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A beginner's guide to New Orleans
No-one can seem to agree on a nickname for New Orleans. The city commonly goes by The Big Easy, The City That Care Forgot, The Crescent City, Nawlins', The Birthplace of jazz or one of a multitude of other monikers. But there is one undeniable fact that everyone agrees on: there is nothing like New Orleans anywhere else in the United States.
What to do
Exploring New Orleans' neighbourhoods is a great way to get to know the city, and the French Quarter is without a doubt the best neighbourhood of New Orleans to explore first. With their latticed balconies adorned with ferns, admiring the centuries-old brick buildings on Royal and Chartres Streets will keep you busy for hours. Ducking in and out of art galleries and historic bars like Pat O'Brien's is a great way to break up the tour. Pat O'Brien is the inventor of the famous Hurricane, and no trip to the French Quarter would be complete without sipping one at a courtyard table near their famous flaming fountain. Anchored by the iconic St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square and the nearby French Market are highlights of a French Quarter walking tour as well.
The nearby Faubourg Marigny neighbourhood offers a contrasting view, as the streets are quieter and the architecture is more Caribbean-influenced than the French Quarter. A trip up the St. Charles Avenue streetcar is a must while in New Orleans too. The streetcar will lead you to the Garden District, another stunning neighbourhood to explore which is home to many stately mansions that will take you back to the days of the Antebellum South.
After letting your eyes admire architecture, it's time to let your ears admire some music. From the time you touch down at the aptly named Louis Armstrong Airport, you'll notice that music is absolutely everywhere in New Orleans. Jazz, blues, and rock are found all over town, and taking in some tunes is one of the best things to do in New Orleans. The French Quarter once again delivers here as the home to the world famous Preservation Hall but the nearby Faubourg Marigny and its up-and-coming Frenchman Street also gets points for more local and intimate venues.
A final must while in town is to get into the Mardi Gras spirit. While the season only comes once a year, Mardi Gras World is open all year round and offers a real insight into the revelry and fantastic floats that make Mardi Gras in New Orleans so famous.
Where to eat
Eating is an art form in New Orleans, and the town is home to several dishes that couldn't be created anywhere else. Po' Boys, Gumbo, Jambalaya, Beignets, and Crawfish Etouffee are succulent staples. For a Po' Boy, Domilise's Uptown or Johnny's Po' Boys in the French Quarter will treat you right, and while Gumbo is found on nearly all menus, the Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter is seen as a standard bearer. For the sugary pillows known as Beignets, a late night or early morning stop at Cafe Du Monde is mandatory. As far as dinner with service and atmosphere that matches the elegance of the city, world class restaurants abound in town, but none says New Orleans quite like Commander's Palace, located in the heart of the Garden District.
Where to stay
Like most things in New Orleans, the French Quarter is the hub of the hotel world, but the nearby central business district is a beehive of activity as well. If you want to stay in the centre of it all in the French Quarter, the Hotel Monteleon is located on Royal Street, surrounded by galleries and art houses. The hotel is a luxurious escape and is well known for its Carousel Bar and Lounge, which features an actual carousel that rotates while you enjoy your drink. For those looking to stay in the Central Business District, Loews New Orleans is in a location near the Mississippi River, a quick scenic walk along the river into the French Quarter.