Find time for fun in New Orleans

September 15, 2004

Don't leave town without a stroll through the French Quarter, or, ideally, two strolls: one during the day and one at night for completely different experiences. During the day, the French Quarter is a panoply of eclectic shops, art galleries, bakeries, restaurants, and street artists. At night, Bourbon Street comes alive with the sound of jazz (mostly Dixieland) and revelers. If Bourbon Street proves too intense, stroll down Royal or Chartres (pronounced "Charters") for a more serene experience.

New Orleans is known as a "party town," but having a good time can be more sophisticated if you prefer. Most tourists feel a compulsion to go to Pat O'Brien's (624 Bourbon) for drinks-a big place with a piano bar and patio bar.

A couple of quieter bars are fairly legendary among locals and are among the oldest buildings in the city. The Napoleon House Bar (circa 1797) at the corner of Chartres and St. Louis was intended to be Napoleon's home in exile, though he died before coming here. Great on atmosphere, day or night, with classical music and a courtyard, it was voted by Esquire as one of the country's top 100 bars. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop (941 Bourbon) is in a more serene part of the Quarter and is candlelit at night.

For late-night or more bizarre fun, check out the Dungeon, the Shim Sham Club, and the Gold Mine (for dancing) in the Quarter. On St. Charles Avenue, the Red Room is the scene for entertainment and dancing.

As for restaurants, New Orleanians consider food not only nourishment but a way of life. Local cuisine is a blend of many influences, including Creole (Creoles were people of mixed French and Spanish heritage) and Cajun (French-speaking Nova Scotians who migrated to South Louisiana in the 18th century), but local chefs now draw from a variety of cultures.