10 reasons to visit New Orleans right now
Besides the very low fares we find every day to the Crescent City, here are New York Post Travel Editor David Landsel's ten reasons to go.
1 Because it's cocktail weather. It's hot and humid in a lot of cities right now, but none make do as well as New Orleans, where a cold beverage is the must-have accessory of the season. For instance, a Pimm's Cup from Napoleon House (500 Chartres St.). Or, if you're feeling adventurous, a magical, mind-bending monsoon, served in large plastic cups over at Port Of Call, out on the fringe of the French Quarter (838 Esplanade Ave.). As evening sets in, dress up nice and dive into the local cocktail scene -- right now, the buzz is on Cure, a smart Uptown lounge. Ask your bartender for a sazerac -- it's the official cocktail of New Orleans (4905 Freret St.).
2 Luxury may be so last year, but hey, it's on sale. Never stayed at a Ritz-Carlton before? Now's the time. The New Orleans hotel, located on the edge of the French Quarter, is currently offering rates starting at $149 a night. Across Canal Street is the Ritz-Carlton's worthy competitor, the Windsor Court Hotel (http://www.windsorcourthotel.com). They are, not surprisingly, starting at $149 as well. For best value, though, book a spacious full suite with a balcony. These are easily among the best rooms you can book in the city; right now, they start at just $209 a night.
3 You gotta try the erstas! Erstas, oysters, call 'em what you want. Just make sure to order them chargrilled at a New Orleans restaurant at least once in your life. Start at Drago's, a long-running suburban favorite founded in 1970 by a Croatian family. Post-Katrina, they've branched out to the downtown Hilton. While we won't hold it against you if you don't, you really should trek out to the original. There, it's all locals and the staff is consistent. Either way, there's nothing like a platter of their messy, sooty chargrilled Louisiana oysters, dripping butter and reeking of garlic and other various herbs to convince you that you are totally missing out by not living around here (3232 N. Arnoult Rd., Metairie).
4 Because you like to look. Magazine Street is one of the best commercial streets in North America, a seemingly-endless strip of unique stores, small cafes, plenty of bars, a gelato joint or two and the odd ramshackle house or run-down gas station, just to keep the mood casual. The action starts in the edgy Lower Garden District, where you've got everything from a high-end barber shop (Aiden Gill, at #2026) to a funky Jewish deli (Stein's at #2207); things keep going all the way up to Audubon Park. Up that way, you've got a whole series of boutiques that are a serious hit with the snazzy Uptown set -- Shoefty, for the latest in fabulous lady footwear, is a great stop (#6010).
5 Get up high. Did you know that New Orleanians actually enjoy the odd workout? Uptown, you can hook into the Levee Bike Path, a popular spot with cyclists and those who prefer to exercise on their own two legs. For a gentle ride with a nice view (with so little elevation around here, being on a levee here is like being on a mountain anywhere else), rent yourself a set of wheels at Bicycle Michael's on Frenchmen Street, then cycle through the French Quarter, up St. Charles Avenue and then hop on the Mississippi River Levee, once you hit Carrollton Avenue. Hey -- the more you exercise, the more you'll feel entitled to eat (622 Frenchmen St.).
6 Discount dinners! It's time for the annual COOLinary New Orleans celebration, which offers diners a chance to get up close and personal with some of the city's most storied culinary addresses, from Arnaud's to Galatoire's. Order from special, prix-fixe menus that will run you just $20 at lunch, $34 at dinner. The program runs from August 1-September 30.
7 Because po' boys love they po' boys. One of the best cheap meals ever invented takes on a whole new appeal in times like these -- what's more awesome than a mound of fried shrimp (or, if you're like us, piles of roast beef in gravy) on top of chewy, crispy french bread, all for a few bucks? We'll tell you what's more awesome: Having them drown your sandwich in mayonnaise and the like, without making you feel embarrassed for having no sense at all. (If that sounds good to you, ask for your sandwich "dressed." If not, don't.) Two essential stops: Skankalicious Parasol's in the Irish Channel for the roast beef (2533 Constance St.) and the more respectable Parkway Bakery on Bayou St. John for anything fried seafood-related (538 Hagan St.).
8 The streetcars are back. After what seemed like forever, you can now ride the streetcar everywhere you could ride it before Katrina. That includes the run up tree-lined St. Charles Avenue, past some of the city's most beautiful homes, not to mention the handsome Tulane University campus and gorgeous Audubon Park. The return of the 1920s-era cars has been a major boost to local spirits; at this point, it's strange to think that not long ago, folks were wondering if this new Orleans icon would ever come back.
9 Because they they have Cream of Nectar snowballs. We can explain. First, you have the locally-revered, vanilla/almond-flavored pink soda known as Nectar; it's made by the Nectar Soda Co. (but of course!) in suburban Mandeville. Next, you have shaved ice, or snow cones, or, as they're known here, snowballs. Then you have Hansen's Sno-Bliz, a Tchopitoulas Avenue mom-and-pop dating back to the '30s, where the lines get longer as temperatures rise. At Hansen's, they take homemade, Nectar-flavored syrup, layer it with the finely-crushed ice and serve it up, snow cone-style. Two great local traditions, one perfect way to beat the heat (4801 Tchopitoulas St.).
10 Sunset drinks on the Gulf of Mexico. Just one hour's drive from the French Quarter, you can be dipping your toes into the white sands of Mississippi's windswept shoreline, basking in the gentle summer breezes that can be so elusive down in New Orleans. The region is going to be recovering from Katrina as long as many of us will be alive, but just because it isn't perfect doesn't mean it isn't excellent. Best bet: Watch the sun go down at the up-on-stilts Shaggy's in Pass Christian's pretty harbor. What to drink: Something from Mississippi's only microbrewery, the commendable Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company (120 S Hiern Ave.).
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