New Orleans’s got soul! Style! Respects tradition and quirkiness! This is a city for all of the senses: great food, drink, architecture, gardens, musicians, artists, writers, and museums. Pull up a chair, stay a while!
- Soniat House—Mimi’s Travel File personal fav! I have stayed here twice and loved it. Set in several adjoining 19th century French Quarter houses with two beautiful courtyards, this elegant boutique hotel is a 3-minute walk from Bourbon Street and an 8-minute walk from the French Market. PLUS they serve the BEST biscuits for breakfast! The rooms are traditionally decorated with antiques and the ambience is relaxingly elegant. (31 rooms)
- Windsor Court Hotel–The WCH is frequently touted in travel pub’s but I did not feel the love. I found it lacking in personality and warmth.
Vogue magazine (2016) likes:
- “Situated in the Garden District, the intimate Henry Howard Hotel, a gleaming white 1860s mansion (both built and named after the beloved native architect), feels like a friend’s house. Its 18 guest rooms are accented with custom toile wallpaper, second-line instruments, and poppy, whimsical portraits by artist Hayley Gaberlavage. Corner rooms 201 and 202 grant glorious balcony access, and come early evening, the light-filled parlor or shaded backyard garden are both ideal for a cocktail.” (18 rooms)
- “…the 35-room Catahoula Hotel, nestled in an iconic 19th-century Creole townhouse, retains exposed brick walls, original patinas, and candlelit courtyards. There’s also a rooftop deck, coffee shop, and café offering Peruvian small plates and plenty of pisco cocktails.
SEE THE SIGHTS
Vogue magazine (2016) suggests:
- “Ride a streetcar uptown to the crumbling, gothic-tinged Lafayette Cemetery #1, where the iron gates reveal a pathway framed by a double line of magnolia trees. A quiet stroll warrants hauntingly cinematic images sprinkled with perfectly worn, elaborate mausoleums and gravestones randomly peppered with loosely strewn plastic Mardi Gras beads. It’s a ghostly photographic portrait of the past, a decidedly beautiful depiction of lingering spirits.” (located in the Garden District)
- “Afterward, curate your own walking tour of the posh Garden District (or pick up a paper map at Commander’s Palace). Ramble along those narrow sidewalks flanked by stately oaks trees, shady magnolias, and leafy palms. Note the intricately designed wrought-iron gates and, behind them, the elegant, dreamy homes with stunning architectural styles from Neoclassic to Beaux Arts. The spooky bourgeois manor on Chestnut and First Street is where goth fiction queen Anne Rice once lived and gussied up her Southern occult novels. And nearby, the three-story, pink-hued Carroll-Crawford House, with its ornate cast-iron balconies, reportedly hosted lavish parties for guests like Mark Twain and Edgar Degas.
- “Back downtown, on the cusp of the Quarter, the funky, boho-meets-punk–flared vibes of the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods remain a creative, hipster hub with a quirky cast of characters. This diverse milieu calls for prime bike cruising exploration past rows upon rows of kaleidoscopic Creole cottages, where both locals and a recent influx of New Yorkers and Los Angeleno expats reside. And, if it’s the second Saturday of the month, pedal up Camp Street and over to the sweet Little Flea NOLA for vintage and resident artist wares, and afterward, pop into Hi Volt for a hit of coffee,” per Vogue.
- City Park–50% larger than NYC’s Central Park and “holds the world’s largest collection of mature live oak trees, some older than 600 years in age,” per Wikipedia.
- The St. Charles and Riverfront streetcar lines are a fun and easy way to see NOLA. Leaving the Garden District and traveling up St. Charles Avenue, beautiful Victorian mansions border the lush, oak-lined boulevards of Uptown New Orleans.
- The Cabildo is a Spanish colonial building on Jackson Square that houses a museum focused on Louisiana history. The Cabildo was the site of the Louisiana Purchase transfer in 1803, which finalized the United States’ acquisition of the Louisiana Territory and doubled the size of the fledgling nation. The Cabildo served as the center of New Orleans government until 1853 and the Louisiana State Supreme Court, and became a museum in 1908.
- Longue Vue House and Gardens is a stunning National Historic Landmark house with gorgeous gardens.
- Mimi’s Travel File Fav: Ogden Museum of Southern Art–Saunter through this fine fine arts museum with Morgan Freeman describing what makes southern art southern on your audio guide.
Gumbo! Crawfish Etoufee! Jambalaya! Muffulettas! Beignets! Po’ Boys! Order all these traditional NOLA foods and walk it off around New Orleans’ gorgeous neighborhoods. Mimi’s Travel File Insider Information: My longtime family friend who lives in NOLA and is a foodie–and KNOWS what he’s talking about–highly recommends:
- Herb Saint–Don’t you just want to sit on that upstairs balcony, eating glorious food and sipping a cocktail, while gazing at the views of New Orleans?!
- Kenton’s – Check out the seafood mousse appetizer with roe on top! They have really fresh fish as well as good steak and chicken dishes – but their menu goes with what the chef finds that is fresh and special that day.
- Baru – great for tapas – eat until you are almost full – and then order a crispy whole fish to finish it off! The food is “Latin Caribbean.”
- Galatoire’s – in the French quarter – Tip from my friend: “Ask for Shannon as your server.The only way to get served at Galatoire’s is to have a server!”
- Eat a Po’ Boy: The place for them is Parkway Bakery – – – – this is where they took Obama for his Po’ Boy.
- Elizabeth’s – go here for breakfast – many variants of eggs Benedict – and try the praline bacon
- Eat the BBQ oysters at Drago’s
- Casamento’s – This is THE place to go for oysters! But call in advance – because if the chef doesn’t like the oysters available that day – the restaurant doesn’t open that day. Gotta love their high standards!
- Mimi’s Travel File Personal Fav’s: Bayona and August, both with lovely food and ambience.
Vogue (2016) recommends:
- “The sophisticated uptown James Beard Award–nominated Cure whips up refreshing seasonal cocktails like the Maybe Always with a bright mezcal and negroni with hints of anise…
- While its downtown Caribbean-inspired sibling Cane and Table slings tiki-themed rum-centric drinks and fancy Pineapple Sazerac.
- The long bar at the hip, rustic Barrel Proof is for whiskey (more than 250 varietals) and beer.
- The vino-inclined head to Bacchanal, a wine shop and leafy outdoor space set amid a torch-lit backyard with live music.
- At the lively French Quarter landmark Old Absinthe House, vintage football helmets dangle from the ceiling and business cards are pinned to distressed walls. Sip the signature house frappe made with local Herbsaint, anisette, and a splash of soda.
- Saunter down the street to Arnaud’s French 75, a warm, wood-paneled bar known for its elegant namesake libation, a mix of cognac, champagne, lemon, and sugar. And, upstairs, the little-known Mardi Gras Museum houses a collection of elaborate gowns and costumes from the mid-1930s to 1960s.” Mimi’s Travel File loves this classic!
Vogue (2016) likes:
- “Of course, jazz is synonymous with New Orleans—just thank native legend Louis Armstrong for that. In the French Quarter, visit famous venues such as the tiny beloved Preservation Hall (est. 1961), run by local tuba player Ben Jaffe and famed for its standing room (and liberal BYOB) policy.
- Uptown, the unfussy, pressed tin–ceilinged Maple Leaf Bar retains its outstanding Tuesday evening Rebirth Brass Band concert.
- Away from the tourist-laden Bourbon Street, the alluring, indie-flared Frenchmen Street hosts a high concentration of cafés and clubs like intimate, old-school Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro, along with d.b.a. and the weathered The Spotted Cat Music Club.” My family friend who lives in NOLA highly recommends “Snug Harbor – they are always reliable – and an authentic NOLA Jazz place.”
- Mimi’s Travel File Fav: Rock ‘n’ Bowl–SO MUCH FUN! Live zydeco band plays to a packed dance floor while people are bowling mere feet away. The dancers are old, young, stylish, unstylish, black, white…all shapes, sizes and colors and all having a blast. (see below)
Vogue (2016) recommends:
- “For the design savvy, browse the assortment of mid-century goods like early Jens Risom chairs and ’70s Lucite table lamps at Loisel Vintage Modern.
- Nearby, Perch (click thru to its gorgeous web site) blends vintage pieces with seriously old antiques.
- The airy shop Loomed works with artisan weavers and stocks a bright, handsome mix of organic Turkish towels and lightweight scarves.
- In the lower Garden District, DVRA’s vibrant tropical pouches (think: banana leaves and pineapples) beckon summer (it shares space with Tchoup Industries and vinyl outfit Disko Obscura).
- And in the Quarter, brush up on American fiction and New Orleans history at the hidden literary landmark Faulkner House Books, where author William Faulkner once lived.
- Pied NU: This West Magazine Street boutique features clothing, jewelry, and housewares by independent designers and an aesthetic that’s one part Anthropologie, one part ABC Carpet & Home, and one part vintage. You’ll recognize some of the brands (think: John Derian and Aigle boots), but most are small and relatively unknown.
- Hazelnut is a quirky home shop beloved by locals and co-owned by Bryan Batt (aka Salvatore Romano of Mad Men). Come for the New Orleans–themed toile and stay for New Orleans kitsch like a King Cake Baby–inspired pin.
- Soniat House Antique Galleries: Like so many other businesses in New Orleans, this antiques shop is attached to a hotel (the Soniat House hotel). If, after a weekend in the Big Easy, you want to bring some of the feeling home, stop by to browse its collection of 18th- and 19th-century French furniture and housewares.”