New Orleans is a town for history lovers. If you like to learn while traveling, then plan a trip to Nola.
MSY (Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport) has a brand new, beautiful airport and traveling to the Central time zone grants a bonus hour upon arrival.
A neighborhood walking tour is a great way to start a trip. Stroll the Garden District with exploringnolatours.com; it’s chock full of historic mansions on tree-lined streets and the mausoleums of Lafayette Cemetery #1, accessible only with a registered tour guide.
Two of my favorite boutique hotels are in New Orleans, The Chloe in Uptown and Pontchartrain in the Garden District. If you love design, stay at the 14-room Chloe with its superb dining room, which attracts lots of stylish locals. The Pontchartrain is a 1927 Art Deco gem and home to restaurant Jack Rose with its iconic dessert, the three-layer Mile High Pie.
The National WWII Museum is a bucket list experience. Don’t miss out on registering a “dog tag” to follow the journey of a soldier or airman or nurse through the museum at specified kiosks. You can also ask questions of a virtual WWII vet; it’s unworldly and wholly personal.
Explore the historic neighborhoods of Treme, Marigny/Bywater and Bayou St. John by electric bike on a tour with buzznola.com. You’ll even cycle through City Park and pedal under its famous live oaks. The three-to-four-hour guided route is a blast on Nola’s flat terrain.
The Whitney Plantation is the only tour in Louisiana where history is told from the perspective of the enslaved. The account of the former sugar and syrup production farm is lovingly narrated by professors and historians in partnership with the Smithsonian and will long stay with you. It’s a quick drive out of town and completely worth the effort to get there.
Volunteer for the day with Common Ground Relief, an agency focused on restoring Louisiana’s wetlands. Plant marsh grass plugs by kayak in the bayou or help at their nursery in the Lower 9th Ward. Louisiana’s coast makes up 40 percent of America’s wetlands, an astonishing figure.
- Restaurant reservations are a must, and though apps like Resy and Open Table are convenient, call restaurants directly for select times. Keep in mind an early dinner Central time may not feel that early.
- Lyft is my preferred car service here. It has dedicated pickup spots at MSY and accurate GPS locating, key in a city with tons of one-way streets.
- Airbnb and VRBO are only permitted in some New Orleans neighborhoods, under certain conditions, and it’s difficult to discern regulations. Opt for a hotel stay instead.
- Tuesday is the day lots of businesses are closed, so plan ahead.
- Want to eat at the newest, hottest spot? Miss River, from James Beard-winning chef Alon Shaya, is now open at the Four Seasons hotel.
- Two French Quarter speakeasies to know (on the hush) are Double Dealer and Potion.
- Jazz Fest has been canceled twice but will return with its traditional two weekends April 29 – May 8, 2022.
- Ride the streetcar, a New Orleans tradition. An app makes it easy to track and for $1.25 one way you can’t beat the price. For unlimited rides, buy a “Jazzy Pass.”