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New Orleans is the city of jazz, Mardis Gras, and Cajuns cuisine. Located along the Mississippi River, it is the largest city in Louisiana and one of the largest inland cruise port in the United States. New Orleans is a true melting pot of cultures. In addition to the French speaking Cajuns, its population includes Creoles, Italian, Irish and German immigrants and the descendants of black slaves. The city's cultural diversity is reflected particularly in its music, its food, and of course in its calendar of festivals. Its individuality also finds expression in its popular names "Queen of the South", or even better, "The Big Easy". At the end of the 19th, and beginning of the 20th centuries, this was the birthplace of jazz, which is still actively practised at various places. This metropolis of the Old South draws great numbers of visitors, especially for Mardi Gras.
 
New Orleans offers modern cruise facilities in a city that is a world-class tourist destination. Passengers who cruise from New Orleans get two vacations in one.Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line International sail weekly to destinations in the Western Caribbean and Bahamas.The Great American Steamboat Company, American Cruiselines, Travel Dynamics International and Blount Small Ship Adventures offer cruises along the coast and the nation’s inland river system. Most passengers sailing from New Orleans extend their vacation by staying in New Orleans before or after their cruise.
 
You can't keep New Orleans down. After weathering economic turmoil in the post-Hurricane Katrina years, the city is not only back ... it's on a roll, with an influx of artists and entrepreneurs drawn to its brassy music, savory cuisine, historic architecture and cultural diversity. Mardi Gras continues to draw massive crowds of revelers, the city remains a favorite for meetings and conventions, and it seems like there's a festival just about every weekend, regardless of the season. (While Jazzfest is the big one, taking up extended weekends in April and May, Essence Fest, French Quarter Fest and even Voodoo Fest have their devotees.) And New Orleans remains a favorite with cruisers; according to Port of New Orleans officials, 60 percent of cruise passengers spend two days or more in the city before or after they board their ships.
 
Whether you have an afternoon in port or a few days to explore, here's some advice: Don't take the easy way out when discovering the Big Easy. There is so much more than Bourbon Street honkytonks to this gorgeous city, with its leafy garden district avenues, wrought iron balconies and gastronomic gems.  New Orleans represents a gumbo of cultures, from African and Spanish to Cajun and French, a melding over the past three centuries that delivers dining, music and art so diverse it truly stands alone.
 
Where Your Cruise Ship Docked
The Port of New Orleans offers ample, secured parking at its cruise terminals for $16 per day. Parking at the terminal is the most convenient option for visitors who want to drive themselves to the terminal. All other parking options require a shuttle ride to and from the cruise terminals.  
No reservations are necessary to park, unless you have an oversized vehicle (oversized vehicles are defined as any vehicle over 22ft in length and/or higher than 8’ 4”). For questions about cruise parking, please e-mail hanksa@portno.com or call 504-528-3318.
 
Julia Street Cruise Terminal Complex         
920 Port of New Orleans Place, New Orleans LA 70130
 
Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.
Climate-controlled and ADA-compliant passenger gangway.
Designated Port parking with Seacap luggage assistance.
Located between the Erato Street Cruise Terminal Complex and the The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk
Centrally located in New Orleans on the Riverfront Trolley line, 5 minutes from the French Quarter and only minutes from Interstate 10 access.
 
Erato Street Cruise Terminal and Parking Complex         
1100 Port of New Orleans Place, New Orleans, LA 70130
 
Carnival Cruise Line.
The easiest terminal in North America from which to embark and disembark.
Climate-controlled and ADA-compliant passenger gangway.
Over 1000 covered and secured parking spaces located on top of terminal with Seacap luggage assistance. Elevator to the embarkation deck.
Centrally located in New Orleans on the Riverfront Trolley line, 5 minutes from the French Quarter and only minutes from Interstate 10 access.
 
Directions & Parking         
Port of New Orleans cruise parking is $16 a day. It is the only parking available at the site of the cruise terminals. No other parking facilities offer the convenience that is available at the cruise terminals.  Look for the black signs with red borders and Port Logo.
During cruise days, parking companies not affiliated with the Port of New Orleans solicit passengers to park at off-site lots and garages.  All of these parking alternatives are a minimum of four blocks from the terminals without safe sidewalks and require a shuttle to the terminal, none offer the convenience of the cruise terminal's parking facilities.
The cruise lines handle luggage at the port’s parking facilities to and from the ship.  Therefore, passengers never have to worry about handling their luggage.
The Port’s parking facilities are reserved for cruise passengers only. We have ample parking for cruise passengers and are not affected by other events that generate heavy parking demand, such as Mardi Gras, sporting events and convention center activities.
While other lots may be slightly less expensive than the ports terminal parking, you may incur additional expenses because you will be subject to additional handling of luggage, which ultimately leads to additional tipping, as well as having to pay for a shuttle or taxi to and from the terminal.
 
Hanging Around
In 2014, the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk opened, putting stores such as Neiman Marcus Last Call, Coach and Tommy Bahama within minutes of the cruise terminal; it's even connected by an elevator. Thanks to the port's central location, you're a 10-minute walk or a streetcar ride away from the French Quarter, with its endless array of shopping, music and dining options. Try your luck at the nearby Harrah's New Orleans casino, where you can play the slots. Or stroll along the adjacent Fulton Street Square, a pedestrian walkway with eateries including the seafood-centric Grand Isle and a Gordon Biersch brewpub.
 
Getting Around
By Foot: Because the cruise terminals are directly behind the New Orleans Convention Center, adjacent to the Warehouse District and Central Business District and within walking distance of the historic French Quarter, you don't need to worry about a shuttle service or taxis, although cabs are available. It's 10 short blocks to Canal Street, the beginning of the French Quarter.
 
By Trolley: There's no streetcar named Desire anymore -- in case you were wondering, the line ran from 1920 to 1948, down Bourbon Street through the French Quarter to Desire Street in the Bywater neighborhood, before looping up to Canal Street. But the city has invested heavily in new streetcar lines to make getting around a breeze, for just $1.25 each way (transfers are $0.25 and are good for two hours; one-day and three-day passes are also available).
 
To get to the French Quarter from the cruise terminal, take the Riverfront Trolley line with stops at Canal near Harrah's and Decatur, where you'll find the popular French Market. Catch the trolley at the Convention Center, just steps from the terminal.
 
The St. Charles Line starts at Canal Street (at Carondelet) and heads uptown, around the river bend, to Carrollton Avenue. This route shows you some of New Orleans' most scenic architecture, and you'll pass antebellum mansions, restaurants, hotels, Loyola and Tulane Universities, and Audubon Park, within walking distance of the Audubon Zoo.
 
The Canal Line takes you up the city's main thoroughfare, with two endpoints. One spur drops you at what city officials call the Historic Cemetery District near City Park. While these aren't the oldest above-ground mausoleums in New Orleans -- that honor belongs to St. Louis #1, just off the French Quarter on Basin Street -- you can walk around and take plenty of photos commemorating your visit to the City of the Dead. The City Park/Museum route takes you into City Park, a 1,300-acre expanse that's home to oak trees more than 600 years old, as well as the New Orleans Museum of Art.
 
For streetcar information, call the Regional Transit Authority (504-248-3900) for transit times and info.
 
By Car: All the standard rental car agencies are located at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, about a 30-minute ride from downtown. Popular day trips include visits to famous plantations such as Oak Alley; swamp tours in the city's outlying bayous or nature trips to Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve on the West Bank.
 
 
Things To See and Do
 
French Quarter
The Vieux Carre or French Quarter of New Orleans, the old town center, extends along a crescent shaped bend on the Mississippi. French influence is particularly noticeable in the buildings, some of them between 100 and nearly 300 years old, with their arcades, wrought iron balconies, red-tiled roofs and picturesque fountain decked courtyards. The blacks who settled in the town, together with the old established Creole inhabitants, created jazz around the turn of the 19th century. It was prevalent in the entertainment quarter, which was demarcated by municipal ordinance in 1897 and marked out with red lamps, and in nearby Bourbon Street. Nowadays the district contains a profusion of jazz spots with entertainment of very varying quality, well-known restaurants, cheerful cafes, souvenir shops, galleries and old hotels, all refurbished for the tourist trade.
 
Mardi Gras
New Orleans and Mardi Gras go hand in hand. This is New Orleans' biggest event of the year, with parades and all kinds of festivities. Onlookers crowd into the balconies and sidewalks to watch the parade and catch strings of beaded necklaces thrown from the outrageously decorated floats. Mardi Gras was introduced by French settlers and flourished particularly at the end of the 19th century. Official site: http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/
 
Bourbon Street
The best known street in New Orleans is Bourbon Street. Located in the French Quarter this street is known for hot jazz spots, restaurants, and all kinds of entertainment options. During the day it is relatively quiet and it night it is generally busy and lively. Bourbon Street is a big tourist area in the city and the scene of all kinds of activities. During Mardis Gras the street and the balconies on all the buildings overlooking the street, are packed with people who come to see and experience the festivities.
Bourbon Street is also important from a historical perspective. It is home to the famous Preservation Hall, and the Old Absinthe House (1807), in which Andrew Jackson and the guerrilla leaders Jean and Pierre Lafitte planned the decisive battle with British forces.
 
Jackson Square
The main square in the old town, in the heart of the French Quarter, is Jackson Square. It was originally known as Place d'Armes. In the center of the square, surrounded by trees and greenery, is an equestrian statue (1856) of General Andrew Jackson. Standing prominently on the square is the landmark St Louis Cathedral, with its white façade and cone shaped spires. Also in the surroundings are the Presbytere and Cabildo, both Louisiana State Museums. The area around the iron fence has long been an artist's hang out, and nearby are shops and restaurants, making it a popular tourist place.
 
The whole area is very attractively laid out along the banks of the Mississippi, with the Riverboat Docks, the promenade known as the Moon Walk, and the Millhouse, as well as a variety of boutiques and fast food outlets.
 
Royal Street
Royal Street, located in the French Quarter, offers a great mix of history, fine cuisine, and unique shopping opportunities. There are numerous antique shops, as well as upper end stores, and art galleries. In addition, there are also many hotels and restaurants along Royal Street, with some well known fine dining spots. Royal Street showcases some of the traditional architecture, with many old buildings featuring the classic iron balconies for which New Orleans is so well known. Some of the fine buildings on Royal Street include the old Bank of Louisiana, and the Court of Two Sisters (1832).
 
City Park
New Orleans City Park covers more than 1,300 acres and contains numerous attractions. The park was heavily affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Many of the trees were knocked down by the winds and attractions were damaged by flooding. Following 2005 work on the park served to repair and remodel the park over a period of years.

St Louis Cathedral
On the north side of Jackson Square is the St Louis Cathedral, a landmark structure in New Orleans. It was built in 1794 on the site of two earlier churches and is known for being the United States' oldest cathedral in continuous use. Pope John Paul II visited the cathedral in 1987.
The church was built through contributions from Don Andres Almonester de Roxas, a Frenchman who spent money from his fortune to rebuild New Orleans after the second great fire.
Address: Jackson Square Official site: http://stlouiscathedral.org/

Louisiana State Museum at the Cabildo
The Cabildo, to the left of St Louis Cathedral, was built in 1795 as the residence of the Spanish governor. It is noteworthy both as a historic building and for the collection it contains. The first town council met here in 1799 and the Louisiana Purchase was agreed to here in 1803. It was also at one time the Louisiana Supreme Court .This building now houses the Louisiana State Museum and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A damaging fire in the late 1980s led to a major restoration project, with the facility reopening in 1994.
 
Today the Cabildo displays the Louisiana State Museum's collections of material on the history of the town and the region. In particular the museum focuses on the people Louisiana and the many ethnic groups which make up the population today.
Address: 701 Charles Street, Official site: http://www.crt.state.la.us/museum/properties/cabildo/

Garden District
The Garden District, a prosperous residential area, lies southwest of the Pontchartrain Expressway. On First Street, Camp Street, and Prytania Street there are many large elegant, 19th century houses with extensive gardens. The area can be easily explored on a walking tour. Some companies offer guided tours, which can be a good way to learn the history and see the sights. The area has lovely mansions, and lots of trees, flowers, and gardens. Some famous celebrities have homes in this area. Most visitors come to enjoy the tranquil environment and see the houses, but there are also boutiques and coffee shops in the area.
 
In the southwest of the Garden District is Audubon Park, so named in 1886. It was established on the grounds of what had been the site of the World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition of 1884. Within the park are fine stands of oaks, the Audubon Zoo, hothouses, the Audubon Golf Club, a number of small lakes, and much open green space. Also within the park are a short jogging trail, tennis courts, soccer fields, picnic areas, and children's play areas. The Audubon Clubhouse Café offers a nice environment where visitors can come to relax after a walk through the park.
 
Preservation Hall
Preservation Hall is an unassuming old building that has long been an institution in New Orleans known for jazz music. The hall still features traditional jazz by local artists in an historic setting. The building is small, creating an intimate setting, and seating is limited. Address: 726 St Peter, Official site: www.preservationhall.com/

Mardi Gras World
New Orleans is world famous for its elaborate Mardi Gras celebrations. People come from all over the world to enjoy the festivities that consume the city during this time period. For a glimpse of what's involved behind the scenes in this huge event visitors can stop by Mardi Gras World to see working studios. The Blaine Kern Studios, make floats and are highly involved with the Mardi Gras Parade in New Orleans each year. They claim to be the leading producer of floats in the world.
 
On display at Mardi Gras World are sculptured props, huge floats, outrageous costumes, and all kinds of figures. Visitors can get a good sense of the size, color, and imagination that goes into the floats and the parade. Guided tours are offered regularly each day through the workshops where artists and sculptors work. Address: 1380 port of New Orleans Place, Official site: http://www.mardigrasworld.com/

National WWII Museum
At the National WWII Museum the story of WWII soldiers is told through artifacts, film, photographs, diaries and oral histories. The complex features a variety of segments. At the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, the focus is on the soldiers' experiences throughout the war, with exhibits on D-Day at Normandy, and Home Front and the Pacific. A film entitled Beyond All Boundaries, produced by Tom Hanks, is shown in the 4 D Theater. The museum also features traveling exhibitions to complement the permanent collection. Also part of the complex is the Stage Door Canteen, featuring entertainment of the 1940s, with matinees and dinner shows. Address: 945 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70130-3813, United States Official site: http://www.ddaymuseum.org/
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve
 The Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in New Orleans presents examples of the cultural resources of Louisiana's Mississippi Delta region. The park consists of six physically separate sites in southeastern Louisiana. The Barataria Preserve is one of six sites making up the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. The environment here consists of natural levee forests, bayous, swamps, and marshes. Archeological sites here have been found to contain remnants of the ancient Troyville, Marksville and Tchefuncte cultures.
 
The Chalmette Battlefield preserves the site of the January 8, 1815, Battle of New Orleans which was a decisive American victory over the British at the end of the War of 1812.

Steamboat Natchez
The paddle steamer, Steamboat Natchez offers cruises on the Mississippi River and offers a unique way to see and learn about the city. Guests can choose from Jazz Dinner Cruises and Jazz Harbor Cruises. The harbor cruises take two hours and provide narration on the sights. There is also an optional lunch serving creole cuisine. The dinner cruise features a live jazz band, a buffet style dinner, and of course, wonderful views of New Orleans.Special events cruises are also available seasonally, with special cruises offered for such occasions as Easter, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and around Christmas and other holidays. Official site: http://www.steamboatnatchez.com/

New Orleans Museum of Art
In the south part of City Park is the New Orleans Museum of Art with an excellent collection of French and American art. Another highlight is the outdoor Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden with walking paths, lagoons, and old trees.
Address: One Collins C Diboll Circle, Official site: http://noma.org/
 
Organized Tours
There are great advantages to taking tours. Though they’re touristy by definition, someone else does the planning, and it’s an easy way to get to outlying areas. A good tour guide can entertain, enlighten, and even inspire. We lean toward some of the smaller companies, in hopes that they may have fewer people than the allowable 28 per group. We like to hang close to the guide in case we have questions; they’ll often continue to share knowledge while on the way to the next point of interest—and we find that these kinds of serendipitous personal interactions are easier to come by when fewer people are being herded along. We also like that, for tours to the swamps and plantation homes, say, you’ll be saving the earth a bit by carpooling (well, buspooling). Finally, we like the fact that New Orleans tour guides must be licensed, which involves actual study and testing. So not just anyone can load you on a bus and take you for a (literal or figurative) ride.
 
Be aware: It’s fairly common practice for hotel concierges and storefront tour offices to earn commission on the tours they sell or recommend (ditto restaurants). Some may have honest opinions about the merits of one over another, and those may be perfectly good options, but for the most part, they’re selling you what they get paid to sell. If you’re looking for a particular type of tour, do the research yourself and cut out the middleman; no matter how you learned about it, pay the fee directly to the company, not to your concierge or a street-corner booth. And about those “Free Tours.” It’s not that the tours themselves aren’t good, per se; it’s that they’re not really free (and they’re always packed to the gills). They usually come with a heavy-hitting request for tips, and by the time you tip the guide, you’re not far from the cost of tours from established providers. The business model and the hiring practices are a bit murky, as well. Frankly, we’re supportive of legitimate businesses that legitimately support the city we love so much. But that’s just us.
 
The following companies offer multiple tours (and will often offer discounts if you commit to more than one). Most of them have walking tours of the French Quarter; the Garden District; and the cemeteries, as well as van tours of the Lower Ninth Ward (Katrina), plantations, and swamps (they provide transportation and tickets to an associated swamp or airboat tour). Other specialty tours are noted, but if you have a particular interest you don’t see, contact these companies—customized tours can often be arranged.
 
G L-f de Villiers Tours -- Multi-degreed, dishy raconteur Glenn de Villiers is a local native who traces his family lineage directly to a key figure in the founding of New Orleans. The city’s history, then, is literally in his DNA. The tall, chapeaued bon vivant is worth following around the French Quarter for his laissez-faire saunter and breezy repartee alone, but his insider perspective can’t be replicated through a library of books. Glenn describes the customs and culture like he’s lived it (he has), and serves up the facts with urbane wit and a generous dollop of gossip. It works best on his Literary and Gay History “Twirl!” tours, though his French Quarter, Cemetery, and Louisiana History tours are all worthy. Some might find this personal take tiresome. Not me. Added pluses: He maxes his groups at 12 participants and donates profits to worthy local causes.
 
www.glfdevilliers.com. tel. 225/819-7535. All tours run about 2 hours and are on the pricey side at $30. Check website for schedule and meeting places.
 
Historic New Orleans Tours -- This is one of our favorite midsize tour companies, mostly because their guides are consistently good. Quite often they have advanced degrees in history or other related disciplines, and they’re free to bring their own perspectives and interests to the tour, thereby keeping things fresh. The company emphasizes authenticity over sensationalism, and they’re particular experts in cemeteries, with a serious depth of knowledge. The French Quarter and cemetery tours are on foot, as is a terrific “Scandalous Cocktail” tour, which strings together a series of fascinating tales around local bars and cocktails. The tour delves into historic brothels, organized crime, and even the JFK assassination. The colorful bartenders, when not too busy, also tell their own tales (do pace your drinking, though!). They also offer walking and van tours of the Garden District; and a City + Katrina van tour. Other special-interest tours (available by advance arrangement only) include music, literary, Tremé, and Creole Mourning Customs Tours, the latter a particularly novel and fascinating topic.
 
www.tourneworleans.com. tel. 800/979-3370 or 504/947-2120. Most tours $20 adults, $15 students, $7 seniors and children 6–12, free for children 5 and under. Scandalous Cocktail and Creole Mourning tours $25 per person. 3-hour City/Hurricane tour $40 adults, $20 children 12 and under. Swamp and Plantation tours vary. Call for times and reservations.
 
Tours by Isabelle -- This is a small tour company, and tours are scheduled only when a minimum number of people sign up (so if they don’t hit the minimum, there’s a chance you’ll end up having to switch to a different tour). The upside is you’ll get more personalized attention, and van tours are maxed out at 13 people. Isabelle’s tours (available in English and French) include: New Orleans overview; plantations; swamps and airboats; and good combination tours—like a 3 1/2-hour City Overview with Katrina Recovery tour, which shows the French Quarter, City Park, and post-Katrina damage and sights. The City and Estate tour adds Longue Vue House and Gardens to a tour of the French Quarter, St. Louis Cemetery No. 3, Bayou St. John, Lake Pontchartrain, and the Uptown and Downtown neighborhoods—a very extensive overview tour with a broad reach. Isabelle also offers swamp and plantation tours, but no Garden District tours.
 
www.toursbyisabelle.com. tel. 504/398-0365. City and Katrina combination tour $75. City and Estate tour $80.
 
Gray Line -- This well-known, well-established national company runs walking and coach tours of the city, swamps, and plantations—in pretty much every combination. Gray Line also manages the dinner and jazz cruises aboard the Steamboat Natchez (www.steamboatnatchez.com). This is the big kahuna of tour companies, with large groups and full-size buses, so it’s a slicker, scripted presentation but also a slicker, glitch-free operation, from the call center to the deep bench of backup tour guides to the very heavy schedule of tours. They pretty much have something going out all the time, so one call can get you set up.
 
2 Canal St., Ste. 1300. www.graylineneworleans.com. tel. 800/535-7786 or 504/569-1401. Walking tours start at $26 adults, $15 children. Swamp tour with transportation $49 adults, $24 children. Steamboat Natchez dinner and jazz cruise $75 adults, $34 children. Check website for other tour prices and full schedule.
 
Cajun Encounters -- This is also a larger, slicker company, but unlike Gray Line, it is locally owned. That’s a point of pride and also a bit of a hallmark, as they like to hire local guides. It’s been around for 15 years, and tours are on a 33-seat bus. The City & Cemetery bus tour takes you through the French Quarter, St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery, Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods, Ninth Ward, City Park, and Garden District, with walk-around opportunities at several stops. It also offers transportation and ticketing to a wonderfully eerie nighttime swamp tour.
 
901 Decatur St. www.cajunencounters.com. tel. 866/928-6877 or 504/834-1770. City + Cemetery Tour $49 adults, $33 children. Day or nighttime swamp tour (with hotel pickup) $52 adult, $33 children. Check website for other costs, schedules, and discount offers.
 
French Quarter Intro Walking Tours
 
Besides the more extensive city tours listed above, these are some good introductory French Quarter walking tours. Needless to say, you can also start with the free, self-guided walking tour that I’ve developed for you on.
 
The nonprofit volunteer group Friends of the Cabildo  (www.friendsofthecabildo.org; tel. 504/524-9118) offers an excellent 2-hour walking tour of the Quarter. Docents are mostly Quarter residents (ask about their own family histories). It leaves from in front of the 1850 House Museum Store, at 523 St. Ann St., on Jackson Square. The fee is $15 per adult, $10 students, free for children 12 and under. Tours leave Tuesday through Sunday at 10:30am and 1:30pm, except holidays. No reservations—just show up about 15 minutes early.
 
The Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve’s Folklife and Visitor Center isat 419 Decatur St., near Conti Street (www.nps.gov/jela/french-quarter-site.htm; tel. 504/589-2636). The super-cool National Park Service rangers there lead an excellent, free “Riverfront History Stroll.” The walking tour covers about a mile along the riverfront and brings to life the city’s history and the ethnic roots of its unique cultural mix. No reservations, and only 25 people are taken in a group. The tour starts at 9:30am Tuesday through Saturday (except for Mardi Gras and Christmas); the office opens at 9am; it’s strongly suggested that you get there then to ensure you get a ticket.
 
Mondays at 10am, the French Market (www.frenchmarket.org/events/upcoming; tel. 504/522-2621) offers a free, 40-minute walking tour. It focuses on their properties, and while it’s not comprehensive, the excellent guide includes plenty of history and anecdotes about the surrounding areas. The first-come, first-served tour starts at the entrance to the French Market at Ursuline and N. Peters (under the arch) streets, and heads upriver past Café du Monde. It ends at the Upper Pontalba apartments on Jackson Square. Their free Wednesday tour focuses on food and music, starting at 1:30pm at the Jazz National Historical Park (916 N. Peters, tucked back from the street near Dumaine and Decatur streets, next to Galvez Restaurant). It ends at the U.S. Mint building at Decatur Street and Esplanade Avenue. This one requires in-person registration (at 916 N. Peters), any time after 9am on the tour day.
 
Beyond the Quarter
 
A walking tour of the Garden District is offered by Historic New Orleans Tours daily at 11am and 1:45pm. It meets at the corner of Washington and Prytania, which is 2 blocks from the St. Charles Streetcar line (Washington stop). Reserve in advance or just show up (cash only for walk-ups; $20 adult, $15 seniors and students, $7 kids 6–12). Gray Line also offers a Garden District walking tour, but theirs transports you via bus from their French Quarter “Lighthouse” depot (Toulouse St. at the Mississippi River), then lets you off in the Garden District where the tour begins; $37 adults, $26 kids. March through October it departs daily at 9:30am; November through December it departs at 9:30am on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday only.
 
Tours of the Lower Ninth Ward focusing on Katrina devastation and restoration are offered by most of the operators listed under “Tour Companies,” above. If observed through the right lens, touring the still-recovering areas is witnessing history, and it’s important to remember. Still, the residents rebuilding here are understandably tired of being viewed through that very lens. Coming here remains a double-edged decision.
 
Plantation tours of the River Road plantation homes are offered by the operators listed under “Tour Companies”.
 
One of the better and more established walking tours of the Faubourg Tremé, focusing on African-American history and the incredible cultural and musical legacy of this historic neighborhood, is offered by French Quarter Phantoms (www.frenchquarterphantoms.com; tel. 504/666-8300). It leaves from 834 N. Rampart St. daily at 10am May through October; 1pm November through April. Reservations required; $18 when booked online. The New Orleans African American Museum, in the Tremé at 1418 Governor Nicholls St. at N. Villere, an easy walk from the French Quarter (www.noaam.org), also offers an excellent walking tour Saturdays at 10am. However, the museum is closed for renovations through mid-2015, and tours (and tour prices) have been inconsistent during the closure. The guides are mostly Tremé locals, so given their immersion in and personal connection to the area, they are inevitably knowledgeable, making this tour worth seeking out despite the caveats. Reservations are required and it only goes out if at least 5 people reserve. It’s $23 adults, $19 students and seniors, $12 children 2 to 12; museum admission is included in the price, so you can expect a discount during the museum’s closure. Check website for most current info.
 
Other Special-Interest Tours
 
Hop On, Hop Off City Sightseeing Tours -- The big red double-decker buses, seen in London, New York, and gobs of other cities, made it to the Big Easy in 2012. We’re not crazy about the sight of these garish eyesores splayed across the city’s historic streets, but conceptually it’s a good way to see the city at your own pace. The buses stop at 11 locations—from the French Market to the World War II Museum in the Central Business District to Magazine Street in Uptown. Enough buses circulate so that you’ll be picked up within 30 minutes at any of the stops. Onboard the enclosed bus or open-air roof (bring sunscreen), a guide narrates the sights along the way. It’s rote but explanatory and helpful. A single day pass is $29 adults and $10 kids; a 7-day pass is $39 adults and $10 kids, and comes with a lagniappe of two free walking tours. You can purchase tickets online, print them, and show up at any stop; or buy a ticket at stops at 700 Decatur St. or 501 Basin St (the Basin St. Station Visitor and Information Center). Buses run continuously from 9:30am to 5pm.
 
Swamp Tours
 
A swamp tour can be a hoot, particularly if you get a guide who calls alligators to your boat for a little skewered snack (please keep your hands inside the boat—they can look a lot like a snack to a gator). On all the following tours, you’re likely to see alligators and waterfowl such as egrets, owls, herons, bald eagles and ospreys. Or less frequently, spot a feral hog, otter, beaver, frog, turtle, raccoon, deer, or nutria. But even during winter hibernation, a morning spent floating on the bayou is mighty pleasant, and learning about how this unique ecosystem contributes to the local culture and economy is quite interesting. Plus, the swamps are simply spookily beautiful.
 
Most tour operators listed earlier under “Tour Companies” provide swamp tours, but they really just coordinate your transportation, narrate the drive, and deliver you to one of the following knowledgeable swamp-tour folks. You can also drive to one of these tours, or contact them directly to arrange your transportation from the city.
 
Airboat Adventures (www.airboatadventures.com; tel. 888/467-9267). This ain’t no cozy roadside junket. It’s a slick operation with an expansive gift shop (which also houses a rare albino gator) and a fleet of boats. And you’re likely to see and hear those other boats as you ply the waters, rather than disappearing into swampy seclusion (as you might at some other swamp tour outfits). What you might get that you won’t find elsewhere (and I’ve been on many a swamp tour) are brothers Paul and Lance, airboat captains who swim with—and on—the abundant gators. These fearless, local good ol’ boys get shockingly up close and personal, enough to hand-feed and belly-rub the toothy reptiles. They’re actual gator wrestlers who grew up with the beasts and know what they’re doing. We think. Controversial? Yes. Cool? Um, sorry but yes. There’s also the speeding, screeching boats (noise-blocking headphones provided) that intersperse showboating donuts with peaceful stops amid the primordial beauty of Lafitte National Preserve, to observe the flora, fauna, and human-induced petrochemical clear-cutting. Paul and Lance, people—request them by name! $95 per person for a 6- to 8-passenger boat; $75 for a 15- to 27-passenger boat. Includes transportation from New Orleans hotels (about 40 min.). Phone reservations required.
 
Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tours (www.honeyislandswamp.com; tel. 985/641-1769 or 504/242-5877), at 41490 Crawford Landing Rd. in Slidell about 30 miles outside of New Orleans, takes you by boat into the interior of Honey Island Swamp to view wildlife with native professional naturalist guides (captains Charlie and Brian both grew up plying these waters). The guides provide a solid educational experience to go with the purer swamp excitement. Tours last approximately 2 hours. Prices are $23 for adults, $15 for children 11 and under if you drive to the launch site yourself; or $48 for adults and $32 for children with hotel pickup in New Orleans.
 
Pearl River Eco-Tours, 55050 Hwy. 90, Slidell (www.pearlriverecotours.com; tel. 866/597-9267, 504/581-3395, or 985/649-4200), is built on Southern hospitality. Captain Neil has been doing tours of Honey Island Swamp for over 10 years, and the other captains also know their stuff. The swamp is beautiful, even during the cooler months when the gators are less frisky. In addition to the regular 18- to 26-passenger boats, these guys also offer a small 6-passenger skiff ($70 per person, $85 with transportation) and night tours, which are supremely cool even if they do slightly freak me out ($39 adults, $29 kids 4–12). Day tours are $25 adults, $15 children 4 to 12 if you drive; or $49 for adults, $33 for children including transportation. Tours are daily at 10am and 2:30pm.
 
They’re a little farther out and you’ll need to provide your own transportation, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t add two other excellent guides: Annie Miller’s Son’s Swamp and Marsh Tours, 3718 Southdown Mandalay Rd., Houma (www.annie-miller.com; tel. 800/341-5441 or 985/868-4758) and A Cajun Man’s Swamp Cruise, 3109 Southdown Mandalay Rd., Houma (www.cajunman.com; tel. 985/868-4625). These neighbors are both so utterly authentic you’d swear that swamp water runs in their veins. Jimmy Miller, son of the legendary Alligator Annie, is carrying on in her downhome tradition and knows every inch of these swamps. Self-proclaimed Cajun Man Ron “Black” Guidry is an equally well-informed naturalist and usually brings his guitar and accordion along on the boat. Both require reservations; call for schedules. Annie Miller’s Sons: $20 adults, $10 children 4 to 12, free 3 and under; tours run 2 to 2 1/2 hours. A Cajun Man: $25 adults and $15 children 12 and younger; tours run about 2 hours.
 
Mystical & Mysterious Tours
 
Interest in the ghostly, supernatural side of New Orleans has always been part of its appeal. But let’s blame author Anne Rice’s tales and subsequent stories of sparkly vampires for increasing the interest in tours catering to the vampire set. It has also resulted in some rather humorous infighting as rival tour operators steal each other’s guides, shtick, and customers. We enjoy a good nighttime ghost tour of the Quarter as much as anyone, but we also have to admit that what’s available is really hit-or-miss in presentation (it depends on who conducts your particular tour) and more miss than hit with regard to facts. Go for the entertainment value, not for the education. All the tours stop outside locations where horrifying things supposedly (or actually) happened, or inexplicable sights have been observed. Allegedly. Just be aware that this isn’t a haunted-house tour (you don’t enter any buildings other than a bar for a mid-tour break), and no shocking ghouls jump out from around dark corners. If you do see any spectral action, it’ll most likely be after that bar stop.
 
We can send you with a clear conscience on the Cemetery and Voodoo Tour offered by Historic New Orleans Tours (www.tourneworleans.com; tel. 800/979-3370 or 504/947-2120). It is consistently fact-based and not sensation-based, though no less entertaining. The trip goes through St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and Congo Square and visits an active Voodoo temple. It leaves Monday through Saturday at 10am and 1pm (Sun 10am only) from the courtyard at 334-B Royal St. Rates are $20 adults, $15 students and seniors, $7 children 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under. They also offer a nighttime haunted tour, where knowledgeable guides provide genuine thrills and chills. It leaves nightly at 7:30pm from Pirates Alley Café, 622 Pirates Alley next to Faulkner House Books.
 
As for those vampire tours . . . let’s be perfectly clear: Vampires are not real. But if they were, they’d hang out in the French Quarter. Both are spooky. Both are centuries old. Both are sexy. It makes sense. Personally, we prefer our history with a bit of, well, history—but if tales of bloodsuckery and high drama are what you seek, the current reigning kings are at French Quarter Phantoms (www.frenchquarterphantoms.com; tel. 504/666-8300). Costumes, fake blood, Dickensian delivery—the whole magilla (but not all the guides do it). Tours cost $16 to $18 when booked online; free for kids 7 and under. They leave from Flanagan’s, 625 St. Phillip, nightly at 6pm and 8pm. The 1 1/2-hour New Orleans Vampire tour given by Haunted History Tours, 97 Fontainebleau Dr. (www.hauntedhistorytours.com; tel. 888/644-6787 or 504/861-2727) is a baby step down on the drama ladder. It departs nightly at 8:30pm from outside St. Louis Cathedral and costs $25 for adults, $18 students and seniors, $14 kids ages 6 to 11, and free for kids 5 and under. Haunted History Tours also offers cemetery and nighttime French Quarter history tours.
 
Both of these companies are popular, and these tours usually go out with large groups. Try to stay near the front, so you can see and hear your guide. Even the ones with the most booming voices have to regulate their delivery out of respect for the French Quarter residents.
 
Food & Beverage Tours & Classes
 
Visitors can take can take their New Orleans culinary experience one tasty step further with a food and beverage tour or class. Drink and Learn (www.drinkandlearn.com; tel. 504/578-8280) is Elizabeth Pearce’s aptly named company. The noted cocktail impresario and author punctuates her walking tour with stops at cocktail-orientated sites, where participants partake of pre-poured smart beverages. Her other “tour,” called the New Orleans Experience, doesn’t leave the gorgeous bar at Broussard’s, yet you’re transported through several centuries of New Orleans’s storied cocktail history. Meanwhile one of the city’s premier bartenders is crafting exemplary examples of classic cocktails for your drinking pleasure. Her lively delivery, depth of knowledge, and visual aids make this a far better experience than it sounds, and frankly we prefer this intimate, stationary excursion. Don’t mistake these for blotto bar crawls—they’re sincere historical tutorials, with the bonus of booze. The Cocktail Tour meets most nights (but not all) at 6 or 6:30pm at Vacherie Restaurant, 827 Toulouse St., and costs $50 per person (21 and over only). Reservations required. Book in advance; the small groups fill up fast.
 
Anyone can quaff a few, but those with an interest in brewing methodology, the history of beer, prohibition, and local beer crafting will appreciate the insider’s tasting/tour offered by NOLA Beer Tours (www.nolabeertours.com; tel. 504/408-0747). Besides testing an array of local pours, you’ll meet with a pro brewer and get some goodly food tastings (freshly shucked oysters!). Stops vary from a classic, 1850s-era restaurant to a thriving local brewpub to a tap-heavy hipster spot. But the pace is leisurely and the group that drinks together (at one stop, around an antique French table 2 centuries old) grows together, so the vibe is nicely social. Our group had curious couples, a home brewer, and some regular dudes looking for good Louisiana brews. Once you get youthful guide Eric to chat off-script, it’s clear that his beer nerdism (and NOLA knowledge) runs deep, and his passion for the pint transfers well. The 2-hour tour is $50; a VIP version with twice the beer and food runs $80.
 
NOLA Brewing Brewery Tour isn’t a walking tour, but an actual tour through the best local craft brewery in New Orleans. The 35-minute, brewmaster-led look behind the scenes is wildly popular for the free samples, but also because it’s interesting and informative. And did we mention free samples? That’ll offset the cost of the cab fare to get out here. Tours are offered Fridays at 2pm, but the taproom is also good for a visit anytime. NOLA Brewery is at 3001 Tchoupitoulas St. (www.nolabrewing.com; tel. 504/896-9996).
 
Langlois Culinary Crossroads, 1710 Pauger St. (www.langloisnola.com; tel. 504/934-1010), has upped the ante for all other cooking classes in the city. Its gorgeous Bywater facility, custom-built and opened in 2013, is spiffy, sleek, and smart, with monitors that allow everyone a view of the action (but all seats are good ones; classes max out at 16 students). The big differences here are that these classes are hands-on and the menus higher-end. A recent menu included fried okra with jalapeño ranch sauce, glazed bacon-wrapped shrimp with pimento cheese grits, and bananas Foster crepes. Participants are invited to help stir, sear, mix, chop . . . and then dig in when the tasty, multicourse meal is served. The menus focus on local ingredients and influences and change often to help keep the instructors as interested as the students. It’s a giant step up from the traditional jambalaya and gumbo that some other cooking classes offer (with prices to match—classes range from $89 to $120). Wines by the glass or bottle are available, and Chef Amy and the rest of the crew are fun, funny, and full of useful tips. It’s an exceptional experience. Advance reservations required.
 
Celebrated New Orleans Chef Frank Brigtsen created the yummy course curriculum at the New Orleans Cooking Experience (www.thenoce.com; tel. 504/430-5274), which offers half-day cooking courses taught in a beautifully restored Lower Garden District Victorian home near the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Classic but manageable New Orleans Creole dishes are given a gourmet kick in the custom demo kitchen. Brigtsen and other personable, high-profile local chefs cook and teach; then you all dine and wine together. It’s fun, informative, and likely to be fattening. C’est la vie. Classes are $165 per person and include recipes, a multicourse meal, and vin.
 
Tastebud Tours (www.tastebudtours.com/tours/new-orleans-tours; tel. 219/929-6648), a Chicago-based company, uses local guides who do a good job of weaving together culinary traditions and the city’s melting-pot history (since the different ethnic groups that have settled here over the years have all influenced the cuisine—among other things). The walking tour doesn’t stop at the finest of restaurants, but you’ll sample a good cross section of iconic New Orleans dishes: a muffuletta, beignet, po’ boy, and a sip of gumbo. The tastes are small- to medium-size (but a small taste of muffuletta alone is pretty filling), so you won’t go hungry. The daily 1pm tours are $44 (kids 2 and under are free; others pay full rate) and last 3 to 3 1/2 hours; reservations are required. Vegetarians can be accommodated with advance notice.
 
Also see the Confederacy of Cruisers Culinary Bike Tour, below.
 
Boat & Kayak Tours
 
For those interested in doing the Mark Twain thing, a few operators offer ways to get out on the rolling Mississippi. They’re touristy but fun if you’re in the right mood, and a good family activity. Docks are at the foot of Toulouse and Canal streets, and there’s ample parking. Call for reservations (required) and to confirm prices and schedules. We think it best to skip the food—too much time spent at the buffet is time better spent enjoying the river, and besides, you can find better food all over town. Discounts come up often on their websites and www.groupon.com.
 
The steamboat Natchez, 2 Canal St., Ste. 1300 (www.steamboatnatchez.com; tel. 800/233-2628 or 504/569-1401), a marvelous three-deck stern-wheeler docked at the wharf behind the Jackson Brewery, offers at least two 2-hour daytime cruises Monday through Saturday, and a jazz dinner cruise 7 days a week. The narration is by professional guides, and the boat has a cocktail bar, live jazz, an engine room tour, an optional lunch on the first cruise of the day ($11 extra for ages 5 and up, and $8 for kids 4 and under), and a gift shop. Daytime fares are $29 for adults, $12 children. The 6pm evening cruises without dinner are $44 adults and $22 children; kids 6 and under ride free with paid adult. With dinner it’s $75 adults, $34 children 6 to 12, and $14 for children 2 to 5. Sunday jazz brunch cruise is $40 and $20 for children ages 2 to 5 ($29/$12 for the cruise only). Times vary seasonally, so call ahead.
 
The smaller paddle wheeler Creole Queen, Riverwalk Dock (www.creolequeen.com; tel. 800/445-4109 or 504/529-4567), departs from the Poydras Street Wharf adjacent to the Riverwalk every afternoon for a 1 1/2-hour narrated excursion to the port and to the historic site of the Battle of New Orleans. There is also an 8pm jazz dinner cruise. The boat has a covered promenade deck and a snack bar, and its inner lounges are air-conditioned or heated as needed. Daytime fares are $27 for adults and $13 for children 6 to 12 (free for kids 5 and under). The evening cruise is $44 for adults, $20 for children 6 to 12 (free 5 and under). Dinner adds $30 to the adult ticket; $14 to the 6- to 12-year-olds; dinner for kids 3 to 5 is $12.
 
Kayak-iti-Yat (www.kayakitiyat.com; tel. 985-778-5034 or 512-964-9499) explains city lore from the unique perspective of a kayak along Bayou St. John. When the weather’s right, it’s a sublime way to explore some historic neighborhoods. Tours range from 2 to 4 hours, with increasing intensity of upper-body workouts (the better to justify last night’s indulgent dinner). It’s not difficult even for the inexperienced, and highly recommended. Tours run daily; times vary, and advance reservations are required. Costs range from $40 to $65. Call for reservations, times, and meeting-place directions. All equipment is provided, but there’s no bathroom stop so plan ahead. Check www.groupon.com for discount coupons.
 
Bicycle and Other Wheeled Tours
 
A bike tour is a terrific way to explore some lesser-seen parts of this flat city up close and in depth. Our suggested tours go at an outright leisurely pace, so you needn’t be a serious rider, but bike familiarity and a healthy dose of pluck will help you handle the hazards of potholes and traffic (including stretches along some busy avenues). Do opt-in to the optional helmet; bring sunscreen, a hat, rain poncho, and water (though most tours provide a small starter bottle) as conditions dictate. While a restroom stop is included, you’d be wise to take care of that before departure, too.
 
Confederacy of Cruisers (www.confederacyofcruisers.com; tel. 504/400-5468) offers a bike tour with an itinerary that hits parts of the Marigny, Bywater, 7th Ward, and Tremé on comfortable, well-maintained single-gear cruisers with baskets. The eight-person maximum, guide-led group pulls over about every 10 minutes at such diverse stops as the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), St. Roch Cemetery, the Mother-in-Law Lounge, and St. Augustine Church, where guides offer up well-informed cultural and architectural insights. The 3-hour tours are $49 and depart twice daily. Their half-day culinary bike tour takes different itineraries, but all go to killer, off-the-beaten-track eateries favored by locals. The “tastes” are copious, and guide Cassidy’s laid-back delivery belies a serious depth of food knowledge (and history and architecture), which he imparts between bites. It’s $89 inclusive, and worth it. Reservations are a must. Depart from Washington Square Park at Elysian Fields and Royal streets, on the outskirts of the French Quarter.
 
Freewheelin’ Bike Tours (www.neworleansbiketour.com; tel. 504/324-8257) has a similar itinerary, with stops for snoballs (during the season) and at St. Louis No. 3 Cemetery, where one of the guides’ great-grandparents are buried. It goes out at 10am and 2pm every day except Wednesday; a nighttime French Quarter tour leaves at 6pm; they also have a quickie (1 hour) early morning French Quarter tour that departs at 8am ($20; great for business travelers). It also offers an Uptown tour through the Garden District and the Irish Channel that goes along St. Charles Avenue for a bit as well as the Warehouse District. This one departs daily except Wednesday at 9:15am and 1:15pm. We like the sturdy, American-made cruisers, which have been custom constructed for these streets, and that the tours max out at 10 passengers. All depart from 325 Burgundy and cost $49. Reserve in advance.
 
As for other wheeled ways to see the city, consider the City Segway, 214 Decatur St. (http://neworleans.citysegwaytours.com; tel. 504/619-4162). There’s something disconcerting about seeing these oddball, two-wheeled stand-up vehicles rolling thru the hallowed, centuries-old FQ streets. But the thing is, they’re kinda a blast. It gets better after the “How to avoid brain trauma” introductory video, and the in-store training ends when everyone feels comfortable. Still, when you follow the guide onto those potholed streets, it can be intimidating. Till it turns fun. Which happens quickly. The 3-hour ($75) tour beats the 2-hour ($65) one—you get more stops (mostly to French Quarter and Tremé greatest-hits landmarks), more history, and more leg stretches, which you need. And yes, you get a few minutes in an open space to let those horses loose and see what they can really do (about 10 mph). Multiple tour times daily, call or check website for schedule and to book.
 
Corny it may be, but there is a romantic lure to an old horse-drawn carriage tour of the Quarter or beyond. The “horses” are actually mules (they handle the city heat and humidity better), often decked out with ribbons, flowers, and even hats. Drivers seem to be in a fierce competition to win the “most entertaining” award. They share history and rote anecdotes of dubious authenticity; they’ll also customize itineraries on request. Carriages wait on Decatur Street in front of Jackson Square from 8:30am to midnight (except in heavy rain). Private carriages are $90 per  1/2 hour for up to four people; or you can hop into one of the waiting carriages (you may be sharing with other tourists) for $15 per person per  1/2 hour. A 1 1/2-hour Garden District tour runs $270 for one to four people. Contact www.neworleanscarriages.com or tel. 504/943-8820 for custom tours and hotel pickups.
 
Antiquing Tours
 
Antiquing in New Orleans can be an exhilarating if overwhelming experience. For expert guidance, Macon Riddle of Let’s Go Antiquing! (www.neworleansantiquing.com; tel. 504/899-3027) will organize and customize antiques-shopping tours to fit your needs. Hotel pickup is included, and she will even make lunch reservations for you and arrange shipping of any purchases. Prices vary.
 
Eating Out
You know you're in a special place when you walk into this legendary spot on St. Louis Street in the French Quarter. Fifteen dining rooms hold more than 700 people, yet the atmosphere feels intimate, friendly, and welcoming.
Begin with the Oysters Rockefeller ($12); the recipe is a closely guarded secret. The souffléed potatoes ($6.25) are another true treat. Try the Pompano Pontchartrain ($33.75) as an entrée. Smothered in crabmeat, the dish gets a kick from green onions. Don't forget to order the baked Alaska ahead of time (it feeds two for $16.50) , and they'll emblazon your name in meringue on the delectable creation. Even if you're not royalty, you'll feel like a king or queen when you leave. 713 St. Louis Street; www.antoines.com or (504) 581-4422.
 
Arnaud's
A beautiful main dining room greets you at this elegant Creole restaurant on Bienville Street located between Bourbon and Dauphine. Crystal chandeliers cast a glow on the tiled floor, while fluted columns and small vases of flowers on the tables add to the ambience of the 1918 mainstay. Large black pots hold lacy ferns, and original light fixtures reflect off the tall leaded-glass windows.
In the midst of this lovely setting, begin with a house favorite. Order the Shrimp Arnaud ($8.95), which is shrimp marinated in a tangy rémoulade made with Creole mustard. Now move on to Trout Meunière--deep fried and served with Creole Meunière Sauce and Brabant potatoes ($25.95). For dessert, ask for the Strawberries Arnaud ($6.95), fresh berries marinated in a port wine sauce and served over ice cream.
813 Bienville Street; www.arnauds.com or (504) 522-8767.
 
Galatoire's
Come to Galatoire's for lunch--but come early, and avoid Friday. This is the locals' favorite day, and the place is often packed by noon. No reservations are required for lunch, and most weekdays you can score a spot in the main dining room. Take in the charming decor, with its hand-painted fleur-de-lis motif on the walls, paddle fans, and mirrors along the sides, reflecting happy diners everywhere.
Start out with a combo of the best appetizers: Shrimp Rémoulade, Crabmeat Maison, and Shrimp Maison ($26.50). The flavors of the tart rémoulade blend well with the creamy crab (loaded with capers). Then move on to the Poisson Meunière Amandine ($19.50) for an entrée. Ask about the soft-shell crab, which is in season in April. Finish everything with a light Cup Custard ($4) for dessert, though the bread pudding ($5) is popular too. 209 Bourbon Street; www.galatoires.com or (504) 525-2021.
 
Brennan's
Choose a three-course breakfast from the prix fixe menu ($36). Try the strawberries with double cream for an appetizer, followed by Eggs Hussarde. This rich concoction combines poached eggs, Holland rusks, Canadian bacon, hollandaise sauce, and marchands de vin.
Dinner offers an equally divine set of choices. Another prix fixe menu ($48) by chef Lazone Randolph includes seafood gumbo--chock-full of crab, shrimp, and okra-- and blackened redfish. Grilled with just the right amount of spice, the dish is a great entrée to pair with Creole White Chocolate Mousse Pie, some of the best calories you'll ever consume. 417 Royal Street; www.brennansneworleans.com or (504) 525-9711.
 
Commander's Palace
Order from chef Tory McPhail's menu, a $35 prix fixe bonanza. Indulge in Eggs Jeannette, a dish the restaurant refers to as "improved eggs Benedict." Garlic and black pepper elevate pork and poached eggs to a new level, as do oyster mushrooms, leeks, a sage buttermilk biscuit, and tasso hollandaise. You'll be smiling when you leave and eager to return--for the music, for the food, for the ambience that only New Orleans possesses and so freely dishes out to all who keep coming back, hungry for more. 1403 Washington Avenue; www.commanderspalace.com or (504) 899-8221.
Touring And Tasting
For a terrific overview that includes many fine New Orleans restaurants, check out New Orleans Culinary History Tours. You'll learn about the history of the cuisine, the restaurants' beginnings, and interesting food trivia. www.noculinarytours.com or (504) 427-9595
 
Shopping
Shopping in New Orleans is a highly evolved leisure activity, with a shop for every strategy and a fix for every shopaholic—at every budget. Think of the endless souvenir shops on Bourbon Street and swanky antiques stores on Royal Street as the bookends for all the shopping New Orleans has to offer. There’s a high-end mall, quaint boutiques filled with strange items gathered from all parts of the globe, a brand spanking new outlet mall, and shops featuring enticing hand-crafted objects produced by local, somewhat twisted, folk artists.
 
There are sweet deals to be had, or lavish riches to be spent, artworks to be admired, new outfits to wear home. But as all shoppers know, the fun is in the hunt. And New Orleans has some smashing hunting grounds.
 
Major Hunting Grounds
 
Julia Street -- Many of the city’s best contemporary art galleries (many listed under “Art Galleries”) line Julia Street from Camp Street to the river. The quality of local talent exhibited here—among both creators and curators—is quite astounding.
 
Magazine Street -- The Garden District’s premier shopping drag, 6 miles of antiques, boutiques, galleries, and all manner of restaurants in 19th-century brick storefronts and quaint cottage-like buildings, from Washington Street to Audubon Park. Prime sections are, roughly, the 3700 to 4300 blocks (with the odd block or so of nothing); 1900 to 2100; and 5400 to 5700 blocks. Download or pick up a copy of “Magazine Street Shoppers’ Guide” for a free store list and map. www.magazinestreet.com. A car or JazzyPass will help you traverse the avenue.
 
Riverbend, MAPLE & Oak Street -- To reach these fetching Carrollton area shops, ride the St. Charles Avenue streetcar to stop no. 44, then walk a block down Maple Street. There, Maple Street Book Store, upscale boutique Angelique, and delectable po’ boy shop The Sammich inhabit several renovated old buildings. Four blocks up Dublin Street is the happening Oak Street shopping and dining district. Check out the excellent Blue Cypress Books, local goods from Detour, and weird and wacky Rabbit Ears gallery. For refreshments, try famed restaurant Jacque-Imo’s and the Plum Street Snoball stand a block away.

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