Renowned for its eclectic blend of cultures, unique history, bold cuisine, and celebratory state of mind, New Orleans boasts an experience unlike any other. Travel Associates Area Leader and New Orleans aficionado Kelly Luf reveals her top tips for spending the perfect day in the Big Easy without missing a beat of all it has to offer.
Where do you wake up? (What hotel do you choose and why?)
In New Orleans, I love waking up at The Roosevelt Hotel – which has been around since 1893 – and is now lovingly maintained by Waldorf Astoria. Legendary Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long kept a suite at the property and it is reported that Airline Highway (which runs from Baton Rouge to New Orleans) was positioned so he could have easy access to the Roosevelt. I would choose a King Suite, as I love that no two of this category are the same, and there’s a great living area for reading the local paper to get the skinny on local music.
Where do you go for breakfast, and what do you order?
If we’re running late – or really at any time of day – I’d go for Beignets and Chicory Blend Coffee at Café du Monde, opposite Jackson Square. If we have time to relax, I’ll probably go to one of the three Ruby Slipper Café locations within the city. I love how they have breakfast combos that allow you to try more than one of their specialties. A Trifecta – a sampling of their signature eggs benedicts – or a Pancake Flight is a great way to try all the options. Top it off with one of their massive mimosas or award-winning Bloody Marys. If it was a Sunday, I’d most likely try to score a great table at a jazz brunch, like Muriel’s.
Where is your next stop after breakfast?
I’d board the streetcar on Canal St. heading toward the Garden District to admire all the homes and stately oak trees. You can ride it all the way until it ends for just $3.00 for an unlimited day pass. You’ll get off to let the conductor reverse the mahogany seats to face the other direction, and he or she will take the wheel at the opposite end to go back the way you came.
Where do you eat lunch, and what do you order?
Lunch at Commander’s Palace. This beautiful blue and white striped institution has been a staple of New Orleans and produced some incredible talent including Chef Paul Prudhomme and Chef Emeril Lagasse. Here, you MUST have the shrimp creole and the bread pudding soufflé. On weekdays, Commander’s offers martinis for lunch at only .25 cents each. I love getting dressed up and having a wonderful meal here. Afterwards, you can walk a few blocks down to Magazine St. for some unique local shopping.
Favorite place to shop in this destination?
Magazine Street has some incredible local retailers and I usually always stop into Mignon Faget for an affordable, unique piece of silver jewelry. I also love Royal and Chartres Streets in the French Quarter. One of my favorite experiences was custom blending my own scent at Bourbon Street Parfums, and a trip is not complete without getting a piece of something pretty from Lucullus Kitchen Antiques. So far, I’ve only window shopped at Wellington & Company, but their selection of estate jewelry and vintage Rolexes always has me considering a larger purchase.
What should a person bring home as souvenirs?
Pralines travel well, and you can see them being made before your eyes at Loretta’s Pralines in the French Market. We stop into the Christmas Shop on Decatur for an ornament every time we visit, and always make sure to pick up some beignet mix and coffee from Café du Monde. A unique New Orleans piece from Mignon Faget is also always a good idea.
Where do you suggest for dinner?
On our last trip we tried the tasting menu with wine pairings at August. Chef John Besh and his team had an incredible handle on seasonal produce and how to really make each course shine. You know the meal is good when you can’t stop talking about it. The location is amazing too – an old Creole townhome repurposed into a restaurant with each room taking on a unique style.
Nightlife or nightcap?
Both! I’d hop in a United Cab – the only service locals will use – and hightail it across the French Quarter and the Marigny to the Bywater to a little place called Bacchanal. The front of the building is a wine shop, and you NEED to take the staff recommendations – they’re phenomenal. They’ve got an incredible cheese selection as well, so grab a few and pay for them to plate it before you walk to the ‘backyard’. With plenty of places to sit and the entire courtyard lit by fairy lights, you’ll really relax and wind down with the best local music playing from a humble stage. Bacchanal now has a full kitchen upstairs, but I’ll always prefer sitting in the ‘yard’. I also highly recommend their olive oil and sea salt chocolate. It’s the great cap off to any meal!
For a Nightcap, I’d indulge and head over to Willa Jean for their Chocolate Chip Dessert. An icy-cold shot of vanilla milk with raw cookie dough and a warm cookie fresh from the oven tick ALL the boxes.
For the city’s famous Hurricane cocktail, Pat O’Brien’s is the original and has a beautiful courtyard and a dueling piano bar, but my favorite are the ones at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop – purportedly the oldest bar in America and still lit by power from an extension cord. Their Hurricanes are made with real fruit juice and pack a punch. You may even spy their resident ghost!