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New for 2000! Full-color sections let you experience New Orleans before you get there. With citywide virtual tours and cross-referencing to the main text, Fodor's color sections are a great way to begin planning your trip.
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Full-color images evoke what makes New Orleans unique - Local experts show you the special places - Thorough updating keeps you on track - Practical information gives you the tools to explore - Easy-to-use format puts it all at your fingertips
Choose among many hotels and restaurants in all price categories
Stay in posh modern hotels, historic guest houses, cozy B&Bs, and gracious plantation inns - Dine in landmark restaurants, Creole and Cajun favorites, old-world cafés, and charming bistros - Check out hundreds of detailed reviews and learn what's special about each place
Mix and match our itineraries and discover the unexpected
Savvy descriptions help you decide where to go and when - Walking tours guide you through the French Quarter and the Garden District, along the River road and in Cajun Country -Shop 'til you drop for local foods, music, antiques, art, and more -Where to hear blues, jazz, zydeco, rock
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Useful maps and background information - How to get there and get around - When to go - What to pack - Costs, hours, and tips by the thousands - All about Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest
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Destination New Orleans
Day in and day out, New Orleans may be the most festive city in the world. Many destinations have a single celebratory season Rio its Carnival, Edinburgh its Festival but when the party's over, life reverts to a workday pace. In New Orleans the party is never quite over. Official celebrations fill up the calendar, from the most famous, Mardi Gras, to the less so try the Great French Market Tomato Festival. And even when there's no official fete in the works, New Orleans parties on, to the beat of some of the best traditional jazz in the world. Down here when they say, "Laissez les bons temps rouler!" they're not kidding. When you visit New Orleans, be ready to let the good times roll.
Daytime, before les bons temps get seriously rolling, is perfect for appreciating the distinctive look of New Orleans-part Deep South, part Caribbean French Colonial, with a dash of local quirkiness thrown in. This architectural brew can be seen in all its splendor in the French Quarter. The Creole-style LaBranche Houses stand out with their filigreed cast-iron balconies. Just down the block at the Cabildo, the colonial style is Spanish (they, too, had a brief run here), and the history is thick. Move on to the Garden District, where showbiz meets Spanish moss. More than a few celebrities call the District home, at least part-time. Novelist Anne Rice was born here and uses familiar landmarks as settings in her books. A walking tour of the area will lead you to Robinson House, the loveliest of all the area's elegant antebellum homes, and will whet your appetite for a day trip along the Great River Road. The Deep South gets no deeper than this. Majestic plantation homes such as Destrehan, Oak Alley, Laura, and Houmas House dot the landscape. You can spend the night in Nottoway Plantation, the grandest and indisputably the largest, which has more columns than most dwellings have windows.
This is a city that revels in the pleasures of the palate, so it's no wonder that some visitors come to New Orleans primarily for the food. The unique cuisine blends elements of French, Caribbean, African, and Spanish cookery. Crawfish is one star ingredient that can be served boiled, fried, and garnished in distinctive ways. The delicious sauces at hand some Galatoire's, perfected since 1905, set the standard. Arnaud's, Brennan's, and Broussard's are esteemed as well. Contemporary cuisine also flourishes, sometimes updating traditional fare. As in France, chefs here achieve a measure of fame. Some, like Frank Brigsten of Brigsten's and Susan Spicer of Bayona, have followers among the most passionate food lovers. Cajun maestro Paul Prudhomme of K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen seen on TV and on your supermarket's spice shelf is a real celebrity. So is Emeril Lagasse, of Emeril's, among other dining establishments. But sometimes it's the setting, not the food, that's the draw. Both locals and visitors make their way to the Napoleon House Bar and Café, a study in faded grandeur under murmuring ceiling fans. And everyone loves the simple, congenial Praline Connection, as much for the tidy dining room as the yummy Southern-Creole cooking.
Finding good music in New Orleans is about as easy as finding a good meal. From traditional jazz to zydeco, from country to Latin to gospel, it's all here. And if it doesn't get your toes tapping, perhaps that's because a prankster nailed your shoes to the floor. At famous Preservation Hall, the resident jazz band plays in classic New Orleans style. The musicians apprenticed with greats of the genre; now they keep it alive. Classy Palm Court Jazz Café, under flamboyant proprietress Nina Buck, serves food and drink with the music. Or head for the Maison Bourbon for live jazz or the Maple Leaf, where you can dance to an eclectic range of funk bands. Seeing no reason why the party should end at a set hour, the city issues 24-hour liquor licenses. Seeing no reason why the music should end at sun-up, New Orleans musicians also work the day shift, like the lone sax player you might see on the Riverwalk.
As if the music festival New Orleans offers nightly weren't enough, once a year, in late April and early May, the city pulls out all the stops. Thousands of performers and hundreds of thousands of fans converge on Fair Grounds Race Track and other venues around town for the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Great jazz can be heard, but so can just about every other kind of music known in America, on no fewer than a dozen stages. Big names are everywhere at "Jazz Fest," but an even greater treat is hearing a talented headliner-to-be, or just enjoying a small-town band. Crafts and food stalls round out the festival, so you can eat well and do a bit of shopping between sets.
At no time is New Orleans exactly a button-down town, but every year in February or March it outdoes itself, throwing America's greatest street party, Mardi Gras. There are balls and general merriment for days, and private clubs called krewes stage fantastic parades through the Central Business District past landmarks like Gallier Hall. Elaborately costumed participants ride on glittering floats and toss trinkets to the crowds; the biggest krewes include Endymion, Bacchus, Orpheus, Zulu, and Rex. And black neighborhood groups known as Mardi Gras Indians, including Creole Wild West, roam the city in feathered finery. The climax comes on Fat Tuesday, when the parades kick off a night of abandon that can make Animal House seem like high tea. The next day is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, a time of abstinence and reflection. (A massive hangover can produce the same effect.) But this is New Orleans, after all. And when penance has been paid and the pounding headache eases up a bit, the French Quarter beckons anew.
Table of Contents
Destination New Orleans
Exploring New Orleans
Upper French Quarter
Lower French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny
Foot of Canal Street and Algiers Point
St. Charles Avenue from the CBD to Uptown
Bayou St. John-Lakefront
Nightlife and the Arts
Outdoor Activities and Sports
Participant Sports and Fitness
The Great River Road
Elsewhere in Cajun Country
Background and Essentials
Portraits of New Orleans
Books and Videos
Smart Travel Tips A to Z
About Our Writers