General chatter - New Orleans Chicks, could I get some advice?

01-07-2011, 11:44 PM
Hey! I'm heading down to New Orleans towards the end of March for a professional conference being held at the convention center. I'm VERY excited - despite the fact that my father is from a tiny town in east Texas within spitting distance from Louisiana, and I have several relatives who live in Baton Rouge and Houma, I've never been to New Orleans.

I would love some general advice about what to do and where to go. I'm getting there on a Wednesday and leavng Sunday morning. Most of the daytime hours will be taken up with conference business, but I'm not opposed to playing hooky for something interesting. Evenings will mostly be free.

This that's all VERY general, let me give you some idea of likes/dislikes. I'm 33 and single, but not too wild and crazy. :) I'll be with two grad school classmates about my same age. We do all love to eat, and I've decided that I'm going to let myself enjoy the food treats that will present themselves. It took me 33 years to get to NOLA the first time, who knows when I'll go back? So yes, I'm eating a beignet. Um, or two. ;)

We would also be interested in history and music. Clubs (as in loud techno and dancing) aren't really our thing, but something more mellow would be fun.

We won't have a car since we're all flying in and staying near the convention center.

Speaking of . . . there are hotels that are being recommended within walking distance of the convention center, but they are all VERY expensive. I'm doing my own research this weekend, but if anyone knows a cheaper place within walking distance - we're all active, so it could be blocks away - I would love to hear suggestions. Paying $269 a night just does not sound like fun.

Thanks for your help and ideas!

Nola Celeste
01-08-2011, 06:35 PM
Sorry it took me a while to spot this post--with the playoff game going on today, I've been a little distracted, but the Seahawks are driving right now and I can't bear to watch, so here I am. :D

Have you looked into special rates related to the conference you're attending? Spring and fall are super-busy times in the city due to conventions, but since you're going to attend one, it could actually work in your favor. If not, then your best bet might be to stay a bit farther from the Convention Center and closer to the Superdome; it would be too far to walk to the CC, but a short and cheap taxi ride. Your best bet, though, is to see if you can book into the convention blocks of rooms.

As for where to go and what to do, there's such a long list that I don't think you'd have time for half of it. :D If you're staying anywhere downtown, you'll be within walking distance or at most a short cab ride from the French Quarter. The Quarter has an entirely different character during the day than it does at night. During the day (assuming you're not in your conference), you might enjoy walking down Royal Street--lots of art galleries and antique shops.

If you want to splurge, you can have breakfast at Brennan's which is kind of a traditional thing to do, but I'd actually recommend Petunia's or The Palace on Canal Street for brunch. You can get the same eggs Sardou for half the price at either of the other two places and it's just as good. ;)

The French Quarter at night is a lot rowdier and raunchier, especially along Bourbon Street. Bourbon's fun to walk on for a little bit to people-watch, but probably not where you're going to want to hang out for very long. Instead, try Decatur Street toward Esplanade. There's a bar called Coop's Place that serves a nice range of beers and some excellent food in a cozy atmosphere; it's a little off the beaten touristy track, but that's part of what makes it great.

Wherever you decide to go, finish the evening at Cafe du Monde right near Jackson Square. Beignets are freakin' delicious, but they are also heavy little gut-bombs. Splitting an order might be a good idea just because they fill you up so much. CdM is open 24/7, so whenever you go, there's cafe au lait and beignets waiting.

Anywhere in the Quarter is fun to stroll around in, but if you get a little tired of seeing the Quarter, the best way to see a big swatch of the rest of the city is via streetcar, believe it or not. You get on the streetcar on Canal Street, the main drag that separates the FQ from the rest of downtown. The streetcar line itself is a bit of history, as it's the oldest in the country; the cars themselves are from the 20s for the most part, though thanks to Katrina we did have to invest in some newer ones. The main streetcar line curves along St. Charles Avenue and lets you see the Garden District. It's one of the best tours you'll get of the city--and it costs a buck twenty-five. :)

If you do decide to take the streetcar, you might want to get off and walk toward the river a few blocks to Magazine Street if you enjoy shopping. It's a really eclectic mix of places and though it's gotten more gentrified in spots, there are other stretches that feature a Salvation Army right next to a luxury spa--it's a fun mixed bag. Great coffee shops, too!

If you have the time to see it and if sea life is your thing, the Aquarium of the Americas is right downtown at the foot of Canal Street and not too far from the Convention Center. It's tranquil and pretty and makes a nice respite from the heat of the day (which may be pretty hot during March, as you know from being in east Texas :D).

If there's anything at all I can help with or anything you'd like more information on, I would be happy to lend a hand. I hope you have an absolute blast here and that you decide to make it a regular vacation spot--everyone should love this place as much as I do. :)

01-09-2011, 04:19 AM
I think Celeste about covered it all.:) Here are my additional thoughts. For hotel, I'd recommend the Astor Crowne Plaza. It is 1.3 miles away from the convention center and if you don't want to walk that far you can catch the street car down canal and have a walk that is like half a mile. I think the normal weekday rate there is about $160 or $170. It is a really nice hotel and great location. You can walk from there to The Palace Cafe that Celeste was talking about. That is my favorite restaurant in Nola. I went there for thanksgiving this year and it was heavenly! It is only a couple of blocks down from the Astor. Also, the Astor is on the corner of bourbon so if you want to give the nightlife there a little try, it is good because you can just walk back to your room. I would suggest only doing one night on bourbon though :) It is a bit overwhelming. I only go there now for the cliche bachelorette parties (we always stay at the Astor for girls nights) :) I do like sitting in the Pat O's piano bar and love getting hurricanes there.

I would spend a good deal of time just walking the quarter and seeing the city. Magazine street is my favorite street in Nola. I love all of the fun and quirky shops there. This is definitely off my diet but I LOVE sucre, a dessert shop on magazine. Their desserts are like works of art. Definitely go to cafe du monde. I love their beignets and hot chocolate.

Definitely also ride around the city on the street car. It is a fun experience, cheap and a great tour!

I'm going to bed and my brain isn't really working right now but I'll update if I think of anything else. Have fun!!! Welcome to Nola!

01-10-2011, 11:39 AM
Thank you two so much for this! It's excatly what I'm looking for - a way to narrow down the things I must do and where the locals go, as opposed to the touristy things and traps.

I've heard of Cafe du Monde, of course, but didn't realize there were several locations. That sounds both delightful and dangerous!

Nola Celeste - The convention does have negotiated rates at local hotels, but the cheapest of these is still $200+ a night. :( The three of us going are all teachers, and that just seems so excessive for 4 nights, even when split three ways.
Also, I'm genuinely sorry about the Saints. I watched the game and could not believe my eyes! At the same time, as an Atlanta resident . . . :)

Southern Belle - I'll check into the Astor Crowne Plaza. My goal for the day (a snow day here in Atlanta!) is to get a hotel booked so I can check that off my list.

Thanks again, and feel free to add any other random thoughts you have. I'm sure I'll end up with more questions before all is said and done. Ten weeks and counting (can you tell I'm excited?)!

03-08-2011, 12:50 PM
Not sure if y'all will see this if I bump it up, but a quick question . . .

We're leaving in a week! Yippee!

As I've been talking to friends and acqaintences here, so many people have told me to "be careful" and warned me about crime. Now, I'm no stranger to being in a big city, and I'm cautious as a rule, but should I be more worried about crime in New Orleans, or just my usual amount of caution.

Sometimes I feel like people just get nervous about places with a certain, ahem, reputation, shall we say. ;) But I'm not generally one of them, so I wanted to ask the experts about safety, before I got all nervous Nellie.


Nola Celeste
03-08-2011, 01:16 PM
I'd say just a usual amount of caution. New Orleans has a high crime rate, there's no denying that, but the vast majority of that crime is directly related to the drug trade. Tourists are rarely targets (it happens, but it's actually probably rarer here than in other tourist destinations).

Most of the bad neighborhoods--and every city's got 'em, New Orleans is no exception--aren't in places that are likely to be much of a draw for visitors. One exception are the St. Louis cemeteries. If you're going to tour #1 or #2, the two downtown St. Louis cemeteries, go with a tour group; the architecture of the closely-spaced tombs there makes it easy for people to lurk and grab a purse.

To put it into perspective, the property crime rate is actually a little lower here than in the ATL, about 85% of Atlanta's. The murder rate is WAY higher--but almost 80%of the people murdered had criminal records and over half were killed within three months of their most recent arrest. Murder's horrific no matter who it happens to, but it should put your mind at ease about the likelihood of being a victim of crime, violent or otherwise, as a visitor here. :)

I understand why my city has a bad rep, but it still makes me sigh when I hear that everyone's all, "OMG, you're going to New Orleans? BE CAREFUL!" We're not Disneyworld, but we're not Bogota in the 1980s, either. :D

I hope you have a fantastic time, and you watch--your Falcons and my Saints are going to be duking it out for first place this season too. :cheer: If you mention you're from Atlanta while you're visiting, expect some good-natured razzing about the football rivalry; people here eat, breathe, and sleep Saints football and you're likely to get called a "dirty bird" more than a few times.

03-08-2011, 01:37 PM
Thanks, that's what I figured! But it's always good to hear things from a local. It cracks me up a little - I'm a professional woman in my 30s, and lived out of the country for 4 years, and my mom STILL must think I travel with great big wads of cash and a sign on my back that says "Tourist, please rob me." That's the only explanation for how much worrying she does. :)

I had heard something about how some of the cemetaries weren't super safe, so that's good to know, too.

I'll give a report when I get back. At this point, my only concern is that I'm going to need to skip some of the workshops at the conference to fit in all I want to do. But, of course I wouldn't do that. ;)

And, as far as football - I'm a Gator grad and my cousin went to LSU, so there is a deep spirit of "friendly" football rivalry already bred into me. I can dish it out while I'm there, and look forward to it!

katy trail
03-08-2011, 01:47 PM
i have a similar question. visiting LA too, although don't know when. we have family down there, and keep meaning to visit. we would driving down to Crowley/Laffayette area from St.Louis. family road trip with kids (grade school age) so what we would be interested is more family oriented.

Nola Celeste
03-09-2011, 08:23 AM
Believe it or not, there is a LOT of family-friendly stuff to do in the city, if you're planning on spending a day or two here. :)

I'll praise the Audubon Zoo to the skies. It's set in a gorgeous park with plenty of live oak trees so there's lots of shade and it's really a showpiece. I was there just a couple of weeks ago and can attest to its quality. Depending on when you go, it might be ridiculously hot, though, so you might want to try a couple of the other Audubon Nature Institute sites.

The Aquarium of the Americas and the Insectarium are the other two Audubon facilities. Both of these are downtown and indoors. One thing that all the Audubon stuff has in common is that they have a lot of local-interest stuff--the zoo has a big swamp area, the aquarium has a huge Gulf Coast tank, and the insectarium has (horrors!!!!) Louisiana bugs including (terrifyingly huge) roaches.

Fair warning: the insectarium has two snack areas. One has items containing real bugs. Be VERY sure which one you visit before you order. "Chocolate chip cookie" and "chocolate chirp cookie" (with crickets) are NOT the same.

During the day and toward the river, the French Quarter is surprisingly kid-friendly. Just steer clear of Bourbon Street unless you want to answer a lot of important questions like "Where are that lady's pants?" :D The Cabildo next to St. Louis Cathedral is open as a museum, but frankly it's a little dry; the Apothecary Museum on Royal Street is tiny, but really cool--you can see the special jars they used to keep the leeches in. :)

Magazine Street is also great for any age--lots of shops, pretty scenery.

I'm ashamed to say I don't know nearly as much about the Crowley/Lafayette area as I should; I'm a thorough-going New Orleanian who hasn't traveled much in her own state (except for hurricane evac, but as you can imagine, I wasn't really doing much sightseeing then).

katy trail
03-09-2011, 10:25 AM
those all sound great, especially the zoo and institutes. they love the zoo up here in st.louis too.

depends how much time we have. we'll probably try to see nola. last time we went (to Louisiana), years ago, it was 70 degrees at Christmas. it was so funny seeing people in shorts. we were sick most of the time though, so this next time should be much better.

03-09-2011, 12:52 PM
Aw man! I just noticed this post :(

I really hope you enjoy your stay here.
No sure if anyone has suggested this, but try to go on a steamboat ride. Also, ride on the streetcars. I know it's hard to maintain a good eating relationship with a city away from home, but try to explore the different foods here. Beignets are delicious, they come in orders of three - but that doesn't mean you have to have all three. You can find those at Cafe DuMonde. (located on 800 Decatur Street). You might, also, want to get you hands on some delicious seeafood. Dragos (located at 2 Poydras Street) has INCREDIBLE charbrolied oysters. And you'll be in town just in time for crawfish season!! You don't have to eat punds and pounds of crawfish, there are several ways crawfish is prepared - such as.. crawfish bread, crawfish pies, crawfish etouffee, crawfish monica.. I mean the dishes are ENDLESS.. lol.
As far as scenery and "what to do's" - try to walk around Jackson Square (near the Cathedral). You will see our local artists show off their talents there. Painters, singers, dancers, etc. can be found in this area. There are also horse and buggy rides you can take in and around the area near the convention center.

Enjoy your stay, and I hope to hear about your visit!

Nola Celeste
03-09-2011, 12:59 PM
Big, big YES on the streetcar suggestion! You won't get a better view of the city for a smaller amount of money than by taking a ride along the St. Charles streetcar line.

Also a big yes to beignets, but they are about 450 calories apiece--so if you're planning on staying within a calorie budget, enjoy in moderation. ;)

03-09-2011, 03:20 PM
Also a big yes to beignets, but they are about 450 calories apiece--so if you're planning on staying within a calorie budget, enjoy in moderation. ;)

Thanks for the further suggestions!

As for calories - well, my thought process now is to enjoy in moderation, and track, but not worry too much about my intake. I'm there from Wednesday dinner to Saturday lunch, and MOST of those meals will be eaten in a hurry at or near the convention center, so those meals can be lower cal/healthier choices.

I'm thinking the 3 dinners will be the times when I'll indulge more, but even then I'm hoping one of my dinner partners will be open to sharing an entree.

Who knows when I'll be back? So I'm going to enjoy food while I'm there - it seems like such an essential part of the city's culture and heritage.

BUT I didn't know ONE beignet was 450 calories! Yikes! Those I can definitely share, especially since carbs and sugar alone set me up for a terrible sugar crash. Yuck. Thanks for that warning!

Oh, about the crawfish - my dad is from east Texas, near Beaumont, and I grew up hearing about "crawdaddies" and how he was so sad he couldn't get good crawdaddies where we lived. That makes me smile just thinking about it. :)

katy trail
03-09-2011, 03:24 PM
that makes me smile too. i love the smell of crawfish!

03-09-2011, 03:51 PM
My thoughts on beigenets - if you go to the original Cafe du Monde, an order has three. They are big and they are only good hot. Eat one, and share the rest. By the time you finish the first, the other two aren't hot anymore and they really really just are not as good. Definitely get cafe au lait. It's good and it's part of the experience.

03-21-2011, 11:15 AM

I'm back from my trip. Man, do y'all know how to do food up right! If I lived there I would definitely have to keep a firm leash on myself. :)

It was hard fitting stuff in around the conference, but we managed some things. It was an easy walk to the French Quarter from the convention center, so that's where we spent most of our free time and meals. I had to eat one meal at the convention center because of time, and had a very "meh" fried catfish sandwich on that occasion. But pretty much everything else I had was stellar.

The BEST was at a place called Oceana in the FQ - I'm sure it's probably a tourist trap, but the service was friendly and the fried shrimp po' boy was AMAZING. We ended up there the first night, and it was so good we went back for our last lunch on Saturday. The shrimp were light and crunchy, the remoulade was zesty, and the French bread was the best combination of crusty and chewy. On Saturday I got a cup of the jambalaya, too, and it was SO good.

My total food downfall was at Southern Candymakers on Decatur and Conti. I'm not much for pralines, but the dark chocolate covered things (PB and Ritz, graham crackers, and PB cups) called out to me like nobody's business.

I did do more than eat. :) We took the St. Charles streetcar line and walked around near Tulane. Pretty area. I was really bummed, but we never managed to get a big enough chunk of time to do the Garden District or Magazine Street. I guess that means I need to go back!

As for beignets, this may be sacrilege, but I found mine to be somewhat doughy and not that great? It was good, but I must be more of a chocolate girl.

All in all, GREAT trip and really fun. The locals we encountered were friendly and helpful, and I would definitely recommend a trip to Nola for those interested!

Thanks for all the advice, chickies!

Nola Celeste
03-21-2011, 03:44 PM
Yay! Glad you enjoyed your trip, Jen! :)

I've never been to Oceana, but with so many restaurants in New Orleans, even someone who loves food like I do is bound to miss out on a few. Fried seafood po'boys are freakin' awesome (shrimp isn't my favorite, but oyster makes me weak in the knees).

I'm delighted that you had a chance to take the streetcar and see a little of uptown NOLA. My husband used to live in an apartment kind of near there--and talk about a beautiful place to go for a morning walk! (Not that I did that at the time, but I now wish I had. ;) )

And yes, you definitely need to come back! :D