An Insider’s Guide
If you don’t come hungry, you probably shouldn’t come at all.
Like everything else in the Big Easy, the architecture of New Orleans is a rich gumbo of flavors.
-- Senior Travel Editor + Southerner, Amanda Stuermer
Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? Ask any Southerner this question, and be ready for a long, deliciously decadent answer. Here’s mine.
New Orleans is more than a city; it is a mix of cultural influences from the Acadians, Cajuns, Creoles, African Americans, Native Americans, French, and Spaniards who have settled there over the centuries. Visit the Backstreet Cultural Museum, which holds the world’s most comprehensive collection related to New Orleans’ African American community-based masking and processional traditions, including Mardi Gras Indians, jazz funerals, social aid and pleasure clubs, Baby Dolls, and Skull and Bone gangs.
Magazine Street is well known for its art scene from Terrance Osborne Gallery to Ashley Longshore Studio Gallery (Ashley is regularly called a young, feminist Andy Warhol). While strolling Magazine, you can choose between some of my very favorite restaurants, including Lilette, La Petite Grocery, and Coquette. Royal Street, down in the French Quarter, is another hub for art galleries and antique shops.
A few to see: M.S. Rau Antiques and Gallery Orange. Julia Street is the third New Orleans art hotspot not to miss. Nicknamed “Gallery Row,” Julia Street lies in the heart of the city’s renovated and now-upscale Warehouse Arts District. Be sure to stop by Gryder Gallery and LeMieux Galleries. Looking for a full-on art extravaganza? Visit the Warehouse Arts District the first Saturday evening of each month for gallery openings from six to nine p.m.
Like everything else in the Big Easy, the architecture of New Orleans is a rich gumbo of flavors. In the French Quarter, you will find Creole cottages and townhouses that are a distinct blend of Caribbean and French Canadian design. Visit the Napoleon House on Chartres St. for a Pimm’s Cup and marvel at the beloved two-century-old landmark that was offered to Napoleon in 1821 as a refuge during his exile. The Garden District is home to various versions of French Colonial plantations. Stop for an afternoon cocktail at The Columns, a New Orleans landmark. Overlooking St. Charles Avenue, The Columns is an easygoing walk to check out other historic mansions in the district.
Where to even begin? No matter where you find yourself within the city, you are sure to hear music floating through the humid air. That said, there are a few venues every music lover must visit: Preservation Hall was established in 1961 to honor traditional New Orleans jazz and is still a cornerstone of music and culture. Maple Leaf is an uptown staple known for drop-ins and jam sessions with local legends and nationally known artists; Tippitina’s is dedicated to piano wizard Professor Longhair, one of the most renowned rhythm and blues musicians in New Orleans music history, and features nightly shows with standing room only. Not ready to choose just one? Head to Frenchmen Street and hop between The Blue Nile, The Spotted Cat, d.b.a., and Snug Harbor. Bonus tip: skip the clubs and spend your entire Frenchmen visit in the street itself like a true local.
Who can name the official cocktail of New Orleans? If you said “the hurricane,” go to the back of the line. The State of Louisiana passed legislation that made the Sazerac Cocktail, which is known as America’s first mixed drink, the official cocktail of New Orleans. It is a New Orleans right of passage to slowly sip one at the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel. For other hip spots to sip a Sazerac, or anything else, check out the speakeasy vibes of Bar Marilou in the Warehouse Arts District, the cozy bar at The Chloe Hotel uptown, or possibly the most glamorous cocktail lounge in the city at the Hotel Saint Vincent on Magazine St.
New Orleans is a foodie’s Valhalla. If you don’t come hungry, you probably shouldn’t come at all. Locals consider Friday Lunch a true event. Of all the popular Friday Lunch locales, a reservation at Galatoire’s is the most highly sought after. It’s a shrimp roulade, two martini kind of event that promises some of the best people-watching in town. Sunday Jazz Brunch is likewise revered, and there is no more quintessential spot than Commander’s Palace. For something more laidback, head to Willie Mae’s Scotch House or the Treme’s crown jewel Dooky Chase.