New Orleans

WHY GO IN APRIL Skip overcrowded Mardi Gras and instead visit during the French Quarter Festival, April 11-13, which features more than 150 musical performances. Plus, check out the "World's Largest Jazz Brunch," in which dozens of the city's best restaurants serve authentic Cajun eats (www.fqfi.org ).

 

The newly-refurbished Hotel Monteleone.

The newly-refurbished Hotel Monteleone.

 

Reason No. 1 to Go Back: The French Quarter is as lively as it was pre-Katrina. You won’t see any signs of the rebuilding struggles happening here. The streets are filled with tourists, the doors are propped open at local shops, and artists—from jazz to tap dancers—are on just about every corner. To avoid the rowdy, bead-catching Bourbon Street crowds, walk one or two blocks south to the more sophisticated Royal or Chartres streets, where nightlife exists sans the college pub feel.

Reason No. 2 to Go Back: The Hotel Monteleone (214 Rue Royal, 800-535-9595, www.hotelmonteleone.com ). From the time the concierge greets you, you feel like royalty. Choose from three styles of newly refurbished rooms (reserve a deluxe suite; not only is it the largest accommodation, but it offers a view of either the French Quarter or Mississippi River; prices start at $179). Predinner, sit barside at the hotel’s Carousel Piano Bar & Lounge, which slowly rotates (no, you haven’t been drinking too much—the room really is spinning).

Reason No. 3 to Go Back: The eats. Brennan’s Restaurant (417 Royal St., 504-525-9711, www.brennansneworleans.com ) serves up a serious Cajun-infused breakfast, but its world-famous Bananas Foster, which originated here, is a must-order. For lunch, try Lüke, created by renowned chef John Besh (333 Saint Charles Ave., 504-378-2840, www.lukeneworleans.com ). While there, sample the Absinthe Suisse ($8)—a potent, herbal cocktail. Go all out for dinner. Olivier’s (204 Decatur St., 504-525-7734, www.olivierscreole.com ) is Creole at its finest. With great views of the bustling street outside, this family-owned spot is only open for dinner, so make reservations before getting into town.

TRAVEL FILE

  • In September, The Today Show named New Orleans the second most beautiful place in America
  • A lot of natives call you "baby" (but they pronounce it bay-beh). "Thanks, baby." "Come back to see us, baby."
     
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