Nestled in the crescent of the Mississippi River, the sizzling Southern city of New Orleans has over 300 years of turbulent history. As one of the most culturally stimulating places to visit in America, it boasts a fusion of cultural heritage from Europe, the Caribbean and Africa, charming visitors with traditional Creole cuisine and endless festive activities. Jambalaya, jazz and Mardi Gras are just some of the offerings that have given New Orleans its laid-back, festive reputation and nickname of “The Big Easy.” Join in on the celebrations by donning a mask for Carnival, sink your teeth into a powdered sugar coated Beignet pastry or listen to the cacophony of the city soundscape of street performers and mingling dialects as you wander through the French Quarter.
Quietly tucked in a residential zone of the French Quarter is The Soniat House, a boutique hotel occupying a stunning Creole-style brick and stucco building with wrought-iron balconies. Guests are greeted by dapper staff in white jackets and bow ties and led to one of the 31 beautifully furnished rooms, each uniquely decorated. While the grand suites come equipped with hot tubs, all of the rooms have something special, from fireplaces and canopied four-poster beds to paintings on loan from the New Orleans Museum of Art. Breakfast comes with fresh-baked Southern biscuits and homemade strawberry jam served beneath the Magnolia trees in The Soniat’s quaint courtyard.
Follow the Creole version of the tricky Br’er rabbit from the famed Southern children’s storybook through the briar patch and into culinary heaven at Compère Lapin. Everything about the restaurant imbues comfort, from the cozy dark wood and exposed brick to the hearty menu that blends Creole with Caribbean. Started by Top Chef runner-up and Saint Lucian Nina Compton, Compère Lapin’s vision is to use pure, fresh ingredients and meats to create bold, innovative dishes. For the adventurous, we recommend Spiced Pigs’ Ears with Smoked Aioli followed by Silky Curried Goat with Sweet Potato Gnocchi.
While in the birthplace of jazz, it is essential to take in a show at the world-renowned Preservation Hall. What began in the 1950s as a small kitty hall for famed jazz musicians George Lewis, Punch Miller, Sweet Emma Barrett, The Humphrey Brothers and more, Preservation Hall has since grown to be a veritable musical institution. They offer three live sets a night, 350 nights a year and feature 100+ master traditional New Orleans Jazz musicians playing ragtime, blues and marches for three hours. At his 70th birthday party, Louis Armstrong described Preservation Hall best when he said, “That’s where you’ll find all the greats.”