Whether you've got one, two or three days in the Crescent City, this is our version of the ultimate tour. No post-visit shoulder shrugging over missing the good stuff. Right here, right now, here is the definitive New Orleans:
Start with a Light Breakfast
Reach right into the heart of New Orleans tradition and breakfast with cafe au lait and beignets, Café du Monde, just opposite Jackson Square at the French Market and open 24/7.
Take a City Tour
A professionally guided city tour is always recommended to see ‘The Big Easy." Sort out the many historic neighborhoods like the Vieux Carre, the Central Business and the Warehouse Arts Districts.
After the grand tour, lunch. Keep in mind that we treat food with reverence and panache here, so plan ahead. A few ideas: board a riverboat for a lunch cruise to see and feel the power of the Mississippi while sampling some Creole or Cajun specialties. Or, grab a muffuletta at the very aromatic Central Grocery (923-925 Decatur, across from the French Market), and picnic with your muffuletta by the river or in Jackson Square. Try the tantalizing gumbo at the Gumbo Shop, with its antique but casual ambiance and pleasant courtyard. Visit the Acme Oyster Bar for freshly shucked oysters and a variety of seafood.
The French Quarter...
By foot or carriage, Jackson Square has long been the heart of the city, flanked by the Pontalba Apartments, the Cabildo, St. Louis Cathedral and the Presbytere. Explore the markets: French, Flea and Farmer's - all in one long and colorful arcade at the French Market, and shop for great local New Orleans and Louisiana products, and tons of jewelry, voodoo dolls, carnival masks, arts, crafts and tchotchkes for gifts to bring back home.
The Dinner Bell Ringeth
Keeping in mind that dining is truly an art form in New Orleans, it is now time to prepare for dinner. If you're going to splurge, choose from such grand establishments as Arnaud's, Antoine's, Galatoire's, Brennan's in the Quarter, or new classic Tableau.
MUSIC, MUSIC, MUSIC
Inscribe two de rigueur experiences on your after-dinner entertainment agenda: Preservation Hall for Jazz and Pat O'Brien's for the courtyard and "hurricane" experience. Both are located side-by-side in the 700 block of St. Peter. Bourbon Street swings all night and into the wee hours.
In the Faubourg Marigny, Frenchmen Street is music central and two venues set the standards. Known as the "local's Bourbon," hot spots include d.b.a., Blue Nile and The Spotted Cat.
Cap off the night with a Pimm's Cub or cognac at Napoleon House, a landmark of old New Orleans where rumor tells us the man himself once secretly visited. Before turning in, stroll along the river that seems to vibrate with the sound of riverboat horns and the scent of sweet olive.
The Brunch Bunch
If you're looking for a dining experience at breakfast, give yourself time to linger at Brennan's. For more than 50 years, Brennan's has served up the definitive New Orleans breakfast - and don't forget to order the Bananas Foster! Or, try the Court of Two Sisters with its glorious court-yard and a daily jazz brunch.
Fill in the Gaps From Yesterday
Have your portrait sketched or painted by one of the several artists in Jackson Square; visit the historic houses you missed on Royal Street. Shop for collectibles, or head uptown to Magazine Street, lined with local shops, restaurants and more, for a change of pace.
The Garden District
At Louisiana Avenue, the Garden District tour begins. In Lafayette Cemetery, see how Orleanians spend the afterlife in sculpted monuments six feet over instead of under. When you've gotten the scoop on the myriad tales behind the Greek Revival, Victorian and occasional Creole facades, board the streetcar and check out other St. Charles Avenue landmarks.
Heading to the River
It's a short streetcar ride to Audubon Zoo, renowned for its inhabitants, for a wonderful Sea Lion pool, its Cajun swampland (with gators), and the white tigers, to name but a few.
Head Back Downtown
Watch for the Contemporary Arts Center at on the streetcar ride back to the French Quarter. The National WWII Museum is just blocks away and was named one of the best museums in the country. It's perfect for the whole family, especially history buffs and anyone who had a son, daughter or spouse that served our nation in the Great War.
May we suggest casual dining this evening? Try dinner en famille. Since l856 Tujague's has been serving family style meals. For a more modern affair, try Brian Landry and John Besh's Borgne, serving up internationally inspired seafood dishes. If you want a little more flavor with your food, try Cane and Table, one of the newest restaurants helming the city's Tiki renaissance. Or head uptown to Pascal's Manale for raw oysters, barbecued shrimp, and Italian cuisine.
Down for something funky, bluesy or Cajun and Zydeco? Put a couple of Crescent City originals on your to-do list. See if Fulton Alley is up your alley, where you can bowl or swing to rhythm and blues. Tipitina's is home base for the beloved Neville Brothers and a slew of other local stars and has long been one of the city's favorite dance floors. Lots of possibilities exist for a late-night drink. Try the Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop at 941 Bourbon, an 18th century candlelit cavern where the piano music is live, the lights are dim and the ambiance is easy.
Take A Plantation Tour