Our next article in the Spotlight Travel Series for the Trilogy Members brings us to a city that is teeming with history and culture. Whether you prefer a late night jazz club, a bowl of gumbo, or a stroll through a historic neighborhood, New Orleans provides endless opportunities for food and fun. In New Orleans, the parties never stop.
Why Visit New Orleans
Louisiana is one of the most unique states because of its heavy influences from Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean.
- The History: New Orleans boasts more historic districts on the National Register than any other city in the United States.
- The Architecture: With architectural gems like The 1850 House, St. Louis Cathedral, the Beauregard-Keyes House, the Longue Vue House and Gardens, and the many historic homes, mansions, and plantations, it is easy to recognize the historical and architectural importance of New Orleans.
- The Food: The blending of many different cultures in this city has resulted in a plethora of culinary delights. Choose from African, Cajun, Chinese, Creole, Cuban, French, Indian, Irish, Italian, Latin American, South American, Thai, and more. Louisiana is also known for its gumbo, seafood, and “soulfood.”
- The Attractions: The French Quarter, New Orleans’ oldest neighborhood, is one of the biggest attractions in the city, with its bars, clubs, architecture, shopping, restaurants, and culture. New Orleans is also full of museums, plantations, public parks, and squares, golf courses, lounges, theaters, and cultural centers. The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and the Audubon Zoo are among the best in the country.
- The Music: No trip to New Orleans is complete without a visit to a jazz club, watching street performers, or attending one of the city’s many music festivals.
When to Go
Any time is a good time to visit New Orleans because festivals occur every year, and most of the attractions are not seasonal. February brings Mardi Gras and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. In March, residents celebrate Soul Fest and St. Patrick’s Day and enjoy the Tennessee Williams Festival, the Road Food Festival, the Rhythms Festival, and a gumbo festival. Visitors head to the French Quarter in April for the French Quarter Festival and to celebrate the popular Jazz & Heritage Festival. Foodies flock to New Orleans in May for the N.O. Food & Wine Experience and the Greek Fest.
June kicks off the summer with three major festivals: the Creole Tomato Festival, the Cajun-Zydeco Music Festival, and the Louisiana Seafood Festival. July is the time to celebrate music with the Essence Festival, to have a little adventure with the Running of the Bulls, and to relax with Tales of the Cocktail. In August, the city tries to keep cool with Whitney White Linen Night and COOLinary New Orleans, while heating things up during Satchmo SummerFest. September is the time for Oktoberfest, Ponderosa Stomp, and the New Orleans Seafood Festival. In October, the city holds the New Orleans Film Festival, the Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival, the Voodoo Music Experience, and, of course, Halloween.
The city is still alive at the end of the year with events like the Swamp Festival, the Fringe Festival, the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival, and Words and Music in November. New Orleans celebrates Christmas and New Year’s Eve with citywide parties throughout December.
(Temperatures can be intense during the summer, so avoid June through August if you are sensitive to the heat and humidity.)
How to Get Around
There are so many ways to see New Orleans, including renting a bike, taking a taxi or ferry ride, hiring a driver for a horse-and-buggy ride, cruising on the riverboats, and more. Regional Transit Authority Buses are an inexpensive way to see the city. For $1.25 one-way you can get to most areas of town riding on one of thirty new, bio-diesel buses with large windows for scenic views during your ride. The city also boasts the oldest continuously operating streetcar in the world. There are three different lines: Canal Street, the Riverfront, and St. Charles, each of which originates downtown but takes passengers to different areas of the city. Pay the one-way fare with exact change when you board or pre-purchase a one- three- or five-day unlimited ride pass for $5, $12, or $20 respectively.
Where to Stay
B and W Courtyards Bed and Breakfast ($99-$250/night)
This boutique bed and breakfast in the heart of New Orleans’ historic Faubourg Marigny (adjacent to the French Quarter and four blocks from the French Market) offers ample rooms in an 1854 Creole compound landscaped with lush tropical courtyards, ponds, and fountains.
Grand Victorian Bed & Breakfast (from $150/night)
The Historic District Landmark Commission of New Orleans recently honored this bed and breakfast for its restoration efforts, and it was designated a Fodor’s 2011 Choice Property. The Grand Victorian is meticulously decorated with period furniture and antiques, while maintaining all the comforts of home. Located in the Garden District, the Grand Victorian gives easy access to most attractions via the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line.
Biscuit Palace Guest House ($105-$160/night)
Built in 1820, the Biscuit Palace Guest House offers visitors to the French Quarter a truly “Old World” environment with privately accessed apartments and suites with private bath rooms and excellent amenities. The guest house has a four-diamond AAA rating.
Where to Eat
Experience a New Orleans Jazz Brunch happening in restaurants all over the city. Try the Court of Two Sisters for a memorable mid-morning delight with great food and entertainment; or, dress up for brunch at Antoine’s Restaurant, known for its French-Creole cuisine and priceless memorabilia. Peruse objects from Judy Garland and Pope John Paul the II, as well as Mardi Gras treasures from the past.
Frenchmen Street is the place for authentic New Orleans food, and one of the best in the business is the Marigny Brasserie. Their menu offers “one of New Orleans most ambitious and creatively eclectic menus full of fresh seasonal ingredients prepared to order, and one of the most competitively-priced wine lists in New Orleans.”
Grab dessert at La Divina Gelateria on Magazine Street. Locals know it for its unique New Orleans flavors, like Peach Creole cream cheese.
Things to Do and See
New Orleans is best known for its historic architecture, music, and food. It’s impossible not to find something to do, see, or eat in this city, especially if you come during one of the city’s numerous festivals.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Walk down historic St. Charles Avenue to see the city’s oldest and most beautiful homes.
- Explore the French Quarter and Jackson Square, and perhaps take a carriage ride.
- Stroll through the city’s breathtaking gardens in City Park.
- Take a day trip to one of the area’s many plantations and experience life in the 1800s, when sugar was king.
- Spend some time in one of New Orleans’ many museums (of which there are over 45). Choose from The National World War II Museum, The New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park, Louisiana’s Civil War Museum, the Tulane Museum of Natural History, Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World, Besthoff Sculpture Garden, The Contemporary Arts Center, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and many others.
- Spend a day at one of New Orleans’ many spas, such as Pampered Soul & Body, Belladonna, or the Guerlain Spa, to name just a few.
- Watch the sunset at Woldenberg Park.
- Visit the Audubon Zoo or Aquarium.
- Spend the evening at the Palm Court Jazz Café or Pat O’s Patio Bar and listen to jazz while enjoying New Orleans’ finest drinks in a traditional French Quarter courtyard.
- Catch a flick at the Prytania Theatre.
- Rent a bicycle from Bicycle Michael’s on Frenchmen Street and ride along Esplanade Avenue to City Park.
- Take a ride on the Steamboat Natchez.
If you’d like to share the details of a recent adventure, a favorite vacation, or a memorable long-weekend trip with your fellow Trilogy members, please contact Celine Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org. New contributing writers to Trilogy Life Magazine are always welcome!
Article by Kristy Borowik