Take a Post-Katrina Visit to New Orleans
by Sal Mannino, 2006
Much has been said about New Orleans lately with regard to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The levees breached, a large portion of Orleans Parish and all of St. Bernard Parish flooded, tens of thousands of homes devastated and over 1100 lives lost. It is necessary to see and hear these things so the world does not forget that it will take much to rebuild these neighborhoods along with the infrastructure in those areas of town. But it is so important for the world to also know that the areas which make New Orleans such a great convention and tourist destination--the French Quarter, the Riverfront, the Central Business District, the Warehouse District and the Garden District--were not affected by the flood. The New Orleans the world knows and loves is ready for visitors to once again laissez les bon temps rouler...let the good times roll!
Katrina has not changed the multitude of reasons to visit New Orleans. What she has so blatantly done is exposed just how much this city and the 85,000 people who make their living servicing the millions of visitors each year rely on tourism. You can help rebuild our city and have a fabulous experience at the same time by simply coming to New Orleans this year.
Stroll the historic streets of the French Quarter and browse the art galleries and antique shops on Royal and Chartres Streets. The sights and sounds of Bourbon Street have always provided visitors with much to write home about. The very best New Orleans music can be heard day and night at clubs in the French Quarter. And of course, always the number-one reason to visit New Orleans: our great restaurants are open and serving the best in Creole, Cajun and seafood dishes that make New Orleans the best dining experience in the world. Carriage rides are a fun way to see the French Quarter and get a personalized tour of this historic district.
For great shopping, visit the Riverwalk, a fun retail shopping marketplace and food court that runs along the Mississippi River and offers a spectacular view of the port. Canal Place features great names such as Saks 5th Avenue, Gucci, Pottery Barn and many more. Also located on the Riverfront is Jax Brewery, which features specialty shops, entertainment and more delicious eateries for visitors. Your trip would not be complete without a visit to the French Market, nestled along the riverfront just a few blocks downriver from Canal St. While the shops, restaurants, entertainment and flea market are unique, the French Market is home to Café du Monde, famous for their café au lait and beignets...a very special New Orleans coffee and French donut combo. The Riverfront Streetcar would be a fun way to move from one end of the downtown riverfront to the other...especially once you are carrying all those shopping bags!
A visit to New Orleans gives you the chance to experience the mighty Mississippi up close. You can watch the river traffic flow from the Moonwalk or Woldenberg Park, or you can be taken back in time on a cruise by paddlewheel up and down the river, listening to jazz music and viewing the city skyline, including the spectacular view of St. Louis Cathedral from the decks of the riverboat.
Steps away from the river, you can enjoy Harrah's Casino, a world-class casino located at the end of Canal St. and the Mississippi River and within walking distance of the French Quarter and downtown hotels. Gaming, entertainment, and even great food are all part of the spacious casino. (They even offer free parking if you play!)
For the more adventurous, many swamp and bayou tours are available, with smaller passenger boats that take you into the bayou and marshes for an experience that brings you up close to nature's wildlife and tropical vegetation. Alligators, wild turtles, snakes and a wide variety of birds are part of every tour experience.
Walking tours of the French Quarter and the Garden District, Haunted Ghost tours, and Night Club tours are available. Bus tours allow you to visit antebellum plantations and hear stories about these grand homes that bring them back to life. "Katrina tours" of the city's devastated neighborhoods are also available. These tours are fully narrated and a portion of every ticket goes to the Katrina relief fund in an effort to help the city recover.
The Louisiana State Museum in the French Quarter and the National World War II Museum in the Warehouse District are open and ready to have you experience their great exhibits. If you have one more day and love antique shops and unique boutiques...spend the day browsing the shops along Magazine Street: truly a local's favorite place to find that unique gift or accessory for your home.
And, yes, by all means, you can bring the kids. Not only will they love the river cruise, streetcar and carriage rides, the food courts at the shopping centers, but they will want to go to Mardi Gras World, the Wax Museum, the Louisiana Children's Museum and, of course, our fabulous Audubon Zoo. Audubon's Aquarium of the Americas on the riverfront is expected to re-open soon.
So as you can see, there is so much to see and do in New Orleans, even post-Katrina. Please come and visit us. You will be so glad you did.