Destination: New Orleans
GET A NEW (ORLEANS) LEASE ON LIFE
NOLA. N’awlins. The Crescent City. The Big Easy. By any name, we're into New Orleans big time. The music, the food, the culture, the history. And yes, the world-famous libations, which sparkle with an originality and flair all their own. We humbly submit it’s the party capital of America, if not the world.
From Jazz in the French Quarter to legendary Creole cuisine to a lively arts culture, it pulses with excitement year-round. Fair warning: summer, which stretches from April to October, can be brutally hot. But fear not, there are plenty of indoor attractions and events with air-conditioning. Those who brave the summer heat should always have ice water, sunscreen, a hat and/or a collapsible umbrella on hand. The heat’s also the perfect excuse to treat yourself to one of the city’s famous "sno-balls," the lighter, fluffier cousin to your garden-variety snowcone.
New Orleans is a place full of resilience, heart and passion. And the folks there know a thing or two about how to relax, which we appreciate on so many levels. New Orleans fashion designer Andi Eaton says, “New Orleans as a city is relaxing in its own right. The pace is slow and breezy. No one is in a hurry and people are happy to sit and talk a while. … In New Orleans, time slows down a bit.”
One visit and you’ll fall under its charming spell. We sure have. Here’s why:
NEW ORLEANS’ BEST: THINGS TO DO
Let the Rhythm Move You
New Orleans is a music mecca, and Preservation Hall in the French Quarter is its temple to Jazz. Space is limited; arrive early for a good seat and soak up the city’s signature sound. Or jam out at the Balcony Music Club, a raucous showcase of up-and-coming local artists. For a mellower vibe, head to Frenchmen Street for popular hotspots like Three Muses, Blue Nile and d.b.a. And the Louisiana Music Factory, an award-winning indie record shop, boasts a vinyl-heavy collection that music buffs will love to get lost in.
Pay Tribute to the Past
History enthusiasts will find plenty to savor here. The Backstreet Cultural Museum is dedicated to the city’s heritage of unique celebrations, from Mardi Gras to Jazz funerals. Fans of the supernatural can book a cemetery tour and learn about New Orleans’ ornate tombstones, some of which date back to the late 1700s. And the National World War II Museum provides an in-depth look into the soldiers and vessels involved in this pivotal conflict.
Join in the Festivities
Late summer rolls on with eclectic events we love. On August 9, the French Quarter’s Red Dress Run for charity features droves of entrants dressed in its titular garment. Later that night is Royal Street’s Dirty Linen Night, an art walk where revelers wear the “same” soiled clothes worn to the previous week’s White Linen Night. Recreationalists can scope out the Southern Sportsman’s Festival and Expo August 15-17. And Labor Day Weekend brings Southern Decadence, NOLA’s vibrant, Mardi-Gras-style LGBT festival.
Get Your Game On
Heads up, sports fans: Starting August 17, Saints training camp is open to the public in nearby Metairie. And preseason games will rock the Superdome August 15 and 26. Or watch the Zephyrs, the local minor-league baseball team, from their pool(!) behind right field. Golfers can get in 18 holes at Audubon Park Golf Course, awarded 4.5/5 stars by Golf Digest. At Rock ‘n’ Bowl, the lanes are as hot as the live bands. And high rollers can try their luck at the casinos (there’s Harrah’s, plus two riverboats) or play the ponies at the New Orleans Fair Grounds.
Bask in the Great Outdoors
By foot, bike or boat, the city’s scenic spots are not to be missed. There’s City Park, a 1,300-acre marvel boasting mossy oaks, gardens, an amusement park and more. For picturesque statues, greenery and 18th-century architecture, pedal your way through Jackson Square. And if you’re craving adventure, you can meet some gators on the Jean Lafitte Swamp Tour – just keep your arms inside the boat at all times.
Be a Patron of the Arts
Fine art in NOLA is as rich and vital as the music scene. The New Orleans Museum of Art curates French, American, African and Japanese works plus a five-acre sculpture garden. Fresh, experimental creations await you at the Contemporary Arts Center, while the Ogden Museum features art of the American South and live music every Thursday night. And though the African American Museum of Art is currently closed for renovations, it still offers walking tours of the Tremé neighborhood.
Shop Your Heart Out
Choice shopping’s easy to find in the Big Easy. Founded in 1791, the open-air French Market houses a farmers’ market, bars, seafood, music and more. For art and antiques, Andi Eaton suggests the shops on Royal Street in the Quarter. Or try Magazine Street, where you can enjoy gelato, macarons or cold drinks as you window-shop collectibles. And for contemporary fashion, try the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk (which happens to be home to the local Tommy Bahama Outlet store).
NEW ORLEANS’ BEST: PLACES TO EAT
930 Tchoupitoulas St / 504.588.2123 / cochonrestaurant.com
Why we love it: Cajun-style cochon (pork) is masterfully prepared by chefs/co-owners Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski. Try the braised pork cheeks, pork ribs with watermelon pickles, or deep-fried alligator. A few steps away is its sibling, Cochon Butcher, a butcher shop, sandwich counter and wine bar all in one. (FYI: the street they’re on is pronounced “CHOP-a-TOO-liss.”)
1403 Washington Ave / 504.899.8221 / commanderspalace.com
Why we love it: This icon embodies the spirit and flavor of local Creole cuisine. Fun fact: Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagassi each served as executive chef there. Louisiana style blogger Jennifer Palpallatoc recommends their Sunday brunch (with live jazz) as one of the city’s top attractions. But no shorts or tees, please.
Café du Monde
800 Decatur St / 504.525.4544 / cafedumonde.com
Why we love it: Another local landmark, this 24-hour coffee-shop chain (founded in 1862!) is known the world over for its café au lait with chicory and French-style beignets. We recommend the original French Market location – perfect for grabbing a late-night snack after partying on Bourbon Street. Look for the green-and-white-striped awning.
301 Tchoupitoulas St / 504.299.9777 / restaurantaugust.com
Why we love it: Because chef/TV personality John Besh knows how to give French cuisine plenty of delectable twists. You may rub elbows with Hollywood stars between bites of the handmade potato gnocchi or pecan-smoked beef. And though the food’s on the pricey side, the wine list is more than reasonable.
209 Bourbon St / 504.525.2021 / galatoires.com
Why we love it: With its white tablecloths, brass chandeliers and formal dress code, this old-school French-Creole bistro brims with charm and class. Dishes like their Crab au Gratin, Oysters Rockefeller, and legendary garlic bread are why they’ve been a NOLA staple since 1905. Drop in for Friday lunch, which goes well into the evening.
123 Baronne St / 504.648.6020 / domenicarestaurant.com
Why we love it: Because we heart Italian food, and the inventive fare here does not disappoint. Executive chef Alon Shaya conjures wonders of pasta, pizza and cured meats, all in the renovated Roosevelt Hotel. And be sure to get in on their happy hour when pies are half-price.
6100 Annunciation St / 504.895.1111 / clancysneworleans.com
Why we love it: This classy Creole spot in Uptown can get a little noisy at times, but its understated décor and creative dishes are well worth the trip. Risotto with lobster, shrimp remoulade, peppermint-ice-cream pie... Are you hungry yet? We are. Reservations are strongly recommended.
NEW ORLEANS’ BEST: PLACES TO DRINK
The Sazerac Bar
130 Roosevelt Way / 504.648.1200 / therooseveltneworleans.com/dining/the-sazerac-bar.html
Why we love it: Because it's where the Sazerac, Louisiana's official cocktail (per a 2008 Senate proclamation, no less), was born. This part of the Roosevelt Hotel is also a big part of New Orleans history. Don't miss it. We recommend relaxing with its signature drink after dinner at Domenica.
214 Royal St / 504.523.3341 / hotelmonteleone.com/new-orleans-dining-entertainment/carousel-bar-lounge
Why we love it: This Hotel Monteleone icon is a carousel – but one that moves at a leisurely, New Orleans pace and has padded stools instead of painted horses. Favorite libations include the Milk Punch, Ramos Gin Fizz and a Sazerac some locals prefer to the one at a certain other bar in town. You be the judge.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar
941 Bourbon St / 504.593.9761 / lafittesblacksmithshop.com
Why we love it: Local legend says it’s the oldest bar in America and the former front for Jean Lafitte’s pirate-related ventures. Today, it’s a charming, candlelit piano bar that’ll have you half-believing you’ve traveled back in time. Signature cocktail: the powerful Voodoo Daiquiri, a.k.a. “the purple drink.”
Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits
600 Poland Ave / 504.948.9111 / bacchanalwine.com
Why we love it: A cab ride from downtown away, this neighborhood hangout in the Bywater District has the vibe of a party on your back patio. Highlights: a hearty wine selection (all smaller, Old-World-style producers), killer cheese plates, courtyard seating and a rotating roster of local bands.
4905 Freret St / 504.302.2357 / curenola.com
Why we love it: Housed within a converted fire station, this cocktail-focused bar is upscale without being snooty. Central to Freret Street’s revitalization, it boasts a massive liquor collection and innovative, well-versed bartenders. There’s even a doorman! Just leave the ball caps and shorts at home, gentlemen.
820 N Rampart St / 504.324.6045 / bartonique.com
Why we love it: Mixology magic is the star of this craft-cocktail destination. Small, intimate, and dimly lit (think dive meets resort lounge), this eccentric spot on the edge of the French Quarter is the antithesis of Bourbon Street’s hustle and bustle. House-made ingredients and regular specials make it a must-visit.
Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge
7612 Oak St / 504.861.2802 / snakeandjakes.com
Why we love it: Oft voted the best dive bar in town, this pretension-free joint’s festooned with Christmas decorations all year long. It’s tiny, smoky and always packed, but the cheap drinks are delicious and the jukebox is always rockin’. Tucked away in a residential area, it’s a bit tricky to find; even its website implies as much. Not for everyone, but heaven for those who dig its offbeat vibe.