A heady confluence of the haughty European and the boisterous third-world, New Orleans is often referred to as the northernmost Caribbean city. Precious architecture stands alongside careening overloaded junk trucks, sumptuous delicacies tickle palates whils the eyes. Never be in a hurry, and any time you step outside, be ready for a meandering conversation with a total stranger.
Even after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in 2005, the town’s unofficial motto remains - Laissez les bons temps rouler, or Let the good times roll. The people of New Orleans have embraced the process of rebuilding, and though the population in town has been halved, the areas along the river, most-frequented by visitors, never saw flooding and are rich once again with the city’s trademark joyfulness.
Must See: Most travelers to New Orleans know that the French Quarter is the one (or only) place they must visit during their trip. Vibrant, old-school panache lends a certain dignity to the otherwise debauched activities in The Quarter. Not just for Mardi Gras, revelers throw strings of beads from cast-iron balconies in appreciation of beautiful strangers passing below. The echoes of unbelievably sweet jazz, funky brass, R&B and blues beat from unexpected corners, and dancing becomes a reaction and not a choice. Meanwhile succulent restaurant aromas recall a history infused with French, African, Spanish, Italian and Caribbean cultural influences.
Lodging: Deciding where to stay in New Orleans has everything to do with what you want from your visit. Do you want to be where the party is- interested in the nightlife and architecture of the French Quarter? Are you in town primarily to eat—and to eat (very) well? Do the antebellum mansions of the Garden District pique your interest, or do you need to be close to business district and convention center?
The Ritz Carlton New Orleans is the top choice for many visiting the city. A great location for either business or pleasure, it features luxurious rooms and suites and outstanding modern New Orleans fare at M Bistro. Afternoon tea in Davenport Lounge is one of the most civilized traditions in the city, while the spa regularly tops lists as being one of the best in the country. There are many other hotels of varying degrees of luxury for private jet charter to New Orleans visitors to take advantage of.
Ground Transportation: In addition to all the standard rental car, luxury ground transportation and bus/taxi options found in every major U.S. city, there are a few other unique ways to get around the city. New Orleans has three active streetcar lines, and the St. Charles line is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in America. The city's flat landscape, mild winters and simple street grid facilitate year round bicycle ridership, helping to make New Orleans eighth among U.S. cities in its rate of bicycle and pedestrian transportation. The Canal Street Ferry connects the heart of New Orleans with the neighborhood of Algiers Point on the other side of the Mississippi River.
Recommended Books: Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice (1976) This gothic horror and vampire novel taking place in New Orleans centers on vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac, who tells the story of his 200-year-long life to a reporter, his relationship with the vampire responsible for what he has become, Lestat, and the young child Claudia that they turn into a vampire as a companion.
Currency: The United States Dollar is the local currency
Calling Code: 1
Best Travel Dates and Packing Tips: Across much of Louisiana, May through September are hot and humid, when 100°F and nearly 100% humidity aren't uncommon. These long, hot summers may explain why things are less hurried down here.
June through November bring heavy rains and occasional hurricanes. Although winters are mild compared with those in northern climes, the high humidity can put a chill in the air December through February. Nevertheless, the holiday season is a great time to visit, with few conventions in town, a beautifully bedecked French Quarter, and discounted rates at many hotels.
Perhaps the best time to visit the city is early spring. Days are pleasant, except for seasonal cloudbursts, and nights are cool. The azaleas are in full bloom, the apricot scent of sweet olive trees wafts through the evening air, and the city bustles from one outdoor festival to the next.