However you arrive—via tour, river cruise, port call or independent visit—New Orleans serves up a gumbo of hospitality. Louisiana’s soulful hub dishes out regional cuisine, masters of music, architectural beauty and culture rich in tradition and history.
Stroll boisterous Bourbon Street with a hurricane cocktail in hand. Bite into a sugar-dusted beignet served with chicory-laced coffee at Café du Monde. Gaze at gators from the safety of a boat in a bayou. It’s all happening here and there’s no better way to get to know New Orleans.
“The concepts of joy and revelry are so natural and ingrained,” says New York writer Jerry Shriver, who bought a second home in the French Quarter and collaborated with local restaurant queen Ella Brennan on her memoir, Miss Ella of Commander’s Palace. Commander’s Palace is a New Orleans institution; the restaurant’s jazz brunch, with stuffed shrimp and brandy milk punch, comes highly recommended.
But the Big Easy isn’t just about Creole cuisine and Mardi Gras madness. Visitors also rave about its vibrant musical scene and rich history. Here’s how to enjoy this iconic destination.
Travel Through Time
Ride a vintage streetcar; settle into a mahogany seat and disembark at destinations such as the Audubon Zoo. Admire brightly colored buildings and wrought-iron balconies while wandering the streets of the French Quarter. At night, the Quarter’s myriad live-music venues give it life; check out Preservation Hall and the Maison Bourbon Jazz Club, where Harry Connick Jr. played before he found fame. See the Garden District’s 19th-century mansions, or take a walking tour of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, which contains the Greek revival tomb of voodoo priestess Marie Laveau.
Roll on the River
Board a paddle wheel steamer, such as the opulent American Queen, to cruise the mighty Mississippi in antebellum style. Shore excursions in New Orleans include a tour of The National WWII Museum, which ranks as one of the city’s top attractions. Day trips include a plantation visit or a Cajun swamp tour. Or cruise to the site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans aboard the Creole Queen.
Savor the Flavors
Some come to eat, whether it’s a fried oyster po’ boy on a baguette, a shrimp-and-grits feast at Brennan’s, or an Italian muffuletta sandwich stuffed with olives, salami, ham, mozzarella and provolone at Central Grocery. The culinary bounty—influenced by French, Spanish, Caribbean, African and other cuisines—leaves visitors vowing to diet when they get home, and happy they had the chance to get to know New Orleans and its many flavors.