Locals say that the South ends fifty miles north of New Orleans. In many ways, this is true. This city is home to a diverse music culture, world-renowned cuisine, voodoo, and Mardi Gras , one of the world's largest parties. New Orleans is a relatively small city which had little concern for what went on outside of it until Hurricane Katrina devastated the city 2005. Parts of New Orleans are still recovering from this disaster but the city's vibrant culture is back in full swing.
The French Quarter, or Vieux Carre in French, is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans. It lies in the crescent of the Mississippi River and consists of fairly narrow streets, reminiscent of European city planning, that reveal hidden courtyards and look up to wrought iron balconies. The architecture in the Quarter typically dates to the late 18th- and early 19th-centuries, and draws on French and Spanish influences. In the daytime, the French Quarter, especially the area around Jackson Square, is filled with tourists, street performers, and the occasional conman. At night, the French Quarter transforms into the stereotypical party scene. Barhopping college students, adventurous suburbanites, tourists, and others all populate the area until the wee hours.
Lower Canal Street
Once the main shopping district of New Orleans lined with popular department stores and theaters, Canal Street lost much of its grandeur to a sluggish economy in the 70s and 80s. Today, Harrah's New Orleans and an expanded convention center have helped this part of Canal Street to develop into a ten block strip of hotels, T-shirt shops and electronics stores. The Riverwalk Market Place , which is near the Aquarium of the Americas and the Ernest M. Morial Convention Center , also makes this a popular stop for tourists.
Central Business District
The scattered, mismatched skyscrapers and superbly odd-shaped Superdome of the Central Business District form the recognizable skyline of New Orleans. Several modern hotels, as well as older and established hotels are in the heart of the CBD and the New Orleans' business community. Bustling during the day with local businesspeople, this area lulls at night. Since the district is relatively empty at night, many of the guests from the hotels in the neighborhood head for the Quarter.
This is the premier New Orleans residential neighborhood, boasting the tremendous oak tree lined Saint Charles Avenue as its most-famed street, and home after home epitomizing the antebellum's Greek Revival architecture. Only a walking tour will do this dazzling district the justice it deserves. If you visit the city, you must see the lush, overgrown gardens and grand mansions that line these streets. The Garden District has many well-known residents, including Trent Reznor, Archie Manning, and Anne Rice, the famous author of many vampire novels.
Mid-City usually goes unnoticed by the average tourist until Jazz Fest , when thousands of eager visitors, bedecked in shorts and tank tops, crowd onto the Esplanade bus to reach the New Orleans Fairgrounds . Quiet and verdant with trees, Mid-City attracts locals to its wide offering of moderately priced restaurants, New Orleans City Park , and the New Orleans Museum of Art . For tourists, Mid-City is home to impressive aboveground cemeteries, including Metairie Cemetery, Oddfellow's Rest, and St. Louis Cemetery #3.
Oak lined streets, Victorian mansions, and college cafes are staples of New Orleans' thriving Uptown neighborhood. St. Charles Avenue and Pyrtania Street offer examples of Colonial Revival architecture. The neighborhood is also home to Tulane and Loyola Universities. In addition to the mansions and universities, many pleasant coffee shops, antique stores, and restaurants crowd the small spaces between the fantastic homes of New Orleans' upper class. Residents and visitors alike jog the two miles through Uptown's gorgeous, Spanish moss-filled Audubon Park each morning.
Having outgrown the once-appropriate title, this historic New Orleans' neighborhood is no longer frequented by blue-collar factory workers. Instead, it is now a vibrant arts district populated by the city's young professionals. Some of the best art galleries in the city sit beside restaurants that offer excellent cuisine. In addition, locals and tourists crowd into the streets of the district during festivals such as Art for Art's Sake, when plenty of wine, cheese, gumbo, and art clutter the sidewalks and the shops.
The people of New Orleans are passionate about eating. Any visitor to the city should experience the regional flavor, but there are important differences between the countrified Cajun, refined Creole, and classic Southern styles of cooking that make up New Orleans cuisine.
Tourists are always at risk of getting an expensive, average-tasting meal in the Quarter. The tourist industry spawned many mediocre restaurants that prioritize location over taste. On the plus side, a truly bad meal is difficult to find anywhere in New Orleans. Avoid the handful of chain restaurants in favor of the little holes in the wall.
To start your morning off, how about an order of pipping hot beignets loaded with powdered sugar from Cafe Du Monde , a New Orleans institution.
Quality service usually comes at a high price in the Quarter, but you are also paying for a slice of history - a seat in some of the oldest fine dining establishments in the country. In any of the classic Creole-French restaurants, like Arnaud's and Brennan's , you will have a satisfying experience laden with such traditional delicacies as Oysters Rockefeller, Trout Meuniere, Turtle Soup, and Banana's Foster. For the full-on Southern buffet, check out Court of the Two Sisters . Locals like to put this granddaddy of buffets down, but it has its merits, including solid bread pudding, Dixieland jazz, and a beautiful view of the Quarter.
For those in search of something more nouveau and intimate, the Quarter also offers the acclaimed Bayona (a four-star bargain), the gorgeous Gamay, the Italian-Creole Bacco , and the romantic Bella Luna, which overlooks the Mississippi River. MiLa offers authentic Southern flavors and recipes.
There are many places to have a casual lunch. Briny oyster shooters can be had at ACME Oyster House , or a mixed-meat Muffeletta sandwich from the Central Grocery always hits the spot. After lunch, or even better for breakfast, move on to the sticky French pastry at La Marquise.
A scattering of miscellaneous downtown restaurants represent just about everything that New Orleans has to offer. The downtown area has everything from old-school grease joints to cutting-edge bistros. For old-time favorites that never cease to please, New Orleanians go to the no-nonsense Mandina's or the BBQ shrimp palace, Pascal's Manale .
Many people flock to New Orleans for the simple truth that alcohol is everywhere: in the bars, on the sidewalks, in the streets. From the impressive wine lists a restaurants to the many to-go Daiquiri shops on festive Bourbon Street, folks in New Orleans like to drink and they don't like to wait until the weekend to partake of the spirits. Whether it's to kick off your evening or to wrap it up, no trip to the French Quater is complete without a Pat O'Brien's cocktail. Try the house special, the "hurricane."
Central Business District
For a sampling of a New Orleans staple, stop by Mother's for a good ol' fashioned po' boy sandwich. If all the Southern cooking has you hurting, the Apple Seed Shoppe , is an excellent, tasty and healthy lunch spot to keep your day going. When the time comes to quench your thirst, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant serves up quality beers with quality food.
The Garden District is full of all kinds of good eats. For classic cuisine and service, Emeril Lagasse's Delmonico Restaurant & Bar is a Big Easy favorite. Cafe Atchafalaya is another classic Creole eatery where you can sample goods from the Bayou. And if you're serious about your oysters, Casamento's is the place for you, but be aware as they close when oysters aren't in season.
Sundays can be difficult for dining as many of New Orleans' better restaurants close for the day. Fortunately, glorious options still exist, most especially the Brennan family's famous Commander's Palace , the former stomping-ground of celebrity chefs Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme.
If you're hankering for a taste of the far east down south, Five Happiness Restaurant can satisty, while The Delachaise serves up a variety of tapas and wines.
The heart and soul of the city's drinking culture lies in its low-key bars. Laid-back hang-outs with names like Le Bon Temps Roule attract an interesting mix of students, celebrities, faded intellectuals, and serious barflies. In short, these are marvelous places to blend in and be entertained.
Warehouse District/Arts District
For an evening of sophistication, try the eponymous Emeril's New Orleans or 7 On Fulton for a fancy, filling meal.
No visit to the south would be complete without some down-home barbeque, so head to Ugly Dog Saloon and Bar-B-Que for brisket or ribs and a game of pool. Cochon serves up spicy Cajun cuisine and the requisite glass of Bourbon.
The Warehouse District offers up quite a bit in the way of ethnic foods as well, such as the Asian-Fusion restaurant Hipstix , or Rock-n-Sake for sushi and sake bombs.