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New Orleans, Louisiana is celebrating its 300th year in 2018, which means that now is the perfect time for a visit. Although you may associate this Southern city with its wild Mardi Gras celebrations, the city is so much more than a crazy nightlife destination. New Orleans boasts more historic districts than any other city in the US and also happens to (allegedly) be one of the most haunted cities in America.

 

What To Do

NOLA’s historical districts feature stately mansions, townhouses outfitted with wrought iron balconies and colorful Creole cottages. Architectural tours (our favorite is NOLA Tours) help provide background on some of the unique design features many buildings in the French Quarter are known for, like those iron Spanish railings or French balcony doors, as well as introducing you to other historical districts like the Garden District, Lafayette Square or the Irish Channel.

When in New Orleans, you’ll want to take a tour — and this city has them all: ghost tours, food tours… and even literary tours. If you’re interested in getting outside the city, do so on a bayou tour or a plantation tour.

If group tours aren’t your thing, create your own adventure on foot, via streetcar or by bike. Wandering the streets of the French Quarter makes for the perfect leisurely afternoon — stopping into shops, cafes and checking out tourist attractions. Riding the streetcar on the St. Charles Line is a great way to see the Garden District and its famous homes.

Bright colors of the Lower Garden District. (Photo by Lyndsey Marie via Unsplash)
Bright colors of the Lower Garden District. (Photo by Lyndsey Marie via Unsplash)

Escape the tourist crowds by renting a bike and heading over to the City Park and Esplanade Avenue area, where you can have a picnic and spot a gator. Or, ride through the Uptown neighborhood to spot some historic homes and visit the hip Magazine Street. TPG recommends renting from A Bicycle From Desire. The store is located at Stella and and Stanley’s fictional address (632 Elysian Fields) in A Streetcar From Desire (it’s not a trip to NOLA without a little Tennessee Williams, after all).

For that perfect Instagram shot, head over to the famous Jackson Square — the site of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 — to snap the iconic statue and St. Louis Cathedral. Bourbon Street is another spot to capture — especially from a balcony overlooking the crowds and activity below.

City Park. (Photo by Susan Yin via Unsplash)
City Park. (Photo by Susan Yin via Unsplash)

What To Eat

Going beyond the jumbalaya and gumbo, New Orleans was made for those wanting to (over)indulge in food and drink. One of the most popular touristy food experiences is to try a beignet, a deep-fried donut dipped in powdered sugar paired with a cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde for breakfast. However, lines can be long in the morning, so try going for a midnight snack after a night out on the town instead — you’ll likely walk right in as it’s open 24 hours a day.

Beignets at Cafe du Monde. (Photo by @laurfant24 via Twenty20)
Beignets at Cafe du Monde. (Photo by @laurfant24 via Twenty20)

If you’ve decided to rent a bike and explore City Park, bring the essentials for a picnic lunch: an oyster po’ boy or a stacked muffaleta sandwich. Once popular among Italian immigrants, this sandwich is layered with salami, cheese, ham, olives and more on a thick Sicilian sesame bread. For dinner, sample fried catfish at the more local, no frills Joey K’s on Magazine Street, alligator at Oceana Grill or turtle soup from Commander’s Palace. Eating lunch at Commander’s Palace comes with perks — martinis are just 25 cents when you order a lunch entree on a week day.

If you’d like to get away from the sugary mixed drinks you’ll find on Bourbon street, NOLA’s craft beer scene is heating up. Besides the Abita Springs Brewery — famous for its Purple Haze Beer — there happen to be some newcomers you’ll want to check out as well. Port Orleans Brewery has a kid-friendly tasting room and a dog-friendly patio. After you sample their Riverfront Lager, wander down Tchoupitoulas Street to find several other breweries and bars serving up craft beers. Microbrewery Parleaux Beer Lab is a quirky, hipster spot to taste beers on the outdoor patio.

Getting There

The Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is located in Kenner, Louisiana, which is about 15 miles west of the French Quarter. The new  $993.7 million, 35-gate North Terminal is currently under construction and should be open in February of 2019.

The airport is served by 14 airlines, including American, Delta, United, Spirit, JetBlue, Alaska, Southwest, Air Canada and more. You can fly nonstop from 55 destinations which include major cities around the US and international destinations such as London, Toronto, Frankfurt and Punta Cana.

Get to the city center via the Airport-Downtown Express (E-2) for just $2. Taxis will cost about $36 for two people and Uber does pickup from the airport, but a $4 surcharge will be added to your fare.

Where to Stay

There are certainly options to use your points and miles, but NOLA is all about the boutique hotel at the moment. TPG recommends the International House, a sophisticated property with a unique events calendar, offering cultural celebrations of countries like Cuba and Italy, which hotel guests and visitors can attend. The Nopsi Hotel is another favorite — the dog-friendly, 1920’s-era building has modern rooms and suites, some of which come with large, luxurious bathtubs.

Make sure to book these hotels or any other boutique properties on Hotels.com using your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. Venture cardholders should book through a special URL, Hotels.com/Venture, to receive 10x miles on your stay.

TPG Tip: Check out our guide to all the ways NOLA is celebrating its tricentennial so you can plan a trip that coincides with your favorite celebrations.

Featured photo by Photoservice/Getty Images

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