Vacations in New Orleans, LA - Jim Flynn's BestWeekends

New Orleans, LA

New Orleans, LA Overview

New Orleans is small as major cities go, ranking 51st in terms of population with about 360,000 people. But, it casts a big shadow in the food and music worlds and is one of the country’s most popular travel destinations. Steeped in history with an ethnically diverse population, it is one of the country’s most interesting cities.

The city sits on an 8 mile strip of land between the Mississippi River and Lake Ponchartrain. The infamous French Quarter makes up the heart of the city and the Central Business District and Warehouse District lie just across Canal Street. A short streetcar ride takes you to the beautiful Garden District, home to the magnificent  Greek columned mansions.

After the devastating Hurricane Katrina, called “the worst engineering disaster in the world since Chernobyl,” when the Federal levee system failed, the city has rebounded with population increases, its world famous Mardi Gras and has hosted the 2008 NBA All-Star game, the 2008 BCS National Championship Game, the 2010 NCAA Final Four Championship and the 2013 Super Bowl.

Perhaps no other city is “known” for so many different types of food and drink. Cajun and Creole foods both begin with the “holy trinity” of green peppers, onions and celery, but Cajun food originated in the bayou, is more rustic and “down home”. Creole cooking has more French and European influences and is considered more elegant and refined.

Called a submarine or hoagie in other parts of the country, the muffuletta, is a combination of ham, salami, Swiss, provolone and olive spread. A po-boy is served on a French baguette and filled with fried seafood like oysters, shrimp, crawfish or soft shell crab. On the sweeter side, beignets, deep fried dough balls sprinkled with powdered sugar are a breakfast staple and the dessert Bananas Foster was invented here.

The Sazerac, a combination of cognac and bitters, is said to be America’s first cocktail and dates back to pre-Civil War days in the city. The Ramos Gin Fizz combines gin, lemon and lime juice, egg white, sugar, cream, orange flower water and a splash of soda water was also invented in New Orleans.

New Orleans was the birthplace of jazz and today hosts one of the largest jazz festivals in the world each year in late April/early May. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, also known as JazzFest, is a 10 day celebration of music, food and crafts with featuring some of the top musical stars of the day.

When To Go

The late Spring, Summer and early Fall can be dreadfully hot and humid. Best times are October-May.

Getting There

New Orleans is accessible from anywhere in the country by air. It is about 3 ½ hours from New York or LA, 2 ½ from Chicago and 1 ½ hour from Dallas.

Getting Around

Public transportation is good (cabs and streetcars and now Uber) and even though the city is somewhat spread out, it works pretty well.

Things To Do


Scenic Audubon Park on the edge of the Garden District features a 1.8-mile jogging path that winds through oaks covered in Spanish Moss. The circular path wraps around a lagoon and the Audubon Clubhouse Cafe.  City Park, one of the largest urban parks in the U.S., has several miles of walking trails, including the paved 3/4-mile path that wraps around Big Lake.  The Wisner Bike Path runs along Bayou St. John, beginning at Lafitte Street and North Jefferson Davis Parkway and continuing down Wisner Boulevard to Beauregard Avenue and Lakeshore Drive. The whole path is 4.7 miles and is wide enough for bikes and pedestrians. 

The New Orleans Lakefront offers ample opportunity for joggers with several miles of levee as well as paved paths along Lake Ponchartrain. The Lakefront area spans roughly two miles.


Take the New Orleans Original Walking Cocktail Tour when you first get to town. It will help you decide where you want to spend the rest of your time. New Orleans Culinary Tours and Tour New Orleans are also good choices. Tours.

Professional Sports

New Orleans is home to the NFL World Champion New Orleans Saints and the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans. Tickets.


New Orleans Museum of Art
Opened in 1911, this beautiful museum features exhibitions of African, Asian, Native American and Oceanic art. The sculpture garden is magnificent.

Confederate Museum
Presents Louisiana life during the Civil War. Opened in 1891.

New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
There are a number of Voodoo Museums in NO, but this is the best, in large part because its dark and brooding setting just seems appropriate for the topic. It’s actually kind of spooky.

The Audubon Nature Institute
 offers Experience Packages that include their Zoo, insectariums and Aquarium. Perfect for children.


Plantations, cemeteries, historic homes, churches, public parks and more. Visit Sights

The Arts

New has the most up to the minute lists of all cultural events including dance, the opera, the symphony, theater and more.


New Orleans was voted Best Music Scene by the readers of Travel + Leisure Magazine. Much of the city’s music has shifted from the Quarter to other places in the City like Frenchmen Street in the Faubourg Marigny, a historic neighborhood within walking distance of the Quarter.  DBA features a great mix of local rock, soul and brass in a great intimate setting; Snug Harbor, and The Blue Nile draw renowned jazz bands and solo performers, while restaurants such as The Three Muses and the Marigny Brasserie cater to the late-night crowds. Head to the Hi Ho Lounge for acoustic bluegrass. Don’t miss the “blues” at House of Blues and the great jazz club The Spotted Cat Music Club. Also try Three Muses on Frenchman. Intimate, no cover and not crowded.

Many hotels like Windsor Court, The Ritz Carlton, The Roosevelt and Le Pavillion offer live music in their lounges.


On the first Saturday of every month head to the Warehouse District where galleries keep their doors open late and serve hors d’ouevres, wine and music. Here’s some notable galleries;

Callan Fine Art, 240 Chartres Street, 19th and 20th Century European and American Art
Martin Lawrence Galleries 433 Royal Warhol, Chagall, Picasso
Windsor Fine Art, 221 Royal Street The Masters
Kurt E. Schon, 510/520 St. Louis 18th 19th century paintings


Royal Street is the place for antiques. Here’s some important spots;
M.S. Rau Antiques, 630 Royal
Keil’s Antiques, 325 Royal
Antiques de Provence. 623 Royal


Most events take place in a hand full of venues; The Smoothie King Center, the Civic Theater, the Saenger Theater, the Mahalia Jackson Theater and The House of Blues.


Royal Street in the Quarter has antiques shops, galleries, jewelry and more. Riverwalk Marketplace is home to chain stores and high tech shops. Unique fashion and antique stores line Magazine Street in the Garden District and local art dominates Julia Street in the Warehouse District. Shopping.


Dont Miss

  • The French Quarter where every day is a party
  • A Hurricane at Pat O’Brian’s
  • The Garden District, a neighborhood of spectacular 19th-century mansions built in styles ranging from Greek Revival to Gothic. Home of Commander’s Palace restaurant
  • Any meal at Commander’s Palace
  • Lafayette Cemetery while you’re in the Garden District
  • Jackson Square bordered with stunning historical buildings and centered with its monument to Andrew Jackson
  • A ride on the St Charles Avenue streetcar, the oldest streetcar in the country
  • No visit is complete without a stop at Café Du Monde for beignets

The Best Of...

News and Resources

The Times-Picayune is the city’s newspaper and read by everyone. It recently went to 3 times a week publication. The paper’s website, stays current with the news. New Orleans Magazine is the city’s lifestyle magazine. Offbeat, chronicles the city’s music scene. WWOZ, 90.7 is New Orleans jazz station and the best source for music in the city.

Food & Drink


All our lodging recommendations offer breakfast, but you’re in New Orleans, so get out and try something new. You can’t come to NOLA without  a café au lait  or chicory coffee and beignets. Café du Monde gets the publicity and is touristy, but who cares?. It’s legendary. Locals flock to Slim Goody’s Diner . Also try Wakin’ Bakin‘for their cheddar sliders with eggs and bacon or Biscuits and Buns on Banks for their biscuits and slow cooked brisket or the chicken and waffles. Last, but not least is Brennan’s, around since 1946 and recently completely renovated. Breakfast starts at 8am and the bar is open! An elegant alternative for a delicious breakfast.


Ruby Slipper Café (three locations). Great food,  (A pair of poached eggs over house made corned beef hash and an open faced buttermilk biscuit, accented with a horseradish cream sauce and finished with Hollandaise), al la carte pricing and killer Mimosas. Commander’s Palace Jazz Brunch, always an event and worth at least one visit for brunch, but it’s expensive. Brennan’s, touristy for sure, but I love this place. Café Amalie, has great food, a courtyard setting and is the most romantic brunch spot in town. You are in New Orleans so enjoy the music at the House of Blues Gospel brunch. If that doesn’t get you on the straight and narrow nothing will. The Grill Room at Windsor Court has an a la carte jazz brunch that is very reasonably priced. Bubble bar and “build your own mimosa.”


With $.25 martinis and great food, it’s hard to skip Commander’s Palace for lunch, but Couchon, in a renovated warehouse has become a favorite of both locals and tourists serving terrific small plates with an emphasis on pork. Café Amalie is the kind of place you could while away an afternoon. Galatoire’s offers delicious food and a glimpse of locals and politicians in their seersucker suits and bow ties. Very entertaining.


There will come a time during your NOLA visit that you’ll have had your fill of Cajun and Creole food and crave a good old burger. At Port of Call, the waits can be long, so bring some refreshment, but you’ll be rewarded with an amazing burger, huge and dripping with cheeses and sautéed onions. Company Burger is also a local favorite and they have cocktails!


Blue Oak has won the “Best BBQ” in the reader’s poll for the Gambit publication.

Ice Cream/Sweets

Creole Creamery gets the nod for the best ice cream in town, but  stop in at Angelo Brocato for Italian ice cream and gelato and amazing pasties and  Sucre sells delicious macaroons and chocolates.


Drago’s seems to have the best selection, Acme Oyster House has been there for 100 years, we loved Bourbon House, big and comfortable and John Besh’s Luke is more sophisticated and has lots of other shellfish.


A toss up in our mind between Dickie Brennan’s and Chophouse. Both have great food and he-man ambiance.

Wine Bars

Bacchanal is a wonderful little place with live music every day, a free wine tasting on Saturdays from 3-5pm and delicious comfort food. Fantastic outside courtyard.  Orleans Grapevine in the Quarter offers wine flights, good casual food and courtyard seating. Swirl Sensational Wines offers a mostly European list.  Patrick’s Bar Vin, also in the Quarter, is elegant and sophisticated with beautiful décor to enjoy while sipping your favorites. Delachaise has 350 wines, 36 under $36. The Delachaise Voted BEST FRIES in Louisiana 5+yrs, BEST DATE PLACE, BEST PATIO. BEST WINES BTG, BEST Wine List.


Happy Hour on the porch at the Columns Hotel is so – old south.  Beautiful Victorian bar inside.  Loa Bar has amazing drinks in a very romantic candlelit setting. Cure, is the new kid on the block, but its artisan cocktails, small plates and great vibe has catapulted it to the top of a very competitive bar scene. French 75 at Arnaud’s is a wonderful throw-back to another time. With Edith Piaf playing the background, a bar built in the 1800’s and legendary Chris Hannah behind the bar, this is a man’s man bar. Did I mention the cigars? Don’t miss a drink at the Carousel Revolving Bar at the Hotel Monteleone. For a great rooftop experience head to Hot Tin. Amazing city views.


Afternoon Delight

Where to hang late in the afternoon before you head back for a nap? Luke, one of John Besh’s places, offers Happy hour every day from 3-6pm, with 75 cent oysters, plus half-price wines by the glass, house brand liquors and draft beers. The Bourbon House has dollar oysters on the half shell, $3 Abita drafts, $4 glasses of house wine, and $5 small plates of items like truffled Romano potato chips or red bean hummus. Also try Red Fish Grill which offers 50-cent oysters, two-for-one draft beer, and two-for-one glasses of house wine, Monday through Thursday from 3-6pm.

While Away a Rainy Day

Erin Rose, just off Bourbon Street has a great mix of people; locals, artists, musicians and tourists, fantastic Po’ Boys and very reasonable prices. Finn McCools on Banks has tons of TV’s, great place to watch soccer, voted “best Neighborhood bar”. Drink Pimms Cups at Napoleon House. Ride your bikes, bring your dog to Wrong Iron on the Greenway, a wonderful outdoor space with 50 beers, 10 wines, 5 cocktails, and 4 frozen drinks all on tap, plus a selection of food trucks.


Grab a po-boy or muffaletta at Central Grocery and a six-pack of cold beer, and head over to Woldenberg Park and the river for a picnic with a wonderful view Mississippi River. Watch the boats — from cruise ships to cargo vessels and everything in between.

After Dinner Fun

See music in “Things To Do” and Wine Bars above. Lafite’s Blacksmith Shop is an 18th century cottage and one of the most photographed buildings in the Quarter. A warming fire, candlelight and piano music make this one of the best places for a romantic after dinner drink. Enjoy the dueling pianos at Pat O’Brien’s Piano Bar and the elegant Sazarac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel is a great spot for an after dinner drink. Feel like dancing? Try the Davenport Lounge at the Ritz or for a big loud dance club, visit the Republic.  Local’s love music venue Tipitina’s.

During World War II, distilled spirits were in short supply, but rum was plentiful, so the experts  at Pat O’Brien’s perfected “The Hurricane” for which it is known today. The place attracts all the tourists, but we love it, especially the outside courtyard.

Special Things

The St. Charles Streetcar

The streetcar is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world, in operation since 1835. The beautiful route where ancient oak trees form a canopy over parts of the street , pass gorgeous mansions, Audubon Park, Tulane and Loyola Universities and historic churches.

City Park

This 1,300 acre outdoor oasis was created in 1854 making it one of the country’s oldest urban parks. Historic oaks (one is 800 years old), a Botanical Garden (don’t miss the Japanese Garden), a Sculpture Garden, a Carousel Garden Amusement Park, an 18 hole golf course, miles of biking, jogging and walking paths, a wildflower field and “Monet-esque” bridges make this a truly special place.

Classic Cocktail Hop

As New Orleans is definitely a drinking town, we love this from Thrillist; ” Go on a classic cocktail hop: Have a Sazerac at The Sazerac bar, Ramos Gin Fizz at the Empire Bar, a Vieux Carre at the Carousel bar, a Brandy Crusta at the French 75 Bar, a Grasshopper at Tujague’s, a Brandy Milk Punch at Brennan’s, a Pimm’s Cup at the Napolean House and so on.”

Or, “Go on a non-classic cocktail hop: Have Hurricanes at Pat O’Briens, Hand Grenades and Shark Attacks at Tropical Isle, and, naturally, Purple Drank at Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop.”

Preservation Hall

The best place for traditional jazz, Dixieland and ragtime…maybe anywhere.

Where To Stay

Le Pavillon

OVERVIEW of Le Pavillon

Located in the center of the business district and minutes from the Superdome and the French Quarter, Le Pavillon sits on land once a plantation. Built in 1907, this grand hotel has an amazing collection of art, antique furniture and architectural features. You'll marvel at a 17th…

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Maison de Ville

OVERVIEW of Maison du Ville

Maison du Ville is a charming B&B only a block from wild Bourbon Street, yet you would never know it. It is a tranquil oasis where rooms encircle a wonderful brick patio centered with a fountain and the crowds seem far away. Built in 1783, apothecary…

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The Ritz Carlton

OVERVIEW of Ritz Carlton New Orleans

It is hard to match the elegance of the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans. Located on the edge of the French Quarter it is close to most everything and a wonderful base for exploring the city. The gorgeous lobby opens onto a stunning courtyard filled…

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The Roosevelt

OVERVIEW of The Roosevelt

Another New Orleans hotel with a long history, the 116 year old Roosevelt has been through a number of incarnations, the latest after the devastating Hurricane Katrina. Originally opened on New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight in 1907, the 500…

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Windsor Court

OVERVIEW of Windsor Court

A $22 million renovation has restored Windsor Court to the top of the list of New Orleans hotels. All 316 guestrooms have been refurbished, the Grill Room and Polo Lounge refreshed, a Cocktail Bar has been added to the lobby and a…

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Where To Eat


Chef/owner John Besh is a nationally acclaimed chef and a certified rock star in New Orleans. He was named "Top 10 Best New Chefs in America" by Food & Wine Magazine, won the prestigious James Beard "Best Chef-Southeast" award and is a frequent guest on The Today Show. He owns no less than nine restaurants,…

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Commander’s Palace

For many, myself included, Commanders Palace is the quintessential New Orleans restaurant. I mean how can you not love a place that offers $.25 martinis at lunch. Owned since 1974 by the legendary Brennan family, Commander's Palace launched the careers of renowned chefs Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse and current chef Tory McPail was recently…

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Domenica, which means "Sunday" in Italian is another John Besh restaurant and is the perfect place for a casual meal and an alternative to the local Cajun and Creole food. High ceilings and communal tables evoke a traditional Sunday supper in a rustic Italian village. Located in the renovated and historic Roosevelt Hotel, the friendly…

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Another New Orleans institution, Galatoire's, has been open in the heart of the French Quarter since 1905 when Jean Galatoire came to New Orleans from a small town in France. He brought classic French cooking and married those techniques to fresh ingredients from Louisiana. Now the fifth generation of Galatoires and their descendants continue to…

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Irene's was a wonderful little find from a local who suggested it after I said I had had my fill of Cajun and Creole food. Tucked away on a back street, it quickly became clear that this was a local's favorite. Even though they take reservations, you'll still have to wait, in fact the joke…

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