New Orleans, soon to celebrate its tricentennial in 2018, is a city rich in history, culture and tradition. For empty nesters or seniors who enjoy dining, live music and architecture, the Big Easy makes for a perfect vacation.
To stay in the heart of the action in New Orleans' famous French Quarter, The Royal Sonesta New Orleans offers elegant accommodations on Bourbon Street. For literary buffs, Hotel Monteleone on Royal Street has its own storied history and is an official literary landmark, once a favorite haunt of such greats as Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams.
Just on the other side of Canal Street from the French Quarter sits the Roosevelt New Orleans, one of the city's most historic hotels. Opened in 1893, the hotel has its own spa in addition to luxe accommodations.
In the booming Central Business District, Le Pavillon New Orleans and the Loews New Orleans are both great hotels in a trending neighborhood. Just down the street from the Superdome, both hotels are walking distance from the French Quarter and the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar line.
Along historic St. Charles Avenue, The Columns Hotel offers a blend of modern amenities and antique décor. The hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was once one of the grandest residences in Louisiana.
Degas House, a historic home, courtyard and inn on picturesque Esplanade Avenue, was once home to French Impressionist Master Edgar Degas during his tenure in New Orleans. The bed and breakfast features replicas of the artist's sculptures and paintings throughout the home.
Start off by exploring the historic Vieux Carre, or French Quarter. Learn about Spanish and French architecture and local history on a charming carriage ride, or peruse Royal Street for some of the best antique galleries in the country as well as performances by local buskers along the pedestrian mall.
For more shopping, head to Magazine Street, which offers six miles of boutiques, antique shops, galleries, restaurants and more.
For art aficionados, New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park is the perfect spot to enjoy art in one of the largest urban parks in America and an extensive collection of French and American art. If you'd rather stay downtown, head to galleries and museums surrounding Julia Street in the Central Business District, including the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans. For history buffs, The National World War II Museum is another great stop just around the corner.
To see some of New Orleans' most historic homes, head to the Garden District. Take a tour and enjoy the sights of mansions under sprawling oak trees and sidewalks lined with elaborate wrought iron fences.
If you want to be able to whip up some of New Orleans' famous dishes like gumbo or jambalaya when you get home, take a cooking class in the city. Many offer seasonal menus, and you can choose between demos and more interactive classes.
To get a firsthand view of the Might Mississippi River, board the Steamboat Natchez for a lunch or dinner cruise. The river is particularly picturesque in the evening when the sun sets over the city.
If you're interested in Louisiana's indigenous wildlife, including alligators and pelicans, try a swamp tour. Most swamps are about 45 minutes outside of the city, and many tours will pick you up from your hotel.
If you'd rather get out of the city to explore some of the South's most famous plantations, many of these historic structures are just 30 or 45 minutes beyond city limits. You can even hop on a tour that will take you to several nearby plantations.
For a classic Creole meal, try one of New Orleans' pillars of fine dining, such as Antoine's, Arnaud's or Galatoire's. For a traditional Creole brunch, Commander's Palace and Brennan's Restaurant are both incredible spots to enjoy a cocktail and leisurely meal.
Johnny's Poboys and Joey K's offer more casual New Orleans fare and are known for their poboys. For classic New Orleans dishes like red beans and rice or gumbo, check out Mother's Restaurant or the Gumbo Shop. Desire Oyster Bar in the Royal Sonesta New Orleans serves up fresh seafood dishes, and Central Grocery, the Sicilian grocery that invented the muffaletta (located at 923 Decatur Street), still serves up the famous sandwich daily.
You'd be remiss to leave New Orleans without tasting the city's famous beignets and café au lait, coffee with hot steamed milk. Both Café du Monde and Café Beignet serve up their own versions of each in the French Quarter.
To enjoy New Orleans' famous cocktail culture, check out some of the city's most famous bars. The Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt New Orleans is one of the most historic in the city, and the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone was a favorite of many literary greats, including Truman Capote and Ernest Hemingway. Napoleon House is another great cocktail stop, famous for their Pimm's Cup.
If you'd like to experience live jazz while you sip your cocktail, catch a show at Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse in the Royal Sonesta. Grammy award-winning trumpeter Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra hit the stage in this elegant club every Wednesday night.