Photo by Paul Broussard, New Orleans & Company 

 

By Anastasia Mills Healy

New Orleans has its mojo back. A recent trip found the French Quarter hopping, restaurant reservations hard to get, and streetcars running at capacity. Here’s an update on what’s new in the Crescent City and how I spent a fun week with two teenagers.

Itinerary Ideas

Day One — French Quarter

 

Photo by Anastasia Mills Healy

If you’ve never been to New Orleans or are traveling with kids or teens and are looking for an engaging, air-conditioned attraction, Vue Orleans is a very interactive way to spend an hour. Opened in March 2022, it’s in a tall building (the same one as the new Four Seasons) at the foot of Canal Street on the edge of the French Quarter next to the aquarium. Use your hands to hover over digital displays without touching anything to learn about colorful characters from history and hear snippets of music. Upstairs you’ll find the only 360-degree panoramic indoor and outdoor riverfront views of the city, short films, and my kids’ favorite thing—a chance to pilot a tanker on the Mississippi in a video-game-like simulation.

Vue is next to the Aquarium of the Americas, which ticks all the boxes including sharks, penguins, and touch tanks. If you’re peckish, the famous po-boy shop (although it serves a lot more than sandwiches) Mother’s is nearby.

Photo by Zack Smith, New Orleans & Company

Take the riverfront streetcar (a day pass to ride all the streetcar lines is only $3; have singles ready) or walk along the river towards the Quarter. When you see Café du Monde, climb the steps to the viewing platform to get the perfect shot of St. Louis Cathedral. After the requisite beignets and a café au lait, walk down Decatur Street to the French Market to peruse clothing, jewelry, and souvenirs and to grab a bite and a refreshment at one of the many stands. 

Then wander at will through the Quarter, stopping in unique shops and perhaps the voodoo or pharmacy museum; admire the architecture; and soak up the atmosphere at the nearly 300-year-old Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop or the nearly 200-year-old Napoleon House. Return to your hotel to refresh for dinner.

Day Two – French Quarter, Marigny, and Bywater

There is so much fascinating history in this city—it was French and Spanish, and there are true tales of pirates and nuns, wars and literary giants, Acadians and Creoles, free people of color and natural disasters. Get a snapshot of what makes New Orleans so unique on a walking tour, and if your interest is piqued, check out the free Historic New Orleans Collection.

Photo by Zack Smith, New Orleans & Company

Refuel with a burger at Port of Call or a decadent all-day breakfast at Ruby Slipper Café before heading to JamNOLA (must book in advance), an Instagram-ready set of rooms with New Orleans-themed décor. Just down the block, stunning murals cover Studio Be, which is near a historical marker placed where Homer Plessy was arrested in 1892 for riding in a whites-only rail car. A block further, Bywater Brew Pub is a welcome pit stop. Then turn back and walk along Frenchmen Street, stopping for a drink, bite, or live music if the timing is right.

 

 Day 3 – Uptown and Garden District

Photo by Paul Broussard, New Orleans & Company

Yes, the St. Charles Avenue streetcar is touristy, but don’t pass up a chance to ride a National Historic Landmark through one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the country. Get off at Audubon Park and admire the live oaks en route to the wonderful Audubon Zoo, home to endangered sun bears, whooping cranes, and Komodo dragons. Cool off on warm weather weekends at the zoo’s water play area, with a lazy river and splash pad. Ideas for restaurants along the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line include Superior Seafood and Camellia Grill.

 

 

Day 4 — City Park

Photo by Anastasia Mills Healy

The perfectly designed, free, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden is reason enough to take the streetcar to City Park, but here you’ll also find the Louisiana Children’s Museum—a super fun place for young kids—and the free New Orleans Museum of Art. Get out on the lake in a swan paddle boat or rent bikes to explore this 1,300-acre park, which also has a botanical garden, Storyland play area, Carousel Gardens amusement park, and golf course.  

But back to the sculpture garden: Picturesque and engaging, its 90 sculptures range from a Louise Bourgeois giant spider to a Rodrigue blue dog; and its paths wind around live oaks and bridges on 11 acres.

 

Photo by Todd Coleman, New Orleans & Company

NoMA has a small café and Ralph’s on the Park is a restaurant within City Park; other eateries near the park include Mandina’s, Bevi, and Toup’s Meatery

Other Ideas

Where can you find King Kong, Shrek, and the characters from the Wizard of Oz under one roof?  Mardi Gras World, a working warehouse where you can walk freely around floats created for parades and businesses. 

The National World War II Museum is an unparalleled effort to tell the stories of the Great War. The city is flat so a bike tour is very doable or you could travel less than an hour for a swamp or plantation tour.

Get more ideas and resources at New Orleans & Company, the city’s official source for tourism information. 

Hotels

Four Seasons 

Opened in August 2021 in a 34-story building on the Mississippi River, the Four Seasons is at the foot of Canal Street on the edge of the French Quarter. It has 341 rooms, a pool, fitness center, and swanky bar, plus two restaurants. The seafood-centric Miss River is on the ground level and Chemin a La Mer, from celebrity chef Donald Link (of Pȇche, Cochon, and Herbsaint), seems custom built for celebrating special occasions with its river views and formal, romantic atmosphere.

Photo Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel

The Chloe 

A St. Charles Avenue streetcar ride from the French Quarter, The Chloe is an inviting 14-room boutique hotel opened in an Uptown mansion at the beginning of the pandemic by a local decorator and designer. Those who appreciate 13-foot ceilings, décor with personality, and a home-away-from-home feeling will want to grab a cocktail, kick back on a pool chaise, and never leave.

Photo by Paul Costello, Courtesy of The Chloe

One 11 Hotel

The first new hotel in the French Quarter in more than 50 years, this 83-room property has a guests-only eighth-floor rooftop terrace with views of the Quarter and the Mississippi River. Opened in December 2020, it’s an adaptive reuse project—a century ago, the building was a sugar factory, and today its original wood and steel beams, arched windows, and exposed brick remain.

Photo courtesy One11 Hotel

Royal Sonesta 

My go-to hotel if I want to be in the center of the action is the 483-room full-service Royal Sonesta. Choose from a variety of room types and locations including those with a Bourbon Street balcony or with easy access to the fabulous pool and courtyard.

Photo courtesy Royal Sonesta

Sonder 

If you want more space and don’t need concierge service, consider renting from Sonder, a company with properties in 35 cities. There are 24 one-to-three bedrooms options in New Orleans in a variety of neighborhoods; some include perks like a rooftop pool, full kitchen and living room, in-unit laundry, and a fitness center. Mine had all of that plus marble floors and two wings off a central kitchen-living room; each wing had a bedroom with a king-sized bed, walk-in closet, and bathroom with a deep tub and double sinks—all for markedly less than the going rate for a regular hotel room.

Photo Courtesy of Sonder Hotel

Other hotels worth considering that have opened in the last few years include a converted Marigny church, Hotel Peter and Paul;  Hotel Saint Vincent in the Lower Garden District; and the 238-room Virgin Hotels New Orleans in the Warehouse District.

Restaurants

Photo by Paul Broussard, New Orleans & Company

It is hard to find a subpar meal in New Orleans as this is a city for foodies. With the Gulf of Mexico so close, seafood is the star of many menus—think oysters on the half shell, barbecued shrimp, soft shell crabs, and redfish. So, how do you choose? You will need advanced reservations and a collared shirt at French Quarter classics like Galatoire’s and Brennan’s as well as the raveworthy seafood restaurant GW Fins. Also in the Quarter, Red Fish Grill and the Gumbo Shop are casual, and Felix’s and Acme are known for oysters.

Cochon, Pȇche, Trenasse, and Luke are great CBD/Warehouse District options, and Commander’s Palace has been wowing Garden District diners for generations.