Next Stop, NOLA
With buzzy new hotels, standout restaurants by award-winning chefs, and ridiculously hip bars, there's never been a better time to plan a trip to the Big Easy. Consider this your essential guide to unlocking the city.
An avid Italophile, Laura is always on the hunt for the next great travel trends, luxury hotels, best places to eat and drink, and hidden gems. Her writing has appeared in dozens of publications. She also co-wrote "New York: Hidden Bars and Restaurants," an award-winning guide to the city's speakeasy scene.
One step inside this recently reborn New Orleans icon—awash in Deep South antiques and moody color schemes—and you'll feel like you've stepped back in time to 1947, when Tennessee Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire here. (The St. Charles streetcar passes right in front of the hotel.) The property's other claim to fame: four great restaurants and bars by renowned restaurateur John Besh. The Caribbean Room, where Beyoncé and Jay-Z were recently spotted dining, channels a 1950s ocean liner with banana leaf carpet and white rattan chairs.
Set inside a restored 1867 Greek Revival home in the Garden District, the Henry Howard feels more like a plugged-in friend’s chic townhouse than an actual hotel. Each of the 18 rooms has bespoke New Orleans-inspired toile wallpaper by graphic designer Kathleen Fitzgerald, custom four-poster iron beds, and Surrealist portraits by local artist Hayley Gaberlavage. Caveat: Guests can go for pre-dinner drinks in the cozy lobby lounge but will have to go elsewhere to eat.
One of the Crescent City’s buzziest new openings brings its trendy vibes to the Warehouse District. Located in a 1920s Art Deco building, the 234-room hotel blends New Orleans style with signature Ace features, from the shabby-chic lobby, which draws creative types, to the vintage photo booth. We love the full-sized SMEG refrigerators, hand-painted armoires, and minibars filled with local goodies in the rooms.
When in New Orleans, brunching at Willa Jean is non-negotiable. Here, chef Kelly Fields cooks up sumptuous versions of Southern classics like griddled banana bread and shrimp and grits, delivered in a cast iron pan. Don't leave without tasting her famous chocolate chip cookies, served with vanilla-infused milk and a cookie dough-covered beater.
Think New Orleans was all about Cajun and Creole food? Think again. Award-winning chef Alon Shaya is widely credited with bringing Israeli food to NOLA, and once you taste his pillowy pita and smooth, creamy hummus, you’ll understand why locals are obsessed. Just be sure to save room for the mouthwatering renditions of tabouleh, Moroccan carrots, Persian rice, and amberjack wrapped in grape leaves.
At Emeril Lagasse’s new restaurant—his first New Orleans opening since Emeril’s Delmonico in 1998—the celebrity chef serves up an eclectic menu of shareable small plates that span the globe. The yellowfin tuna wraps are light and refreshing, but there are plenty of decadent dishes, too, including a biscuit topped with foie gras butter and blackberry preserves and roasted Louisiana oysters with bone marrow.
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What better place for an institution dedicated to southern food and drink than New Orleans's former Dryades Market? This spacious, open-plan museum displays replicas of old-school restaurants, antique kitchen tools, vintage ads and packages, and more. It also contains legendary bartender Dale Degroff’s Museum of the American Cocktail and a kitchen that hosts lectures, demos by guest chefs, and other events. A new restaurant by BRAVO Top Chef Isaac Toups just opened, so if looking at all that culinary paraphernalia makes you hungry, you can stay for a bite.
The French Quarter might be the Big Easy’s most famous ‘hood, but the Garden District is where you’ll see Nola's most stately and historic houses. During a two-hour tour led by local author Robert Florence (or one of his experienced guides), you'll walk along oak tree-lined streets, pass the houses where American Horror and The Curious Life of Benjamin Button were filmed, and enter Lafayette Cemetery, known for its above-ground tombs.
The Ace’s standalone oyster bar—run by the team behind New York’s Grand Banks—occupies a historic 18th-century townhouse decorated with tiled floors, marble tables, distressed walls, and antique nautical paintings, courtesy of Brooklyn-based design firm hOmE Studios. Go for happy hour and order the Instagrammable "In Holy Water" cocktail (served with a flaming lime in a crystal tumbler) and some local Gulf Coast oysters—richer and more buttery than their briny East Coast cousins.
When Hot Tin opened in the Pontchartrain Hotel’s penthouse, it quickly became the place to go for next-level cocktails with views of Crescent City. Inside, the lounge has plenty of plush seating (including some fab vintage peacock chairs), a kitschy compendium of knickknacks, and curtains you’ll want to take a closer look at (we won't tell you what's on them). On warm nights, bring your drink to the rooftop terrace and take in the vistas that stretch from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to the Mississippi River.
DNO (Defend New Orleans) is the place to go for non-touristy mementos made by local artists and artisans. Look out for graphic t-shirts, fun pins made in-house, and products such as handmade pottery by Osa and minimalist jewelry by Zeko.
Sisters Lindsay Laws and Kaitlyn Alvarez just returned to their home city to open Lucy Rose, which has locations in the French Quarter and the Garden District. Here, you’ll find stylish clothes and accessories, along with various home decor like gilded oyster shells and candles by native artist Carly Rovira.
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