New Orleans has a romantic allure that stands the test of time. By night, the town moves to the toe-tapping sounds of Dixieland jazz, Zydeco (Cajun dance music), and intoxicating New Orleans blues. By day, the city offers enchanting nooks to explore and lots to do. The Cajun joie de vivre is extremely contagious.
Before You Go: Need-to-know info
Flight time: 3 hours from NYC, 4 hours from LA
Getting around: Bus, streetcar, taxi (United Cab is recommended). Driving can be tricky due to traffic and lack of parking.
When To Go: New Orleans at its best
Best weather: Spring and fall
Best prices: Summer and the Christmas holidays
The French Quarter: This eccentric neighborhood is the site of the original colony founded in 1718 by French Creoles. By day, you can poke around little shops, listen to rollicking street musicians, and peek into courtyards filled with flowers and art galleries.
The Garden District: Climb aboard the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar, the oldest operating streetcar in America, to soak up the peaceful green vistas and Victorian homes along oak-lined St. Charles Avenue, which links the French Quarter, Garden District, and Uptown areas.
Creole & Cajun eats: Must-tries include crawfish etouffee, gumbo, shrimp Creole, Muffuletta, Bananas Foster, and Po’ Boy sandwiches. Other faves include the renowned jazz brunch at Commander’s Palace in the Garden District or the Napoleon House Bar & Cafe, Mr. B’s, Galatoire’s, and Nola (one of Emeril’s restaurants) in the French Quarter. Slippery, ice-cold Gulf oysters are the ultimate aphrodisiac. Shoot and slurp some at Acme’s raucous bar, the mellow Felix’s across the street, local favorite Casamento’s, or nearby Pascal’s Manale, a clubby restaurant that serves Italian-Creole concoctions.
Beignets & Cafe au Lait: Visit the legendary Cafe Du Monde in the French Market for a powdery and piping-hot beignet — the Creole version of a fried doughnut — and a creamy cafe au lait. Bonus: It’s open 24 hours for post-party pickups. Don’t forget to take home some coffee with chicory.
Legendary Music: The driving rhythms of accordion and washboard fill the French Quarter at night; just check out whatever catches your ear. Catch a few jazz sets at the Storyville District or blues at the legendary House of Blues, both in the French Quarter.
City & River Tours: New Orleans has a rich history best discovered on a walking, boat, or bus tour. Themes include the French Quarter, Garden District, architecture, plantations, literary notables, cemeteries, ghosts, vampires, and voodoo haunts. A bayou cruise on a paddlewheel steamboat brings alive the Louisiana swampland and its subtropical beauty, or a dinner jazz cruise allows you to discover the mighty Mississippi.