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New Orleans Travel Guide

Cool Down in New Orleans’ 9 Best Blue Spaces

Grass is so 2020. We’re ushering in a summer of pools.

From 270-degree views of the Mississippi River to a fire pit and craft cocktails, from weekend Drag Queen brunches to impressive art installations, the pools in New Orleans aren’t just about swimming. The best ones pack in all the things you want in a Big Easy vacation–history, art, music, food, and community.

The city has multiple new hotels opening this year, each with a show-stopping water feature, and Breeze Airways will launch in July. The low-cost carrier has a hub in the Crescent City.

It’s a fine time to make a list of the best “blue spaces” to enjoy–and we’d be remiss not to include those beyond mere pools, including a kayak trip down a historic bayou with the best pelican watching and views of the longest overwater bridge on Earth.

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The Four Seasons

When it opens (slated for July/August 2021), the Four Seasons New Orleans will bring the city’s first resort-style pool. Located off the fifth floor, the design follows the curve in the Mississippi River and it was built with a very specific agenda in mind. “Because of the shape,” says General Manager Mali Carow, “you get sun all day. The light is never blocked by the hotel.”

The sprawling outdoor deck will feature sun chairs, as well as conversational seating areas. Restauranteur Donald Link is creating a dining concept with a full pool-dedicated menu of bites and tropical cocktails. The most impressive moment will always be the birds-eye views of the river, where you can watch the Natchez Steamboat and the Creole Queen Paddlewheeler glide silently by at sunset.

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Hotel One11

This property opened in January of 2021, right in the action of N. Peters St. in the French Quarter. It was formerly a molasses factory, and the architects retained plenty of that historic charm, including exposed, original timber beams and the industrial metal supports spanning the ceiling. The lobby bar and restaurant, Batture, connects seamlessly to the ground-level swimming pool. This one is heated, and the designers also added mosaic glass tiles, waterfall elements, candlelit cocktail tables, sofas, and a fire pit. It gets our vote for Best “Date Night” Pool.

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Hotel Saint Vincent

Hotel Saint Vincent opened in June of 2021 in the city’s tranquil Lower Garden District. The landmark, 1861 building was once an orphanage but has since been reimagined as a 75-room boutique project from the recently renamed Austin-based hospitality group, McGuire Moorman Lambert Hospitality. Two restaurants–including a Vietnamese-styled bakery and café–public gardens, private lounges, and a retail concept will no doubt draw guests. However, it’s going to be hard to top the swimming pool. Towering palm trees and candy-striped pink and white chaise chairs sit atop a Salito, terra-cotta tile pool deck. The hotel’s logo is just visible in mosaic beneath shimmering blue water.

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The Country Club

Don’t let the name fool you. You don’t need a membership or a 401k to enjoy the perks at this historic mansion getaway in the Bywater neighborhood. And those perks are plentiful, including a famous Drag Brunch, a curated art collection, excellent food, fast WiFi, a sauna, a hot tub, frozen pina coladas, and a big blue swimming pool.

Day passes are available and include a towel. During these pandemic times, it’s best to call first to inquire about reservations, and social distancing measures are in place both in the water and out.

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The Chloe

Another newcomer in 2021, The Chloe is the latest project by the LeBlanc + Smith group, which also owns acclaimed restaurants Cavan, Sylvain, and Barrel Proof. And they spared no expense when transforming this late 1800s, Thomas Sully mansion on St. Charles into a 14-room boutique hotel.

The lobby is dark and dreamy, filled with thick velvet curtains, plush rugs, and dripping chandeliers. Out back, you arrive in old-world Hollywood––a travertine marble, checkered pool deck; Meyer lemon trees; a sunken, pea-gravel garden; tons of tanning chairs, and a cocktail bar. Guests get first dibs, but visitors are offered remaining guest passes for $40 per day, including a welcome cocktail.

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The Ace Hotel

The first thing you’ll notice at this hotel’s rooftop is not the pool, but the towering, free-form expressionist mural behind it. Painted by local artist Gavin Jones, it adds an inspiring backdrop, against the rest of the city. The tallest buildings of the Central Business District rise around a central, small, sage-hued pool.

The frozen cocktails at Alto and a DJ keep the atmosphere lively, and chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman created a menu of small plates celebrating the best of Italy in New Orleans. Daybeds can be rented by visitors for $50.

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The Drifter

Love a retro, roadside motel vibe? Book a $15 day pass at this throwback palace where the pool features a disco ball, bottles of rosé are ice-cold and affordable, and clothing is…well…optional. There are lounge chairs (on pink astroturf) and depending on the day or time of year, you might find special events as well, from yoga to live bands.

The Drifter is not the best if you’ve got young kids in tow, but if you’re looking to catch rays and shed those pesky inhibitions, it is an ideal endeavor.

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Bayou St. John

Not every charming blue space in New Orleans is for tanning and drinking. Some are perfect for something a little more active, like kayaking, frisbee, running, or biking. One of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods––Bayou St. John––is a short walk from City Park. The houses along this slow-moving, picturesque bayou date back hundreds of years and feature some of the town’s most remarkable architecture, including a few by Frank Lloyd Wright. Swimming is not advised, but kayak tours are a memorable way to enjoy a history tour. There are three outfitters in the city, welcoming all skill levels. Pets and picnics are also an excellent idea at Bayou St. John, on the grassy levees at waters-edge.

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Lake Pontchartrain

This lake, famed for the longest continuous overwater bridge in the world, is 630 square miles. However, it’s only 12-feet deep on average. The deeper portions help the populations of redfish and tarpon, as well as manatees and otters, flourish. Pelicans, osprey, and even bald eagles swoop over the surface, best seen by booking a sailing excursion with New Orleans Yacht.

The 47-foot Beneteau Oceanis is under the skillful hand of Captain Doug, who also provides wine, beer, sodas, and plenty of snacks. Pricing starts at $295 for the first two passengers for a 2-hour day sail Tuesday-Thursday only, and it’s only $89 per person to add on friends, up to 6 total. Weekend and twilight sails are slightly more, but it’s well worth it when the sky explodes in neon pink and purple.