TAKING IT BIG EASY
By B.C. Rausch
New Orleans (NOLA) is a city of festivals, food and, above all else, fun. The Big Easy promises a sensory overload of unusual sights, a diverse music scene and culinary sensations. And while this city has faced its share of natural disasters, it’s the spirit and resiliency of its residents that keep it a must-visit destination.
Mardi Gras is NOLA’s most famous celebration, requiring planning and dealing with throngs of people. But there are festivals throughout the year to fit your interests, from Jazz to Essence, Voodoo to French Quarter, even playwright Tennessee Williams.
Once in town the best way to explore is on foot. Establish a home base and don’t rent a car (unless you want to explore the suburbs).
Locals suggest staying at Hotel Peter and Paul or Hotel Saint Vincent. And there are hotels for every type of traveler: The Chloe for the design lover; Hotel Monteleone or the Columns for the historian; The Ace or The Virgin Hotel for the jet setter; The Mazant for the “off-the-beaten path” crew.
By all means check out the French Quarter — once. It’s where the city was founded in 1718 by Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville and developed around the old town square. Many historic buildings remain, now interspersed with bars, restaurants and businesses. The Quarter is designated a National Historic Landmark.
The heart of the French Quarter is Bourbon Street (Rue Bourbon), famed for its drinking establishments, some with interesting back stories. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, built in the late 1700s, is the oldest still-operating bar in the U.S. Legend has it the Lafitte brothers used the bar as a front for their smuggling operations. Meanwhile, the red Hurricane cocktail was invented at Pat O’Brien’s Bar.
Another area usually busy with tourists and guided tours is the Garden District, with its live oaks and shaded lanes, streetcars and opulent mansions. LL
NONSTOP FLIGHT Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV) to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)
Duration: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Where to go
There’s tons to see and do in NOLA. Here are a few suggestions from locals:
• Domino Sound, Nola Mix and Euclid Records for the vinyl enthusiast.
• The Historic New Orleans Collection is a museum, research center and publisher dedicated to the stewardship and celebration of the city’s history and culture of the Gulf South.
• City Park, 1,300 acres of green space and home to the New Orleans Botanical Garden, New Orleans Museum of Art, Louisiana Children’s Museum and the largest grove of mature live oaks in the world, some nearly 800 years old.
• Crescent Park is great for a riverside stroll and the best vantage point to get a photo — and selfie — of the New Orleans skyline.
• The weekly, nighttime Frenchman Art Market is where to buy dazzling jewelry and other creative crafts produced by local and regional artists. Live music sets the tone for chatting with local artisans and taking in the treasures.
• The widely acclaimed National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won and what it means today.
• The cemeteries of New Orleans are unique, with concrete crypts and elaborate marble chambers built above ground since the city’s water level is so high. Guided walking tours are the best way to visit the final resting places of musician Al Hirt, Civil War General P.G.T. Beauregard and voodoo queen Marie Laveau, whose tomb is covered in triple Xs and trinkets left by those seeking her favor.
• The family-owned Perlis Clothing, a Louisiana tradition since 1939, is the place to go for a seersucker suit or crawfish-adorned apparel.
Where to eat
But since everyone really comes to New Orleans to eat, here are just a few highlights. Don’t be afraid to experiment on your own; it’s hard to go wrong.
• The Classics: Brennan’s, Brigsten’s, Clancy’s, Galatoire’s, Frankie & Johnny’s, Lillette
• Po-boys: Domilise’s, Verte Mart or Parkway
• Snoballs (also known as snow cones): Hansen’s Sno Blitz or Plum Street
• Beignets: Cafe Du Monde in City Park (without the lines found in the French Quarter)
• Boozy brunch: Atchafalaya, Country Club or Cane & Table
• For something different: N7, Nagomi (hard reservation to get), Paladar 511, Mister Mao, Saffron, Saba
Where to drink
Or maybe everyone comes for the drinks. Many were invented here, and many more are consumed—in a variety of vessels, atmospheres and quantities.
• For jazzy wine and cheese: Bacchanal
• For a front porch sipper: The Choe, The Columns
• For that perfect pour: Cure, Jewel of the South, French 75
• For dim lights: Barrel Proof, Bar Tonique, Sylvain, the Will and the Way
• Dive bars: R-Bar, Ms. Mae’s, Le Bon Temps Rouler, Vaughan’s Lounge
For more than a little fun, here’s where to go for music and dancing.
• World-famous: Tipitina’s
• Live shows: Toulouse TheaterJazz with red beans and rice; Kermit’s Treme Mother In Law Lounge
• Fun on Frenchmen Street: DBA, Spotted Cat, Blue Nile, Cafe Negril
• Dance party: The Saint, Saturn Bar, HIHO Lounge
• Only in New Orleans: Preservation Hall
Even though we live in paradise, the occasional out-of-town excursion is a treat. From Hilton Head and Savannah, we’re fortunate to have nonstop flight options that afford exploration of many popular North American destinations rich in abundant sights, sounds and flavors. LOCAL Life brings these nonstop cities to you through the eyes and recommendations of local foodies, shopaholics, sports fans and cultural aficionados who will ensure that your next out-of-town adventure is just that — nonstop.