By Kandia Johnson
The best vacations should include a touch of everything—culture, adventure, and relaxation. The city of New Orleans delivers on all fronts. The Big Easy promises a spectacular combination of beautiful architecture, mouth-watering Creole cuisine, vibrant nightlife, and luxury hotel spas that offer you more than just a place to rest your head.
From five-star gourmet restaurants to street food–inspired eateries, the city’s culinary scene is a force to be reckoned with.
With influences from France, Spain, Africa, Germany, and the Caribbean, every dish tells a story. A visit to New Orleans is not complete without tasting beignets at Café du Monde, king cake at Sucré, gumbo at Commander’s Palace, a muffuletta sandwich at Cochon Butcher, and rabbit and sausage jambalaya at Coop’s Place. For some down-home fried chicken, visit Willie Mae’s Scotch House. Head to the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone or the Sazerac Bar in The Roosevelt New Orleans for a Sazerac (purportedly invented here in the 1830s by a Creole apothecary) or a potent Hurricane, another classic New Orleans cocktail.
Many cultural attractions can be seen by simply wandering about. Among the array of architectural styles are cottages, grand mansions, and plantations dating to the 1700s. Make sure to hop on a streetcar to check out a few popular neighborhoods farther afield. The must-see Garden District is a step back in time, with its stately houses epitomizing 19th- century elegance.
Spend part of your stay exploring Jackson Square and Frenchmen Street, known for local art and live music. The world-famous French Quarter is the place to discover rich southern history, vibrant nightlife, and upscale shopping. St. Louis Cathedral, steps from Jackson Square, boasts beautiful stained glass windows and breathtaking statues, murals, and woodwork. Art lovers can head to the George & Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art, which displays art from the African diaspora by both emerging artists and established masters.
From live jazz to R&B and soul music, New Orleans is a center for year-round festivals, concerts, and round-the-clock music venues. Throw on your party dress and wedges (the streets of New Orleans will wreak havoc on high heels) and head to the Blue Nile, Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse, Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro, or Preservation Hall.
At the Shops at Canal Place, you’ll find specialty boutiques and upscale retail chains such as Saks Fifth Avenue, L’Occitane, Tiffany & Co., and White House Black Market. If you like the thrill of searching for a good deal on high-end fashion, check out the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk, a destination with wonderful views of the Mississippi River.
Perhaps the most under-the-radar attractions in New Orleans are its spa resorts. Several hotels offer a range of facilities, from ultraluxury spas to cozy retreats, for everyone, including travelers suffering from jetlag. Try the intimate Spa Aria at the Hotel Monteleone, or for all-out pampering, The Waldorf Astoria Spa at The Roosevelt hotel. DW