“America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” — Tennessee Williams
If you’re heading to New Orleans for Super Bowl XVLII, congratulations. It is a magical place. From the architecture, to the history, the food, the people and more, there is something to love at every turn. I adore the Crescent City for big events: Mardi Gras, All-Star Games, Final Fours, BCS Games, etc. The city knows how to handle the masses, the police officers are experts at crowd control and the proximity of all the facilities that house the events makes it perfect to get around town, even in bad traffic.
New Orleans is one of my favorite weekend getaways. We take that 10:30 a.m. flight on Southwest Airlines from Dallas and are enjoying lunch by 12:30 p.m. or 1:00 pm. It’s an easy place to visit from Texas, it’s super affordable even if you stay at the city’s most luxe hotels and is wonderfully walkable.
I visited about five months after Hurricane Katrina in 2006 and have been making at least three to four visits a year ever since. Here are some suggestions if you’re making your first trip or your 50th.
Hotels — while you’re a little late if you haven’t booked a room this week, here are some of my favorite hotels options:
- Ritz Carlton Hotel: Great location on the edge of the Quarter on Canal; gracious staff and one of the most affordable in the Ritz chain. My go-to.
- Marriott on Canal: Nice for a Marriott with a Starbucks in the lobby. Stayed here during NBA All-Star Game.
- International House: Great boutique hotel located in Central Business District. Very chic. Stayed here during Mardi Gras.
- W Hotel: In the Quarter and near the casino. Both are very “W-esque.” Quarter location has more charm. Stayed at both for fun and after Mavs traded for Jason Kidd.
- The Saint Hotel: A gorgeous, Marriott-owned new boutique offering next to the Ritz. My friend stays there. Great rates right now.
- The Windsor Court: Near the casino. Many NBA teams stay here.
Dining — if you have a bad meal in this city, it’s your own fault:
- Antoine’s: Claims to be the oldest restaurant in America. Gorgeous building in the Quarter and full of history. Go, if only to check out the building and see if you can get a tour of the wine cellar.
- Pelican Club: Fun Exchange Place location in the Quarter that serves delicious local cuisine.
- GW Fins: Popular, local seafood spot in the Quarter, consistently voted one of the best.
- Bayona: A foodie fave that is worth the wait, price and more. In the Quarter.
- Nola: In the Quarter near Jackson Square, one of Emeril’s more casual spots.
- Emeril’s: Popular, but good.
- Gautreau’s: Located in Uptown. Great seafood.
- Vizard’s: In Uptown on Magazine, good local cuisine.
- Herbsaint: In the Central Business district, serves French-inspired cuisine.
- Domenica: In the Roosevelt hotel, great pizza & roasted cauliflower.
Drinking — I’m not much of a bar person any more but do have a few faves:
- Napoleon House: For a Pimm’s Cup or Dixie to go. The bartender, Mario, is quite salty, but nice once he knows you.
- Bombay Club: Martini spot in the Quarter full of character. Like a British smoking club.
- Carousel Bar: In the hotel Monteleone, name speaks for itself.
- Bulldog’s: Sports bar with an awesome, dog-friendly patio on Magazine. Get a spicy bloody Mary to go and continue strolling the shops on Magazine.
- Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop: In the Quarter. Is it haunted?
- Old Absinthe House: On Bourbon street, see if you can find my business card on the wall.
- The Sazerac Bar: Good cocktails in the Roosevelt Hotel.
- Bar in the Ritz Carlton: A good scene, if anything.
- Shopping on Magazine: Head Uptown and check out all the fun shops along Magazine. Here just a few of my favorites — Hazelnut (great home stuff), Storyville (fun t-shirts), Probst decorating (LOVE her fabrics).
- Saturday Morning at the French Market: Just off the Quarter, unique Farmer’s Market-y vibe.
- Audubon Park: Take the trolley to the park and do the loop a couple of times. It’s just over two miles. You can also check out some of the beautiful homes that surround it.
- Antique shopping on Royal: Just window shopping is so much fun.
- Cemetery Tours: These are popular — I’ve never done it.
- Pirate’s Alley: The inspiration for 1,000’s of street artists.
This barely scratches the surface. Writer Rudy Maxa created an enlightening New Orleans walking tour a few years ago on iTunes. It takes you past Jackson Square, Truman Capote’s old home and more.
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