Written by Barbara Toombs
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more rich and culturally diverse city anywhere in America than New Orleans. Founded in 1718 by French colonialists, La Nouvelle-Orléans – as it was then known – later drew its influences not only from the French but also the Spanish, Native American, African and Caribbean cultures. Today, this multi-cultural melting pot is evident in nearly every aspect of the Crescent City (a nickname that stemmed from the French Quarter, now the historic heart of the city, being constructed on a sharp bend in the Mississippi River) – but most famously in its music, cuisine and architecture.
While known the world over for its Mardi Gras celebrations each year, there is much, much more of New Orleans to explore and enjoy. Be sure to make time while you’re in town for Barrett-Jackson to discover why the city is indeed a one-of-a-kind destination.
GET TO KNOW THE NEIGHBORHOODS: DINING AND MORE
It’s important to know that New Orleans is made up of an eclectic mix of neighborhoods, each with its own unique character. There’s something to suit every taste in each part of town, whether you’re looking for authentic live music, historic and photogenic architecture, memorable meals or a vibrant nightlife scene. Navigating the city and its downtown neighborhoods can be easily achieved on foot, by taxi or ride-hailing service, or by experiencing a ride on one of New Orleans’ historic streetcars – particularly the St. Charles Avenue line. Running since 1835, it is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world.
The Barrett-Jackson auction site at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is in the Arts/Warehouse District, a more contemporary, walkable area of the city known for its trendy restaurants, industrial renovated warehouses, and art galleries and museums (the National WWII Museum is outstanding for history buffs; another great option is the Ogden Museum of Southern Art). Top dining spots here include Compère Lapin (serving creative dishes that blend Caribbean flavors with French technique), Meril (Chef Emeril Lagasse’s lively contemporary American restaurant) and Pêche Seafood Grill for simply prepared, delicious coastal seafood. A great breakfast and lunch spot right across the street from the convention center is Two Chicks Café, while a nearby “hidden gem” is Vyoone’s (run by two dynamic local women who mix French-Creole cuisine and beautiful hospitality in a pretty setting).
Southwest of the Warehouse District is the sprawling Uptown neighborhood featuring the renowned Garden District. You can opt to take the St. Charles Avenue streetcar to experience this part of town, whether you just want to drink in the tree-lined streets and stunning Classic Revival mansions, get some high-end retail therapy along Magazine Street, explore the Audubon Zoo or one of the fascinating above-ground cemeteries (like Lafayette Cemetery #1), or indulge in a gin fizz and Creole cuisine at the venerable, award-winning Commander’s Palace restaurant. Other great dining options in this part of town include Coquette (offering gracious Southern hospitality combined with inspired modern Southern cuisine), San Lorenzo at the Hotel St. Vincent (a chic, Amalfi-inspired spot with house-made pastas) and Mister Mao (featuring small plates drawing from Mexican, Indian, and Southeast Asian cuisines).
Just a short distance northwest of the Warehouse District is the Central Business District (CBD)/Downtown – home to skyscrapers, rooftop bars, the Superdome and a number of upscale hotels and cocktail lounges. Here, too, you’ll find several restored theaters – including the Saenger, the Orpheum and the Joy – that host impressive acts and Broadway shows. For pre- or post-theater nibbles, try Bésame (serving tapas with a focus on fresh Gulf seafood, incorporating Latin and Caribbean flavors), while tucked away in the Wyndham Garden Hotel is Namaste Nola, offering both Southern and Northern Indian dishes on its vast menu. Also nearby is Olive, a Mediterranean eatery that brings homestyle Israeli street food to the table.
Less than two miles north of the Convention Center is what many call the Crown Jewel of New Orleans – the fabulous French Quarter. Founded in 1718, it is one of the city’s most historic neighborhoods and is best discovered on foot. Take in a jazz concert at the historic Preservation Hall, go barhopping on Bourbon Street or explore the open-air French Market – five blocks of local produce, specialty art, handmade crafts, retail shopping and more. Be sure to stop and rest in Jackson Square, a National Historic Landmark – the perfect place to people-watch and take in the tarot readers, street performers and artists, along with the inevitable impromptu jazz band performance. Dominating the square at one end is the impressive St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in continuous use in the United States. There’s no shortage of dining options in the French Quarter, of course. Be sure to treat yourself to a beignet and café au lait at the famous Café du Monde, while for a more substantial meal, consider the top-rated Restaurant R’evolution (high-end New Orleans cuisine), the historic Arnaud’s Restaurant(classic Creole dishes) and Brennan’s (birthplace of the renowned dessert bananas Foster).
Bordering the French Quarter are the Tremé and Marigny/Bywater neighborhoods. Both are filled with colorful Creole cottages and shotgun houses – a narrow, rectangular home design said to have originated in New Orleans. Tremé, the first historically Black neighborhood in the country, is home to restaurants that have fueled the Civil Rights Movement and gone on to win James Beard Awards. It’s full of delicious New Orleans cuisine (try Willie Mae’s Scotch House for what is said to be the best fried chicken in America or the renowned Dooky Chase’s Restaurant for outstanding gumbo and more), landmarks with fascinating pasts and museums that help tell Tremé’s history, such as the Backstreet Cultural Museum, which houses an amazing assortment of memorabilia indigenous to Mardi Gras, jazz funerals and other traditions found only in New Orleans.
The Marigny and Bywater play host to a vibrant arts scene that includes local artisans’ galleries, funky live music venues and art markets. Those in the know say if you’re looking for authentic live jazz, reggae and blues music, Frenchmen Street here is the place to go, with a cool vibe that harkens back to Bourbon Street’s early days. Hungry? Try Adolfo’s (a lively spot that delivers Creole Italian cuisine), the Mediterranean-inspired menu at The Elysian Bar (inside Hotel Peter and Paul) or Alma on Bywater’s west side, featuring Honduran-style dishes and known for its toast with Louisiana lump blue crab.
WHERE TO STAY
When it comes to convenience, you can’t beat Barrett-Jackson’s host hotel for the New Orleans Auction, the Hilton New Orleans Riverside. Next to the Riverwalk outlets in the Central Business District, it is an easy five-minute walk to the Convention Center/auction site. The hotel is also only a block from Harrah’s Casino and within a mile of the French Quarter. Guests can start their day with a refreshing swim in the outdoor pool or a workout in the fitness center. With six dining options available, the hotel offers a taste of New Orleans that will appeal to everyone in your party.
Among the Barrett-Jackson partner hotels (with special rates available when booking through Barrett-Jackson.com) is the Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans, also in the Central Business District and less than a mile from the Convention Center. This 34-story historic modernist building overlooking the Mississippi that once housed the World Trade Center and International Trade Mart offers spacious, well-appointed guest rooms (including 61 suites), two excellent restaurants, a spa and a crescent-shaped swimming pool on the 5th floor.
Topping many a list of upscale destination hotels in New Orleans is Hotel Peter and Paul, located in the city’s Bohemian Marigny neighborhood. Steeped in history, the boutique hotel’s guest rooms and common spaces are set in a restored rectory, convent and schoolhouse. Stay in one of the 71 dramatic, one-of-a-kind guest rooms and enjoy the on-site ice cream shop, as well as the Elysian Bar for brunch, dinner, coffee and cocktails.
On the edge of the French Quarter is the Ritz Carlton New Orleans, a large Beaux Arts architectural jewel on Canal Street. Enjoy live music at the posh jazz bar, luxurious treatments at the 25,000-square-foot spa and dining at the on-site café. Really want to splurge? Reserve The Residence, the property’s penthouse. Complete with a 3,500-square-foot terrace and a dining room that can accommodate up to 10 guests, it is said to be the most magnificent place to stay in the city.
If you prefer to feel more like a local and less like a hotel guest, consider The Chloe on venerable St. Charles Avenue in the Uptown/Garden District neighborhood of New Orleans. The Victorian mansion offers 14 well-appointed guest rooms, a secluded backyard swimming pool and a popular on-site restaurant serving up delicious Creole-inspired fare.
Right near Bourbon Street is the historic Roosevelt Hotel (managed by Waldorf Astoria) with its rooftop pool and world-class spa or the French Quarter’s regal Hotel Monteleone, which features a majestic lobby and the famed Carousel Bar – the only place in New Orleans where you can sip a Sazerac or French 75 while taking a spin on a Merry-Go-Round.
Visit the home page of Barrett-Jackson.com and click “hotels” to get started on your journey to the Crescent City.
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF NEW ORLEANS AND COMPANY
Be sure to make time while you’re in town for Barrett-Jackson to discover why the city is indeed a one-of-a-kind destination.