Between Feb. 3 and 12, New Orleans will be impossibly packed with revelers in town for the Super Bowl, Mardi Gras and every conceivable party in between. If you’re voluntarily heading into that traffic jam of bodies, good luck. If you’re electing to go any time before or after, we have a few tips for a quick trip to the city built on crazy crowds, Creole cuisine and a culture stronger than any hurricane.
To keep up with the Big Easy’s party-all-night-long pace, visit the 24-hour Café Du Monde in the French Market for a café au lait jolt and the best beignets this side of the Atlantic. Then check into your hotel. If you want to stay in the thick of the French Quarter, W New Orleans is a slick, sexy spot complete with a rooftop pool and Whiskey Blue lounge. For something more luxe and cozy, the recently renovated Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Windsor Court Hotel is a smart option. Windsor’s The Grill Room offers spectacular service and splendid Gulf Coast snapper, and the new Cocktail Bar serves seasonal pre-Prohibition-themed tipples like the Southern Lady (Ron Zacapa rum, sweet-potato-brown-sugar syrup, milk).
These specialty cocktails will hit the spot, but you’ll want to do more imbibing (you are in New Orleans, after all). Make the one-mile walk to the Quarter. There’s just something about cheap daiquiris, cheaper pizza and The Beach on Bourbon’s extra-large dance floor that never gets old.
With first-night shenanigans out of your system, you’ll need Day 2 to be more of a learning experience. You’ll certainly get an education in how a brunch is supposed to look by stopping by the Garden District’s Commander’s Palace, the semi-dressy, legendary restaurant that does white shrimp and ground grits like nobody’s business. After that lesson, get schooled in bayou history at Jean Lafitte Barataria Preserve, the underrated park that provides 23,000 acres to explore, canoe rides and the occasional gator sighting.
By the time you make the 20-minute drive back to the city, it’ll likely be late afternoon. If the new-look Hornets have a basketball game at New Orleans Arena, do yourself a favor and watch rookies Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers in action. If not, take a few pictures of the iconic Mercedes-Benz Superdome next door before heading to the House of Blues for dinner. While there are far superior restaurants nearby (Bayona, Restaurant R’evolution, Herbsaint — the list goes on), HoB’s serviceable Cajun-tinged fare is a convenient way to catch a diverse musical roster of regionally loved (Dr. John, Dec. 28) and nationally known acts (Ziggy Marley, Feb. 17).
Photos Courtesy of Commander’s Palace