When you hit the weather just right, it’s difficult to keep the smile off your face just walking down the street in New Orleans. Magnolia blossoms the size of dinner plates perfume the air. Ornamental bird-of-paradise plants poke exotic orange and purple crowns out from garden beds. Buskers, or street performers, play better music than you might pay good money to hear at home. And there’s a festival every few days. Literally.
Also, no matter when you visit, New Orleanians are so genuinely affectionate they’ll call you baby, even if you’re old enough to be their grandparent. This is a city whose people are truly glad you’re here, and that feeling can be so special you may want to come back even before you leave.
When to go to New Orleans
New Orleans relies heavily on tourism, so more reasonable hotel and restaurant prices typically happen when it’s hotter and more humid than a greenhouse gone bad. The city heaps on the attraction by hosting a lot of fun events during this sweltering time, which can last from May through October. If you can take the heat, do come, but be sure to book a hotel with a swimming pool and buy trip cancellation insurance in case of a hurricane. November through mid-April is more temperate.
Before you go to New Orleans
Since New Orleans is one of the culinary capitals of the world, make restaurant reservations as far in advance as possible and confirm them the day of. If you’re not an adventurous eater, you may want to look at menus online before you leave to warm up to offerings that will include the spicy, the raw and the reptilian, though there is certainly something for everyone on most menus.
New Orleans is a very walkable city, so pack comfortable shoes and extra cotton T-shirts and undergarments (or those made of wicking material) because the humidity can kick perspiration into high gear. And don’t forget your sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat with a brim, no matter when you come. The crime rate in New Orleans is high, according to the Metropolitan Crime Commission, though it’s not specifically directed at tourists. Still, do your walking here during daylight hours, stick to well-populated areas, and leave your fancy jewelry, designer purses and other expensive items at home.
How to get to New Orleans
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) was rebuilt in 2019 and offers upscale New Orleans cuisine right in the terminal as well as live music in the baggage claim area. The airport has nonstop flights from more than 50 destinations including Denver, San Francisco, Montreal and London. If you’re driving, parking in the French Quarter is expensive, but you can park on the street for free in some other parts of the city. Better yet, navigate the city using the buses and streetcars, which is easy and affordable ($1.25 one way, 40 cents for seniors; $3 for a one-day pass, 80 cents for seniors), or if you’re in a group, take taxis.
Where to stay in New Orleans
You can’t visit New Orleans without visiting the French Quarter, but you may not want to stay in it. Arguably the most touristy part of town, the French Quarter does have a high concentration of hotels and short-term rentals in a variety of price ranges. But it can also be filled with partyers. Just a short walk from the Quarter, in the Central Business District, is the Lafayette Hotel, a reasonably priced boutique hotel with golden elevators, matching chandeliers and bright, cheerful rooms with large walk-in showers.
A little farther from the Quarter, the Courtyard New Orleans Warehouse Arts District offers clean, quiet rooms by Marriott that are reasonably priced. You can walk to art galleries, museums, restaurants and the Mississippi River. There’s also an outdoor pool and hot tub.
And in the Lower Garden District, the Creole Gardens Guesthouse and Inn is a 19th-century antebellum mansion with a lush courtyard and fun tropical-colored rooms. It offers free parking, and your pet is welcome with no charges or restrictions. Located about halfway between the French Quarter and the Garden District, it’s also an easy walk to the antique shops on Magazine Street.