New Orleans, Louisiana
I finally made it down to the great City of New Orleans and it was everything I hoped it would be: Unique, exciting, art-driven, friendly, unexpected and even a bit mysterious in its ways. There is simply no place like NOLA. And apparently a great many of you agree because the list of “favorites” filled up a nearly 7-page document I collected. It was simply overwhelming but I wanted to balance the cocktails-food-music with history-architecture-culture. So I will start with a few things that I did, and share the other suggestions I missed (The truth is, you have to just go with it. Relax into the flow of things and see where the day takes you)
Some highlights for me included tours with both the Confederacy of Cruisers to see more of the other neighborhoods (which included a better look at the Levy’s, understanding the chain reaction brought by Katrina) and ‘Free tours by Foot’ to get a historical overview of the French Quarter which was good (but felt long in the heat). There are a number of food tours (&cooking classes) to choose from too if that’s your thing. I was sad to run out of time before I got a reading from a local Voodoo Priestess (it’s all part of the experience, you’ll also see tarot cards readers everywhere around Jackson square, just part of the lively hustle) so that’s on my list for next time. While there were brass bands playing on the streets, I did not witness any Second line parades on this occasion, but you can look into upcoming events to see one. Spread your wings, there are many areas to explore in this city beyond the French Quarter, from the Marigny, to the Garden District & Uptown, see the grand homes and Lafayette Cemetery. Or see the incredible National WWII museum near by. It’s all just a street car trip ($1.25) away from the FQ.
The possibilities are endless, from Cajun to Creole cooking, to particular food items that are just done best in NOLA (I am looking at you, Cafe du monde and your delicious beignets). I had great lunches in the quarter at both Cafe Amelie (sit outside in the court yard) and Galatories (an institution). A glorious fancy dinner at August and an incredibly special brunch at Commander’s Palace (another institution). Check out Eater’s 38 essential New Orleans restaurants.
Ok, rule number 1 – Get OFF Bourbon street to avoid the drunken frat boys, and head over to Frenchmen street for a more local vibe, great music, bars and the night art market. You can’t walk a few steps without seeing a bar, so there are many options, but there are some unique stops for a classy cocktail including the The Sazerac Bar (in The Roosevelt New Orleans) and the Carousel Bar (in the Hotel Monteleone). I was told Preservation Hall was another legendary music spot, as long as you miss the tourist crunch, drinks at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar (one of the oldest bars in country) or Napolean House (ditto) is worth checking out.
This was not a priority for me but there are many shops in the both the quarter and along Canal. (I really only bought a bunch of hot sauce 😉 Personally, I visit UAL every chance I get for discounted designer finds – they have one in New Orleans in the French Quarter (others in Austin, and somewhere in Mississippi & Tennessee). Also, do stop into artists Ashley Longshore‘s fun studio on Magazine Street while you are shopping around!
Again, there are countless hotel options here in or near the quarter, but they do fill up fast with so many conferences & events in this City. Personally, staying right in the quarter could be a bit loud at night, so just skip to the other side of canal in the central business district – literally a block out, and chose from many options, or into the beautiful Garden District. I tend to stay with friends, or rent unique homes, but there are plenty or new (and old) place to choose from. Check out these lists from CN Traveler and Southern Living for the best of the best.