It may be a business meeting or conference that is drawing you down to New Orleans, but once in this melting pot of a city, you’ll see it’s one big party for all five senses. From the distinctive Cajun, Creole and French aromas and flavors to the soulful jazz sounds drifting in the balmy river breeze and the visual feast your eyes will devour taking in French and Spanish architecture and the city’s vibrant arts scene, these are the kinds of sensory pleasures you will be able to soak up in between your work-related agenda.
Where to lay your head at night
If you’ll be attending an event at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center (going to the Society for Human Resource Management conference, anyone?), the Hampton Inn & Suites® New Orleans Convention is right across the street. Not only that, the property, partially housed in a restored warehouse, is within walking distance to the French Quarter and all its fine restaurants, shops and jazz clubs.
Another prime location for conference attendees: the New Orleans Downtown Marriott™ at the Convention Center, a beautifully renovated hotel that was converted from a 19th-century cotton mill. Its elegant lobby with high ceilings and tasteful red velvet furniture is a great spot to meet up with clients.
For a more intimate experience, consider a stay at Hotel Le Marais, a sophisticated French Quarter boutique boasting a beautiful outdoor sanctuary — a modern courtyard with a heated saltwater pool. And for anyone having trouble concentrating on their main objective while down there (ahem, business), it also features an executive board room and business center where you can work without any distractions.
We don’t recommend renting a car to get around New Orleans, which is filled with narrow, one-way streets and parking lots that charge hefty fees. Besides, with its flat, picturesque streets, this town is made for walking. (And if time allows it, we suggest going on a stroll with Free Tours by Foot™.)
Taxi rides from the airport (which you can find on the first level of the terminal outside of baggage claims 1 and 14) cost approximately $36 to the central business district or French Quarter for up to two passengers (it’s more for additional passengers).
Uber™ users should meet their drivers at the transportation center located on the ground floor outside of baggage claim No. 6.
Once in town, the options are endless: Buses, ferries, pedicabs and the city’s famous streetcars all can take you where you need to be. For a really sweet ride, rent some wheels from the American Bicycle Rental Company™, a family-owned business with top-notch service.
Eat where the locals do
You certainly won’t have a lack of fantastic dining options in the culinary capital of the South. For a meal that will delight taste buds and quench hunger pangs, try one of these three New Orleans classics: gumbo, a Creole stew, at Commander’s Palace™; crawfish étouffée, a roux-based stew, at Bon Ton Café™; and jambalaya, paella’s cousin, at K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen™.
At Acme’s Oyster House™, sample oysters the New Orleans way — chargrilled — and a variety of po-boys, which are sandwiches either made with meat or fried seafood and served on crusty French bread.
At the world-renowned Café du Monde™ — which dates back to 1862 — try a classic Big Easy duo: beignets, doughnut’s puffy-light relative, and coffee made with chicory, which gives the java a bitter-peppery note.
To sample Bananas Foster where it actually was invented, head to the legendary Brennan’s™, a Creole restaurant where the rich and glamorous have been eating since 1946.
And at the funky-cool Jacques-Imo’s™, be wowed by Chef Jacques Leonardi’s signature blackened redfish dredged in special spices. The more adventurous also might — scratch that, must — try the shrimp and alligator cheesecake, an appetizer that gets rave reviews.
If you’ve got a few hours to kill…
You may feel obligated to burn off some calories from the above-mentioned foods. A fun way to do so? Become a “fitsetter” by working out with The Sweat Social™, a fitness studio created by travelers for travelers. It offers two signature classes —Sweat and Stretch — as well as running tours with plenty of photo ops at iconic tourist sites.
Of course, no trip to New Orleans is complete without a leisurely stroll in the French Quarter, where you can study the 18th-century Spanish architecture and check out a number of jazz clubs, including the famous Preservation Hall™.
Peruse the art galleries of the city’s Warehouse District, considered the “SoHo of the South,” or take a cruise along the Mississippi River to see New Orleans from a different vantage point and understand why it’s also called the Crescent City.
Discover firsthand why in these parts, unlike in D.C., “the swamp” has a positive connotation by exploring the beauty of the bayou on a guided kayak or boat tour along Honey Island Swamp, one of the most pristine river swamps in the country. It’s decorated with Spanish moss and lined with gnarled cypress trees and a great spot to search for wildlife, including alligators, red wolf, deer, cougar and a variety of exotic birds.
Or, get your heart pounding another way by taking a nighttime walking tour of “the most haunted city in America,” known for its paranormal activity.
Those who have an appreciation of architecture and landscape design can explore the area’s magnificent homes and gardens — or check out the colorful and eco-friendly designer homes built post-Hurricane Katrina in the Lower 9th Ward.
With an east and west wing connected by a central ticketing alley, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport itself is pretty easy to navigate. But if you have any trouble at all, be on the lookout for one of the friendly “airport ambassadors,” who can help steer you in the right direction — while also giving you a big dose of Southern hospitality and more beads to take home.
Oh, and just in case you are wondering (as it seems many do with this being the top question on the airport’s FAQ page): TSA “generally” allows passengers to carry king cakes (the colorful confectioneries associated with Mardi Gras) on board the aircraft with them. Note: They are subject to additional screening.