Need current advice for first time visit to New Orleans
September 15, 2006 6:57 AM   Subscribe

Visiting New Orleans for the first time... need current advice.

Traveling alone, age 35, never been to LA. Planning on visiting Wed - Sun in the 2nd week in November.

Where to stay: Interested in a clean but inexpensive guest house or hotel in the French Quarter (under $100). Suggestions? Is this place decent:

Bars, food and live music: Are the bars and restaurants in and around the French Quarter pretty much back to normal? Should I expect crowds? How about on weeknights? Still lots of live music and local food?

Other: Considering post-Katrina rebuilding, what are the "must" experiences for a first time visitor? Anything particularly wonderful that's non-touristy? I'm into music, history & food.

Also: Is the trolley from the garden district still not operating? Is there any public transportation between neighborhoods?

Thank you!
posted by kdern to Travel & Transportation around New Orleans, LA (22 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Note: I know there are several othr MeFi posts about this, but none are recent. Considering the Katrina rebuilding, I'm thought current advice would be useful.
posted by kdern at 6:59 AM on September 15, 2006

Thanks to my own AskMe on this subject, I can tell you unequivocably: eat at Coop's on, I think, Decatur.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:04 AM on September 15, 2006

Don't count on much good public transportation. The St. Charles streetcar won't be running again for at least a year, but the Canal Streetcar is running. You can take it to the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Sculpture Garden.

The French Quarter is not doing too badly. You'll still find some places closed at random times, but there is plenty of good food and live music, any night of the week.

I can't say much about that particular hotel, but it's probably fine. Just be aware of your surroundings and be careful. (But that goes for everywhere, right?)

I'll leave the music and history recommendations to someone else. I've never been much of a New Orleans music fan. I think I'm the only one here.
posted by pyjammy at 7:05 AM on September 15, 2006

I've been to New Orleans a lot in the pre-Katrina days, and once since then (February '06). The French Quarter is basically back to normal from a tourist's standpoint.

Some unique hotels I've been to post-Katrina are the Bienville House and Olivier House. I highly reccomend both.

As far as food goes, K-Paul's is always good (but expensive). If they've got Lucky Dog carts that time of year, pick one up at least once. Those two reccomendations are pretty much polar opposites.
posted by nitsuj at 7:17 AM on September 15, 2006

BRUNCH: Court of Two Sisters

DINNER: Brennan's

DRINKS: Pat O'Briens

SIGHTS: Jackson Square, Bourbon St. bars, Royal St. balconies, French Market vendors, Cafe DuMonde beignets, Cat's Meow karaoke, great art galleries are all over the place (some are closed), St. Charles homes, WWII Museum, St Louis Cathedral, Tipitinas, House of Blues, Rodrigue the Blue Dog

OVERRATED: The Aquarium, paddleboat rides, streetcars, MG beads, witty Katrina t-shirts

I'll be back there next weekend for the Saints game. I can report back if you want more info.
posted by nineRED at 7:44 AM on September 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

I've heard that Commander's Palace has amazing desserts.
posted by rglass at 7:50 AM on September 15, 2006

LUNCH: Mother's. You want a roast beef sammich with debris.

The aquarium is very nice. When push comes to shove, it's an aquarium, not Disney World, but it's a well-done, interesting aquarium.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:00 AM on September 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

I stayed at the Creole House's partner hotel, St Pter House Hotel, when I was in NO in June (I had reservations at Creole House but it was still under renovation at that time).

I don't know if Creole House is anything like St. Peter, but I would not recommend the latter. It's not like a real hotel--it's a series of rooms in a series of attached buildings. The place was not as clean as it could have been, there were lots of bugs, the lights were not working, the a/c was minimal, the bed was on wheels and kept sliding around, and despite my asking three times, I never got a phone in my room. Also, the neighborhood was slightly sketchy at night--the downfall of being so close to Bourbon St.

It was almost cute and quirky and authentic, but I missed the amenities a hotel should have.

Again, maybe things have improved in the past few months, but I personally would not stay at a hotel run by that group again.

YMMV, of course.
posted by leesh at 8:06 AM on September 15, 2006

When we were there in July they were still having random power outages, but we never had a problem...the problem we had was finding food, in the Quarter, at 8pm. The place we did find actually posted only an opening time and closed up while we were eating...if you don't mind loud, the places on burbon st seem to be open all night.

CAFE DU MONDE!! Those little powdered sugar covered pillows of heaven are a must :)

posted by legotech at 8:10 AM on September 15, 2006

Here is my comment from a post-Katrina NOLA thread from a few months ago. The guest house I stayed in the one night was more than decent though I don't know what the price range is. Second on Mother's for lunch or breakfast. It's a little crowdy but it's the place to go. Also second Court of Two Sisters. Pricey, but amazing food/drink.
posted by jessamyn at 8:11 AM on September 15, 2006

I found in the French Quarter seeking out specific bars wasn't really neccessary since you can sort of hop in and out of several just walking up and down the street. If you are looking to spend any amount of time away from the French Quarter, there is a great bar called Igor's in the Garden District (a short walk from the famous Commander's Palace restaurant) which is an awesome dive bar (and also, oddly enough, a laundromat). If you are looking for a little more upscale, across the street is the Red Room which is a fancier place that has great music (big band/jazz/swing).

There are a zillion great places to eat in NO, my favorites were the Commander's Palace (but you'd better make your reservation now) and Mr. B's.

Tourist sights that were fun: Plantation homes, swamp tour, boat ride on the Mississippi River. The above ground cemetaries are fun to visit as well, but be careful as they are in a really bad part of town (to give you some idea, when we asked a local how to get to one of them he offered two options: the quickest way and the way you'll get there alive)
posted by The Gooch at 8:42 AM on September 15, 2006


The Bombay Club - get a martini with roquefort-stuffed olives. order it dirty and the olive juice comes in a tiny carafe.

Shrimp po-boy? Guy's on Magazine. It's all the way Uptown near Whole Foods but, for a shrimp po-boy, it is worth the cab ride. The place at lunch will be full of UPS drivers, lawyers, and students. It is an amazing sandwich. Get it with a glass-bottled Barqs.

Muriel's is at Jackson Square, and they do a good turtle soup. Get it with a splash of sherry.

You really must get a mufulleta from Central Grocery. It's on Decatur Street, and the sandwich was invented there 100 years ago by Italian immigrants.

Live music: Saturday night walk down Frenchman Street. It's just outside the French Quarter, and home to a variety of music clubs, bars, and people.

Bars: There are so many, it is really dependent upon what you like. But for just a few days in New Orleans try a drink at these:

On Bourbon Street: Walk down past the gay bars to get to Lafitte's and have a drink. It's the oldest bar in the country.

Carousel Bar: This is in the Monteleone Hotel, and its a hotel bar. But Tennessee Williams frequented there, and the bar is literally a slowly revolving carousel. BTW there's a good breakfast buffet-style brunch at the hotel on weekends. Biscuits and gravy, eggs benedict, an omelet guy with all the ingredients ready to go.

For different sorts of people all in one place, try Molly's at the Market around 11pm on Saturday night on Decatur Street. It's an Irish bar, and attracts a diverse crowd. People really like the Frozen Irish Coffee there.

The trolley is down, although there is a bus replacement running the route. Try renting a bicycle from Bicycle Michael's to go uptown along St Charle's Avenue. You can also rent a scooter from these guys in the Central Business District.


Pat O'Brian's is all tourists.

Mother's is not a local's place, although all the tourists who go there to get $9 gumbo think it is :)

The Red Room has been closed for several years.

posted by four panels at 9:22 AM on September 15, 2006 [2 favorites]

Thanks for coming to New Orleans! If you stay in the Quarter, things will look pretty normal, if a little quiet.

In comparison to pre-K days, the Quarter is pretty empty during the week. Most bars and restaurants are open and serving full menus again, but it's probably worth double-checking the hours if there is somewhere you're interested in going; there is a huge shortage of service-industry workers that is resulting in limited hours some places.

Don't plan on relying on public transportation. There is one streetcar line, as pyjammy mentioned, and some spotty bus service -- but you will be happier walking (in the Quarter/CBD) or taking a cab.

For history, you might want to visit the Historic New Orleans Collection and the Louisiana State Museum (Cabildo) -- those are both in the Quarter.

There's live music at several places on Frenchmen Street almost every night of the week (Apple Barrel, d.b.a., the Spotted Cat) -- the New Orleans Jazz Vipers play Fridays at the Spotted Cat, if I am remembering correctly, and are worth seeing. Frenchmen Street is in the Marigny, just across Esplanade Ave. from the Quarter. There's also great live music at Vaughn's in the Bywater.

On preview, there are a bunch of cemeteries in one place at the end of the Canal streetcar line that are in a fine neighborhood. If you visit City Park and the art museum, there is also one about a block down Esplanade from there that's very pretty (and also in a fine neighborhood).

And yes, Pat O'Brien's is cheesy and full of tourists.
posted by Siobhan at 9:25 AM on September 15, 2006

Oooh, and don't forget a Pimm's Cup at the Napoleon House!

If you want to see a different side of the city, take the Canal Street Ferry (it's free) over to Algiers Point. It's a great old neighborhood with lots of history and an excellent English pub. You can also visit Mardi Gras World while you're there, if that sort of thing interests you.

(I live in Algiers Point, so I'm biased.)
posted by pyjammy at 9:36 AM on September 15, 2006

I don't know how they fared post-katrina, but amid all the talk of eating and drinking, don't miss the cemeteries.
St. Louis 1 and Metairie are worth seeing.
posted by juv3nal at 10:31 AM on September 15, 2006

Yes, the Quarter is up & running, but is pretty touristy. And yes, parts of the city are still in ruins.

I recommend:

The D-Day Museum
The Ogden Museum of Southern Art
The New Orleans Museum of Art & Sculpture Garden - take the Canal Street streetcar to get there
The Cabildo - Louisiana State Museum
Cafe Du Monde - can't miss the beignets
Muffeletta sandwich at Central Grocery
The Aquarium and the Zoo
Tipitina's & House of Blues - pick up a copy of the Gambit newspaper (they're free) for info on the music scene -there's alot around, it just depends on what you're interested in
The cemetaries are interesting. but not all are necessarily safe - the ones on the Canal Street streetcar line are OK, but for the others, going with a tour group may be best.
posted by lawhound at 11:02 AM on September 15, 2006

Music: Preservation Hall
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:33 AM on September 15, 2006

Plenty of locals dine at Mother's. Check it out at lunch time on any weekday. I second the recommendation for the roast beef sandwich WITH debris (it's just the juice from the roast and the little pieces or meat that fall off of the outside of the roast). It's on Poydras just west of the river end of the Quarter (to the right if you are facing the river).
posted by Carbolic at 1:30 PM on September 15, 2006

posted by Carbolic at 1:30 PM on September 15, 2006

2nd or 3rd for Preservation Hall.

And if you're into this sort of thing the Phamacy Museum on Chartres in the Quarter is pretty neat.

New Orleans (and ALL of Louisiana) is a wonderful, wonderful place.
posted by dog food sugar at 3:21 PM on September 15, 2006

I echo pyjammy's mention of Algiers. I was born and raised there, and it's my fav. neighborhood in the city. Drop by Tout de Suite and say hi to Jill!
posted by brundlefly at 4:55 PM on September 15, 2006

I was just there at the end of August. Can't speak about lodgings - was there for a conference at the Sheraton, so stayed there (although Starwood preferred rate is $103 plus tax - so it might be that most hotels are close to your range).

Bourbon St. had a miasma about it- probably the summer heat didn't help - but when I was there 15 years ago, I don't remember there being large garbage bins on the street like now.

Lots of construction going on, and a few shops still closed in the French Quarter and CBD.

Things to do - plenty touristy - but an airboat swamp tour was fun AND informative.

For music, Big Al Carlson (485 pounds of blues) was good, as was the Maison Bourbon. Live music every night, including often on the street on Bourbon.

Food - had delicious meals at Tony Moran's, Bourbon House and Red Fish Grill on Bourbon St and Cochon on Tchoupitoulas St. Ate at Mother's - wasn't impressed.

Can't speak about bars - not my thing.

Enjoy your trip.
posted by birdsquared at 9:19 PM on September 15, 2006

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