our trip to the Pacific Northwest Washington State area was one of the best travel experiences we have ever enjoyed.  The region and its parks are truly the “best of the best!”

Rating: 5 stars!  Best!

Information you will need:

Olympic National Park

North Cascades National Park

Lounger DL Chair by Eagles Nest Outfitters

If you are looking for a “best of the best” portable lounge chair for camping, hiking and events, we recommend the Lounger DL Chair by Eagle Nest Outfitters.

The Lounger DL Chair is colorful, compact and comfortable. You can use it on daytrips to the park, camping, festivals and enjoying a leisurely afternoon in your backyard.  

When we tested it, we found that it is sized to comfortably conform to a man’s body shape and height, giving him maximum support.  The chair contains a pouch for your cell phone, sunglasses and wallet.  Kids and families alike enjoy the vibrant colors and relaxing design!

Rating: 3 stars!  Good!

You can find the Lounger DL Chair here by Eagles Nest Outfitters.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Houston Ballet

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, presented by The Houston Ballet, offers an intriguing and other-worldly look into Shakespeare for modernistic times.  The ballet transitions between a classical love theme to an almost sci-fi fairy-forest realm where time seems to stand still while a cacophony of love triangles arise and get sorted out among the various characters.

It is an intricately woven tale of love and woe and love again.  The Houston Ballet dancers perform masterfully and with memorable artistry.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs from September 8-17, 2023.

If you are looking for a pre-show dinner, the Houston Ballet offers custom pasta, gourmet bowls, salad, sandwiches and pastries.

Find tickets at

If you are looking for a post-show dinner or dessert, Table 7 Bistro features a wide variety of entrees and desserts.  We highly recommend the Shrimp Carbonara and the homemade carrot cake.  Table 7 Bistro is within a 10-minute walking distance from the theater.  Find out more at

Houston Interactive Aquarium and Animal Preserve

Houston Interactive Aquarium and Zoo with Mandy Seymour and Best Rated Reviews

We recently enjoyed a day to remember at the Houston Interactive Aquarium and Animal Preserve. We interacted with stingrays, starfish, sloths, lemurs and baby lemurs, snakes, toucans, and even an Instagram-famous capybara. We also met and fed an ostrich, anteater, otters, and emu. We fed a giraffe an entire branch of leaves! We even got a quick manicure from doctor fish!

If you are looking for a hands-on, highly-memorable experience, we recommend Houston Interactive Aquarium and Animal Preserve.

We visited with animal expert Brandon G., who is very knowledgable and well-loved by the animals. We appreciated his care and concern for animals and their preservation.

In addition to these adventures, my daughter got to ride a horse, pet a komodo-dragon-like reptile, and meet a mermaid!

Visit their website to find out more at

Here are some photos from our visit to the Houston Interactive Aquarium and Animal Preserve:

Houston Interactive Aquarium and Zoo with Mandy Seymour and Best Rated Reviews

We are grateful for the special time we enjoyed with these amazing animals.

We also give photo credit to Brandon G. for taking our photo with the capybara, birds, sloth and lemurs! Thank you for caring about animals and helping us to have memorable experiences with them!

We highly recommend a visit to the Houston Interactive Aquarium and Animal Preserve!


Best Rated Reviews

Best Rated Reviews features the “best of the best” in travel, leisure and related products.  Our primary audience is high-end luxury travelers who are looking for optimal travel and leisure experiences. Our travelers want to know, “What is the best lodging, attraction, or product for my money?”  We help them bypass the massive overload of online reviews and give them targeted recommendations from a source they know and trust based on our five-star standard at Best Rated.

The need for authentic, genuine, quality reviews is ever-increasing in today’s online marketplace where indiscriminate reviews abound that are not based on any clear standard related to the guest’s targeted travel and leisure values or preferences.  We cater to a growing travel and leisure clientele who do not have time or wherewithal to sift through endless online reviews to find what they want and need.  Instead, they are looking for a straight and efficient way to find the “best of the best” in travel, leisure and related products.  

“Best of The Best”

At Best Rated Reviews, we focus on the “best of the best” in travel, leisure and related products.  Our recommendations consist of good, better and best.  We recommend products  and services which meet our Five-Star Standard with a rating of good (3 stars), better (4 stars), or best (5 stars).  We focus on this standard exclusively because no one who is truly serious about travel ever sets out to make travel or leisure plans and says, “I just want to have a mediocre experience”.  Instead, they look for superlative, quality, memorable, highly-enjoyable experiences, places and products.  In short, they desire “the best of the best”.  

Our Five-Star Standard

Our five-star standard evaluates the following when we are making a recommendation:

  1. High quality – Lodging/acomodation evaluations: Does this lodging/acomoodation provide a high-quality experience for a luxury or experienced traveler?  Does it offer a delicious breakfast or fare made from fresh ingredients? Product evaluations: Is this product well-made?  Is it made of quality material?  Is it made to last?  Will it hold up for the purposes for which it was designed?
  2. Practicality – Lodging/accommodations: Is the lodging practical and conveniently located in relation to activities the guest intends to experience geographically?  Product: Is the product practically designed to meet the need for its intended use?  Is it well-thought out?  Is this product useful?  Is it well-designed to meet the traveler’s need or desire?
  3. Memorability — Lodging/accommodations: Is this accommodation memorable?  Does it stand out from its competitors?  Does it offer the guest or user a memorable experience when staying?    Products: Is this product memorable?  Does it stand out from its competitors?  Does it offer the user a memorable experience?  Events: Is this event memorable?  Does it stand out from its competitors?  Will a person be glad they spent their hard-earned money on it?
  4. Customer Service – Lodging/accommodations: Does this place offer good customer service?  Does this lodging have good hospitality?  If you encounter a problem, is the staff polite and professional in resolving it?  Do they take pride in their customer service?  Is staff genuinely engaged with travelers, making them feel glad they have visited?  Products: Does this company offer good customer service?  If something goes wrong with the product, does this company’s staff act efficiently, effectively and professionally to resolve it?
  5. Overall Satisfaction – Does this place or product offer lingering travel and leisure satisfaction?  Do you feel fulfilled by it when you think back to your experience?  Would you recommend it to others who share in high-quality travel and leisure values?

We are your online source for the “best of the best!” In travel, leisure and related products.  Experience the 5-star difference in recommendations! Visit us at

Best of The Best: The South

Mandy Seymour and Sarah Seymour visit Louisiana on a Southern Girls journey.

Momma-Daughter Road Trip + Travels During Covid-19

If you are looking for a “best of the best” getaway this summer or fall,  we have a recommendation for you.  In July 2020, we traveled from Houston, TX to New Orleans, LA and surrounding areas for an extended weekend getaway.  Many of our readers have been asking us where can they travel during Covid-19?  New Orleans and surrounding areas are currently open for business, travel and leisure.  We will share the details of our trip and our recommendations below.  But in summary, New Orleans and surrounding areas were highly Covid-compliant.  Each place we visited was clean, sanitary, and welcoming.  

This time around, we traveled as a Mama-Daughter duo.  On our roadtrip, we enjoyed the perfect balance of urban, nature, lively, and rejuvenating activities.  One of the best parts of traveling right now?  No lines.  No crowds.  And personally attentive service.

Alligator sighting with McGees Swamp Tours in Henderson, LA

Day 1

On day 1, we drove from Houston, TX to Henderson, LA and Lafayette, LA.  We spent 3 days and 2 nights in Cajun country enjoying the tranquility of nature and local attractions.  The first day, we visited the Atchafalaya Basin.  We went on a local swamp tour in Henderson, TX with McGees Swamp Tours

Our guide, Captain Skip, is one of the area’s most renouned experts on all things Cajun and all things swamp.  We highly recommend him!  During our swamp tour, we took a swampboat into the dense swamplands.  Captain Skip called out, “C’mon!” to the gators.  They knew the sound of his voice and that he was bringing them something delicious.  So one by one, they appeared and took turns coming over to the boat for a morsel of meat.  McGees also has airboat tours which are a high speed thrillride on the swamps.  But this Mama-Daughter duo wanted a more serene and engaging nature experience so we chose to go on the swamp boat tour. 

After our morning swamp tour, we visited Pat’s Fishermans Wharf for lunch.  We sat outside and enjoyed feeding French bread to one of their local alligators who heartily enjoyed eating it!  We ordered the seafood platter to sample  an array of Cajun seafood fare.  The seafood cakes were our favorite.
Bayou Cabins in Breaux Bridge, LA

We spent the night at Bayou Cabins in Breaux Bridge, LA.  The stay in the cabins was a memorable experience.  The cabins were built in the 1800s.  Each cabin has a rustic-yet-renovated feel.  Bayou Cabins owners,  Lisa and Rocky Sonnier, offer quintessential Cajun hospitality.  Rocky calls everyone child, a term of endearment in Cajun country.  He said, “Hey, Child. Come see this cabin build in the 1800s.”  The oldest cabin on the property was built in 1848 using cypress wood from the swamps and walls from mud and moss from the Bayou Teche.  A stay at Bayou Cabins comes replete with an authentic Cajun breakfast the next morning.  As we spoke with the owners, we learned that many people have come to the cabins to have a Covid-19 getaway while also being able to comply with social distancing.  We highly recommend a stay at Bayou Cabins.  

Editors note: We were expecting the cabins to be located in a remote area on the Bayou, but it is important to know they are located directly off of a locally traveled road so when you sit on your porch you will hear cars passing by.  As one editor commented, when they were built, they were located in a respite of nature!  The road was built later.  Staying in the Bayou Cabins is a truly unique and memorable experience.  We highly recommend them.

Breaux Bridge, LA

That evening, we decided to enjoy a dinner picnic on Breaux Bridge at sunset.  We bought sandwiches from a local sandwich shop and pastries from a local bakery.  When we travel, we bring our own plates and silverware in case we need it.  I first learned about “travel picnics” from Rick Steves.  He does the same so that he can enjoy a quick meal in a beautiful outdoor setting in case he’s limited for time to dine in a restaurant or just wants to make the most of the local scenery.  We bring plates, napkins, silverware and a mini ice chest with additional fresh fruit, milk, cheese and water for our journey.  During the time we visited, few restaurants were open in Beaux Bridge.  So we were glad to have packed our travel picnic wares.

DAY 2: Lafayette, LA + Jefferson Island, LA

We spent the next day in Lafayette, LA and Jefferson Island, LA.  When we arrived to Lafayette, we visited the Visitors Center.  We are glad we did!  The hospitality team gave us a friendly welcome and helpful information regarding what to do in the area.  The two most important pieces of advice we received: When you drive from Lafayette, LA to New Orleans, LA, take I-90 instead of I-10.  It will add 25 more minutes to the journey.  But it will reduce the risk of encountering traffic in Baton Rouge and other heavy congestion caused by lane closures, bridge closure detours, and other challenging circumstances along I-10. The travel advisors also recommended a visit to Jefferson Island’s Rip Van Winkle Gardens.  We took his advice and they are a beautiful respite for a Mama-Daughter outing.  

Rip Van Winkle Gardens in Jefferson Island, LA

We visited the Rip Van Winkle Gardens in Jefferson Island, LA in the late morning.  We enjoyed a scrumptious lunch at their local café.  We had a delicious seafood pasta and white chocolate bread pudding with white chocolate sauce.  

The gardens are home to 35 beautiful peacocks.  We looked for them during our stroll through the gardens.  On the day we were there, we found many of them perched in the oak tree across from the restaurant and others were roaming in a field.  We fed them some French bread and kettle corn we had bought at a local grocery store and bakery in Henderson, LA.  The peacocks were very friendly and loved it.

Mouton Plantation in Lafayette, LA

We stayed the night at Mouton Plantation.  Mouton Plantation is a historic plantation and currently-operating B and B in Lafayette, LA.  It’s host, Ravi, gave us a warm welcome and was very hospitable.  We greatly enjoyed our stay at Mouton Plantation.  The B and B serves a gourmet breakfast on fine china.  This plantation is open during Covid-19.  Mouton Plantation caters to international guests as well.  It is the number 1 Bed and Breakfast chosen by Europeans when visiting the area.  Mouton Plantation is a memorable and historic place to stay.  We highly recommend it.

Editors Note: During our stay in Lafayette, LA, we also visited the local Zoo and Vermilionville, a living history museum.  At this time, neither of these attractions met our “best of the best” good, better or best standard.  The living history museum received a “fair” rating and the zoo received a “poor rating” so we cannot recommend them as a “must see”.  The living history museum contains snippets of informative exhibits but many of the buildings were inaccessible during the working village tour.  Perhaps the place would have seemed more lively and enjoyable if they piped Cajun music throughout the village.  It was evident the town had put in a lot of effort to make a substantive effort to memorialize Acadian history.  It just needs some zest or more people to help it become more of a “living” history museum at this time.

Zoo of Acadiana

The Zoo of Acadiana received a “poor” rating.  We rated it “poor” because the animals were housed in squalid conditions, and they either had unclean drinking water or showed signs of hunger and thirst by licking their lips repeatedly.  Many of the animals seemed lonely, depressed, or just plain sad.  One notable attribute about the zoo is that it was in a natural setting.  More on the Zoo of Acadiana here.
Mandy Seymour and Sarah Seymour visit Louisiana on a Southern Girls journey.


On day 3, we traveled to New Orleans.  We traveled there via I-90 to bypass the I-10 traffic.  It was a relaxing drive replete with scenic Louisiana countryside consisting primarily of swampland and rice fields.  

Higgins Hotel in New Orleans, LA

We stayed 4 days, 3 nights in New Orleans, LA at the Higgins Hotel.  The Higgins Hotel is a part of the Curio Collection Hotels by Hilton.  The Higgins Hotel has stayed open and operational during the entire time of Covid.  They have carefully and conscientiously complied with all Covid standards for cleanliness and personal sanitation.

Higgins Hotel  has a rooftop restaurant and bar, Rosies on the Roof, which overlooks the city of New Orleans and serves local specialties. The hotel also has to-go options from Provisions, its local café which serves sandwiches, pastries and coffee.  

Rosies On The Roof at the Higgins Hotel New Orleans, LA

Most of New Orleans’ main attractions are within walking distance of the hotel.  The hotel also offers a package which includes free parking. Nearby restaurants are located within 5 to 15 minutes walking distance. You can walk to the French Quarter or Rivercenter Shopping area in 20 minutes.  Otherwise, parking is $8/hr. on average.  We reason, why spend money on parking when you could spend it on shopping, attractions, or dining instead? 

Cafe Du Monde Beignets

Our first day in New Orleans, we explored the French Quarter.  We took the trolley for $1.50/each way, cash only.  It dropped us off at Canal and Bourbon Street.  We walked from Canal Street to Royal Street and over to Café Du Monde.  Since it’s Covid time, Café Du Monde is open but only serves beignet and drinks in to-go containers.  We brought our own plates and I bought a souvenir coffee mug to enjoy my coffee au lait to the fullest.  During our time in New Orleans, we did a taste-test comparison between Café Du Monde and Café Beignet.  The beignets at Café Du Monde are truly superior to all other beignets.  They have a delicate and fresh flavor with no greasy aftertaste.


Sunday Jazz Brunch on the Natchez Steamboat in New Orleans, LA


Our second day in New Orleans, we enjoyed brunch on the Steamboat Natchez on the Mississippi River. During Covid, the waitstaff serves a sampling of the entire brunch smorgasboard.  We especially recommend the chicken and sausage gumbo and the bananas foster.  We visited Brennan’s and had Bananas Foster there as well. Brennan’s invented Bananas Foster. That evening, we enjoyed dinner at Tommy’s Cuisine, an Italian restaurant with Cajun flare.    The steamed mussels are succulent.  We highly recommend them. 

Brennan’s Bananas Foster

 After our Steamboat cruise and brunch, we explored the French Quarter.  In July 2020, most of the New Orleans walking tours were not in operation.  But we enjoyed exploring the city on our own.  Due to low crowds, we had ample opportunities to take photos to our heart’s content. In other words, during this low-volume travel season, it’s a great time for selfies and other travel photography in iconic places.  New Orleans has some of the best architecture and backdrops for memorable photos.  And wildlife cooperates, too!

WWII Museum in New Orleans, LA

DAY 5 

On our third day in New Orleans, we visited the WWII Museum.  The WWII Museum is located directly across the street from Higgins Hotel.  In fact, the museum and hotel are related to each other.  The Higgins Hotel is named after Andrew Higgins, the man who designed the Higgins Boat, a wooden vessel with a ramp which was credited with helping the U.S. to win WWII in Normandy, France.  These boats allowed the military to get the military into shallow water and unload on the beach of Normandy.  The soldiers then stormed the beach, climbed the cliffs, and overtook the enemy in order to win the war.  The movie The Longest Day depicts the D-day victory at Normandy.  The WWII Museum features an outstanding documentary film in 4-D which depicts the origin and reality of the war through heightened visuals, sound and motion.  

A stay at Hotel Higgins transports guests into the glories of victory.  WWII photos depicting the victory of liberation have been placed throughout the hotel as a tribute to this historic event and its impact on American values and freedoms.  

Staying at Hotel Higgins is more than a good night’s rest in a clean, comfortable hotel.  It’s an experience – meaningful, memorable and anchoring.  It anchors travelers in the depths of contribution New Orleans made to the WWII victory and also allows us to enjoy the pleasures of our everyday life in the here and now because of that freedom and democracy.

On our last day, we went shopping at the Riverwalk Outlet.  It was the perfect end to our Mama-Daughter travels.  We purchased clothing, handbags, and accessories in preparation for our next adventure and the coming season.  

Regarding travel during Covid, those who travel during this time experience more personalized hospitality, engagement with locals and their goods and services, and attentive detail to cleanliness which travelers always enjoy! Also, the Higgins Hotel took some of the best precautions we’ve seen regarding Covid-19 and guests.

We thoroughly enjoyed our Southern Girls road trip to the “Best of the Best: The South”. We highly recommend traveling to New Orleans, LA and surrounding areas both now and anytime. You’ll be glad you did!

Recommended Links:

Swamp Tour and Alligator Watching  with McGees Swamp Tours in Henderson, LA

Bayou Cabins

Mouton Plantation

Jefferson Island’s Rip Van Winkle Gardens

Beignets at Café Du Monde

Steamboat Natchez Brunch and Cruise

Stay at Higgins Hotel

WWII Museum

City View and dining at Rosies on The Roof in Hotel Higgins

Rivercenter Outlet Shopping

The Marriage of Figaro by Houston Grand Opera

By Mandy Seymour, Best Rated Reviews

The Marriage of Figaro presented by the Houston Grand Opera is an experience to behold!  We tremendously enjoyed an evening of world-class opera set to a Sevillan 18th century background with the unique addition of a 60s timeframe, costumes and dancing.  It was creative, compelling and not to be missed!

The Marriage of Figaro is a dynamic love story which incorporates drama, comedy, and stellar character depictions from some of Opera’s finest at Houston Grand Opera.  Nahuel Di Pierro plays Figaro.   Elena Villain plays Susanna.  Each role is masterfully performed.  

The premise involves an uprising of servants against their master.  For this reason, the play was initially banned in many countries when it was first written because it outraged the aristocracy.  This opera was composed in 1786 by magnificent Mozart.  His opera is based an original play by Beaumarchais.  

For information on The Marriage of Figaro and the rest of the season line-up from Houston Grand Opera, visit

Rating: 5 stars! “Best of the best!”