Quick trip to New Orleans?
June 18, 2012 8:52 AM   Subscribe

I’ve been thinking about a return trip to New Orleans for a while now (last there in 2008), and came across some good off-season fares/hotel deals for August. Yes, New Orleans in August. (Probably too many) specific questions inside…

1. The timeframe that would be best for us is around the first weekend in August. But that’s also the “Satchmo Fest” and art-walk weekend. While I’d love to check out either/both of these, I’m not a fan of crowds…are they big enough that they could make it hard to get around, even if we choose not to go?

2. The heat. I’m not very good at it, although I manage to deal with summer in Washington DC. I’m thinking most everything is going to be air-conditioned though, and we’ll use this trip to see some indoor museums we haven’t been able to make it to yet. Still…bad idea? Wait until March or something?

3. Transportation. We’ve always pretty much walked everywhere, but with the heat we may not have that option this time. We mostly know just the Quarter and a bit of the Garden District. We don’t want to rent a car, but can if we have to. Will the streetcars get us around, or are they more of a tourist ride? Are cabs a good option? (Planning on staying at the W Hotel next door to the casino.) Oh, and we’re generally city-savvy, but don’t want to venture too far anywhere sketchy with no car.

4. Indoor stuff to do. I’m especially interested in the Backstreet Cultural Museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art, Mardi Gras World, and maybe the Museum of the American Cocktail (worth it?). Any other suggestions for air conditioned activities?

5. Music. I admit to not really “getting” a lot of traditional jazz. Still, after watching “Treme” I’m interested in supporting some local music. I like stuff that’s more of a blending of styles and/or with a heavy funk influence. Are there particular bands or venues I should look for?

6. Cheap eats. We’re doing this as a quick-and-cheap vacation…and we usually feel more comfortable in a casual setting anyway. Best bets for raw bar oysters, sandwiches, regional can't-miss meals? (And if we decide to do just one splurge meal…where?) Mr. Arkham is a pescatarian and I’m an omnivore…so anywhere with at least one seafood/vegetarian option is fine.

7. Drinks. Favorite chill out bars? Best old-school cocktails? We really liked Pravda last time, anything similar would be great.

Thanks in advance! (And always willing to reciprocate with DC advice…)
posted by JoanArkham to Travel & Transportation around New Orleans, LA (41 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
The very first time I went to New Orleans was in August. The heat is indeed formidable. And, it will be humid like woah. I did still have a great time, and didn't mind the heat quite so much (I live in New York City, and we have our share of heat-and-humidity as well; you're in DC, which actually may be similar to New Orleans as well), but after my first full day I was dehydrating and had to start drinking a lot more water (thank god I was in a youth hostel with a girl who was in pre-med, and she diagnosed me after I complained of a "wicked bad headache"). Brace yourself for heat and drink more water than you think; if you can remember that, you may be okay.

The streetcars only go a couple specific places, if memory serves; if you want to go somewhere on the route, then great. If not, not so much. But there's a fairly good bus system.

You can avoid crowds very easily by simply walking one block north or south of Bourbon Street, if memory also serves, since 95% of the tourists will be congregated there.

As for food: I'm quite partial to a place called Felix's, which is across the street and up a bit from the more famous and trendier Acme Oyster Bar. Felix's also has a raw seafood bar, and also has a decent selection of other "typical" NOLA food fare. The vibe reminded me of Katz's deli in New York for reasons I'm not able to ascertain, and the price was modest. If you can get into Acme, that was also recommended to me. There was also a hole-in-the-wall dive bar near my hotel on my recent trip, Igor's, which to my great surprise did the best red beans and rice I had that whole trip.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:08 AM on June 18, 2012

Can't help with too much, but I highly highly recommend checking out the Maple Leaf Bar for live music. Rebirth Brass Band, who's made a few appearances on Treme, plays every Tuesday night. It's an intimate venue and will probably get pretty hot, but it's so, so, so worth it. You might want to take a cab since it's pretty far uptown.

I haven't been in New Orleans in August, but I was there all through June and July a few years ago and walked to work every day. It was unpleasant, but if you drink enough water you'll be fine. I live in DC now and think the hot/humid days here are comparable to New Orleans, the major difference being you occasionally get a break here.
posted by SugarAndSass at 9:11 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh - as for music, once the heat's started to abate for the day you may get lucky just hanging around Jackson Square and seeing whether anyone's jamming. I got totally lucky that first trip and happened to catch a whole group of guys from Lyon who just spontaneously set up out on the side walk and started playing this insane mashup of skiffle and klezmer, and only stopped when someone came out from a storefront to complain. They weren't busking, they just sort of thought it looked like it'd be fun to play, was all.

That kind of thing just happens now and then in New Orleans. It's fantastic.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:16 AM on June 18, 2012

came across some good off-season fares/hotel deals for August. Yes, New Orleans in August.

I'm from New Orleans and balk at the notion of visiting in August.

The timeframe that would be best for us is around the first weekend in August. But that’s also the “Satchmo Fest” and art-walk weekend.

If the "art walk weekend" you speak of is White Linen Night, then by all means go!!!! This is one of the coolest events in New Orleans and one rarely attended by tourists.

not a fan of crowds…are they big enough that they could make it hard to get around, even if we choose not to go?

It depends what you mean when you talk about disliking crowds. These events aren't going to be anywhere near as crowded as Mardi Gras, or even Jazz Fest. There will be a lot of people there, sure, but it's probably not going to be insanely ungodly miserable crowded. Frankly, as a New Yorker I envy the uncrowdedness of most New Orleans cultural events. Then again, if you are from North Dakota and overwhelmed by seeing more than 50 people in one place, and were hoping the city would be dead, you're probably out of luck.

The heat. I’m not very good at it, although I manage to deal with summer in Washington DC. I’m thinking most everything is going to be air-conditioned though, and we’ll use this trip to see some indoor museums we haven’t been able to make it to yet. Still…bad idea? Wait until March or something?

It will be crazy fucking hot outside. That said, you're on target with the assumption about air conditioning. If you can fill your days with museums, you'll be fine. Especially if you'll have access to a car. Driving stupid short distances seems attractive in August, even though the tourist center of the city is pretty compact. Definitely budget a rental car and parking.

We don’t want to rent a car, but can if we have to. Will the streetcars get us around, or are they more of a tourist ride? Are cabs a good option?

You don't have to, but it will make life easier. The streetcars are OK at getting you around, but they are not air conditioned and you wait outside. They also are pretty limited in scope, and assume that you can walk a ways to your final destination. A great option in March or maybe even June, but in August you will probably be miserable. Rent a car if you want to get around comfortably outside the 3 or 4 block walk to the Aquarium.

4. Indoor stuff to do. I’m especially interested in the Backstreet Cultural Museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art, Mardi Gras World, and maybe the Museum of the American Cocktail (worth it?). Any other suggestions for air conditioned activities?

NOMA is nice but not world class on par with anything you have access to in DC. It's also not possible to get to on foot from the CBD/Quarter. I think the St. Charles Streetcar might provide access, but see above. If you want to do a lot of this sort of thing, you're definitely going to want a car.

I'm not familiar with the other museums and thought Mardi Gras World was closed (maybe has reopened?), but I've had great luck stumbling into random museum and gallery spaces as I come across them (you might also like the Apothecary Museum, though it's small and possibly not airconditioned). Other ideas are the D-Day museum, the Aquarium of the Americas, and possibly that new Insect Experience place that opened a few years ago (maybe more family oriented, but definitely AC'ed and possibly cool).

7. Drinks. Favorite chill out bars? Best old-school cocktails? We really liked Pravda last time, anything similar would be great.

There's nothing like a Pimm's Cup under the ceiling fan at Napoleon House on a hot day.
posted by Sara C. at 9:21 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Satchmo Fest isn't crowded. In fact you might not even notice it was going on if you didn't know. Don't worry about the crowds.

Google New Orleans Coolinary menus. It's a dining promotion that lots of restaurants participate in to attract diners during the slow season. There are some great deals available. They probably don't have this year's menus up but you can get an idea by browsing last year's.

I think the cocktail museum is a little weak, and probably not worth the walk to the Riverwalk unless your going there for some other reason (but there's not really much reason to go there, it's just a mall). The other museums you mentioned are great.

It's going to be hot, but everything is hyper air conditioned. Check out www.norta.com for bus and streetcar routes and schedules. The streetcar is not touristy. Tourists do ride it obviously, but it's heavily used by locals especially during commute hours on weekdays. The St. Charles street car is not air conditioned, but the Canal one is and all the buses are.

For music, hit up Frenchmen St. Not great cocktails anywhere down there but it's the easiest way to check out several different bands in a concentrated area. Check www.offbeat.com or www.wwoz.com for listings.
posted by CheeseLouise at 9:23 AM on June 18, 2012

Forgot to address cabs: they are OK, but difficult to flag on the street and somewhat expensive if memory serves. If you get your hotel doorman (or whoever?) to flag you down a cab to a far-flung part of town, it might be worth taking down the number or getting the driver's card for when you want to go back.
posted by Sara C. at 9:24 AM on June 18, 2012

Oh and for cabs, just use United Cabs. You do have to call rather than flag. Well very rarely you can flag if you get lucky, but it's much more efficient to call. They're not particularly expensive, you can check their website for rates. I take cabs all the time and very, very rarely spend more than $20.
posted by CheeseLouise at 9:30 AM on June 18, 2012

New Orleans in August? I'm going to have to say this is a really bad idea if you don't like the heat. Most of the interesting places are NOT air-conditioned. Hotel rooms, lobbies, and some restaurants will be, but any of the more interesting places are in the older part of town where open doors and ceiling fans are the norm. We visit this GREAT city on a regular basis, but I would never go in August.

But then, take my advice with a grain of salt. I'm (ahem) older and the heat bothers me more every year. If you decide to go, take cotton clothing and a good sun hat.
posted by raisingsand at 9:57 AM on June 18, 2012

The heat is formidable, but if you move slowly (seriously) and stick to the shade, it's very doable.

My bigger concern with August is that is around the time that peak hurricane season begins. Getting out of NOLA as a tourist when a hurricane is in the gulf can be a difficult proposition.

As for museums, I actually really enjoy the Cabildo. NOMA is also entertaining, if quirky. The Historic New Orleans Collection in the French Quarter may have some interesting exhibits going on. I've also always wanted to visit the Pharmacy Museum. The US Mint at the edge of the Quarter near the Faubourg Marigny also has some interesting exhibits from time to time.

The carousel bar at the Montelone is a great stop. I'm also partial to the Columns on St. Charles.
posted by Leezie at 10:04 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and splurge meal: STELLA.
posted by Leezie at 10:06 AM on June 18, 2012

most everything is going to be air-conditioned

This is not correct, especially not compared to DC or most other cities in the southeastern US. Many places that you might want to visit stand a good chance of not being air-conditioned in New Orleans — particularly concert venues and bars, and also the streetcar you'd be riding from the Quarter to the Garden District (St. Charles). If you have any reservations at all about heat and humidity, August is not a fun time to be in New Orleans — I'd strongly suggest delaying your trip until mid-October or so.

Bars: Tonique, Cure; splurge meal: Boucherie if you're heading uptown (it's quite near the Maple Leaf)

Cabs: Yes, use United. Flagging random independent cabs, e.g. at the airport, often results in a very bad experience. It'll be more expensive than renting a car to get around.
posted by RogerB at 10:11 AM on June 18, 2012

Seconding the Pharmacy Museum! There is one day a week where they open up the second floor to tours (usually they don't -- or at leasat that was the case in 1998); watch for that.

Also, the Old Ursuline Convent may be of interest, especially if you get the same wacky tour guide I got who was not just telling me about the convent itself, but was also interrupting herself as we looked over a series of portraits of ArchBishops Of New Orleans to point to one and say "I swear I saw this guy as an extra in an Errol Flynn movie once!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:12 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

1. Timeframe: yes, it is hot in August. Unfortunately, it is hot from about May through November, so don't let that deter you too bad. Satchmo Fest traditionally has traditionally not been too crowded.

2. The heat: yes, most things are air conditioned. Don't shy away because of the heat. Bring light colored, loose clothing, keep a cold drink with you, splash a little cold water on your temples if it really starts to get to you.

3. Transportation: The streetcars will get you to and from Uptown (if you want to visit Audubon Park or the Garden District, including Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District - not to be missed). They will also get you to and from City Park, where the New Orleans Museum of Art is located. Walking the French Quarter, Central Business District, and Warehouse District is mostly fine (but not entirely). If you venture elsewhere, take a cab.

4. Indoor stuff to do: Definitely the New Orleans Museum of Art - take the Canal Street streetcar line. I would skip Mardi Gras World. Try the newish insect museum (part of the Audubon group) and the first-rate aquarium, both of which are located on or near Canal Street. If Louisiana history interests you (which it should!), don't miss the Cabildo on Jackson Square.

5. Music: Go to Funky Butt on Rampart Street. Avoid Bourbon Street like the Plague. Pick up a copy of the Gambit and see who is playing at the Maple Leaf uptown.

6. Cheap eats: for a "nice restaurant" experience that doesn't cost much, I'd recommend Herbsaint in the Central Business District. For something neighborhoody, try La Crepe Nanou uptown (take a cab or get off the St. Charles streetcar near Robert St). Not sure if it fits your dietary restrictions but I would highly recommend Elizabeth's in the Bywater (again, take a cab), very southern / Louisiana oriented and utterly delicious. There is a lot of good stuff on Magazine Street between Louisiana Avenue and that place where it splits at St. Andrew. That is also a safe, walkable zone.

7. Drinks: don't miss the Columns Hotel on St. Charles avenue. My favorite watering hole was St. Joe's on Magazine St (take a cab). Smoke free, great ambiance, very local. French Quarter, I second whoever recommended the Carousel Bar at the Monteleone. If you're staying at the W, I recall their bar being a quiet place to chill and and sip.
posted by chicxulub at 10:36 AM on June 18, 2012

The heat is terrible, but it's because it is SO wet. DC may have somewhat prepared you for that.

I travel to New Orleans quite a bit for work, and I rarely rent a car. Every single cabbie who does the airport-hotel-airport circuit will have a business card - take one, if you like your cabbie, and call them for rides. Cal takes me everywhere when I'm in town. (Protip - if you take a cab from your hotel to the airport, PLEASE tell the bellman if you are paying cash or credit for your cab - make sure the cabbie hears you. The cabbies spiff back $5 to the bellman if you pay cash, so sometimes the bellman won't tell the cabbie that you want to pay credit.) If you do find yourself in need of a cab, the easiest thing to do is find the closest hotel - it can be very difficult to flag a cab on the street.

Restaurant fun times: Green Goddess has a fun menu, changes a lot, veggie friendly. Domenica is a John Besh restuarant, excellent Italian, they make some of their own booze - if they have the Cento Herbe (think limoncello, but with herbs), please have some for me. It's in the Roosevelt Hotel, and the hotel bar is nothing to sneeze at - they make an awesome gin flip. Cochon is definitely for carnivores, and they have flights of moonshine on the menu. If you take the St. Charles streetcar to the end of the line, breakfast at refuel is deeply amazing, with the most charming owner I've met in a long while. Magnolia Grill has a burger that will stop your heart - so gross and good.

I would tell you to go to NOMA if there's an exhibit you want to see - it's generally worth it just for their Fabergé Gallery, but it appears that gallery is temporarily closed.

Another thing to consider is bike rentals - it seems couter-intuitive, but the city is fairly flat, and on a bike you'll kick up your own breeze!
posted by ersatzkat at 10:39 AM on June 18, 2012

Hotel rooms, lobbies, and some restaurants will be, but any of the more interesting places are in the older part of town where open doors and ceiling fans are the norm.

Fairly untrue.

Most any indoor space in New Orleans is air conditioned. The only time you'll see "open door and ceiling fan" is if it's one of those really old French Quarter buildings that is constructed in the old way, where a ceiling fan and lots of open doors and windows is enough to keep the place cool (I think the Apothecary Museum is like this, for instance). In those sorts of places, a cool drink and some shade is probably going to do OP fine.

Even so, if I had to guess, I'd say that 90% of those places have AC installed, which they use in August. Because they would have no customers otherwise. I grew up in the area and cannot remember a single time that I ever walked into a place of business or indoor tourist attraction and found that the climate was not controlled to a sufficient degree.

That said, sure, there might be a few times that you go into a store, restaurant, attraction, etc. and find that it's uncomfortably warm inside (especially if you REALLY can't take any heat at all). That's fine -- there will be plenty of alternatives nearby that will be air conditioned. I can't think of a single must-see New Orleans attraction that would be available to do in August that will not have any accommodations for the absurd heat.

The only exception I can think of to this is a few of the music venues on Frenchman Street. You might want to give the Maple Leaf Bar a miss if you really can't bear stuffy indoor spaces on humid nights.
posted by Sara C. at 10:44 AM on June 18, 2012

The last two times I have been to NOLA were in June and November. It was incredibly hot and humid both times (and this is coming from someone born and raised in Alabama -- I'm familiar with hot and humid).

My favorite dining experience was at Green Goddess, and I would suggest doing lunch as soon as they open if you want to get a table.

Also, there is a significant Vietnamese community in the area. While I haven't eaten there, Ba Mien is definitely on my go to list for the next trip.
posted by ndfine at 10:44 AM on June 18, 2012

About the heat: I am a northern boy through and through, and hate warm climates with the fiery heat of a thousand suns. That said: New Orleans in mid-July has never bothered me, ever since I discovered that no open container laws + enormous frozen daiquiris for sale on ever block in the Quarter (yes I know they're not the height of cultured drinking, but they fill a certain nostalgic hole for juice boxes) means that you can literally dart from air-conditioned place to air-conditioned place, while using your enormous frozen girly drink as an interstitial ice cube.

As an added bonus, said frozen drinks will also act as iterative progress toward not caring that it is so goddamned hot.
posted by Mayor West at 10:46 AM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]

Ugh, ignore my thing about Maple Leaf Bar. I'm clearly confusing it with someplace that is actually on Frenchman and not Uptown.
posted by Sara C. at 10:47 AM on June 18, 2012

If you don't dig the frozen daiquiris, also keep an eye out for Sno-Balls and Sno-Wonder. AKA something between a snow cone/shaved ice and a slushie. Same sugary cold "interstitial ice cube", not alcoholic.
posted by Sara C. at 10:50 AM on June 18, 2012

2. The heat. I’m not very good at it, although I manage to deal with summer in Washington DC. I’m thinking most everything is going to be air-conditioned though, and we’ll use this trip to see some indoor museums we haven’t been able to make it to yet. Still…bad idea? Wait until March or something?

My brother lived there for a while, and I visited him for the first time in August for a few days, and had a great time. Don't worry about it. First, DC heat is a pretty good preparation. NoLa is soupier and the suffocation feeling is more intense in the afternoons, and nights are quite hot, so get accommodations with AC so at least you can sleep well. But there were a LOT of pluses to visiting in summer.

First, tourists were scarce. The city was just full of people going about living in the city, and we had nary a line or wait at any restaurant or attraction. Visiting the produce markets and outdoor cafes in the morning was great. The zoo was a great morning excursion.

Second, what worked well was that I just adapted to the local pace -- do stuff in the morning, be done by 1:30 or 2 PM, retreat indoors (or to a bar first, etc) for siesta time in which you can cool off, have a cool drink, snack a little, and get a nap, then have an early evening shower to cool off and go out as the sun is setting for some really comfortable nightlife.
posted by Miko at 10:59 AM on June 18, 2012

The last time I stayed at that W Hotel, there was shuttle service within a certain radius, so that may help cut down on cab fare or hot walks, but it was only during certain hours.

Also, I was a huge fan of Green Goddess, but the chef left recently and on my trip a few weeks ago, I found it kind of had fallen off (drink was made poorly with tons of syrup, flavors were blah). Not going back. Also, it was not air conditioned and it was 95 degrees out, which was suboptimal. There used to be a little back part that had air conditioning. There's so much other good food there, you'll find something else amazing. Luke, not far away, is still a solid lunch choice.
posted by *s at 11:02 AM on June 18, 2012

move slowly (seriously)

Oh, yeah! Good tip, even though it sounds so obvious. I remember when we first arrived, we had cocktails at my brother and SIL's place and then headed out to wander and have dinner. My traveling companion and I set off at our usual city clip, and my brother called out "WHOOOaaaaa there! You are gonna have to slow WAY down." They had already adapted to a summer walking pace, but we hadn't.

And he was right. A lot of the technique to staying comfortable is taking it easy, as in the Big Easy. Don't rush, don't try to do too much in one day, drink water (and carry some with you), and allow yourself plenty of time to get places walking slow. It's the difference between arriving at your destination flushed, parched and sweat-soaked and arriving relatively comfortably.
posted by Miko at 11:04 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

It sounds like, by the time you guys visit, Green Goddess' former Chef Chris will be firmly at the helm of his new restaurant, Serendipity, which will be in Mid City. Definitely worth checking out.

I'm also guessing, based on the nola.com article, that Green Goddess might be in steadier hands by the time you guys visit. It looks like Chris DeBarr just left Green Goddess barely a month ago. Surely by August they will have found a replacement and be on firmer footing. Unless they're just going to completely go to shit, which is possible? But looking at the timing, I'd give them a chance.
posted by Sara C. at 11:27 AM on June 18, 2012

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for all the great info! I do tend to get into a "OMG we have to do everything!" mode during vacations that I know I'll have to keep in check. I'm definitely planning on doing afternoon naps, and keeping this a "low-key relaxing and drinking" weekend. We'll be back, for sure (four years has been too long).

I am a huge fan of off-season vacations and avoiding tourist crowds (maybe that comes from being born in a beach town) and I'm sort of thinking the heat might be an ok price to pay for that. Hurricane season is something to consider, maybe we'll get 3rd party trip insurance just in case...has anyone ever done this? Maybe that's another AskMeFi...

Will have to ponder the car rental idea. Since I don't drive at all, Mr. Arkham is always the designated driver, so I'd like to give him a vacation from that if we can. My only concern is cabbing to an unfamiliar neighborhood and having a hard time getting back.

If the "art walk weekend" you speak of is White Linen Night, then by all means go!!!!

Yes, that's what I was thinking of! Will check it out for sure, though we both tend to wear a lot more black than white...
posted by JoanArkham at 11:43 AM on June 18, 2012

I think afternoon outings to frigidly air conditioned places are also a good option, if you're not nap folks. I think the afternoon nap thing is more an excuse to be indoors, and not so much because the heat itself is physically exhausting.

I think a perfect day would be Beignets at Cafe du Monde and a little French Quarter wandering in the AM before it gets too hot, lunch somewhere air conditioned, and then afternoon at the D-Day Museum. Which you could spring for a cab for, even though it's technically walkable.
posted by Sara C. at 11:56 AM on June 18, 2012

There are some good recommendations for eats and drinks in this IRL thread.

We really enjoyed Elizabeth's in Bywater. The duck was excellent, as was the rabbit. And Bar Tonique on North Rampart Street may be my new favorite bar on the planet. The Frenchman's Dark and Stormy was one of the best cocktails I've ever enjoyed.

But the hidden gem of our trip was the fried chicken at Coop's Place on Decatur Street. It looks like every other French Quarter touristy bar, but the food was cheap and truly delicious. Highly recommended.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:56 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Aw, man, Coop's Place is the bomb - so good - go there too!
posted by ersatzkat at 12:07 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that you will need a car or limitless cash for taxis if you plan to go to all these little holes in the wall in neighborhoods like the Bywater, MidCity, the Vietnamese enclave in New Orleans East, etc.

They might technically be possible on buses, but seriously you will want to fucking kill yourself due to the heat.

You're definitely going to want to either limit yourself to places that are within a few blocks' walk of the W (or I suppose a few blocks' walk of wherever their shuttles go), or splurge on air conditioned direct transit to your destinations.

Car transport (whether driven by yourselves or a professional) is going to spell the difference between having a lot of fun or wanting to die.
posted by Sara C. at 12:17 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just FYI, Mardi Gras World is open (someone mentioned earlier it might not be) but it moved from the West Bank to the East Bank.

And yes, it's hellishly hot in August. Make sure you get travel insurance (if you can) in case there's a hurricane.
posted by pyjammy at 1:57 PM on June 18, 2012

Re hurricanes.

I've made the mistake of traveling to New Orleans only for there to be a hurricane in the middle of everything. It was sucky. This should definitely be a concern, and I second travel insurance if your main concern is what happens if everything is booked and then you can't go because there's currently a hurricane in the Gulf on the days in question.

However, someone upthread mentioned evacuating from the city in the event of a hurricane. Your best bet, assuming you stay in a large hotel in the CBD or French Quarter, and a storm sweeps in unexpectedly*, is to stay where you are. The W is a million times safer than trying to evacuate from the city with limited resources, no car, and without the years of practice that locals have.

The biggest deal, if something like this happens, is going to be the fact that your flight home will be canceled, and you'll probably incur added costs and miss work. So be prepared to deal with this. If you couldn't afford to front a few extra nights in a hotel and a new flight home, and don't have a few personal days left over at work, reconsider everything.

*If there is any chance that there will be a hurricane while you're in town, you should cancel the trip. Better to lose money and/or fill out insurance paperwork than to go and get stuck in a storm. Check the weather before you leave for the airport.
posted by Sara C. at 2:56 PM on June 18, 2012

Response by poster: Even my (minor) experiences with east coast hurricanes have taught me that they're no joke...I wouldn't take chances. Of course, I just looked around for trip insurance, and a lot of them don't seem to cover hurricanes. Hmm.
posted by JoanArkham at 4:47 PM on June 18, 2012

Heat tip: get a cheap mini umbrella at Target or the like and use it as a parasol. Also get a Spanish style folding fan. You will feel ridiculous for approximately thirty seconds and then be so grateful you won't care. Besides, it's New Orleans. There will be plenty of other weird stuff around you. (The parasol and fan got me through a trip to southern Spain in August, when it was 115 degrees in the afternoons. With the humidity, New Orleans will feel just as hot.)
posted by elizeh at 7:45 PM on June 18, 2012

Oh yeah, and seconding Frenchman Street.
posted by elizeh at 7:46 PM on June 18, 2012

Response by poster: Ok, I think we're going. Southwest air has good fares, and will let us re-schedule even the discount tickets if we need to. (Plus, free checked bags. Yay, Southwest!) Hotel will let us cancel up to 2 days before.

It looks like it's going to be 97° with 60% humidity here in DC tomorrow, so I'm planning on going for a (slow) walk in the afternoon to see just how bad it is.

Thanks again to everyone for the advice!
posted by JoanArkham at 5:13 AM on June 19, 2012

I visited the American Cocktail Museum last September, and while I enjoyed it, it's not for everyone. The museum itself is housed in the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, and is tiny. It's essentially a large bar that was under restored, a large room filled with cocktail ephemera and a small absinthe room. You can walk through the entire Southern Food and Beverage museum in 40 minutes, and the cocktail portion in 20. I'm not sure if going to one of the classes they offer changes the experience, but this is skippable provided you aren't seriously obsessed with cocktails.
posted by nulledge at 6:17 AM on June 19, 2012

I love your 'trial run' idea but do note that NoLa humidity can easily reach 70s, 80s, 90s in summer. Sometimes it hits the point where you get one of those summer afternoon rains for 20 minutes or so, just because the atmosphere is so full of moisture. That can actually be refreshing, but it's worth mentioning it because it makes sense to have a hat or the aforementioned umbrella along.
posted by Miko at 2:01 PM on June 19, 2012

I'm in the last stages of preproduction on my film The Man Who Ate New Orleans, about a guy who just became the first person in history to eat a meal at every restaurant in town. Among his favorites are Domilise's, Parkway Bakery, Ignatius, Dooky Chase, Willie Mae's Scotch House, and Liuzza's By the Track. Some of the best restaurants in town have very affordable prix fixe deals at lunch, notably the legendary $21 lunch at John Besh's August. And please, please believe me that Commander's Palace is worth saving up for.

Oh, and my friend Morgan Spurlock (who's on our Advisory Board for the movie), loves Coop's.

As for my film, there's a trailer on the website, but message me if you want and, if you swear by all that is holy not to forward it, I'll show you the current cut of the full documentary to help with your trip planning.

New Orleans is one of the true treasures of America. You're going to love it... even in August.
posted by michaeldunaway at 4:26 AM on June 20, 2012 [8 favorites]

Hilarious -- I meant to say I'm in the last stages of POST-production on The Man Who Ate New Orleans, not pre-production. That's an important, and hard-won, distinction!
posted by michaeldunaway at 4:28 AM on June 20, 2012

Seconding the recommendation for Commander's Palace being worth the splurge -- check out the jazz brunch (that way you get entertainment too).

and michaeldunaway, I am totally making a note of your film coming up because yay
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:45 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah film looks great please post on Projects when it's done
posted by Miko at 6:57 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh cool! Thanks for the info...looks like an interesting film.
posted by JoanArkham at 2:32 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

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