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New Orleans over Christmas- hotels/inns?

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Hey All!

My boyfriend and I have decided that we're really going to embrace our first southern holiday season and head a little further south to New Orleans for Christmas this year.

Neither of us have ever been to New Orleans before so we're looking for suggestions on places to stay, eat, and things to do and so on. Most people have suggested the wander and explore method which is our usual go-to, and we will probably stick mostly to the French Quarter.

We were originally planning on driving down (we live in Chattanooga, TN, an hour or so north of Atlanta) but have heard from several people that you neither need nor want a car- particularly in the French Quarter, and that with added fees for overnight parking at either hotels or a garage it might just be cheaper to bus or train it down.

We're on a fairly tight budget and would like to keep our accommodation costs down which I realize might be tricky given our chosen location. We aren't picky about fancy amenities, and honestly we're there to enjoy the city, not the hotel spa. I'd rather a small inn or b&b that gives you a real New Orleans feel and am perfectly fine without wifi (the horror, I know), thousand count sheets, or a shuttle to the airport. Noise level isn't an issue- we love the nightlife and its probably a courtesy to others we not be on a "quiet" street anyways ;) A few folks have mentioned sites like Priceline where you can bid on rates, I'm unfamiliar w the process but certainly don't mind working a bit for a better deal.

My other major question is about Christmas in town- a little googling didn't come up with much. Any special events or menus going on that week? We are not even religious in the slightest and have zero desire to attend any mass or other religious goings on.

We are tentatively planning on arriving the Sunday or Monday (22nd/23rd) before, and leaving before New Years (I'm assuming there ARE big events for New Years and hotel prices will jump?). Any advice on length of the visit/days to stay?

We love food, I'm a vegetarian and we both just appreciate a nice meal out w drinks- prefer authentic, quirky, off the beaten path type places. We also enjoy music and nightlife and at least for this trip I think our focus will be more on that end of the spectrum versus checking out museums and historic sites.

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