Destinations: New Orleans, La.

New Orleans, La., — a feast for your eyes and your stomach.

| January/February 2013

  • New Orleans French Quarter
    Start in the French Quarter for great food and fascinating history.
    Photo By Joe Berk
  • New Orleans Easy Rider
    Some of the most memorable scenes from Easy Rider were shot in New Orleans.
    Photo By Joe Berk

  • New Orleans French Quarter
  • New Orleans Easy Rider

New Orleans
What: New Orleans, La. Great culture, a 24-hour party and awesome food!
How to Get There: From the east or the west, I-10 is your ticket in. From the north, either I-55 or I-59 will run you into the city. From the south, paddle north and listen for the music!
Best Kept Secrets: The Insectarium (trust me on this one, you won’t regret it); Emeril’s sweet barbecue glazed salmon.
Avoid: Mardi Gras (there are too many crazies and the hotel rates go up sharply), and getting out of the boat on the swamp tour (better to be a timid tourist than bait). 
More Info: New Orleans Tourism Board

NOLA. The Big Easy. Crescent City. Whatever you call it, New Orleans is a national treasure. I’ve been to a lot of places, and New Orleans remains my favorite city. 

The French Quarter should be your hub, with your explorations as spokes radiating from this vibrant core. There’s a lot to experience in the French Quarter, with great food at the top of the list.  

You can easily spend a full day in Jackson Square, starting with coffee and beignets for breakfast (Café Du Monde is just across the street). Then take a walk over to the Cabildo, a museum dedicated to the Louisiana Purchase and regional history. Thomas Jefferson was prepared to offer up to $10 million for New Orleans; Napolean countered with $15 million for the city and the entire Louisiana Territory. Jefferson borrowed the money from Great Britain and then hired two guys named Lewis and Clark to find out what, exactly, was the Louisiana Territory. It all started right here, and the Cabildo tells the entire story. Have a po’boy for lunch at any of the restaurants lining Jackson Square, then spend the afternoon in the Presbytere museum learning about Mardi Gras history. Try Emeril’s NOLA for dinner, and then finish your evening with a free concert in Jackson Square’s St. Louis Cathedral.  

And while the French Quarter is New Orleans’ most famous neighborhood, there’s much more to see. The Garden District includes impressive southern mansions, and, as much of New Orleans lies below sea level, the city’s practice of burying its dead in elaborate above-ground crypts makes for fascinating photography. Stroll through the Lower Ninth Ward, an area devastated by Katrina, and you’ll see where the levies failed, the high-water marks documenting Katrina’s rage. The National World War II museum (within walking distance of the French Quarter) is impressive. And then there’s the Audubon Museum’s Insectarium. It’s hard to imagine that a museum dedicated to insects could be so magnificent, but it’s a New Orleans gem you have to experience. 

If you want to get your knees in the breeze, go for a plantation or swamp tour. Sugar was the historic cash crop, and the restored plantations along the Mississippi are well worth a visit. The swamp tours (think gators and wild boars) are cool, too. Our advice is to go for a regular boat: The airboats look fun, but they’re so noisy you can’t hear your guide.  

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