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New Orleans
Inexorably altered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans was once called “The City that Care Forgot,” a nickname that aptly described its bon vivant atmosphere. It was always a melting pot of peoples and cultures, with diversity not merely recognized but celebrated. Out of this eclectic blend of...
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Introduction
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Inexorably altered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans was once called “The City that Care Forgot,” a nickname that aptly described its bon vivant atmosphere. It was always a melting pot of peoples and cultures, with diversity not merely recognized but celebrated. Out of this eclectic blend of French, Spanish and African influences came jazz, Cajun cooking and Mardi Gras. Built in an improbable location—on a swamp in a bend between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain—the Crescent City nonetheless became the fifth-largest convention destination in the United States, attracting 10 million visitors a year.


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Today, New Orleans is a city in recovery. The storm displaced half a million residents, and questions about rebuilding in a flood plain have yet to be resolved. Tourism remains the city's lifeblood. The French Quarter and Garden District, both built on high ground, escaped the levee breaches. Visitors can still expect the same charm, the same Creole hospitality, the same indomitable spirit that gave rise to the Big Easy's unofficial motto, Laissez les bons temps rouler. Let the good times roll, indeed.


In Depth
New Orleans, once described as an “inevitable city on an impossible site,” survived floods and disasters from its earliest days. Its location on a swampy patch between the mouth of the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain made it a vital—and vulnerable—port.

Famous for Mardi Gras revelry and Creole hospitality, New Orleans became a popular tourist destination. The Big Easy's nickname and its unofficial motto, Laissez les bons temps rouler (“Let the good times roll”), seemed to belie issues with poverty, unemployment or violent crime; even the political scandals were entertaining.


A complex system of levees, drainage canals and pumps kept the city dry but also caused it to sink below sea level. Hurricanes brought severe flooding, and experts warned that a direct hit would cripple the city. That prediction came true in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina. Lake Pontchartrain's levees crumbled, leaving parts of the city under water and 1,500 people dead.

Hope emerged, though, through grass roots recovery efforts. Rebuilding homes, restoring a distinctive cultural identity and preserving and nurturing a rich musical heritage are key to the city's revival.

Streetcars once again shuttle passengers down Canal Street and the Riverfront, and the St. Charles Avenue line's cars clang and sway along their 13-mile route—at $1.25 a sightseeing bargain. The French Quarter buzzes with activity; music spills onto streets, competing with sidewalk singers, gypsy violinists, saxophonists and the Steamboat Natchez's calliope.


Residents refuse to be overwhelmed by their troubles—a spirit that harkens back to the first intrepid settlers who called the Louisiana bayous home.

Founders Pierre and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne arrived in 1699, claiming the region for France. Slavery was introduced almost immediately, with African-Americans populating the Tremé neighborhood abutting the Vieux Carré, now a historic district incorporating Louis Armstrong Park, site of a slave gathering place. African and West Indian rhythms generated there contributed to the birth of jazz in New Orleans.

In the mid-1700s France ceded the city to Spain and the French-speaking ancestors of present-day Cajuns arrived, driven from Acadia (Nova Scotia) by the British and an impending civil war.

Within a month in 1803, Louisiana's ownership passed from Spain to France and then to the United States through the Louisiana Purchase. A clash of cultures commenced: The French kept to the Vieux Carré and the Americans to the Garden District.

Less than a decade later, the United States and England were at war. The invading army coveted the port and nearly captured it during the Battle of New Orleans, which pitted the British against Gen. Andrew Jackson.

Farming and a successful port made New Orleans a key Civil War target. Captured a year after fighting began, the Crescent City remained under Union rule until Reconstruction ended.

The Storyville district, created just outside the Vieux Carré to confine prostitution to one locale, flourished until 1917, and Bourbon Street's bawdy reputation arguably traces to a tolerance for promiscuous behavior. A more favorable outcome of the district was its jazz legacy—Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton practiced their music styles in Storyville bordellos.

Partying never ends in the French Quarter. Tourists still line up at Pat O'Brien's for fruity rum Hurricanes and music lovers queue outside Preservation Hall for Dixieland jazz. And traditional jazz funerals—where a brass band marches in a funeral procession, playing solemn dirges before launching into “When the Saints Go Marching In”—still take place.


 
About the City


City Population
343,829

Elevation
11 ft.

Money


Sales Tax
Louisiana's statewide sales tax is 4 percent; an additional 5 percent is levied in the New Orleans metro area, and Orleans Parish has a .5 percent tax on food and beverages. The city has a 13 percent lodging tax, plus an occupancy tax of $1-$3 per night. The state's car rental tax is 3 percent.

Whom To Call


Emergency
911

Police (non-emergency)
(504) 821-2222

Fire (non-emergency)
(504) 658-4713

Time and Temperature
(504) 828-4000 or (800) 555-8355

Hospitals
Interim LSU Public Hospital, (504) 903-3000; Kindred Hospital–New Orleans, (504) 899-1555; Ochsner Medical Center, (504) 842-3000; Touro Infirmary, (504) 897-7011; Tulane Medical Center, (504) 988-5263.

Where To Look and Listen


Newspapers
The main paper is The Times-Picayune. Gambit Weekly, Where Y'At and Offbeat Magazine highlight entertainment and local culture.

Radio
New Orleans radio station WWL (870 AM) is an all-news/weather station; WWNO (89.9 FM) is a member of National Public Radio.

Visitor Information

Jefferson Convention and Visitors Bureau

1221 Elmwood Park Blvd. Suite 411 NEW ORLEANS, LA 70123. Phone:(504)731-7083 or (877)572-7474


New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau

2020 St. Charles Ave. NEW ORLEANS, LA 70130. Phone:(504)566-5011 or (800)672-6124


New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation

2020 St. Charles Ave. NEW ORLEANS, LA 70130. Phone:(504)524-4784


Transportation


Air Travel
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is about 21 miles west of downtown New Orleans in Kenner and is served by nearly all major domestic and foreign carriers.

Rental Cars
New Orleans is served by several major car rental agencies. Arrangements should be made before you leave on your trip. Your local AAA club can provide this service or additional information. Hertz, (504) 568-1645 or (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members.

Rail Service
Amtrak uses the Union Passenger Terminal at 1001 Loyola Ave. Daily service is offered. Phone (800) 872-7245 for further information.

Buses
The Greyhound Lines Inc. bus terminal is at 1001 Loyola Ave.; phone (504) 525-6075 or (800) 231-2222 for schedule and fares.

Taxis
Cabs are plentiful in the main business and tourist areas. Average fare is $3.50 initially and ranges from $1.60 to $2 for each additional mile and $1 for each additional person. The largest companies are Checker/Yellow, (504) 943-2411; Metry, (504) 835-4242; and United, (504) 522-9771. Information about taxi service also can be obtained from the Taxicab Bureau at (504) 658-7102.

Public Transportation
Transportation by bus, streetcar and ferry is available in New Orleans.

 
Visitor Information

Jefferson Convention and Visitors Bureau

1221 Elmwood Park Blvd. Suite 411 NEW ORLEANS, LA 70123. Phone:(504)731-7083 or (877)572-7474


 
Getting There


By Car
Two major automobile routes enter New Orleans from the north. I-59, a four-lane controlled-access freeway, comes from Hattiesburg, Miss.; it is paralleled by two-lane US 11. North of Slidell US 11 becomes I-10, an east-west route linking New Orleans with Baton Rouge to the west and Mississippi's Gulf of Mexico beaches to the east.

From Jackson, Miss., I-55 leads south between lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain. It then connects with I-10 at La Place for the final 26 miles into New Orleans. The 24-mile, four-lane Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, a scenic route into the city, is accessible from both I-55 and I-59 via I-12; the toll is $3.

I-10 and US 90 are the main east-west approaches, running parallel east of New Orleans. US 90 passes through a series of beach communities; I-10 affords faster travel. US 90 follows Claiborne Avenue through the city, crossing the Mississippi River via the Huey P. Long Bridge.

Near the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, US 90 Bus. Rte. follows the Pontchartrain Expressway across The Crescent City Connection Bridge. Then, as Westbank Expressway, it runs through the suburbs to rejoin US 90 near Bridge City; the inbound toll is $1. I-10 offers expressway travel through the heart of the city and is the direct link to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport via a four-lane airport access road.

From the west, I-10 and US 90 are parallel or combined routes to Lafayette. From there US 90 takes a scenic, southerly swing through bayou country, and I-10, which is the shorter and faster route, heads for New Orleans via Baton Rouge.

Air Travel
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is about 21 miles west of downtown New Orleans in Kenner and is served by nearly all major domestic and foreign carriers. Citybound traffic exits the airport in two directions.

To connect with the expressway, exit the airport to the east and take Airport Road (not Airline Highway) north to I-10 east. After about 10 miles I-10 moves southward into town. Exiting to I-610 east will lead to the eastern leg of I-10. Another route into New Orleans is via US 61 east (Airline Highway), which is accessed just south of the terminal building.

The average taxicab fare from the airport to the Central Business District (CBD) is $33 for one or two people and $14 per person for three or more riders. Limousine service is available starting at $58 for up to two passengers. The Airport Shuttle has ticket booths on the lower level of the baggage claim area. Vans depart every 15 minutes from the airport and provide transportation into the city for $20 one-way and $38 round-trip; phone (504) 522-3500 or (866) 596-2699 for reservations. Jefferson Parish Transit Co. operates an express bus from the airport to Tulane Avenue and Elk Place Monday through Friday (fare $2), and to Tulane and Carrollton avenues Saturday and Sunday (fare $1.50); phone (504) 818-1077.

New Orleans is served by several major car rental agencies. Arrangements should be made before you leave on your trip. Your local AAA club can provide this service or additional information. Hertz, (504) 568-1645 or (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members.

 
Getting Around


Street System
The street system is determined by the natural boundaries of the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain. North-south streets are usually perpendicular to the lakeshore or riverbank, while east-west routes are more or less parallel to them.

Uptown means upstream and generally toward the river. Lakeside indicates the general direction toward the lake; riverside denotes the direction toward the river. Downtown, which encompasses the central business district, is east and northeast of Lee Circle.

The river-oriented part of the city falls within the triangle formed by Carrollton and Esplanade avenues and the Mississippi. Canal Street, Tulane Avenue and the Pontchartrain Expressway are the main thoroughfares. New Orleans' principal routes across the city are Tchoupitoulas Street and St. Charles, Claiborne and Broad avenues.

Above the Carrollton-Esplanade apex, roads run approximately northward to Lake Pontchartrain. In addition to Pontchartrain Expressway, the main routes are Wisner Boulevard and Elysian Fields Avenue. Major crosstown routes through New Orleans are Airline Highway, City Park Avenue, Gentilly Boulevard and Lakeshore Drive.

Canal Street, which runs northwest, divides north from south. Thus, street numbering moves outward from it as well as lakeward from the Mississippi. Streets also change names as they cross Canal. For example, Royal Street becomes St. Charles Avenue, and Bourbon Street becomes Carondelet Street. Except for divided thoroughfares such as Canal, Tulane, Basin and St. Charles, most streets downtown and in the French Quarter are one-way.

Few left turns are permitted from major arteries or moderately traveled downtown streets. It is easier to loop to the right back around the block than to drive a mile or more in search of a legal left turn. Right and left turns on red at one-way intersections are permitted unless otherwise posted.

The speed limit is 30 mph on most streets and 35 mph on boulevards, or as posted. However, on many streets these limits will rarely be reached. Heat, humidity and a water table that lies only 2 to 3 feet below the surface make street maintenance a continuing problem. A buckle of pavement may be the closest thing to a hill you see in New Orleans.

Rush hours are from 7 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. Avoid driving during these hours whenever possible. Congestion is greatest on bridges, I-10, I-610 and on the narrow streets of the French Quarter, several of which are blocked off for pedestrian use. Royal Street turns into a pedestrian mall from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Bourbon Street is a pedestrian mall from dusk to early morning hours.

Parking
Parking lots and garages can be found throughout the downtown business area; fees range from $4 to $11 for the first hour and from $5 to $15 per day. Parking fees at the Riverwalk and in areas of the French Quarter are higher: $5 and up for 3-4 hours at the Riverwalk and $5.50 to $6.50 for 2 hours in the French Quarter (the closer to Bourbon Street, the higher the rates).

On-street parking is scarce and is prohibited in most central sections. Visitors should read—and heed—the rather small signs that tell where and when parking is legal, as the regulations are strictly enforced by prompt towing and heavy fines.

Regular 2-hour meters are $1.50 for the first hour (with a 2-hour maximum for $2.50). Meters are enforced Monday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Parking is prohibited at meters in designated rush hour zones from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. For towing/auto pound information phone (504) 565-7451.

Public Transportation
New Orleans' city bus system is inexpensive and efficient. On regular runs within the city limits the bus fare is $1.25 and transfers are 25c; express fare is $1.50 or 25c with a transfer from a regular bus. The Jazzy pass—$3 for 1 day or $9 for 3 days—allows unlimited rides on all Regional Transit Authority buses and streetcars; exact change is required.

The clanging streetcars that ply St. Charles Avenue are part of the transit system . The Canal Streetcar has two lines. The Canal-City Park/Museum line runs from Esplanade Avenue to Canal Street, then along Canal Street from the Mississippi River to the City Park Avenue terminal. Canal Street connects to City Park at Beauregard Circle via a line along North Carrollton Avenue. The Canal-Cemeteries line runs the length of Canal Street, from the Mississippi River to the old historic cemeteries. The Riverfront Streetcar provides transportation along the Mississippi River from Thalia Street to Esplanade Avenue. One-way fare is $1.25 and transfers are 25c. The Regional Transit Authority can provide more information about both bus and streetcar routes and fares; phone (504) 248-3900.

Outlying parishes are served by other bus companies. East Jefferson Parish, including the airport, is served by Jefferson Parish Transit Co., (504) 818-1077. Westside Transit Lines Inc., (504) 367-7433, operates buses to Gretna, Harvey and other suburbs across the river.

A ferry system connects New Orleans with the West Bank and provides excellent views of the downtown skyline. The 10-minute trips depart from Algiers Point and Canal Street docks and cost $2 per automobile or pedestrian. For ferry schedule and updates, phone the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development at (888) 613-3779.


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Essentials
• Explore the historic streets of the French Quarter on a carriage ride or walking tour. Daily trips depart from the French Quarter Visitor Center (419 Decatur St.) and the 1850 House (The Lower Pontalba Building) (523 St. Ann St.).

• Get a glimpse behind the wrought-iron gates and courtyard doors at the Gallier House (1132 Royal St.), Hermann-Grima House (820 St. Louis St.) or Williams Residence, part of The Historic New Orleans Collection (533 Royal St.). Each of these French Quarter residences belonged to a prominent New Orleans family, and each reflects a different era, style and grace.

• Visit the architectural gems of the Garden District. After you've admired the Greek-Revival mansions and Creole cottages of this venerable Uptown neighborhood, have dinner at Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave.), established in 1880. Be sure to call ahead; a reservation at the landmark restaurant is highly coveted, as are such signature menu items as the turtle soup and the bread pudding soufflé.

• By now it should be apparent that, in New Orleans, it's all about the food. You certainly can't leave without sampling some crawfish étouffée, shrimp jambalaya and gumbo. Still hungry? Have a picnic on the river with a muffuletta from Central Grocery Company (923 Decatur St.) or a po'boy from Mother's (401 Poydras St.). For dessert, try a serving of king cake from Mardi Gras World (1380 Port of New Orleans Pl.).

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• Sit in on a session at Preservation Hall (726 St. Peter St.). The local band at this shrine to Dixieland jazz plays almost every night. “Hall” is a misnomer; only about 100 people can squeeze into the room, so line up early and bring a fan (there's no air conditioning).


• Cruise up the Muddy Mississippi aboard the Creole Queen (365 Canal St.) or Steamboat Natchez (Toulouse St. & Decatur St.). These bygone paddlewheelers offer lunch and dinner cruises, live jazz, tours of the Port of New Orleans and trips to the Audubon Zoo (6500 Magazine St.).

• Visit the Antebellum South with a trip down River Road. Driving west toward Baton Rouge, you'll pass Destrehan Plantation (13034 River Rd.), San Francisco Plantation (2646 River Rd.) and Houmas House (40136 River Rd.). On the south side of the river, you'll find A Creole Plantation (2247 Hwy. 18), Oak Alley Plantation (3645 SR 18) and Nottoway Plantation (31025 SR 1).

• Walk among the graceful mausoleums and tombs of New Orleans' Old Cemeteries . Two of the closest are Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 (1400 Washington Ave.) in the Garden District and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 (Basin St. & St. Louis St.) just north of the French Quarter. Guided tours are available from Save Our Cemeteries, Historic New Orleans Tours (2727 Prytania St.) or Haunted History Tours (723 St. Peter St.).

• Join the nightly parade on the boulevard of bacchanalia known as Bourbon Street. You'll see it all on this seven-block stretch of music bars, restaurants and strip clubs (not that you or anyone we know would ever step inside). Not for children or the faint of heart.

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• Find a table at Café du Monde (800 Decatur St.), order beignets and café au lait, sit back and watch the world go by on Jackson Square (701 Chartres St.). A steady stream of tourists, street performers, fortune-tellers and balloon artists provides non-stop entertainment, and the café stays open 24 hours.


• Hop on the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar (St. Charles Ave. & Canal St.), a New Orleans tradition since 1835, for a delightful $1.25 tour of the city. The historic olive green streetcars run along the edge of the Garden District, past mansions, Loyola and Tulane universities and Audubon Park (6500 Magazine St.).

• Shop to your heart's content through antique and curio shops, clothing boutiques and art galleries on a French Quarter shopping spree.



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Restaurants
Our favorites include some of this destination's best restaurants—from fine dining to simple fare.

By Inspector 19

What may be the most beloved restaurant of New Orleans, Commander's Palace opened its doors in 1880. The Brennan family took over the Garden District landmark in the mid-1970s, and the impeccable food and service have never wavered—this lavish eatery consistently ranks among the top in the world. Most locals will tell you not to miss the turtle soup or bread pudding soufflé; the 25-cent lunch martinis are another prized tradition. Other highlights include the grilled porterhouse, Louisiana oysters and Cajun caviar, onion-crusted gulf snapper, seared Muscovy duck breast and sugarcane-lacquered foie gras.


Separate branches of the Brennan dynasty operate more than a dozen eateries across the city. Dickie Brennan cut his culinary teeth with Chef Paul Prudhomme at Commander's Palace and later helped launch another family venture, Mr. B's Bistro . After apprenticing in New York and Paris, he opened the Palace Cafe in 1991. Though it might not be as well known as its cousins, the Palace is equally exceptional, with a long list of national accolades to prove it. The signature appetizer is crabmeat cheesecake baked in a pecan crust. Entrée specialties include andouille-crusted gulf fish, pork porterhouse and citrus honey-glazed duck. Don't leave without indulging in dessert—the Ponchatoula strawberry shortcake and white chocolate bread pudding are standouts, and the tableside preparation of bananas foster makes every occasion special. Reservations are highly recommended, and don't count on a quiet meal; the open, tiled dining rooms make for a “high-energy” atmosphere.

One of the Brennans' best-known executive chefs, Paul Prudhomme opened K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen in 1979 and soon became a household name. His Cajun cookbooks made the New York Times bestseller list, and you could locate his restaurant by the line of tourists snaking down Chartres Street. The restaurant's popularity once kept locals away, but no longer. K-Paul's was one of the first restaurants to reopen after Katrina, and grateful residents flocked back for Cajun camaraderie and comfort food. Prudhomme organized a series of charity events and even hired a jazz trio to play outside the restaurant every night to bring life to the silent French Quarter. The restaurant is bustling again, serving up Cajun classics like gumbo, jambalaya and shrimp étouffée, along with K-Paul's signature dishes—blackened drum, bronzed swordfish with hot fanny sauce, beef tenders with debris sauce. For a quieter, more intimate meal, ask for a seat in the stylish dining room upstairs.

Originally from Massachusetts, Emeril Lagasse traveled the world and trained in classic French cuisine before settling down as executive chef at Commander's Palace. He went on to become a TV star, hosting his own cooking show while opening nine restaurants across the country, including Emeril's and Nola in New Orleans. In 1997 he purchased a century-old city icon, Delmonico's, and spent millions in renovations. Emeril's Delmonico Restaurant has become a true star on the local scene. As you'd expect from a classic American steakhouse, Prime beef is the focus here, but the menu also features such delicious choices as pan-fried redfish meunière, wild mushroom and ricotta cannelloni, Colorado lamb chops and hickory-roasted duck. Service is consistently first rate, genuine and without airs—a rare find in a restaurant of this caliber.

Diners at Restaurant August may recognize Chef John Besh from the Food Network's Iron Chef challenge; around New Orleans he's known as the local boy made good. Owner of one of the top-ranked restaurants in the country, Besh assisted in feeding hundreds of relief workers after Hurricane Katrina. A native of Louisiana, Besh graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and trained in Europe. His sumptuous restaurant, housed in a 19th-century grocers' warehouse, features a rich mahogany bar, high ceilings, large windows, exposed brick walls and soft velvet chairs. The contemporary French menu includes such standouts as Moroccan spiced duck, pan-seared filet of prime rib and crispy seared blackfish. For a warm appetizer, try the “BLT” of buster crab, lettuce and tomato on lost bread (a Cajun French toast known as pain perdu).

Most New Orleanians speak of Brigtsen's with deep reverence. For more than 20 years, Frank Brigtsen and his wife Marna have been serving artfully prepared Creole and Cajun fare in a cozy Victorian cottage. As with so many New Orleans chefs, Mr. Brigtsen (pronounced BRIGHT-son) apprenticed with Paul Prudhomme at both Commander's Palace and K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen. His menu changes daily but focuses on local and seasonal ingredients; sample items include butternut shrimp bisque, sautéed soft-shell crab, roast duck, pan-fried speckled trout and braised rabbit in phyllo pastry. The wait staff is attentive and personable, likely owed to the familiarity of serving Uptown regulars for years. Brigtsen's is on the far end of St. Charles Avenue on Dante Street near the Riverbend, which will require most visitors to take a cab or streetcar—but it's worth the trip.

Tucked away in a modest Uptown neighborhood and a cab ride away from the French Quarter, Clancy's should be on every concierge's list. Visitors often liken this experience to eating at a friend's house—the rooms are small but sophisticated, the tables are close and conversation flows freely (and often loudly). The contemporary Creole cuisine features such delicacies as fried oysters topped with melted brie, grilled chicken breast in lime butter and smoked soft-shell crab. Reasonable portion sizes allow you to sample more than one course without guilt. Try the signature ice-box lemon pie for dessert.

Groovy, funky and eclectic are the words often used to describe Jacques-Imo's Cafe . The waiting line spills out of the restaurant, onto the sidewalk and into nearby bars (people watching is part of the fun). To call this place “colorful” is an understatement; the dining rooms are brightly decorated, and the staff is young and hip. Two hits on the Comfort Creole menu are the fried chicken and alligator-sausage cheesecake. The sweet corn bread is a great starter. The menu reaches much higher levels of sophistication, but you can still show up in a T-shirt and jeans.

Most locals don't want you to know about Dick and Jenny's , one of the best-kept dining secrets in town. The nondescript cottage near the corner of Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas is easy to miss, but the food is unforgettable. The American Regional menu concentrates on seasonal and local ingredients, with such samples as pan-seared diver scallops, grilled duck breast with chorizo sausage and sautéed Mississippi quail. A sure way to start your meal is with an order of corn-fried gulf oysters and remoulade. Save room for desserts; they're all imaginative and irresistible. Prices are exceedingly reasonable for food of this caliber, and the family-friendly restaurant offers a limited children's menu. Once again, reservations aren't accepted, so get there early or expect a wait at the bar or the outdoor patio.

Family-run since it opened in 1918, Casamento's Restaurant is hailed for its oysters—especially the oyster loaf. For this house specialty, fresh oysters are dipped in corn flour, deep-fried in cast-iron skillets and served between thick slices of pan bread. Shuckers work at a small, standing-room-only bar, plating countless orders of oysters on the half shell. The restaurant's tiled exterior makes it easy to spot on Magazine Street; the old-fashioned interior hasn't changed much in half a century. A-list celebrities make it a point to visit when they're in town, as you'll see from the autographed shirts on the wall.

Drago's is a family-run restaurant in the suburb of Metairie. Croatian immigrants Drago and Klara Cvitanovich opened their eatery in 1970 after building a respected reputation in the local industry. Drago perfected his oyster-shucking skills at the Acme Oyster House, and his namesake restaurant is highly regarded for its oyster dishes. Shellfish comes fresh from Louisiana oyster beds. The menu includes oysters on the half shell, char-broiled oysters and oysters herradura (sautéed with onions, tomatoes, and pine nuts, and then deglazed with tequila). Equally popular are the lobster and seafood entrees, including drumfish tommy and Crescent City shrimp. Drago's also offers chicken, duck and pasta dishes.

Irene's Cuisine pays homage to the little-known but large Italian-American population in New Orleans. On a quiet corner in the French Quarter, this popular eatery attracts both tourists and locals, though everyone must be willing to accept a long wait—reservations aren't accepted. Diners sit closely in the dining room, but the waitstaff scurries about with precision. The menu is garlicky Sicilian with enough Creole flavor to keep it local. The spicy aromas of stuffed veal chop, roasted garlic chicken, grilled red snapper and rosemary chicken are enough to bring guests in off the street. Don't leave without sampling the baked Alaska with its flaming grappa. Irene's is open only for dinner, so make your plans accordingly—and get there early.

The Salvadoran owner of Taqueria Corona has given New Orleans a taste of Mexican cuisine. Burritos and tacos are the standard fare, but even pizzas are served at this small local chain. The decor and service are very casual, and the kitchen is in full view, allowing delicious aromas to waft over the dining room. The tomato pico de gallo is chunky and delicious; the only drawback is that chips and salsa cost extra, and you'll also be charged for additional toppings. With so few alternatives to Creole and Italian restaurants in the Crescent City, you'll likely be grateful to find this south-of-the-border option.

Considered a true gastronomical gem, Bayona is housed in a centuries-old Creole cottage with a lovely courtyard. Chef Susan Spicer focuses on seasonally available ingredients rather than any specific culinary style—her menu reflects a true global sensibility. Highlights include the Niman ranch pork chop with corn fritters, red grouper with purple coconut rice, veal sweetbreads with sherry mustard and the rabbit, andouille and blackeyed-pea gumbo. This French Quarter favorite is warm and inviting, the perfect backdrop for an intimate evening.

See all the AAA Diamond Rated restaurants for this destination.



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Attractions
In a city with dozens of attractions, you may have trouble deciding where to spend your time. Here are the highlights for this destination, as chosen by AAA editors. GEMs are “Great Experiences for Members.”

From its early days as a parade ground and public market, Jackson Square has been the heart of the city. The 18th-century grid design of the French Quarter began with this grassy commons along the river, and the metropolitan area spread north, east and west from here. Artists hang their paintings on the iron fences along St. Peter and St. Ann streets, sharing the sidewalks with fortunetellers and tarot card readers. Jugglers and magicians entertain crowds along the steps on Decatur, across from the sightseeing queue of horse-drawn carriages. Most buses drop off their tour groups at Café du Monde to join the line waiting for a patio table. From here, you can watch the human parade, listen to jazz, get your bearings before venturing into the Quarter—and devour a few orders of sugar-dusted beignets.


One of the oldest and most photographed churches in the country, the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis King of France , a AAA GEM attraction, was completed in 1794 after the second great fire. The interior of this Renaissance-style basilica features beautiful stained glass windows, hand-painted frescoes and an ornate Baroque altar. Behind the cathedral on Royal Street is St. Anthony's Garden, a quiet park shaded by oak and magnolia trees.

To the left of the cathedral as you face the hat-waving statue of Gen. Andrew Jackson is The Cabildo . This stately building, now a Louisiana State Museum site, was the Spanish seat of government; the Louisiana Purchase transfer ceremonies took place here in 1803. With three floors of engaging and well-organized exhibits, the museum provides an excellent overview of the state's history from pre-European colonization to the present. Highlights range from Native American baskets to antique weapons to Napoleon's death mask. A separate collection at The Arsenal, entered through The Cabildo, spotlights local history, arts and culture.

The Presbytère to the right of the cathedral was designed to match The Cabildo on the left. Though it never served as a church, it was a monastery residence and later a courthouse. Also a Louisiana State Museum site, the building houses a Mardi Gras collection and changing exhibits about Louisiana history and culture.

The red-brick galleries of shops and restaurants flanking Jackson Square belong to the handsome Pontalba Buildings . Baroness Micaela Almonester de Pontalba commissioned these four-story apartments in 1849, transforming the shabby square into the 19th-century equivalent of Central Park. In the Lower Pontalba, the block-long building on the right, the 1850 House preserves an original townhouse, complete with period furnishings and decorative arts reflecting the lives of a typical upper-middle-class Creole family. (The baroness's life itself is fascinating: Daughter of a wealthy New Orleans magistrate, Micaela Almonester married into the Pontalba family and moved to Paris, where she endured 20 years of legal battles over control of her fortune. After she filed for separation, her father-in-law shot her with a pair of dueling pistols. She survived four bullet wounds; the baron later killed himself. Micaela won her financial independence and came home to build the Pontalbas on property she inherited from her father—though curiously, she never received a divorce.)

To draw up the plans for her grand European townhouses—and it's said she supervised every detail, down to the cast iron railings that would become a New Orleans trademark—Baroness Pontalba hired architect James Gallier Sr. He and his son helped shape the downtown landscape, supervising dozens of private and public projects, including the first city hall, St. Patrick's Church and the French Opera House. James Gallier Jr. built his family residence on Royal Street. The Gallier House remains one of the finest historical preservations in the Quarter. Painstakingly restored and furnished with family antiques, each room—from the elegant double parlor to the slave quarters—provides a snapshot of Victorian life in the South.

Owned by a prominent Creole family, the Hermann-Grima House is another jewel, boasting the only horse stable and working outdoor kitchen in the French Quarter. This 1831 Federal mansion on Saint Louis Street features a lovely courtyard garden. Buy a combination ticket and tour both the Gallier and Hermann-Grima houses, where white slip covers and grass rugs come out for “summer dress,” and 19th-century Christmas decorations mark the holidays. Living-history demonstrations—cooking, fabric dyeing, woodworking—take place at both locations from October to May.

The Williams Residence, home of philanthropists Kemper and Leila Williams, reflects 20th-century life in the Vieux Carré. The Williamses bought and restored a group of historic buildings on Royale and Toulouse streets, including the 1889 Trapolin House, where they lived and entertained. In her will, Mrs. Williams stipulated that the house and its contents be open to the public. The Historic New Orleans Collection displays the Williams's antiques, artwork and memorabilia, and guided tours of the residence offer a rare glimpse into the world of New Orleans society.

Millionaire sugar broker Isaac Delgado funded construction of the Beaux Arts-style temple that houses the New Orleans Museum of Art . This AAA GEM attraction in City Park features 46 galleries and more than 35,000 objects, from pre-Columbian artifacts to European and American masterworks by Copley, O'Keeffe, Degas, Monet, Renoir and Picasso. The 5-acre Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden is a landscaped paradise with 60 signature pieces surrounding a tranquil lily pond. Though it was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Botanical Garden is making a comeback, and one of its highlights is back on display; the 14,000-square-foot New Orleans Historic Train Garden features a delightful scale model of the city, crisscrossed by a working network of streetcars and trains.

On a hot afternoon, there's nothing cooler than the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas . This glistening dome on the river is home to penguins, sea turtles, sharks, white alligators and dazzling tropical fish from around the world. After Hurricane Katrina, U.S. aquariums banded together to donate new specimens, and old favorites like sea otters Buck and Emma returned to their home. Ocean and coastline habitats at this AAA GEM attraction include the 400,000-gallon Gulf of Mexico exhibit, the Great Maya Reef, an Amazon rain forest and a seahorse gallery.

After you've explored the aquarium and the Entergy IMAX Theatre , head uptown to the Audubon Zoo . The 58-acre garden park is noted for its innovative habitats and species conservation programs. Here you'll find koalas nibbling eucalyptus, white tigers and elephants roaming in an Asian temple and jaguars asleep in a Mayan ruin. The Swamp Train is a fun way to see the grounds, and kids will enjoy riding the Endangered Species Carousel. At the Embraceable Zoo, they can pet a hedgehog and learn about exotic species. The whole family can climb to the top of the five-level treehouse on Monkey Hill—one of the highest points in the city. Don't miss the daily gator feeding at the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit.

There's more fun at the Louisiana Children's Museum in the Warehouse District. Designed for ages 2 to 12, this indoor playground features hundreds of hands-on exhibits and intriguing lessons in science, health, art and history. Kids can pilot a Mississippi tugboat, create giant bubbles and study bones with a bicycle-riding skeleton. The KidWatch TV Studio is a favorite among aspiring news anchors, reporters and meteorologists.

Developers are quickly converting the old mills and factories of the Warehouse District into upscale lofts, galleries and cultural sites, and the centerpiece of this burgeoning neighborhood is The National World War II Museum . Perhaps no other museum in the country presents a more personal narrative of this global conflict. Presentations in two venues provide insights into the era, but it's the belongings of soldiers—helmets, bibles, diaries, letters—and stories told in their own voices that bring home the realities of war. New Orleans was chosen as the site of the museum (formerly known as the National D-Day Museum) in honor of local boatbuilder Andrew Higgins, whose amphibious landing craft became synonymous with D-Day. A Higgins Boat is on display in the main hall of this AAA GEM attraction.

A block away, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art is drawing attention to the New Orleans art scene. Entrepreneur Roger Ogden amassed an extensive collection of paintings, sculpture, ceramics, crafts and glass, and new acquisitions at this AAA GEM attraction continue to expand the focus on the American South. Highlights include sculptures by Nene Humphrey, modernist paintings by Will Henry Stevens and landscapes by Walter Anderson. (Sadly, dozens of Anderson's watercolors at his family home in Mississippi were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.)

Master glass artists practice their craft at the New Orleans Artworks at New Orleans Glassworks and Printmaking Studio , just down the street from the World War II Museum. Visitors are welcome to enter the “hot shop” to watch traditional blowing and casting. The studio is one of the largest of its kind in the South; other areas of study include stained glass, mosaics, copper enameling, printmaking, paper sculpture and bookbinding. The ArtWorks Gallery is a visual delight, filled with whimsical and distinctive glass sculptures.

Artistry of another kind is demonstrated at the New Orleans School of Cooking . In an old molasses warehouse in the French Quarter, you can learn how to make gumbo, jambalaya and pralines while discovering the history of Cajun and Creole culture. Lunch and recipes come with the class, and you can buy all the ingredients at the school's Louisiana General Store. The 2.5-hour class fills up fast, so make your reservations early.

Celebrating another local tradition, Mardi Gras World displays illuminated floats and giant sculptures from the city's pre-Lenten extravaganza. Get a behind-the-scenes look with a guided tour through this massive complex of workshops and warehouses—the next best thing to seeing a Mardi Gras parade. You'll even get a slice of king cake and beads to take home.

New Orleans has been called one of the most walkable cities in the country—you can stroll the streets of the French Quarter and explore hundreds of eclectic shops, art galleries, restaurants and historic sites. One of the best ways to see the high points is with a guided walking tour. A block west of Jackson Square on Decatur Street, the French Quarter Visitor Center offers daily ranger-led walks through the Vieux Carré. The free 90-minute tour leaves at 9:30 and fills up quickly; get there 30-45 minutes early to save a spot in line.

With its long and colorful history, the city has more than its share of ghost stories. Its lavish cemeteries—the Cities of the Dead—are legendary, and tales of voodoo queens, vampires and murderous pirates give a delicious shiver. The costumed guides of Haunted History Tours lead groups on an eerie nighttime stroll through the streets and alleys of the French Quarter, a tour bound to give you a new perspective on Nouvelle-Orléans. Along with its more ghoulish themes—ghosts, cemeteries, voodoo and vampires—the company also offers Garden District tours with transportation from the Quarter. Tours are offered daily, rain or shine; reservations are required.

French and Spanish history and architecture, the legacy of slavery and secrets of Creole society are all part of the authentic narrative of Historic New Orleans Tours . You don't need reservations for these tours, which depart from various locations. Among the highlights: day and evening strolls through the French Quarter and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 , walks through the Garden District and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 (participants provide their own transportation to Prytania Street) and a tour of haunted sites, including places featured in Anne Rice's vampire novels.

See all the AAA recommended attractions for this destination.



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New Orleans in 3 Days
Three days is barely enough time to get to know any major destination. But AAA travel editors suggest these activities to make the most of your time in New Orleans.

Day 1: Morning
Join locals, sidewalk buskers and tourists like yourself for breakfast at Café du Monde . The historic, open-air coffee stand across from Jackson Square serves chicory coffee and sugar-dusted beignets along with a delicious side order of people watching.

From the café, walk up the adjacent steps to the top of the levee and survey the sweeping bend of Ol' Man River. You'll understand why New Orleans is called the Crescent City. If you're in the mood for shopping, head to Jax Brewery, which overlooks the river; the Pontalba Buildings on Jackson Square; or the many curio, clothing, candy, souvenir and specialty shops you'll encounter as you make your way along Decatur Street to the French Market District . Royal Street's art and antique shops are not to be missed.


Day 1: Afternoon
Learn how to cook some of the city's signature Creole and Cajun dishes at the New Orleans School of Cooking . At the end of the 2.5-hour demonstration you'll enjoy lunch-size portions of the chef's creations, which might include gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, bread pudding and pralines.

After class, climb aboard a horse-drawn carriage for a leisurely tour of the Quarter. Rides depart from the Decatur Street side of Jackson Square.

Day 1: Evening
Take the family on a dinner/jazz cruise. Both the Steamboat Natchez and the Creole Queen offer a full evening of entertainment with live jazz music, elaborate buffets and spectacular views of the city. Reduced rates for children bolster the appeal of this family outing.

Day 2: Morning
Several restaurants offer a lively jazz brunch buffet on weekends with plenty of Cajun and Creole specialties; consider Arnaud's in the French Quarter or Palace Café on Canal Street. Brunch with music is a daily event at The Court of Two Sisters , which has one of the largest dining courtyards in the French Quarter.

Day 2: Afternoon
If you've never been to Mardi Gras, a visit to Mardi Gras World is in order. At its location on the East Bank, the warehouse and working studio showcases spectacular floats and props while providing background on the event that draws thousands to the city each year. Learn more about the Mardi Gras mystique through exhibits at The Presbytère .

Day 2: Evening
Dine early at the Gumbo Shop on St. Peter Street, and then mosey down the block to Pat O' Brien's for a potent Hurricane cocktail. Finish up before 8 and line up next door at Preservation Hall for a set or two of jazz. Within a two-block area you will have sampled New Orleans' signature food, drink and music.

Day 3: Morning
Catch the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar at Canal and Carondelet streets and ride through New Orleans's historic neighborhoods—the Garden District, Uptown, the university section and Carrollton. You can't beat the $2.50 round-trip fare for this sightseeing experience. If time permits, hop off at First Street and tour the Garden District on foot using the AAA Garden District Walking Tour (see our article).

Day 3: Afternoon
Do take a tour of New Orleans' old cemeteries. Don't go alone. Guided tours of several “Cities of the Dead” are offered by Historic New Orleans Tours and Haunted History Tours .

Day 3: Evening
Save the best for last. Treat yourself to a fine dining experience at Commander's Palace , in the Garden District.



close
New Orleans in 3 Days
Three days is barely enough time to get to know any major destination. But AAA travel editors suggest these activities to make the most of your time in New Orleans.

Day 1: Morning
Join locals, sidewalk buskers and tourists like yourself for breakfast at Café du Monde . The historic, open-air coffee stand across from Jackson Square serves chicory coffee and sugar-dusted beignets along with a delicious side order of people watching.

From the café, walk up the adjacent steps to the top of the levee and survey the sweeping bend of Ol' Man River. You'll understand why New Orleans is called the Crescent City. If you're in the mood for shopping, head to Jax Brewery, which overlooks the river; the Pontalba Buildings on Jackson Square; or the many curio, clothing, candy, souvenir and specialty shops you'll encounter as you make your way along Decatur Street to the French Market District . Royal Street's art and antique shops are not to be missed.


Day 1: Afternoon
Learn how to cook some of the city's signature Creole and Cajun dishes at the New Orleans School of Cooking . At the end of the 2.5-hour demonstration you'll enjoy lunch-size portions of the chef's creations, which might include gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, bread pudding and pralines.

After class, climb aboard a horse-drawn carriage for a leisurely tour of the Quarter. Rides depart from the Decatur Street side of Jackson Square.

Day 1: Evening
Take the family on a dinner/jazz cruise. Both the Steamboat Natchez and the Creole Queen offer a full evening of entertainment with live jazz music, elaborate buffets and spectacular views of the city. Reduced rates for children bolster the appeal of this family outing.

Day 2: Morning
Several restaurants offer a lively jazz brunch buffet on weekends with plenty of Cajun and Creole specialties; consider Arnaud's in the French Quarter or Palace Café on Canal Street. Brunch with music is a daily event at The Court of Two Sisters , which has one of the largest dining courtyards in the French Quarter.

Day 2: Afternoon
If you've never been to Mardi Gras, a visit to Mardi Gras World is in order. At its location on the East Bank, the warehouse and working studio showcases spectacular floats and props while providing background on the event that draws thousands to the city each year. Learn more about the Mardi Gras mystique through exhibits at The Presbytère .

Day 2: Evening
Dine early at the Gumbo Shop on St. Peter Street, and then mosey down the block to Pat O' Brien's for a potent Hurricane cocktail. Finish up before 8 and line up next door at Preservation Hall for a set or two of jazz. Within a two-block area you will have sampled New Orleans' signature food, drink and music.

Day 3: Morning
Catch the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar at Canal and Carondelet streets and ride through New Orleans's historic neighborhoods—the Garden District, Uptown, the university section and Carrollton. You can't beat the $2.50 round-trip fare for this sightseeing experience. If time permits, hop off at First Street and tour the Garden District on foot using the AAA Garden District Walking Tour (see our article).

Day 3: Afternoon
Do take a tour of New Orleans' old cemeteries. Don't go alone. Guided tours of several “Cities of the Dead” are offered by Historic New Orleans Tours and Haunted History Tours .

Day 3: Evening
Save the best for last. Treat yourself to a fine dining experience at Commander's Palace , in the Garden District.



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