An Experts’ Guide to Music, Shops, Hotels & Fun in New Orleans
Our Draper James Experts’ Guide to New Orleans began here with an introduction of the insiders who filled us in on all the Crescent City has to offer as well as their picks for food and drink. Below, we cover the rest of what the city has to offer in music, culture, the great outdoors, shopping, festivals, and fun for the whole family.
New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz music—and there is no shortage of places to hear it. Before you head out, check the website of any venue to see who is playing. Or just head to Frenchmen and follow the crowds! Favorites from our crew include: Three Muses (great food), Tipitina’s, Le Bon Temps Roulé, Vaughan’s (part of the HBO series Treme was filmed there), One Eyed Jacks, Preservation Hall (a classic and Reese’s personal fave), d.b.a, Blue Nile, and Snug Harbor.
Located Uptown, The Maple Leaf looks like a dive (as do many of these spots), but it’s where many of New Orleans’ most famous musicians got their start—and often return to play.
For a more formal music experience, Jessica says to “go straight to The Saenger Theatre on Canal Street. After undergoing a huge renovation after years of decay topped off with destruction during the flooding after Hurricane Katrina, it is once again a stunning venue showing the very best acts that come to New Orleans.”
CULTURE & FRESH AIR
A visit to the Sculpture Garden at City Park will get you culture and sunshine simultaneously. It’s affiliated with the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), an expansive art museum Andi likes to visit on Friday nights for live music, movies, children’s activities, and more.
At lush Audobon Park, you can jog, picnic, or visit the zoo, aquarium, Insectarium, and all sorts of other attractions.
If museums are your mojo, The National WWII Museum has earned its designation as the best place to learn military history. But our experts’ favorite is the Ogden Museum, an institution devoted to promoting and appreciating the art and culture of the American South.
Nestled between the bustling clubs of Frenchmen Street is Frenchmen Art Market, a weekly night-time art market featuring original art, crafts, jewelry, and live music of its own. Annie loves browsing the art there as well as cruising the Warehouse District, where galleries and studios dot Julia Street and the surrounding byways.
New Orleans boasts all kinds of shopping, from chic boutiques to antiques stores to outdoor markets.
Opened in the fall of 2016, Pilot and Powell is getting a lot of attention for its highly curated selection of fashion-forward clothing brands. Another innovative retailer, Polite Society combines beauty and fashion under one roof. “From blowouts to cute dresses to manicures and lashes, they are always spot-on,” says Sarah.
Based out of Marfa TX, Freda in the Ace Hotel carries indie lines of jewelry, unexpected curiosities, and clothes—including Sara’s versatile-chic line of smock dresses. So Susu is a reliable spot for “fancy floaty little dresses, leather pants, and amazing shoes from designers you’ve heard of and some you haven’t,” Sara says. And Krystal shops at Hemline, a shop selling its own in-house brand of of-the-moment fashion and accessories.
When it comes to interiors, “I love Hazelnut on Magazine Street,” says Annie. “It’s where we registered for our wedding and it’s owned by Bryan Batt (who was on Mad Men).” Jessica casts her vote for Perch, a beloved design shop “owned and run by the loveliest Caroline Robert. Her style is eclectic and Southern with a combination of Kartell Ghost Chairs and vintage finds recovered with funky luxurious fabrics.”
According to Juley, “New Orleans’ best new gem has to be Sunday Shop,” a charming space filled with furniture and decorative items that are at once crafty and modern.
Royal Street and Chartres Streets in the French Quarter are the city’s antique hubs. “You won’t find discounts here, but you will find some really impressive treasures spanning everything from historic New Orleans collections to pieces imported from France,” says Jessica. “I highly recommend a visit to Lucullus, the home of culinary antiques, for incredible collections of china, silver, crystal, and antique culinary accoutrement.”
Dunn & Sonnier on Magazine Street is both a florist and an antique store, “so you’ll never be at a loss for a gift,” says Annie, while Johnice “drools” over Malachite, a high-end vintage and antique shop specializing in furniture, art, and decorative items.
When it comes to the city’s many outdoor markets, Annie likes St. Roch Market, a soaring new food hall, featuring many of the best vendors in the city, while Sara recommends Little Flea NOLA for “quirky, well-priced vintage and hand made local stuff.”
The iconic French Market Flea Market on the south end of the French Quarter “features stalls packed full of tourist gifts, local art, and fresh produce” says Andi. “It’s worth a stroll-through.”
When you need to pick up a NOLA trinket, beyond the usual Mardi Gras beads, check out Defend New Orleans (DNO) for hipster tees and accessories with a community-positive vibe and Dirty Coast for clever NOLA-themed tees with sayings like “New Orleans is for Livers.”
The perennially elegant Windsor Court can’t be beat as an upscale option (it’s lovely for afternoon tea even if you’re not staying there). The Hotel Monteleone and The Roosevelt are equally iconic with beloved bars, and boutique hotel Soniat House scores points in the romance department.
If you’re looking for hip, the Henry Howard Hotel in the Garden District is an 1860s mansion transformed into a boutique hotel. (You can see our Q&A with its owners here.) And Sarah says the Ace Hotel is “good in every way—tone, price, vibe and service.
Lauren’s new favorite is newly-opened 35-room boutique hotel The Catahoula, where the Pisco bar is a highlight. She also recommends the Q&C Hotel. “Not only is this a hip, fun spot to stay in New Orleans, but they also have a hopping bar downstairs and places to hang out with friends before hitting the New Orleans nightlife.”
“I also love the the Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery,” she says. “It’s full of local artists’ works and vintage charm. I put my family here when they come to town.”
“In New Orleans you are frequently asked whether you are a ‘Mardi Gras person’ or a ‘Jazz Fest person’ even though, truthfully, most of us participate in both,” says Jessica. “Jazz Fest, though—that is where you really become a New Orleanian.” Here’s a great insider tip: Go to Jazz Fest on your own. The music is great but really you want to eat all of the food there and being there on your own is liberating and meditative—at least as much as it could possibly be surrounded by tens of thousands of people.
Sara’s tip is to “park it in the Gospel Tent. Prepare to be moved by the Holy Ghost and to soak up intense vocal stylings and pastor ramblings that I cannot do justice to with mere words.”
On Mardi Gras our experts like watching the festivities Uptown in the Garden District along St. Charles Avenue. Jessica says to stand on the corner of St. Charles and Polymnia Streets, while Johnice likes the corner of Pleasant and St. Charles on the side of the River, and Marcelle goes to St. Charles at Milan with her family.
As for the parades, The St. Ann Parade in the Bywater on the morning of Fat Tuesday is “the place to be,” says Johnice, who also contends that “Petite Rex and Chewbacchus are the most fun Marigny parades” (the latter was the location of her first date with her husband). Andi likes the bawdy Krewe du Vieux. Sara’s favorite is Muses, where, she says, “Glitter shoes are the coveted throw and challenging to get. We deploy our handsome son and his friends to work the ladies for a heel.”
While Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest are certainly the best-known, NOLA hosts festivals all year long. Andi’s favorite, The Voodoo Music & Arts Experience, takes place in City Park right before Halloween. “The weather is always stunning in October, and the bands are a blend of superstars and local rockers on the cusp of making it big.”
TAKE THE KIDS
Simply wandering the streets of New Orleans (and stopping for beignets along the way) is as fun for the little ones as it is for grown-ups. The whole family will love riding the streetcar and stopping at Preservation Hall, which invites music lovers of all ages in for a listen. But for a more kid-centric itinerary…
Audobon Park and City Park are both musts: “As a child in New Orleans, one of my favorite activities was taking a riverboat cruise to the Audubon Zoo,” says Jessica. “There is a ton to do—loads of interactive exhibits, dining areas, and even a great swamp exhibit that will make all the little kids squeal! There is no great website for booking the riverboat cruise to the zoo, but if you go to the Moonwalk (which is the walking path along the river) behind Jax Brewery, there are kiosks where you can buy tickets and get more information.”
Meet Savannah Jane, our 9 year old Nigerian Dwarf goat. She is referred to as the “Southern Debutante” of the herd here at Audubon Zoo! She may be one of the smallest goats at the Zoo, but she has a big personality. Stop by Watoto Walk next time you are at the Zoo and meet Savannah Jane! #NigerianDwarfGoat #AudubonZoo #TGIF #NOLA
Elementary-age kids could spend all day at the charming Carousel Gardens amusement park and Storyland storybook sculpture garden at the City Park. Annie’s mother, Candy Weiss, was a founder of the Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans, and Annie still loves to visit when her nieces and nephews are in town.