New Orleans is a sultry, soulful place with serious strength of character. From the music, architecture and history to the cuisine, cocktails and cemeteries, it’s easy to fall under the Crescent City’s spell. The city’s lineage as a melting pot of African, American, Caribbean, French, and Spanish cultures can be seen, heard, and tasted at every turn, while the sounds of streetcars and brass bands evoke a bygone era. Today, NOLA is experiencing a renaissance of sorts as previously underutilized neighborhoods undergo transformation and creative hubs like the Bywater continue to expand and thrive. There’s simply more to love about this already magical city than ever before.
Check into the elegant and whimsical Maison de la Luz, a new gem located in the Warehouse District. It’s close enough to walk to the French Quarter and Mississippi River, while being a bit removed from the hustle and bustle. The extraordinarily appointed 67-room Atelier Ace guest house feels like something out of a Wes Anderson film. The rooms are spacious and bright with high ceilings, plush accents, quirky art, and enormous marble bathrooms. Expect true Southern hospitality from the warm, friendly staff. The old-fashioned ritual of turning in your key before you leave the property encourages interaction as you come and go.
The inviting public spaces—exclusive to hotel guests—are a sight to behold, between the blue- and-white Breakfast Room and the eclectic Living Room, where wine and cheese are served nightly. The icing on the cake at Maison de la Luz is the secret speakeasy off of neighboring hot spot, Bar Marilou. Hotel guests can hide away in the dark, cozy room and enjoy bar service with the flip of a switch. Or, join the public in the main bar by entering through a hidden library door.
Legendary Café Du Monde is a must for beignets and chicory coffee. Elizabeth’s in Bywater and Café Fleur De Lis in the French Quarter are solid breakfast options. Experience the iconic jazz brunch at Commander’s Palace. Savor a leisurely weekend brunch at La Petite Grocery on Magazine Street—it’s equally excellent for a romantic dinner. N7 is a hip, off-the-beaten-path neighborhood eatery known for lively, French-inflected feasts. Family-run Dooky Chase’s Restaurant is an institution for Creole cuisine and Parkway Bakery & Tavern sets the po’boy standard. In the Warehouse District, James Beard Award Winner Compère Lapin is a highly coveted reservation. Pêche is a standout seafood-centric restaurant and its sister restaurant Gianna specializes in contemporary Italian. Just steps away from Maison de la Luz, Seaworthy is a cool spot for oysters, cocktails, and late-night snacks.
It’s all about the music in New Orleans. One of the most storied venues to listen to traditional acoustic jazz at is the intimate Preservation Hall in the French Quarter—book “Big Shot” seats online in advance to guarantee a front row vantage and avoid waiting in line for one of the three nightly shows. Frenchmen Street in the Marigny district is the area to go for quality live music of all genres, minus the overdone debauchery of Bourbon Street. You can wander in and out of the many music venues such as The Spotted Cat Music Club, d.b.a., Apple Barrel, and Cafe Negril, and join the impromptu dance parties when young brass band members take over the intersection of Frenchmen and Chartres Streets. Thursday nights at Vaughan’s Lounge in the 9th Ward are legendary for live music.
Of course, there’s much more to see and do beyond music. Take advantage of the bike-friendly topography and explore the neighborhoods on two wheels with Social Bikes, which are conveniently parked all around the city. Ride the streetcar from the riverfront to the Garden District. Shop and stroll along Magazine Street in the Lower Garden District, then admire the stately residential architecture in the Garden District. Tour the historic above-ground cemeteries such as St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Have your palm read in Jackson Square. Book a river cruise to get out on the Mississippi. Wander through the New Orleans Museum of Art’s Besthoff Sculpture Garden. Visit Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo on Bourbon Street. Find a second line parade to join. And don’t forget to have a mint julep on the verandah at Muriel’s Jackson Square.
Photos courtesy New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau