It’s impossible to experience the diverse culture, rich history and exquisite cuisine of New Orleans in a day, but if you only have a short time to get a taste, the French Quarter is an ideal spot. Housing buildings that pre-date its statehood, the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans hums with constant activity, providing an over-abundance of tourism attractions entwined with breath-taking landmarks. It is “Vieux Carre” as some of the locals still call it, the “old square,” the center, the heartbeat of the city.
My perfect day in the French Quarter entails waking up to the sunrise filtering in from the window overlooking the courtyard of the Royal Sonesta. Situated on the internationally celebrated Bourbon Street, it’s an unexpected quite oasis in a city that rarely sleeps. Other noteworthy spots include the Hotel Montelone on Royal Street and The Ambassador Hotel on Tchoupitoulas, which has just announced extensive renovation efforts for 2014.
A quick breakfast at Desire downstairs on Bourbon Street offers Creole delicacies like the Jambalaya Breakfast Skillet. Waking up late? No worries, catch a hearty brunch with an eclectic sampling of New Orleans cuisine and lively jazz tunes at the Court of Two Sisters on Royal Street.
Looking for something fast and light instead? Head towards the French Market and grab a beignet and coffee with chicory from Café Du Monde, a favorite stop for locals and tourists.
For your afternoon delight, there’s no shortage of daytime activities to entice. Love to shop? You’ll find it all from high-end retailers on Canal Streets to open markets and kitschy tourist Vodoo-themed shops.
Looking for something distinctly different? Check out the Audobon Butterfly and Insectarium which offers a non-creepy one-of-a-kind sensory experience including the enchanting butterfly garden.
Discover the Mississippi on the Steamboat Natchez, one of two remaining authentic paddle wheel steamboats in the U.S., or simply take a stroll along the Riverwalk where shopping outlets, colorful characters and historical spot await your exploration.
As the day winds down and late afternoon approaches, catch a bite at any number of café stops. The German fare at Jager Haus on Conti Street is a curious find and the offerings like brie and burgers at Backstreet Bar & Kitchen on Chartres Street are trendy, yet unpretentious in a sea of surrounding bar stops.
Now is the ideal time for a trolley ride to New Orleans City Park to soak in the eclectic paradise home to the New Orleans Botanical Gardens and the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden. For a unique, energizing yet calming experience, hop across the road to try a kayak tour down the Bayou St. John with Kayakitiyak. You’ll need to make reservations ahead to secure a kayak spot, but the one-of-a-kind, tailored adventure will be well worth the foresight.
After a good row, catch a superb array of dining at French Quarter favorites like the Acme Oyster House on Iberville Street, the Davenport Lounge on Canal Street, or Domenica on Baronne where Chef Alon Shaya delivers authentic Italian cuisine nestled in the heart of New Orleans culture.
End your day with a quick stop for a nightcap at the Carousel Bar & Lounge on Royal Street, the city’s famous revolving bar. Enjoy the stunning view and a signature cocktail as you take a moment to kick back and soak in memories of your rich journey through the French Quarter. You may not be able to see all New Orleans has to offer in just one day but you can certainly savor an amazing taste!