Experiencing New Orleans
Feb 01, 2017 08:29AM ● Published by Ashley Pape
It takes more than a weekend to experience the culture and history of New Orleans. However, if you are planning a quick jaunt to The Big Easy, there are three districts you must see. Each with its own vibe, the French Quarter, the Garden District and the Arts District bring to the table new faces, new sights and new tastes.
The French Quarter
One of the best ways to experience New Orleans is to stay like a local in the Quarter. Rent a room at a townhouse or carriage house; you may not experience any five-star amenities, but what the lodging lacks in down comforters and Wi-Fi is made up for in New Orleans charm. Choosing to stay in the French Quarter means the heart and soul of New Orleans is right outside your door. Aesthetically and socially diverse, the district is filled with Spanish architecture, a French market and American history.
On any given Saturday, Jackson Square, named in honor of Andrew Jackson (the hero of the Battle of New Orleans) teems with artists, musicians and even fortunetellers. This eclectic collection of peddlers is a must-see attraction in the Quarter, so prepare to share the sidewalks with plenty of other meandering visitors.
Across from Jackson Square on Decatur Street, the original Café Du Monde has been serving coffee and chicory since 1862. No trip to the Quarter is complete without a stop for a coffee and beignet, a square French-style doughnut dusted with powdered sugar. The Café serves up these culinary delights 24 hours a day. Wander from Jackson Square to the French Market District in the lower French Quarter to experience a flea market and farmers market, among other shops and cafés.
The streets and avenues of the Quarter come alive at night on Decatur Street, Rampart Street and, of course, Bourbon Street. However, if your weekend plans happen to fall at the end of February, you’re in for a real treat: Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday, which falls on February 28, is preceded by parades, parades and more parades. You know what that means: gold, green and purple flags plus a sea of beads NewOrleansCVB.com, CafeDuMonde.com
Located southwest of the French Quarter, the Garden District is antebellum architecture at its finest. Rather than fraternize with peoples of European descent, who lived mainly in the Quarter, new American residents chose to settle in the Garden District in 1832. This neighborhood features stunning homes and landscaped gardens. The Italianate, Greek Revival and Victorian-style homes set on large plots reflect the wealth these American settlers amassed thanks to cash crops such as cotton and sugar. Touring the neighborhood of the Garden District by foot or by streetcar is truly a cultural and historical experience.
The intersection of Prytania Street and Washington Avenue is particularly well-known. Besides shops and cafés (you can never have too many in New Orleans), you’ll find a famous cemetery—Lafayette #1. This cemetery has been many a backdrop for film, literature and photography over the years.
What’s the next thing to do after a famous cemetery tour within the Garden District? You’ll definitely want to eat lunch at Commander’s Palace Restaurant. A winner of six James Beard Foundation Awards, this New Orleans landmark is a prime destination for Haute Creole cuisine. Chef Tory McPhail’s policy of “dirt to plate within 100 miles” means guests will be treated to authentic fare made with local ingredients. NewOrleansCVB.com, CommandersPalace.com
To explore the modern and contemporary side of New Orleans—with a bit of history on the side—look no further than the Arts/Warehouse District located northeast of the Garden District in the Uptown area. This district, filled with more than enough art for the masses, was unified by the Arts District of New Orleans Association (ADNO) to give locals and visitors a chance to enjoy another side of The Big Easy.
Established in the 1990s, ADNO brings art enthusiasts to the neighborhood through festivals, gallery shows and celebrations of the performing arts. The nonprofit organization has brought together 20 contemporary art galleries, three world-class museums presenting visual and performing arts, a rotating outdoor public sculpture collection, and numerous bars and restaurants.
Galleries range from modern, which often feature mixed media works such as Callan Contemporary on Julia Street, to those showcasing the classics, such as Degas Gallery. After a few hours—or more—admiring paintings, drawings and sculptures, treat yourself to a latte or cortado at Mammoth Espresso on Baronne Street.
Whether you come for the fun of the French Quarter, the history of the Garden District or the beauty of the Arts District, you can tailor your weekend trip to fit your vacation style. ArtsDistrictNewOrleans.com