Even though Mardi Gras is over, New Orleans is always kickin’. In fact, the end of April to the beginning May is an awesome time to hit the Big Easy since the legendary New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is in full swing. There’s nothing quite like getting lost in the soundtrack of a city. We’ll help you navigate through the best of what the locals say “Nawlins,” from the French Quarter and beyond.
Ideally located in the heart the action is the chic and charming New Orleans boutique hotel, Hotel Le Marais. This hotel is steps away from the nightlife on Bourbon Street, and also the art and antique epicenter on Royal Street. The beautiful lobby courtyard (a New Orleans architectural staple) with its heated pool is an enchanting retreat to wind down from the energetic Quarter. Gorgeous accommodations, impeccable service, complimentary Wi-Fi and daily breakfast make this an unforgettable find.
Dive into Creole and Cajun cuisine at one of the French Quarter’s best restaurants, the Royal House ($$). You’ll literally thank yourself over and over for coming here once you’ve tried the food. Every dish melts in your mouth and is full of the flavors that make New Orleans cuisine so authentic and famous. Don’t miss the sautéed crab claws that’ll have you licking your plate clean. And the charbroiled oysters might as well be illegal; they’re really that damn good. This is the perfect meal before you head over to the lively Pat O’Briens ($$) patio for the best hurricanes in town.
Saturday—Some unexpected treats
When New Orleans comes to mind, Bourbon Street and its nightlife shortly follow, but the street that’s a daytime wonderland is Royal Street. The street is lined with art galleries, antique shops, boutiques and musicians that create a joyful ambiance as you shop along this vivacious block. One gallery to get lost in for a while is the Peter O’Neill Gallery. His works are dynamic. Some capture the essence of New Orleans and other classic American cities, and others are provocative pieces that embody the sensuality of women. They’re truly remarkable and shouldn’t to be missed.
Leave the Quarter for the afternoon, jump on the St. Charles streetcar and mosey through the Garden District to relish in the gorgeous homes. It’s a breathtaking neighborhood that’s been the backdrop to many movies and TV shows. During your stroll, stumble into Parasol’s ($) to try a mouthwatering Po-boy, the famous New Orleans sandwich. Parasol’s opened in 1952 and has been delighting New Orleans natives for decades. Parasol’s Po-boy was even featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” This is honestly one of New Orleans’ best Po-boys and totally worth the trip out of the Quarter.
If you’re looking for a break from gumbo and jambalaya, but still crave a superb dining experience, then Sylvain ($$) hits the mark. Sylvain is a combination of upscale style mixed with rustic vintage flair that celebrates New American cuisine; the bar embraces the trend of artfully crafted cocktails. If you want to have one of the best meals you’ll have all year, then you must order the Pan-Fried Pork Shoulder — pork so tender it’s in its own league. Other menu items that you won’t have leftovers of are the shaved brussel sprout salad, braised beef cheeks and crispy duck confit. You’ll be happy you ventured away from Creole cuisine for at least one meal.
Sunday—Some more classics
The Old Coffee Pot ($$) has been serving up breakfast since 1894. It’s been said to have the “best breakfast in the French Quarter,” by many visitors. The cozy atmosphere mixed with the Southern hospitality from the ladies of the Coffee Pot, make this the perfect spot to start your day. The Eggs Creole and the Lost Bread (French toast made of po-boy bread) may make you a repeat offender to this establishment.
(Photo: Alicia Case)
Walk off your hearty meal with a visit to Jackson Square. It’s the center of the Quarter where artists blanket the area with their work. There are artists who turn everyday items into masterpieces, like painters who take window shutters from Katrina-damaged houses and use them as canvases for paintings that rejoice the city. There’s a true pulse to the city of New Orleans that’s unrivaled and it comes to life through the people.
Oh, one last thing: do yourself a favor and visit Café Du Monde ($). You haven’t lived until you’ve had a beignet or five. It’s classic ‘Nawlins and it can’t be missed.