City Guide: Despite Katrina, New Orleans revived its spirit

As the city recently marked the 2-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, officials are happy to report that New Orleans is running full speed ahead, barely missing a beat on the tourism front, the city's number one industry. Most establishments have reopened, and new ones continue to crop up.


If this is your first visit or a much-anticipated return to the vibrant city, your first question might be: where to begin? The French Quarter or Vieux Carre is an excellent starting point, best experienced day or night. During daylight hours, pursue visits to off-the-beaten-path shops, art galleries, bakeries, restaurants, and steamboat tours. At night, Bourbon Street is permeated with the sounds of jazz beats from famed clubs or revelers dancing in the streets. A more peaceful stroll through the Quarter might take you to Royal or Chartres streets.

Although the widely acclaimed "party city" doesn't have to be wild and crazy, if that's your game plan for an evening, start out with a stop at Pat O'Brien's (624 Bourbon St.) for a favorite drink or a song or two at the piano bar.

For a pure musical experience, a stop to Snug Harbor for jazz, Preservation Hall for Dixieland, and Tipitina's or House of Blues for revolving acts would fit the bill.

Is dancing in the moonlit hours up your alley? Some options: the Dungeon, the Shim Sham Club, and the Gold Mine in the Quarter. The Red Room offers entertainment and dancing on nearby St. Charles Avenue.

Once you've selected your musical scene, it's time to hand-pick a restaurant from the finest in culinary delights. It's said that no place loves its food quite as sincerely-or as indulgently-as New Orleans. And apparently, New Orleanians live to eat. Consequently, the city offers one of the most diverse smorgasbords of memorable dining venues in the world.

More than 1,500 restaurants operate in the Greater New Orleans metropolitan area. Included in the mix are the city's culinary jewels, such as the famed restaurants Galatoire's, Emeril's, Arnaud's, Commander's Palace, Emeril's Delmonico, Bayona, Herbsaint, Restaurant August, G.W. Fin's, Bacco, Peristyle, Palace Café, Lilette, Brigsten's, K-Paul's, Cuvee, NOLA, Bourbon House, Broussard's, and Antoine's.

For some adventure in the French Quarter, the following are some suggestions:

Shopping galore

Beyond the French Quarter, a world of additional shops awaits downtown.

The old-world marketplace tradition is still commonplace in New Orleans. Here, historic districts and luxury centers focused on the art of shopping pull together clusters of specialty shops, designer boutiques, galleries, cafés, and restaurants. Downtown or uptown, visitors conveniently can walk store to store while exploring charming neighborhoods and uncovering one-of-a-kind treasures.

Downtown, don't miss the historic French Market, America's oldest operating public market. In the French Quarter, Royal Street is famous for its elegant antique furniture, décor, and jewelry, whereas the Warehouse/Arts District has been called the "SoHo of the South" for the contemporary lofts and upscale modern art galleries. The Riverwalk Marketplace offers casual fun along with a large food court and river views. Meanwhile, the Shops at Canal Place, adjacent to the French Quarter, houses exclusive designer boutiques and exclusive shops. Don't forget Magazine Street, or what locals call the "Street of Dreams." It is literally 6 miles of eclectic shops, hip boutiques, art studios, galleries, spas, restaurants, and cafés ranging from upscale to offbeat, sophisticated to "shabby chic." In nearby Jefferson Parish, two shopping destinations offer visitors more than 100 stores under one roof: Lakeside Shopping Center in the heart of Metairie, and the Esplanade Mall in nearby Kenner.

Quite possibly no other city honors its artistic, cultural, and historical legacy more eagerly than New Orleans. The city is overflowing with rich heritage and timeless intrigue.

Therefore, it's no surprise that New Orleans also features one of the nation's greatest collections of museums, recognizing each aspect of the city's culture and history. Museums represent art, military history, architecture, sports, and even voodoo and Mardi Gras.

Specifically, museum options include the Contemporary Arts Center, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Louisiana State Museum, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, the Memorial Hall Confederate Museum, and the National World War II Museum.

Lastly, a trip to New Orleans wouldn't be complete without a jaunt to the nearby Harrah's Casino steps away from the convention center at the end of Canal Street. The Mardi Gras-styled gaming house offers more than 29,000 slot machines and nearly 100 tables.