I have a confession to make: I got a thing for New Orleans. I can’t explain it, but there’s a little something-something going on between me and the city. I’m smitten. I even came quite close to moving to the Crescent City. I’ve visited several times and I’m sure I will go several times more. It’s that kind of place. Once is definitely not enough.
It’s likely that you’ve been there, but if the last time was a few years ago, or maybe you’ve been meaning to get there, either way, the Crescent City keeps itself interesting with all sorts of new things. Now is a good time to go and check out the latest additions to the city and enjoy the traditional must-see places in New Orleans, like a performance at Preservation Hall. Put these on the top of your list.
1. Four Seasons Hotel & Residences
Talk about swanky. This gem housed in a historic building on the Mississippi waterfront is swanky with a capital S. It starts with the lobby level Chandelier Bar. For sure, this is for the glamourous. The centerpiece is a 15,000-piece light and glass installation. Enjoy the live music. There’s a garden patio as well.
If you’re looking to impress somebody or treat yourself, dinner at Chemin a la Mer is the place with its panoramic views of the Mississippi River. The Oyster Bar is a hot spot in the restaurant, too. Three months after devouring the duck confit and white bean pistou, the memory puts a smile on my face. As for the rooms and suites, you know what to expect, all the fab the Four Seasons is known for. Then there’s the outdoor pool and heated spa tub overlooking the Mississippi, spa, and fitness center.
JAMNOLA stands for Joy, Art & Music – New Orleans. It’s the city’s first experiential pop-up. The music and creativity of the 12 exhibits that celebrate all things New Orleans make for a good time — and it’s interactive. More than 20 artists came together to make this cultural feast for the eyes. I don’t want to spoil all the surprise. This is a colorful adventure that you’ll be glad you went on.
3. Deelightful Roux School Of Cooking
Southern Food And Beverage Museum
New Orleans is all the grub. You’ll be able to create the magic yourself when you get back home if you have the pleasure of spending time in the kitchen for a class with Chef Dee Lavigne, who this year opened the Deelightful Roux School of Cooking.
She’ll teach you how to rock the kitchen sauteing, boiling, handling the fiery flambé, and having you laughing too. She’s funny and has all kinds of stories about everything. You and the students will cook Louisiana classics like smothered okra and tomato, Creole jambalaya, and bananas foster. You, of course, get to eat what you make. Yum. The school is in the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, so you’ll get a peek at some cool culinary artifacts.
4. Vue Orleans
This spring, on the 33rd and 34th floors of the Four Seasons Vue Orleans, the Vue Orleans 360° observation deck was unveiled. This observatory offers views that will give you another perspective of the city. While the walk around the outside will give you reason to ooh and ahh, inside the interactive exhibits will do the same. You’ll experience all that is New Orleans — the music, art, cuisine, and history — in a very cool way. Not to reveal too much, but like JAMNOLA, the creativity leaves you walking away thinking what you saw was cool indeed.
5. Hotel Saint Vincent
The Hotel Saint Vincent was originally built in 1861. In 2021, it took on new life after major restoration. It’s a beauty. With just 75 rooms, it’s intimate and cozy. The rooms are beyond charming and colorful with intricate wallpaper and pieces of art. There’s plenty going on though, be it Felice Flow Yoga, jazz at the Chapel Club, or Worship, a monthly burlesque experience at the Chapel Club.
If you’re lucky enough to get a reservation at San Lorenzo, enjoy. You know if a restaurant is named after the patron saint of cooks, you’re in for a fine meal. Here, the cuisine is coastal Italian, with New Orleans twists of course. San Lorenzo is elegant and has outdoor seating. Folks love the grilled Creole oysters, scampi risotto, and gulf flounder piccata.
6. Studio BE
Okay, the Studio BE gallery is not new. But there is always something special here. I mean a blow-your-mind, stir-some-emotion experience. This is a cultural destination that all humans should pass through at least once. Artist and activist Brandan “BMIKE” Odums’s work is extraordinary, political, social, and educational. There are a million stories told of life in the past, present, and what is hoped for in the future. A walk through Studio BE may change your perspective. Step inside and you’ll likely immediately agree.
7. Virgin Hotels New Orleans
This boutique hotel is one of the latest additions to the Warehouse District’s hotel landscape. For the wow factor, there’s The Pool Club, the hotel’s rooftop pool and lounge. Anticipate mealtime too. Chef Alex Harrell helms the culinary team at the Commons Club’s restaurant, bar, and lounge. Harrell was recently executive chef at Elysian Bar where the restaurant earned a “Best New Restaurant” nomination from the James Beard Foundation. You’re in good hands eating from his kitchen. The Commons Club is one of the newest “it” spots for brunch.
Virgin Hotels is also home to fun events like the interactive drag tea experience based on the Golden Girls, complete with DJs, drag queens, and fantastic views from the indoor rooftop event space.
8. The National WWII Museum
Though the National WWII Museum has been around for more than 2 decades, the poignant story it tells never gets old. Even if you went 5 years ago, go again. Undoubtedly, you’ll walk away with something different this time. Nowhere will you get this one-of-a-kind experience of all things World War II.
Pizza lovers will want to check out the new addition to Frenchmen Street, Margot’s. The combination of Neopolitan pizza and natural wine is a good one. The wood-fired, sourdough pizzas are a hit. Go for the creative pies like zucca, sliced zucchini, horseradish, lime crema, shaved garlic, dill and black olives, or the Supreme, tomato sauce, ricotta, pepperoni, sausage, pepperoncino, shaved red onion, pecorino, and romano.
10. The Sydney And Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
New Orleans Museum Of Art
This is one of my favorite places in New Orleans. It is a slice of quiet, peaceful, and surely beautiful. It’s on 11 acres in City Park adjacent to the museum. You’ll forget the boisterous revelry of Bourbon Street as you stroll the gardens full of pines, magnolias, and live oaks. The surrounding two lagoons add to the serenity.
The art is stunning, a world-class collection of more than 90 sculptures. While you’re there, catch the latest exhibits at the museum. Doing both is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon.
11. Dooky Chase’s
There’s something to be said for tradition. Since 1941, this restaurant in the Tremé neighborhood has been the place to go for authentic Creole dishes. Enjoy the Oysters Norman, spinach, garlic, and parmesan topped with fried oyster, Creole gumbo, shrimp Clemenceau, crawfish etouffee, and fried catfish. Or try the fried chicken, greens, okra, red beans and rice, baked macaroni, and potato salad — it’s all good.
But a sit down in Dooky Chase’s is about more than a fantastic meal and carrying a doggie bag back to the hotel. Somehow, the history is palpable. So many have passed through the doors, from the Civil Rights leaders who would strategize over a meal and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, to a long list of luminaries. The restaurant feels almost like a gallery with so much work from Black artists. You know if the walls could talk, think about the stories they would tell after more than 80 years. The family-owned business is a vital part of the community. It’s much more of a restaurant, resting place, or refuge. So yes, this is one stop you might want to make every time you’re in town.
12. Frenchmen Street
This street is a big part of my love affair with New Orleans. You can have Bourbon Street, my fav is Frenchmen Street. It is vibrant. Everybody is in a good mood, of course, with drinks in hand, which is not surprising. A spontaneous party can even break out. All it takes is a group of musicians to appear from seemingly nowhere and get things going. Next thing you know, even the quiet folks like me are twisting and turning, challenging the young people to bring it on with a dance off. They’re shocked “auntie” still has a few moves. But I give the gold to them, I am no real competition. But we appreciate each other, smile, and laugh. It’s too much fun. I feel alive.
The good vibes flow from Spotted Cat to Blue Nile and other Frenchman Street places, as I dip in and out of them, not paying attention to the name, enjoying the people dancing, and listening to great, great music. You stay out longer than intended and make your way back to the hotel. Though you’re leaving at some point, you’re already thinking about when you might come back.
Enjoy the amazing things to do and foods to eat in New Orleans, including: