New Orleans is one of the most exciting destinations in the United States, and a city everyone should visit at least once. While New Orleans had some difficult times following Hurricane Katrina, it has recovered nicely and is close to its old self. Famous for the French Quarter, Mardis Gras, jazz, seafood and the non-stop party atmosphere, New Orleans is a fun destination in any season.
Highlights of New Orleans
Here are a few of the must-see sites and attractions in this great city.
- The French Quarter –This is easily the most lively and exciting neighborhood n New Orleans. You can spend many hours, day or night, exploring the various shops, jazz clubs and restaurants of this colorful section.
- Jackson Square - One of the centers of activity in the French Quarter is Jackson Square, which has gardens, a beautiful cathedral and a constant whirlwind of activity such as street musicians, vendors, cafes and lots more.
- Preservation Hall –A building dedicated to preserving the rich musical tradition of New Orleans. You can hear jazz concerts almost every night. This venue is almost always crowded, so you have to get there early if you want to get a seat.
- Bike Tours –While you can see New Orleans by car, streetcar or on foot, bike tours are one of the best ways to see the city. Several companies, including FreeWheelin’ Bike Tours and Confederacy of Cruisers offer bike tours both day and night. Knowledgeable guides will take you through fascinating neighborhoods, bayous and local trails, allowing you to really get familiar with the city’s nooks and crannies.
- Garden District –This is the neighborhood that’s famous for its historic homes and mansions. It’s an area where you can stay or spend a few hours strolling or driving through as you admire the distinctive 19th century architecture and lush landscaping.
- Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve –This preserve makes a nice contrast to the hectic pace of the city. You can wander around scenic trails and see lots of beautiful fauna as well as wildlife such as alligators and a variety of birds.
Dining and Nightlife
New Orleans offers incomparable choices when it comes to both dining out and entertainment, which are easily combined here. You can just wander around areas such as the French Quarter and find plenty of amazing choices. We can, however, point out a few places worth seeking out.
Upperline is an elegant choice in the Garden District and offers an eclectic number of traditional and innovative entrees. You might sample the Taste of New Orleans, which includes 7 dishes.
The Rum House Caribbean Taqueria, on Magazine Street (they also own a restaurant in Baton Rouge) has a friendly, casual atmosphere and a menu full of delicious Caribbean specialties and a wide selection of drinks.
Cochon Butcher, which is an actual butcher shop as well as a restaurant and wine bar on Tchoupitoulas St, is great for sandwiches, sausages and other house-cut meats and terrines (a French specialty similar to pate, served at room temperature).
When it comes to entertainment, you can hardly walk three steps in New Orleans without passing a jazz club or a bar with great live music. Some of the more popular clubs include The Spotted Cat Music Club, Maison Bourbon Jazz Club, Carousel Piano Bar & Lounge and The Sazerac Bar, which is part of the Grand Roosevelt Hotel.
If you want to see concerts, plays or musicals, you can see what’s happening at venues such as The Civic Theater, Contemporary Arts Center, Preservation Hall or Saenger Theatre.
Where to Stay
Popular areas to stay in New Orleans include near the Garden District and the French Quarter, noisier and livelier.
The Omni Royal Orleans is a boutique hotel right in the French Quarter, within easy walking distance to everything. Another high quality choice in the French Quarter is the recently renovated Hampton Inn & Suites New Orleans Downtown. The Pelham is a nice old mid-range hotel in the central business district.
New Orleans also has many inns and bed & breakfasts, such as La Belle Esplanade, which is a short walk to the French Quarter. Maison de Macarty is a small and well-maintained inn located in the Bywater part of town, near the Mississippi River. A popular historic B & B in the mid-city area is 1896 O’Malley House Bed and Breakfast. Sully Mansion Bed and Breakfast is a charming B & B in the heart of the Garden District.