Published: Jul/Aug 2003

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See your town like a tourist
Rediscover treasures in your home city
this summer

By Don Redman
Associate Editor

Elegant dining at Victor’s in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel is recommended while visiting New Orleans. /Ritz-Carlton photo
New Orleans is undoubtedly on the short list of must-see destinations for thousands of vacationers annually, but we locals are often guilty of overlooking the many treasures buried right under our noses.

I recently had the opportunity to play tourist in New Orleans and I must admit that I haven’t had so much fun in a long time. In fact, I fell in love with the city all over again.

I often suggest to out-of-town guests that they visit the Musée Conti Wax Museum located at 917 Conti St., and then take a self-guided tour. Walking tours of the French Quarter are also offered by the National Park Service or by the Friends of the Cabildo.

Following my own advice, I recently took the family on a tour of the Quarter and we started out with the traditional coffee, milk and beignets at Café du Monde. Then it was on to the wax museum.

Several wax models are in need of a little tender loving care, but the boys were oblivious to the gathering dust and were instead fixated on the notion that some of the wax figures had actually moved. The museum delivers a quick and entertaining history lesson for young and old alike, and with a copy of the self-guided tour map in hand, it’s fun to match the actual sites to those depicted in wax.

The adult tour

I usually break down adult tours into two categories: “Arts, Letters and Music” and “The Urbane.” The latter includes the requisite trip to Faulkner House Books, located at 624 Pirate's Alley in the house where William Faulkner lived while writing his first novel. Other great literary treasures include the Maple Street Book Shop and Maple Street Children’s Book Shop located uptown at 7523 Maple Street and deVille Books and Prints located at 344 Carondelet St.

The Arts, Letters and Music Tour continues with a trip to the New Orleans Museum of Art and also includes visiting art galleries along Royal and Chartres streets in the Quarter, Magazine Street uptown and the Warehouse Arts District beginning at Julia Street.
Dining on the Arts, Letters and Music Tour includes a favorite haunt for writers and poets, the Napoleon House located at 500 Chartres St. I also recommend Café Sbisa, located at 1011 Decatur St., Café Degas at 3127 Esplanade Ave., Mother’s Restaurant at 401 Poydras and Galatoire’s Restaurant at 209 Bourbon St.

For the music aspect of the Arts, Letters and Music Tour, there are dozens of venues, but I strongly encourage visitors to check out Frenchmen Street north of the French Quarter in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. Anchored by the quintessential jazz club, Snug Harbor, and the Latin-spiced Café Brasil, Frenchmen Street is what I always imagined Bourbon Street was like many years ago.

Café Brasil is located at 2100 Chartres St. and Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro can be found at 632 Frenchmen St. I also recommend taking in the Palm Court Jazz Café, located at 1204 Decatur St., and Donna’s Bar and Grill, 800 N. Rampart. Above all, go to Preservation Hall, 726 St. Peter, but bring a hand-held fan with you because brother, it gets downright hot in there.

Other music venues include Tipitina's, uptown at 501 Napoleon, and Mulate’s, located at 201 Julia St. across from the convention center. Mulate’s is currently the city’s best spot for Cajun music. Zydeco, swing, rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll can also be caught regularly at the classic Mid-City Lanes Rock ‘n Bowl at 4133 S. Carrollton. There is nothing else quite like it.

Recommended overnight accommodations include the Hotel Monteleone at 214 Royal St. (once a favorite for the likes of William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote) and the charming Sonait House, located at 1133 Chartres.

The W New Orleans located at 333 Poydras St. also is worth exploring.

The Urbane Tour

There is some overlapping between the two tours, with antique shopping thrown in during the art gallery tours, but the Urbane Tour also includes a few forays into the lounge area and the dining is a bit more upscale.

A good place to start the Urbane Tour is at the Bombay Club Restaurant and Martini Bistro, located in the Prince Conti Hotel at 830 Conti St. Other great lounges to check out are the Sazerac Bar and Grill in the Fairmont Hotel, 123 Baronne St.; Carousel Lounge at the Hotel Monteleone; Victorian Lounge at the Columns Hotel, 3811 St. Charles Ave.; and the Bayou Bar located in the Pontchartrain Hotel at 2031 St. Charles Ave. (a favorite haunt of Frank Sinatra).

Dining recommendations include Arnaud’s at 813 Bienville St., Victor’s in The Ritz Carlton on Canal Street, The Grill Room in Windsor Court Hotel at 300 Gravier St., and Emeril’s Delmonico Restaurant, 1300 St. Charles Ave.

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