Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras beads and beignets might be the first things that come to mind when you think of New Orleans, but there’s so much more to this destination than donuts and raucous drinking establishments.
The Crescent City, so named for its location in a bend of the Mississippi River, has a fascinating history as both a French and Spanish colony before it was sold to the United States during the Louisiana Purchase. From its official founding in 1718, the city was populated primarily by French, Spanish, Africans and Haitians, creating a melting pot of cultures that influenced everything from the architecture to the music, cuisine and famous carnivals.
New Orleans lays claim to jazz, America’s oldest bar, its first opera, an urban green space called City Park that’s 50 percent larger than Central Park in New York City, and a relished reputation as the most haunted city in the United States.
We visited some of the city’s best hotels, restaurants and attractions to curate travel itineraries for every type of couple. Whether you’re into quirky cemetery tours and fish-bowl-sized cocktails or art museums and fine cuisine, the intoxicating atmosphere of The Big Easy is sure to enchant you.
The Party Pair
Book a room at W New Orleans – French Quarter
With decor inspired by rhythm and voodoo and an on-site restaurant serving 25 cent happy hour martinis, there are few better places to kick off a week of revelry than the W. Settle into your swish jazz- or tarot-themed room before setting out to explore nearby Bourbon Street, and the French Quarter’s bars, bistros, galleries, and boutiques.
Dine at Cochon
Located inside a historic building in the city’s trendy Warehouse District, Cochon serves up some of the city’s best cocktails and Cajun cuisine. Start with a Bayou Beer (a mix of moonshine and root beer) at the bar then settle in for some of the eatery’s hearty wood-fired southern delicacies like oysters with chili garlic butter, chicken and andouille gumbo, smoked ham hock with hoppin’ John and a side of smothered greens.
Visit Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar for a voodoo daiquiri
Anyone who loves a good dive bar is bound to fall for Lafitte’s. Built between 1722 and 1732 and originally owned by the pirate Jean Lafitte, this Bourbon Street staple is among the oldest drinking establishments in the United States. Lit only by candlelight and a stone fireplace, this spot is instantly charming. Add in the bar’s signature voodoo daiquiri’s (a grape slushie laced with vodka and bourbon), a potential ghost sighting, and piano player leading the crowd in classic rock singalongs and you’ve got all the ingredients necessary for a great night out.
Hit the streets
New Orleans has some of the most relaxed liquor laws in the United States and while the proliferation of drive-thru daiquiri stops and bars that never close may seem a tad suspect, the lack of open container laws is legislation you can likely get behind. Some of the most entertaining bands in the city play on street corners throughout the French Quarter and since alcohol doesn’t necessarily have to be consumed inside the establishment from which it was purchased, you’re free to grab a cocktail and head out on to the sidewalk to see where the music takes you.
The High Rollers
Book a room at The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans
Perched on the edge of the French Quarter, this hotel is a plush retreat within walking distance of the city’s main attractions. The hotel, which was built within a historic Beaux Arts building, features a lush outdoor courtyard and rooms with decor inspired by the Garden District’s antebellum mansions. Upgrade to a Club Level room at this property and you’ll be granted access to the lavish Club Lounge, a communal space where you can cozy up to the fireplace while enjoying complimentary cuisine throughout the day, personal concierge services, and wine on tap.
Dine at The Commander’s Palace
With more than a dozen iconic eateries, the Brennan family has undoubtedly elevated fine dining in New Orleans. The Commander’s Palace, in particular, has become a go-to destination for haute Creole cuisine and is credited with launching the careers of renowned chefs such as Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse. Winner of seven James Beard Foundation Awards, the restaurant serves up local classics like turtle soup, which takes three days to make, alongside elaborate tasting menus featuring items like quail, black Angus beef, Gulf oysters and wild white shrimp, all sourced within 100 miles of its back door.
Visit The Ritz-Carlton Spa for a Voodoo Ritual treatment
This spa, the largest in the city at 25,000 square feet, offers more than 100 different treatments ranging from facials to massages, but the main attraction is the locally-inspired Voodoo Ritual. This 80-minute treatment combines a restorative full-body massage, swirling scents of absinthe, cypress, moss, vetiver, and incense, and a healing herbal poultice applied to the beat of voodoo chanting and drums.
Have a #MoetMoment at the world’s swankiest vending machine
Kris Jenner sips mini bottles of bubbly from her very own Moet vending machine and now you can too. Pay a visit to The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans and in the lobby you’ll discover a recently-installed machine ready to satisfy your mimosa cravings around the clock. Purchase tokens at the front desk for $25 then choose between Moët & Chandon’s Impérial Brut or Rosé champagne and prepare for your Instagram photo op.
The Artsy Couple
Book a room at Le Méridien New Orleans
This upscale, design-focused hotel brand caters to discerning travelers and the New Orleans outpost is no exception. Located within walking distance to the French Quarter and the Arts District, Le Méridien New Orleans is filled with thoughtful artistic details and nods to its French heritage. The hotel serves up éclairs and sparkling cocktails each day and Cubs the Poet is on site once a week penning original poems for hotel guests.
Dine at Sobou
Part apothecary, part modern saloon, SoBou serves up creative cocktails and Louisiana street-food-inspired small plates designed for sharing. Start with yellow fin tuna cones with basil avocado ice cream or the Andouille sausage and apple beignets followed by wild Gulf fish with curry butter or island braised pork shoulder with a loaded baked sweet potato for a dining experience you won’t soon forget.
Tour the NOMA and its Sculpture Garden
The New Orleans Museum of Art with its collection of almost 40,000 objects ranging from French and American art to photography, glass, and African and Japanese works, has been called on of the most notable art museums in the south. What makes this century-old museum even more impressive is its adjacent sculpture garden. The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden currently occupies roughly five acres of City Park land where pines, magnolias and live oaks mingle with impressive bronze castings and towering stainless steel installations like this 23-foot-tall piece by Korean artist Do Ho Suh.
Catch a jazz show at The Spotted Cat Music Club
Frenchman Street is home to some of the best live music in the world and The Spotted Cat is a favourite venue of locals and visitors alike. Inside the atmosphere is intimate yet lively. Squeeze into a spot at the bar or join the resident swing dancers twirling in front of the tiny stage.