The Crescent City’s tradition of historic preservation and its culturally diverse offerings add up to a don’t-miss destination.
For those of us who love historic architecture, New Orleans is a bucket-list, Big Easy decision: Go! Recently, the city ranked first in numerous categories in the “Best of the South” poll conducted by AAA Southern Traveler publication: best large city for a weekend; best arts and crafts festival (New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival); best guys’ weekend; and girls’ getaway. Architectural “bests” of note: art museum (New Orleans Museum of Art, 1911), fine dining (Commander’s Palace located in a 1880 Queen Anne) and for restoration, The Roosevelt Hotel (1929).
New Orleans’ popularity offers proof that historic districts are not just for hometown pride. They provide a rich backdrop that draws visitors for sightseeing, walking tours and unique hotel, restaurant and shopping experiences. Swoon-worthy, don’t-miss neighborhoods include the French Quarter and the Marigny/Esplanade districts, where Victorian-home enthusiasts will not be disappointed.
Along with the must-see-and-do lists, we recommend the architectural guidebook New Orleans Streets: A Walker’s Guide to Neighborhood Architecture by R. Stephanie Bruno for a companion as well. Bruno was the Operation Comeback director at the Preservation Resource Center for 12 years and has visited hundreds of houses all over the city. “I came to the realization that our city’s historic homes and streetscapes can only be appreciated properly on foot, from the sidewalk,” Bruno writes. She recalls one night when she was walking in the early evening in the Garden District. “I was overcome by the beauty of the wide brick sidewalks, the height of the ornate cast-iron fences, the fragrances emanating from gardens and, of course, the complex architectural tapestry surrounding me,” she writes.
New Orleans’ European, Latin American and African-American cultures give the city a distinctive flavor, creating an alluring, spicy array of significant traditions in music, food and architecture that are meant to be enjoyed just as vibrantly.
By Hillary Black
Photograph by Eugenia Uhl