NOLA, let the good times rollNalynn Dolan Caine ▼ | Saturday April 6, 2013 6:01PM ET
New Orleans (NOLA in short), the city with a long-lasting influence of its French, African and Spanish ancestry, (also the largest city in the Confederacy at the start of the American Civil War), retains the largest collection of historical buildings built in a neoclassical architectural style characteristic for the Southern United States, especially the Old South.
It was the first American city to build an opera house and the last to install a sewer system. It is also a host of numerous parks and 9 of the 10 tallest buildings in Louisiana but good-old-days New Orleans is what you would like to meet.
The French Quarter is the oldest part of New Orleans and it's best to explore it on foot. All year long the city celebrates music and food and there you can grab a drink (Sazerac, jolly stuff, or Hand Grenades, even jollier) and enjoy gospel, funk, classic, jazz... Some of the most popular areas include Royal Street, Bourbon Street and Chartres Street.
Royal Street houses some of the quarter's most beautiful houses with balconies adorned with intricate ironwork and courtyards filled with lush greenery and fountains, but also some of the best arts and antique shops.
Bourbon Street is a street full of bars and restaurants. But here you will also find one of the most luxurious hotel, The Royal Sonesta Hotel, as well as Galatoire's Restaurant, one of New Orleans' oldest and most popular restaurants that serve French Creole cuisine. As an alternative you can grab "po-boys" for out, an overstuffed sandwich served on French bread, enjoy the music, window shopping or just have a good time watching people passing by.
Chartres Street offers many interesting shops and great boutiques, actually, all streets are different at different times of the day. Don't miss French Market for souvenirs.
Treat yourself with upscale shopping at The Shops at Canal Place, a shopping mall in Central Business District, take a look at One Shell Square, the tallest building in the state, and Place St. Charles, the second tallest skyscraper in both the city and the state of Louisiana. Central Business District is also the place to visit some of the numerous museums, but also The Audubon Insectarium, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas or Harrah's Casino, the state's only land-based casino.
The New Orleans Botanical Garden at City Park offers a peaceful retreat from the 24/7 Let's party! New Orleans just as the magnificent Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden that hosts more than sixty sculptures from artists from all over the world. A good way to spend the late chilly afternoon could be a walking tour on the banks of the Mississippi River, enjoying hot chocolate in an open cafe, watching the ships go by while, like in a film, a plaintive blues of a saxophone greets the sun in its down.
Somebody once said: "If there was no New Orleans, America would just be a bunch of free people dying of boredom." And, indeed, as much as sometimes it may look like (sound like) melancholic, New Orleans somehow always finds the way to make people cheerful and happy (soberly challenged here and there).
It rarely snows in New Orleans but it snows every Christmas on Fulton Street. And if you find yourself in the city during holidays season, stroll through the illuminated tunnel and let, for more fun, snowflakes fall on you. ■