Jackson Square in New Orleans

Get to know the city that knows how to show you a good time: New Orleans, also known as the Big Easy or simply NOLA. On your flight down, you may be thinking about work, but others passengers are choosing which band to see or making plans to eat their way through the 1,400+ restaurants in the city. New Orleans is built for good times, offering the proverbial something for everyone, from superb food and a vibrant art scene to arresting architecture and captivating music. You may be able to see the major highlights in one long weekend if you extend your business trip and keep these tips in mind.

After Work

New Orleans was founded by the French in 1718 and marked its 300th anniversary last year. Jackson Square is where you’ll find St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the US. Beyond that, lies the renowned French Quarter. Also known as the Vieux Carré, the quarter is the oldest part of the city and is undeniably the beating heart of the city. Among the largest and best-preserved historic districts in the US, its 100+ blocks are packed with galleries, shops, bars and restaurants.

Take a stroll down its charming streets with a few stops at the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum, Rau Antiques, a shop filled with museum-quality pieces, and The Louisiana Music Factory, which has recordings from 1900 to today. The architecture provides a storied backdrop with graceful 18th- and 19th-century Creole townhouses and their filigree cast-iron balconies.

Catch the St. Charles Streetcar — in service since 1835, making it the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world — to the beautiful Garden District for a look at its antebellum mansions.

Unique Dining Options

There’s only one way to start the day in this city, and that is with beignets at the 155-year-old Café du Monde, located across from Jackson Square in the French Quarter. It’s open 24 hours a day and closed only on Christmas Day.

One of the most striking things about eating in New Orleans is that you can taste the history of the city in every mouthful. Bite into a muffuletta, a thick layered sandwich of deli meat, olive and cheese and you’ll get a taste of the city’s European immigrant roots. Order a po’boy – a huge sandwich on crusty French bread stuffed with fried oysters or shrimp and “dressed” with lettuce, tomato and mayo – and you’ll be eating the meal created to feed and sustain striking streetcar workers during the Depression. Sit down for the lunch buffet of fried catfish, gumbo, fried chicken and peach cobbler at Dooky Chase in the Treme, and you’re dining at one of the informal headquarters of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s.

The gorgeous, restored dining rooms of Arnaud’s, one of the city’s most beloved restaurants, has been delighting visitors since 1918. On the menu are Creole classics such as oysters Rockefeller, alligator sausage and roast Louisiana quail. Enjoy a nightcap and live music at the restaurant’s adjoining French 75 Bistro to conclude your evening.

Make Time for Local Culture

Set aside a morning to see a different side to New Orleans, and visit the bewitching swampy bayous of Louisiana. Just a short drive from the city, these ancient waterways surrounded by towering cypress trees draped in Spanish moss exert a hypnotic effect on the soul. The bayous are abundant in wildlife –alligators, which are shy and hard to spot, great blue herons, egrets, pelicans, hawks, and snapping turtles.

The National World War II Museum is ranked as one of the best museums in the US and focuses on Americans’ wartime experiences. Current exhibits include “So Ready for Laughter: The Legacy of Bob Hope,” which tells the story of his trips to entertain the troops.

End the day back in the French Quarter learning to cook gumbo at the New Orleans School of Cooking – shhh, the secret is the roux. Music aficionados should head to the lively Faubourg Marigny neighborhood where the music is among the best in New Orleans, particularly in the venues along Frenchman Street.

Louisiana Fare: 4 to Try

1. For a kick start in the morning, order a plate of beignets – freshly fried pastries drowned in powdered sugar. 
2. During Mardi Gras, try a slice of King Cake, iced in the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. 
3. A New Orleans favorite is crawfish etouffee, a seafood stew made with a thick roux and smothered over rice. 
4. Made of shaved ice and syrup, Sno balls are a uniquely New Orleans phenomenon available during summer.  

For more on the ‘business+leisure’ trend, check out Bleisure Travel: What is it and How Will it Impact Your Travelers (and Your Bottom Line).

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