Known for its rich cultural history, delicious French and Creole cuisine and fun-loving attitude, New Orleans is often referred to as the ï¿½most uniqueï¿½ city in the United States. It is certainly one of the most popular with tourists, ranking among Americaï¿½s top 10 most-visited cities. Follow this guide to the cityï¿½s best eats and attractions, and it will be easy for you to see the reason why!
What to do
Founded in 1718, the French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, and easily its most famous. The lovely architecture and cafes make the French Quarter ideal for a daytime stroll or carriage ride, but itï¿½s the raucous nightlife that the Quarter is best known for. Thatï¿½s particularly true on the iconic Bourbon Street, which includes legendary watering holes like Pat Oï¿½Brienï¿½s Bar and The Old Absinthe House.
Locals also recommend Frenchmen Street, a less touristy four-block stretch of good drinks and arguably superior music. Some of the most popular spots include The Spotted Cat, Three Muses and d.b.a.
The New Orleans area offers both urban excitement and thrilling wildlife, thanks to the Louisiana bayous. There are several companies offering guided swamp tours, which provide visitors with scenic and educational trips through the bayous on airboats or flatboats. If the sight of snakes or alligators is likely to make you nervous, though, it might be best to stay on land!
Where to eat
There are many classic dishes associated with New Orleans, and plenty of restaurants across the city serving up definitive versions of each staple. For example, the undisputed champion of beignets is the French Quarterï¿½s historic Cafï¿½ du Monde, where the fluffy pastries are best enjoyed with a cup of cafï¿½ au lait (coffee with hot milk). See the full menu at http://cafedumonde.com/.
When it comes to po-boy sandwiches, the Parkway Bakery and Tavernï¿½s Golden Fried Shrimp Poor Boy is generally regarded as the best in town. In fact, the unassuming bakery comes so highly recommended that President Barack Obama ate there with his family when he visited New Orleans in 2010. See whatï¿½s on offer at http://parkwaypoorboys.com/.
Other essential eats include the fried chicken at Willie Maeï¿½s Scotch House, the seafood gumbo served up at Dooky Chaseï¿½s in Treme, and for truly adventurous diners, the fried frog legs and goose fat fries at The Delachaise.
Where to stay
Located just blocks from the French Quarter, the Ritz-Carlton is a classic hotel offering up the kind of old world charm that many expect from NOLA. Dublin-born chef Matt Murphyï¿½s in-house restaurant, M Bistro, provides farm-to-table and authentic New Orleans cuisine, while the adjacent Davenport Lounge serves up cocktails and live entertainment from trumpeter Jeremy Davenport. Despite the ritzy feel, the hotel can actually represent a good value, too, with rates in the summer sometimes dipping as low as $150. For more information, visit http://ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/new-orleans.
If you are looking for a more romantic getaway, consider the Soniat House, a quaint little inn that offers balconies, elegant and antique dï¿½cor and a beautiful, expansive garden courtyard. The Soniat House defines the concept of ï¿½Southern hospitality,ï¿½ with hot biscuits delivered to your room each and every morning. To make your reservations, go to http://soniathouse.com/.
Whether sipping on a hurricane cocktail or supping on seafood gumbo, you are sure to discover both excitement and relaxation in the Big Easy. Plan your trip today, and go discover why New Orleans remains one of Americaï¿½s favorite vacation destinations.