“The Big Easy” is a fascinating STOP

Karl Teel

It’s truly an interesting nickname: “The Big Easy.” On the one hand, the casual and relaxed attitude fits the name well. On the other hand, New Orleans is vibrant destination with an explosion of experiences for all of your senses.

Situated as the largest port on the largest river in North America, you should expect this to be an interesting destination. Louisiana’s largest city (roughly a third the size of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area), serves as a port for major cruise lines such as Carnival, Norwegian, and Crystal, as well as smaller local lines such as American and P&O. It’s always great to have a port of departure worthy of exploration itself, creating two getaways in one.

Flying into New Orleans is easy and cheap. Many discount airlines serve both New Orleans and the Baltimore-Washington area. Getting from the airport to town is a simple flat-rate $36 cab ride that takes about 20 minutes and brings you to the heart of town.

While the city is divided into several unique districts, the French Quarter is by far the most famous and the place we recommend staying. It is also minutes away from the cruise terminal.

Large balconies, often railed in ornate iron scrollwork, adorn the low-rise historic buildings throughout the area and are hallmarks of the signature architectural style. The French Quarter is well preserved and not too big. You can easily walk end to end in about 15 minutes, but you’ll not want to do it that quickly. There is just so much to see, and you’ll want to snap photos continuously while there.

Good-quality live music seems to be in about every third building, and often along the street. We pondered what percentage of the population plays music for a living in New Orleans.

Other senses — particularly smell and taste — demand attention, too. About another third of the buildings are restaurants. A po’boy sandwich and a beignet (especially at Café du Monde) are both a must try.

Insider tip: Don’t hesitate to ask the laid-back and friendly locals for their recommendations.

We were referred to the high-end eatery Antoine’s. Located in a historic building, it featured a $20 three-course prix fixe lunch that was delicious. The Oceana Grill’s “Famous Oysters” are another must-try: six large, fresh oysters charbroiled on the half shell, slathered in a mouthwatering zesty, creamy garlic-and-herb sauce and handsomely topped with broiled Parmesan and Romano cheese. They’re served on a bed of romaine lettuce, with fresh bread for dipping, and there was not a speck of this delicious appetizer left before we shared a shrimp po’boy.

It’s easy to see why New Orleans is a foodie’s paradise.

Tour the town

Take the open-air bus tour and get a feel for the sights outside the French Quarter. You’ll see the Garden District; some of the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina and the resulting flood; the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, home of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints; the National WWII Museum; the modern business district; and the port.

There are lots of fascinating places to explore, including historic cemeteries, the bayou, voodoo shops, and narrow story-filled streets. We also recommend trying one of the famous street cars, trolley cars, or a horse-drawn carriage tour. Take advantage of being on the Mississippi River with a nice lunch or dinner cruise on an old steam-powered river boat such as The Natchez to enjoy local flavor, interesting narrated history, and delicious New Orleans food.

For more information:

New Orleans Tourism: neworleanscvb.com

 

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