Going Beyond New Orleans’ Tourist Spots

Written By: Dan Peel New Orleans Vacation

Many impressions strike the New Orleans traveler upon arrival: jazz sounds booming from the bells of tubas and trombones, the wet smell of magnolias blown across the Mississippi, laughter and the smell of broiling seafood. If you stick around long enough to involve your sense of taste, you will be hooked. Crawfish, po’ boys, fresh French bread, beignets and mountains of shellfish cooked in the Creole tradition provide the culinary backdrop to the city. New Orleans has character, which can be located at the intersection of its rich cultural history and the living charm of its locals.

 

LODGING

Located in Downtown New Orleans at 1250 Poydras Street, the Hyatt House opened as a 7-floor 194-room addition to the Hyatt Regency as a result of widespread research in the hospitality industry. The Hyatt House combines a hotel’s upscale atmosphere and services with casual living conditions and amenities to create a place to stay that feels like home.

Since the Biodistrict, New Orleans opened in 2013 as one of the medical industry’s largest developments of hospitals and medical schools, an increasing number of doctors, patients and their family members have demanded longer hotel stays. This growth, as well as the expanding developments at the surrounding Business, Arts and Sports and Entertainment Districts, provided Waypoint NOLA, LLC owner and developer Chris Robertson with a reason to transform a 24-story office building into an attractive abode that connects to the Hyatt Regency by means of a second-floor skybridge.

The most common room, the studio king, is equipped with a kitchenette, microwave and mini fridge, as well as a full splay of pots, pans, dishes, cooking utensils and cutlery in case you want to pick up some fresh seafood at the French Market off North Peters Street and try your hand at making gumbo or crawdad jambalaya.

For guests who lack the aspiration or time to cook for themselves, The Hyatt House provides a complimentary build-your-own-omelet bar and hot breakfast spread that includes vegetarian and gluten-free options. And if you’d like to have a drink with a view while preparing to go out to Frenchmen Street or Bourbon Street, visit the H Bar on the 11th floor for some locally inspired cocktails, premium beers and wines, and a spread of sandwiches, snacks and other dishes.

When combined with the Hyatt Regency, the floor space of the hotel surpasses two million square feet. This spacious interior allows for a 24/7 Guest Market stocked with everything from fresh salads to local beer, a Starbucks and the gift shop, Lagniappe Exchange, to serve the needs of guests and residents. Complimentary grocery shopping and laundry services are available for guests who stay longer than a month. Event halls, meeting spaces, ballrooms, and several award-winning bars and restaurants also operate in full swing here, including 8 Block Kitchen & Bar, Q Smokery & Café, Vitascope Hall, and Borgne Coastal Louisiana Cuisine.

Executive Chef Eric Damidot has added creative specialty items to the hotels’ restaurants including Vitascope Hall’s crawfish, chorizo and pork andouille in a blanket and its award-winning sushi rolls like their deep fried New Orleans roll.

An array of activities exists beyond the Hyatt’s grand lobby, which is permeated with a patented scent the magnolia, Louisiana’s state flower. The Loyola streetcar line can take you into the French Quarter in under 10 minutes. Traveling sports fans are well served with the hotel’s location—the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome are within walking distance of the hotel. Also within reach? The stunning Mississippi Riverfront, which lies within a mile of the hotel.

Swim Fan: For the fitness-minded guest, the Hyatt House has access to one of the largest pools in New Orleans and offers 24-hour workout rooms to swim and run off any beignet-inspired weight gains.

House With a View: The Hyatt House starts on the 11th floor, which means every room comes with a substantial view of one of the four cardinal directions of the Big Easy: upriver, uptown, downriver and downtown.

Native Knowledge: Executive Chef Eric Damidot won the Hyatt Corporation’s 2014 Culinary Leadership Award and is a supporter of the farm-to-table culinary philosophy. At 8 Block, this freshness is reflected with St. James Cheeses from eight blocks away on Magazine Street. They also serve duck, pork, beef and lamb from the local Two Run Farm as well as local fruit from farmers as close as three blocks from the hotel. 8 Block’s grits, a Southern specialty and staple, are made from the nearby Papa Tom’s farms, while their bread is made even closer to home, at the Hyatt’s Pain Frais in-house bakery.

Hyatt House New Orleans
1250 Poydras St
New Orleans, LA 70113
504.648.3118

Best Dinner: Oysters at Borgne

Borgne, a specialty seafood establishment by James Beard Award-winning chef John Besh and chef Brian Landry, can be found on the ground floor of the Hyatt Regency, just a skybridge walk from the Hyatt House. It may seem odd to claim that when put to the pallet, Borgne’s oysters outperform those of Vitascope Hall or Peche—after all, they are locally sourced from the same ocean a few miles away, right? True, but the Oysters at Borgne are grown on raised platforms, which gives them cleaner, higher-quality meat than oysters harvested from the sea floor. These “upper class” oysters are prepared in at least eight different styles at Borgne, including broiled with spicy garlic butter, in a vermouth cream stew, fried in bacon marmalade and of course, raw. And even if you stray from the oyster options and try the turkey necks with pepper jelly, black drum or stuffed flounder you can’t go wrong—or forget about the oysters, as the support beams inside Borgne are encased with oyster shells from ceiling to floor.

Borgne
601 Loyola Ave
New Orleans, LA 70113
504.613.3860

THE TOUR

I began my tour of New Orleans in the French Quarter at Hotel Monteleone, starting point for July’s Tales of the Cocktail festival, and then continued to the Mississippi riverfront and the iconic St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square. Though the street performers of Jackson Square livened up my walk with their electric violins, bongos and assorted brass and woodwind instruments, my personal musical highlight occurred at Preservation Hall that evening. I was packed into a dingy, poorly lit room with old cushions on the floor and a few wooden benches. When the Preservation Hall Jazz Band came out on stage, they looked almost as worn as the room. But appearances deceive, as this band delivered the most soulful and intimate jazz show I could have hoped for. They played a Louis Armstrong cover as well as several original pieces that featured extended solos on the trumpet, trombone and tenor saxophone.  

The following morning I ate breakfast at Willa Jean, a contemporary retro eatery located on O’Keefe Avenue. I soon discovered that while their brunch specials taste delicious, Willa Jean’s foray is baked goods—enormous cinnamon rolls, muffins as tall as water glasses and their build-a-biscuit option made for one gargantuan meal. Afterwards, I headed down to the New Orleans Garden District, named after the abundance of Southern live oaks and red-flowered crepe myrtles that occupy the yards of the shotgun houses. Though many people come to visit the Greek revival style homes owned or formerly occupied by celebrities such as NFL stars Eli and Peyton Manning, Anne Rice, Nicholas Cage, Jefferson Davis and William Falkner, many people don’t realize that some of the most fragrant trees on the planet were imported here to provide the entire 250-acre district a pleasant aroma throughout spring.

That afternoon I visited The National World War II Museum. The museum has undergone continual expansion since opening in 2000 as the D-Day museum, and is composed of five pavilions on a six-acre campus. Hangar-sized exhibits house a fleet of war machines, including a Douglas C-34 and a Higgins Boat—famous for enabling the Allied attack on Normandy, France. The museum’s film experience Beyond all Boundaries incorporated animatronic planes and guard towers, used multiple screens and combined historical footage with digital animation to present the viewer with the most effective and entertaining 50-minute history lesson imaginable.  

That night I discovered Frenchmen Street’s d.b.a, Blue Nile and Café Negril, bars with live performances by jazz, reggae, rock and soul groups. The Frenchmen Art Market—just a walk across the street from these bars—showcased handmade work from local artists. Some memorable pieces included guitar slides made from spoons—perfect for the blues—as well as bright and imaginative paintings and photographs of The Big Easy, a city that in itself functions an artistic expression.

What’s in a Name? According to one tour guide, New Orleans is known as “The Big Easy” because the cobblestone streets were built on soft earth that bulges and dips. Like the buckled and bent streets, the New Orleans traveler can get the most out of the city by going with the flow.

Hotel Monteleone
214 Royal St
New Orleans, LA 70130
504.523.3341

Preservation Hall
726 St. Peters St
New Orleans, LA 70116
504.522.2841

Willa Jean
611 O’Keefe Ave
New Orleans, LA 70113
504.509.7334

The National World War II Museum
945 Magazine St
New Orleans, LA 70130
504.528.1944

d.b.a
618 Frenchmen St
New Orleans, LA 70116
504.942.3731

Blue Nile
532 Frenchmen St
New Orleans, LA 70116
504.948.2583

Café Negril
606 Frenchmen St
New Orleans, LA 70116
504.944.4744

 

 

 

 

Eating Advice: Start Small

A simple meal out can quickly evolve into an eating excursion once you catch sight and smell of the Creole-festooned plates at Kingfish. When this restaurant’s generous portions intersect with your traveler’s desire to try everything, you will soon find that your stomach has tapped out for the next several hours. Starters, and especially food-board style samplers, are your friends. Kingfish’s menu offers items such as alligator spaghetti, Des Allemands fried catfish, and blackened scallops as well as savory Louisiana chicken and smoked sausage gumbo with the traditional Crowley popcorn rice.

Kingfish
337 Chartres St
New Orleans, LA 70130
504.598.5005

Stroll Through the French Quarter

Though you can make the mile-long drive in half the time, the 25-minute walk to the attractions at the French Quarter and the Mississippi Riverfront is well worth it. Not only will you be able to see more of the city that SmartAsset.com voted one of the top places for outdoor enthusiasts and burn off the excess crawfish calories you’ve been accumulating, but you will be able to take a “to go” Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Beer or a Hurricane with you, as New Orleans embraces open alcoholic containers.

Regardless of how you arrive, the French Quarter holds many cultural delights: the carousel bar at Hotel Monteleone, the Bevolo Gas and Electric Light shop and the Voodoo museum are some standout stops that will give you something to talk about with friends back home.

Voodoo Museum
724 Dumaine St
New Orleans, LA 70116
504.680.0128

Bevolo
521 Conti Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
504.522.9485

 

Eye on the Ball

The Mercedes-Benz Superdome, home of the NFL Saints, and the Smoothie King Center, which has hosted the New Orleans VooDoo and the NBA Hornets in the past and has been the home court of the NBA Pelicans since 2002, is a quarter-mile beeline from the Hyatt House.

Mercedes-Benz Superdome
1500 Sugar Bowl Dr
New Orleans, LA 70112
504.587.3663
Explore One of America’s Most Musical Cities on Your New Orleans Vacation