Just back from: New Orleans
Tell us more…I spent four days exploring several neighborhoods in New Orleans. I’ve been to New Orleans many times, but I was intrigued to be exploring things outside the French Quarter, away from the most popular places and landmarks.
In a nutshell…Despite the fact that it rained for four days straight, I had a wonderful time getting to know New Orleans beyond Bourbon Street. There are so many neighborhoods filled with interesting characters, and each neighborhood has a very distinct personality.
I really enjoyed staying uptown in the Garden District, where it’s much quieter than the French Quarter. The old, historic homes are so lovely, and it makes you feel like there’s history on every single corner. The Marigny, which is on the other side of downtown, is like a bayou Brooklyn, with all sorts of creative types living and playing there.
Good grub? It’s New Orleans, so yes! But besides the well-known Cajun and Creole food, New Orleans has everything from Haitian and Vietnamese to Israeli. I loved the community food spaces like St. Roch Market, where you'll find an oyster bar next to bao next to fried chicken!
You’d be a muppet to miss…The National World War II Museum. It was my first time there, shamefully, after many trips to NOLA, and it was a wonderful reminder of what previous generations around the world went through in the 1940s. They have a really great movie narrated and produced by Tom Hanks that is a must-see for a comprehensive reminder or crash course – plus all the gadgets and gear such as tanks, fighter jets and trains.
Fave activity? Seeing the city from a new vantage point at the Hot Tin rooftop bar at Pontchartrain Hotel, 14 stories up. The hotel, a favorite of stars like Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth, just reopened this summer. Their Caribbean Room restaurant had elegant, classic New Orleans dishes, and the rooms are such a throwback – you feel like you’re in the early 20th century, except, of course, for the hilarious and wonderful pop art portrait of rapper and New Orleans native Lil’ Wayne holding the restaurant’s signature mile-high pie (think ice-cream layers, toasted marshmallow, chocolate sauce).
Bizarre encounter? It’s New Orleans, so the bizarre isn’t really that strange there! But I did hop on a streetcar packed with men and women outfitted in red dresses for the annual Red Dress Run (nolareddress.com). The event raises money for local charities, and it brings a lot of tourists and locals together in crazy costumes – there were lots of tutus and tinsel!
If you do one thing, do… It was a surprise sleeper hit for me, but the Audubon Nature Institute’s Insectarium (audubonnatureinstitute.org/insectarium) on Canal Street was a dream. It’s technically a children’s museum, but I had a blast looking at everything from baby alligators to beetles the size of my ears. The brave among you can even eat insects there – I had a chocolate chip cookie with a roasted cricket on top! There’s also a wonderful butterfly garden; it’s a nice change of pace from the French Quarter just a block away.
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Lauren Finney traveled to New Orleans with support from the New Orleans Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (neworleanscvb.com). Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.
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