More so than any city except Las Vegas, people come to New Orleans to have fun, eat, and drink. This unique city has a distinct Creole culture along with some of the best restaurants in America. The combination of Bourbon Street and many large events give off a New Year’s Eve atmosphere several times a month.
New Orleans residents are very proud of their heritage, and landmarks abound in this city where the architecture is French Creole–inspired. Most people will think of Jackson Square and the iron, second-floor balconies all throughout the French Quarter. These and many other structures have been around for centuries and have withstood development and Mother Nature. This place is a survivor, and locals appreciate it. There is always a buzz in the air as visitors look forward to the excitement ahead.
If you are in town for a convention, Loews New Orleans has a perfect location just two blocks away. The rooms are excellent with five-star bedding and state-of-the-art electronics. Large marble bathrooms make for a pleasant start or finish to your busy day. My room on the 20th floor had a great view of the vibrant waterfront scene at the foot of famed Canal Street. There is a very upscale fitness center with lap pool, whirlpool, and sauna nearby. The hotel’s location is ideal for whatever brings you to town.
The signature restaurant here is Café Adelaide, part of the Commander’s Palace Family of Restaurants. Chef Carl Schaubhut has created a modern Creole cuisine that has made this one of the best restaurants in a very competitive dining environment. I started with the Shrimp & Okra Gumbo and continued my lust for Louisiana seafood by choosing the Garlic Crusted Wild White Shrimp. Only wish I could have ordered again and brought it home on the plane. The service and food were fantastic.
Bourbon Street is a multiple-block street party every night of the year with no cars allowed. There is something for everyone here from classical jazz to the more risqué. The action starts late and continues till morning, just like in Vegas. It can be a bit intimidating the first time, but it is actually quite safe. The New Orleans Police Department has a large presence in the French Quarter insuring a safe night of revelry.
Antoine’s is a famous eatery located in the middle of the action and would be a great choice to start out your evening. Later on you might check out the Cat’s Meow. This karaoke-style night club really rocks into the late hours. The DJs and local performers whip the crowd into a frenzy that carries on out to the street. The crowd is younger, but oldsters like me feel at ease, too. In several trips to “The Big Easy,” I have never felt uncomfortable out at night, even in the wee hours.
The Mississippi River is just a couple of blocks from Loew’s New Orleans with authentic riverboat cruises available. The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is top notch and includes an IMAX Theatre. “Hurricane on the Bayou” is a must at the IMAX, depicting the emotional impact of Hurricane Katrina. It brought tears to my eyes with its depiction of the devastation experienced along the Gulf Coast. Small children will enjoy the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium.
New Orleans is most alive during festive occasions such as Halloween, Super Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and Mardi Gras, the latter being the signature event held each February or March. If you are visiting during one of these events, make your reservations way in advance. The weather is mostly warm with frequent rain showers. Mardi Gras can be quite cool, so plan accordingly. Summer is probably the quiet season and will offer the best rates and easy access to restaurants.
United offers the most connections from LAX. Once on the ground do not rent a car. Take a cab or possibly ExecuCar with their executive sedan service. The driver will meet you at baggage claim, and you will have no worries from there. New Orleans is a tough town to navigate by car, with parking very expensive. Take my advice and pass on all that anxiety with ExecuCar.