The Big Easy
New Orleans can feel a little bit like Paris or Vegas but it is unlike any other place on Earth. From Bourbon Street to the Garden District and Jackson Square, New Orleans feels cosmopolitan, old school, Southern, Cajun, genteel, and out of control all within the same city block.
Where to Stay:
Whether you are in New Orleans with your family, a guys/gals trip or a romantic getaway, the French Quarter is the best place to pick as a base of operations. If hotels are your thing, the French Quarter has a wide variety of get places ranging from the Luxury of the Ritz Carlton on Canal Street, your uncle's favorite - the Hotel Monteleone on Royal Street to the more reasonable Dauphine Orleans and Courtyard by Marriott. All great choices, but honestly...there is so much to do you will hardly be in your room except to sleep! Personally, we like ones with private courtyards... oases of quiet in the frenetic energy of the city.
What to Eat:
There are a few items that one must experience when spending any time in New Orleans and a Shrimp Po-boy and beignets are on top of that list. Beignets (fried dough covered with powdered sugar) can be found throughout the French Quarter, but the best known destination is Cafe Du Monde off of Jackson Square. They are incredible. Our son, after having his first beignet, asked us how much they cost. When we told him the price he shook his head and said, "I would pay $100 for these!" He was eight at the time and he wasn't wrong. On the Po-boy front, an entire article could be written about what is the best, most authentic, etc. Po-Boy in New Orleans. In fact it has here and here and here. So many options...just make sure you have one. From a restaurant perspective, one of our favorite restaurants in the entire world is in the Crescent City, GW Fins. Fins signature item is Scalibut which is scallop encrusted halibut served over risotto. It is rich, luxurious and 100% incredible!
What to do:
NOLA has something for everyone. The National WWII Museum is stunning and worthy of an entire day. For the kids, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, nestled on the banks of the mighty Mississippi has sharks, turtles and rays to name just a few. If you don't mind the creepy-crawlies, the Insectarium is well worth a visit. Interested in more of a macabre visit, be sure to check out one of the many cemetery tours. A great way to get to the cemeteries or view the lush Garden District is on a bike. Several companies rent bikes and since the Big Easy is quite flat you can get around without much strain. Leslie's dad swears by the Preservation Hall Jazz band, which harkens back to the era of New Orleans before Katrina... and was founded 1961 to protect, preserve and perpetuate jazz. And N'awlins wouldn't be The Big Easy without jazz and a vibrant music scene.
Maybe you'll find your Streetcar Named Desire, or you can try the St. Charles Streetcar Line, the oldest continuously operated streetcar line in the world. New Orleans is that rarity in the US, a city where you don't need a car. Oh and make sure to stroll down Bourbon Street during the evening, but if you have your kids in tow, maybe have them stare at their shoes...
One last thing:
New Orleans allows public consumption of alcohol so if you over ordered on wine, just get a ToGo cup and enjoy the vino as you saunter around perhaps as part of one of the parades that crisscross the Quarter.
Bon Voyage!! For those that have been, what are your favorite things about New Orleans?