New Orleans: Places to Explore

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French Quarter

Unlike tourist destinations that locals despise, even New Orleanians love to get lost in the history and romance of the French Quarter, the city's oldest sector. Your feet on ancient pavement along a pretty side street, you'll stand transfixed and marvel at the age and beauty, at the city's power to endure. Keep walking, slowly, and take the time to look up and appreciate the fabled wrought-iron railings of French Quarter balconies or to peer down cobblestone corridors for a glimpse of secret courtyard gardens.

The neighborhood will not run out of ways to entertain you. During the day, the French Quarter offers several different faces to its visitors. The streets running parallel to the river all bear distinct personas: Decatur Street is a strip of tourist shops, hotels, restaurants, and bars uptown from Jackson Square; downtown from the square, it becomes a hangout for hipsters and leather-clad regulars drawn to shadowy bars, vintage clothing resellers, funky antiques emporiums, and novelty shops. Chartres Street remains a relatively calm stretch of inviting shops and eateries. Royal Street is, perhaps aptly, the address of sophisticated antiques shops and many of the Quarter's finest residences. Bourbon Street claims the strip bars, sex shops, extravagant cocktails, and flashy music clubs filmmakers love to feature. Dauphine and Burgundy streets are more residential, with just a few restaurants and bars serving as retreats for locals.

After dark, you'll find fine dining and easygoing eateries aplenty, and music pouring from the doorways of bars as freely as the drinks flowing within them (and out of their doors—plastic "go cups" for your cocktails are standard at the exit of every bar and club, and consuming alcohol on public streets is still legal in New Orleans). On any ordinary evening, a stroll through the French Quarter is a moving concert, where the strains of traditional jazz, blues, classic rock and roll, and electronic dance beats all commingle.

For all its evening-time adult entertainment, the French Quarter by day is quite kid-friendly. Children adore beignets with chocolate milk; watching tankers flying flags from every corner of the world ply the Mississippi's muddy brown waters; walking through the tunnel tank under water of a much clearer hue at the Aquarium of the Americas; munching crunchy treats made out of bugs at the Audubon Insectarium; and savoring the same delicious po' boy sandwiches and fried seafood that their parents love to eat.

French Quarter at a Glance

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Fodor's New Orleans 2014

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