While New Orleans is known for its history and culture – whether it be music, architecture or food – the city is also a thriving and young city. Turn a corner, and you’ll find a new art gallery or craft coffee shop popping up and catering to a new generation. If you’re worried about being relegated to historical tours and avoiding revelers on Bourbon Street, look no further. Here’s how to experience the new side of New Orleans.
Where to Stay
If you’re looking for a local experience, the Q&C Hotel is for you. Located in New Orleans’ booming Warehouse/Arts District, the hotel’s lobby is actually a bar and lounge that serves up craft cocktails and locally inspired small plates. The hotel takes its design from its roots as the Queen and Crescent Hotel, celebrating the railroad line that once ran between New Orleans and Cincinnati.
Art connoisseurs will feel at home at Le Meridien New Orleans, which provides complimentary admission to local art museums like New Orleans Museum of Art and the Contemporary Arts Center. After undergoing a $29 million renovation, this European hotel offers Sparkling Happy Hours, a rooftop pool and an innovative Hub lobby space serving up fresh espresso and baked goods.
Located just steps off Bourbon Street, the AC Hotel Bourbon is the first AC Hotel to debut in the United States. This European boutique hotel is located in the historic Cotton Exchange building and has a minimalist design incorporating technological elements. The first floor lounge serves up cocktails and tapas takes the place of a traditional lobby space.
The Saint Hotel offers a luxe local experience for young travelers with modern design and heavenly rooms. The Burgundy Bar on the first floor features performances by local jazz acts nightly and is even home to a regular burlesque show. Check out the Archangel Michael and Lucifer suites to get a taste of heavenly or hellish indulgence.
What to Do
While the French Quarter is the most famous New Orleans neighborhood, it’s not the only area that locals like to hang out. For a broad overview of the city beyond just the French Quarter, take a unique tour of the city. New Orleans has a variety of biking tours, and you can even rent the bicycles to explore some more on your own afterward. There’s also a jogging tour that takes you through 10k of walkable New Orleans landmarks. For a more seasoned taste of the city, check out a culinary or cocktail tour.
If you’re looking to see the bohemian side of New Orleans, head to the Marigny and Bywater located just behind the Quarter. The area around Piety Street and St. Claude Avenue in the Bywater neighborhood has exploded with galleries, restaurants and bars in the years since Hurricane Katrina. For an international taste, stop in atBooty’s Street Food, which serves food inspired by its chefs’ global apprenticeships.
For a leisurely stroll and some shopping, Magazine Street in the Garden District should be the first place on your list. The avenue is lined with almost three miles of shops, restaurants, galleries and more. Check out Dirty Coast for apparel with a local twist. For a sweet treat between stops, order a macaron and some espresso atSucre, an innovative patisserie.
If you want to check out some of New Orleans’ best art, head to the Warehouse and Arts District. Several galleries and museums line Julia and Camp Streets in the Arts District, and the rest of the Warehouse District is home to some of the city’s best restaurants and bars.
Looking for an evening of authentic local jazz? Check out Frenchmen Street, which is known as the “local’s Bourbon Street” and features live jazz in its clubs seven nights a week. Popular hotspots include D.B.A., The Spotted Cat and Blue Nile. Be sure to stop by the Frenchmen Art Market, which sets up with local wares at nights Thursdays through Sundays.
Where to Eat
New Orleans is one of the culinary capitols of the world, and there’s no shortage of restaurants to indulge your tastebuds. When you find yourself hungry while exploring the French Quarter, stop in at Central Grocery on Decatur Street for a muffaletta, the Sicilian sandwich invented there. You won’t be disappointed by this combination of Italian meats and cheeses topped with olive salad on a special sesame loaf.
While exploring the Warehouse District, one of the best stops in the area is Cochon Butcher, the easy lunching side of Chef Donald Link’s Cochon. Expect house-cured meats and local sandwiches with a Cajun flare. Another great stop in the area is Borgne, Chefs John Besh and Brian Landry’s newest restaurant that offers regionally inspired seafood dishes.
For lunch on Magazine Street, grab a poboy at Joey K’s or or a frank at Dat Dog and rest your feet a bit. When you’ve finished exploring Magazine Street and the Garden District, take the streetcar to Carrollton and dine atCarrollton Market. With a focus on farmers markets and local seafood, the menu changes frequently and makes use of the fruits of the Mississippi River Delta.
If you feel like experiencing classic New Orleans Creole, there’s no shortage of fine dining establishments across the city. For modernly refreshed Creole, stop in at Tableau and dine on the balcony overlooking Jackson Square. If you’re looking for a more traditional take, try Antoine’s or Arnaud’s – Antoine’s is actually the oldest continually-operating restaurant in America!
Where to Drink
For craft cocktail aficionados, Cure is the ultimate hotspot in New Orleans. Located on Freret Street, Cure kickstarted a new cocktail movement in New Orleans as well as development along Freret Street post-Katrina.
If you’re feeling a bit more tropical, head to Cane and Table. One of the bars in New Orleans’ new tiki corridor, the bar serves up Caribbean beverages and dishes. Check out the other bars along Decatur and St. Peter Street for a full-blown tiki night.
If you wanted to pass by Bourbon Street but experience something different from the typical evening, stop in atFritzel’s for some live jazz. Afterward, head over to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Once the smuggling post of the Lafitte brothers, it’s now the oldest building containing a bar in the U.S.
For some fun in the Warehouse District, stop in at the Q&C’s bar or the Loa Bar at International House Hotel. If you’re looking for a more worldly view of your cocktail, head over to Cellar Door, an almost-hidden cocktail bar that serves up worldly (and strong) beverages.
When you find yourself wanting to dance the night away, it’s time to head to Maple Leaf Bar. Top brass bands and local jazz acts grace the bar weekly, and you’ll be dancing with the locals to some of the city’s best music.