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Heaping bowls of gumbo, captivating French Creole architecture, and mesmerizing Dixieland music welcome visitors to the original birthplace of Jazz: New Orleans, Louisiana. Although it is widely known for its famous Mardi Gras celebration each year, The Big Easy offers countless other major attractions along with an eclectic culture and exquisite cuisine.
Visitors often flock to the French Quarter, the oldest neighborhood in the city, where they book reservations at the quaint boutique New Orleans hotels in this historic area. Bourbon Street, possibly one of the most popular areas of the French Quarter, features a strip that comes alive at night with celebrations, festivities, and arguably some of the best hotels in New Orleans located in the heart of all the nightlife action.
Some hotels New Orleans, Louisiana feature accommodations that may be best left for the brave of heart. Various haunted hotels in the area tell tales of spirits roaming the halls and checking in on guests at night. These hotels claim Confederate soldiers, Civil War prisoners, and 18th century children regularly make appearances, so only reserve hotel rooms at these locations if you’re prepared for a spook.
For guests more interested in a quiet getaway without uninvited visitors, the hotels in New Orleans near St. Charles Avenue offer accommodations close to the must-see, elegant antebellum homes and architecture. Some of the mansions on St. Charles Avenue were even converted into New Orleans resorts, where guests can book rooms and experience the upper-class lifestyle of the prewar Deep South.
Own-of-towners often book flights to New Orleans through Expedia to land at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in the Big Easy. Airport taxis offer rides to destinations such as nearby airport hotels and French Quarter hotels. For cheaper transportation, but a slightly longer commute, some vacationers choose to hop on the Jefferson Airport Express, which travels to the business district. At the airport, New Orleans travelers also have the opportunity to reserve car rentals to explore America’s Most Interesting City on their own terms.
For travelers driving themselves to New Orleans, I-10 is the main route that runs east to west through the city. Those driving from major cities on the east coast, such as New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, may want to break the drive up into two days as it could take between 15 and 20 hours depending on traffic and the starting point.
If visitors prefer to take a back seat, New Orleans does features both Greyhound and Amtrak stations for convenient travel, while the LA Swift bus and Megabus service New Orleans as well.
Trying to drive around New Orleans may be more hassle than it’s worth as it’s sometimes difficult to find not only inexpensive parking spots, but parking spots in general. Fortunately, The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) offers a convenient and affordable means of exploring New Orleans with both bus and streetcar service. The RTA buses currently run 32 routes while the streetcars feature three lines: Riverfront, Canal Street, and St. Charles.
For the travelers who want easy point A to point B transportation, countless cabs are on hand to provide quick service. Meanwhile, in areas such as the French Quarter, walking is the one of the simplest ways to get around, and some streets even offer bicycle rentals for faster commutes.
Things to Do
Visiting the French Quarter while vacationing in New Orleans is a must. The historic neighborhood itself might be small, but it packs in a ton to see and do within its boundaries. In addition to the French Quarter hotels, the historic Jackson Square often hosts live music, as Royal Street features art galleries and shops, and Old French Market presents colorful street vendors. While strolling around in the district, check out the Musee Conti Wax Museum, the Old U.S. Mint, and Madam John’s Legacy to learn about the history of the town. The notorious Bourbon Street is also located in the French Quarter, and although it receives most of its attention for its partying ways, the eight-block strip offers quality local cuisine for the culture seeking tourists.
Sampling New Orleans’ traditional grub is a must do in and of itself. Make New Orleans’ staple, gumbo, your soup of the day, and treat yourself to beignets, commonly called the French doughnut, for dessert. Other bucket list menu items include jambalaya, Andouille, po-boys, bananas fosters, and praline.
And for those really set on tasting New Orleans’ delicacies, dare yourself to chow down on expertly cooked insects at the Bug Appetit Buffet featuring goodies such as chocolate chirp cookies at The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. This insectarium is the largest museum dedicated to insects in the United States. Though it may not be a stop for the squeamish, this fascinating exhibition features more than 50 live exhibits showcasing the often overlooked critters of our world. For an experience unlike any other, wander into the Butterflies in Flight exhibit for the opportunity to flutter around with hundreds of gliding butterflies.
After braving the bug grub at the insectarium, kick back with a live jazz performance. Jazz has its roots in The Big Easy, from the epic music clubs lining Frenchmen Street to the influential and renowned Preservation Hall, there’s never a shortage of toe-tapping tunes in the streets and venues of this city. New Orleans also hosts major music festivals each year, including the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the end of April, Essence Music Festival in the beginning of July, and the Voodoo Experience during the start of November. Listening to this town’s top crooners is a favorite thing to do in New Orleans among visitors and locals alike.
Arts & Entertainment
During its early days, New Orleans was unique in that it was the only city in the U.S. which let slaves join the townspeople in making music. As the European sounds of the early settlers swirled with the slaves’ African rhythms, jazz music was born. Jazz became a signature a signature sound of New Orleans, and these rhythms and blue eventually gave way to rock and roll and later funk. The transformation of music in New Orleans continued to grow as the city’s version of hip hop, called bounce music, garnished interest in modern day. For an authentic music experience, catch a concert at Rock N’Bowl, a signature bowling alley with a stage, or leave the French Quarter hotels and tourists behind and join the locals at The Spotted Cat for some jazz.
While New Orleans may lead the pack when it comes to music, it certainly doesn’t lack any in the visual arts department. In fact, the New Orleans Museum of Art is the city’s oldest fine arts institution featuring nearly 40,000 works of art. Considered one of the best art exhibits in the south, the Museum of Art boasts an eclectic variety of American, French, African, and Japanese artwork.
Native Americans inhabited the New Orleans territory during its early beginnings, but by the late 1600s, French explorers arrived and used the area for trading and fur trapping. For the next 100 years, the land was controlled back and forth between France and Spain, until the U.S. eventually acquired it in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. After the purchase, New Orleans faced several years of turbulence with the Haitian Revolution, War of 1812, and the Civil War, before finally getting on its feet during the Reconstruction. At this time, the upper class lived in lavish plantations, some of which featured floor-level mirrors, where the women could check to see if their ankles were showing to avoid appearing flirtatious or risqué. Just imagine what these early New Orleaner women would think of women’s clothing, or lack thereof, at the city’s annual Mardis Gras festival these days!
As the 20th century approached, New Orleans was now a slightly more socially relaxed, multicultural mecca busy experimenting in the jazz scene with extraordinary musicians performing in the hip nightclubs and dance halls. The city then later received attention for its racial integration struggles and court cases, which led to major social change in the southern establishment. In more recent times however, New Orleans is a celebrated diverse city destination, proud of its early jazz roots and eclectic heritage. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, but the city has since been committed to restoring itself to its pre-hurricane glory with welcoming boutique and luxury hotels.
To locals, their NFL team, the Saints, is next to holiness. When Hurricane Katrina hit, the Superdome, the team’s stadium in downtown, was turned into a shelter for those who lost their homes. Despite these setbacks, the game must go on, and the Saints powered through the 2005 football season playing home games in other locations. The city renovated the Superdome by the 2006 season, and that same year, the Saints went on to win the playoffs, and later in 2009, the team won its first Super Bowl Championship title.
During the 2001 NBA season, the Charlotte Hornets relocated to New Orleans, gifting the Louisiana city a basketball team of its very own. But just as the New Orleans Hornets were getting comfortable down south, the team once again buzzed and fluttered elsewhere. The Hornets spent two seasons in Oklahoma before returning to their queen’s nest in New Orleans. After much rearranging and relocating, however, the New Orleans NBA team has since decided to drop the Hornets name and now plays under the name of the New Orleans Pelicans.
We say, “nightlife,” you say, “Bourbon Street.” Every New Orleans travel guide boasts about Bourbon Street, as there is undoubtedly a strong association with this strip and the nightlife scene, as the street primary caters to locals and visitors looking to knock back a few and let loose at the tempting night clubs and bars. By day this area is a quaint sleepy strip, but by night this street truly comes alive, opening the doors to burlesque shows, gay bars, and all-night parties.
New Orleans features an expansive variety of things to do after the sun sets, as the serves up some of the spiciest Cajun dancing and hottest cabaret performing. Stop in a comedy club for a good laugh, or sing along with the dueling pianos at the various lounges. This Louisiana city is the place to go for after-hours entertainment in the Bayou State.
New Orleans is a top destination for foodies. Often referred to as the Cajun Country, this southern city features an entirely unique cuisine with influences and flavors from the city’s early immigrants. Take beignets, for example, these famous fried sugar-covered dough desserts date back to the French-Creole colonists, while muffulettas, popular Italian meat sandwiches, are attributed to the Sicilian immigrants who flocked to New Orleans in the 1880s. Because of these eclectic persuasions, the Crescent City fare is best characterized by French-Creole, Italian-Creole, and Cajun-inspired cooking.
While crawfish etouffee, red beans and rice, and jambalaya are New Orleans signature dishes, there are countless other culinary experiences sure to excite your taste buds in this city. For vacationers in the mood for additional international cuisine, check out the African, Chinese, Cuban, and Mexican options, while Japanese, Latin American, and Indian food is available as well. Spoil yourself to the al fresco dining nostalgic of the outdoor cafes and restaurants you may find in Europe for a dining experience your belly and taste buds won’t soon forget.
Antique treasures, one-of-a-kind art canvases, and intricate handcrafted jewelry define the shopping scene in New Orleans. When vacationers stay in New Orleans hotels, they take shopping to a whole new level, avoiding the cookie-cutter shops of traditional malls, and instead sifting through the antique shops, flea markets, and art galleries. From Royal Street and Magazine Street to the French Market, visitors have a plethora of vendors, boutiques, and galleries to explore in search of unique souvenirs.
Royal Street is a charming stretch lined with antique shops and art exhibits, where trinkets from New Orleans’ 19th and 20th century estates are on sale. This street is so popular for antique finds, the Travel Channel dubbed it the “World’s Best Street for Antiquing.” Magazine Street is another colorful shopping destination, featuring a six-mile strip with more antique vendors, as well as chic boutiques and art galleries. New Orleans also presents French Market, the nation’s oldest public market, which is a flea market with rows of art, clothing, and jewelry stalls.
New Orleans has a mind of its own when it comes to alcohol, which in some cases surprise visitors accustomed to specific bar closing hours and open container limitations. In this southern city however, there are no requirements for when a bar needs to close at night, so some bars stay open around the clock, while others are open until 4, 5, and 6:00 am. Additionally, the only open-container laws pertain to glass and cans, which means guests can roam the streets with plastic containers of alcohol. Many vacationers here also quickly learn the definition of a “go-cup,” allowing them to transfer their beverage from a glass to plastic cup before heading out the door. Though the laws here may be different from other U.S. cities, remember to drink responsibility and don’t ever wander off alone through the city.
Mardis Gras is usually the first image to pop up when New Orleans is mentioned, but contrary to popular belief, Mardi Gras is in fact a family event. Often referred to as the “Greatest Free Show on Earth,” it is a celebration with picnics, parades, and floats, where kids pick up the tossed stuffed animals, toys, and beads thrown into the crowds. For a kid-appropriate celebration, stick to St. Charles Avenue and around Napoleon Avenue and Lee Circle and stay in New Orleans hotels off the beaten path. The big party scene with alcohol and scandalous costumes occurring during the same time takes place in the French Quarter, where there parade does not go.
Personalities & Culture
New Orleans is truly a melting pot with a number of different cultures stirred up together to create the urban folk scene of this colorful southern destination. Unlike in other early colonial settlements, New Orleans was unique in that the Europeans fused their culture with those of the slaves and American Indians. As a result, today New Orleans is a city still heavily influenced by native American, Caribbean, African, and European cultures. And because New Orleans is proud of its diversity, travelers can expect festivals, food, and music performances in celebration of this eclectic society.
Just as the Crescent City strongly differed from the other colonial settlements during its early days, it also varies from other nearby southern cities. So much, in fact, some refer to New Orleans as a Caribbean city rather than a southern city. While New Orleans vacationers will find friendly and welcoming locals, just as in other southern cities, visitors do notice the New Orleans accent is not the same southern drawl spoken in neighboring states. Instead, New Orealians speak with a distinctive accent unique to the city, sounding neither Cajun nor like the typical southern tongue. For an up-close-and-personal look at the culture, hop on a New Orleans cruise to explore every crevice of the city, listen to the individual accents, and experience the diversity at its finest.
Weather & Climate
New Orleans boasts a subtropical climate, which means the city doesn’t experience a harsh winter. During the winter months, New Orleans temperatures average around a comfortable 62 degrees Fahrenheit, so don’t expect the balmy temperatures featured during the summer months. Though the temperatures don’t plummet in this city, they certainly do rise. In the summers, vacationers will want to brace themselves for humidity and high temperatures, as July averages temperatures around 91 degrees Fahrenheit each day.
For the mildest temperatures, vacationers like to book New Orleans hotels between February and May before the sweltering heat rolls in. Meanwhile, September and November offer relief and comfort from the steamy summer months as well. Autumn features a pleasant climate, but this season does tend to attract hurricanes, so keep this in mind while booking your vacation and pack an umbrella just in case! Though when it comes to booking a trip to the Big Easy, the choice is easy, too, as any time of year offers comfortable temperatures and a never-ending supply of entertainment from crayfish boils to that signature Dixieland music.
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