ACES 2012 is here, and you’ll want to experience New Orleans between the sessions. So we’ve gathered a group of volunteers — including NOLA natives and area editing students — to help you plan your trip.
Also check out Paula Devlin’s “Where to Eat, What to Drink …” , also on the ACES 2012 blog.
Where to shop
The first thing you need to know is that sales tax in New Orleans is a whopping 9 percent. Sorry. We’ll spend it wisely.
The Faulkner House on Pirate’s Alley, next to St. Louis Cathedral off Jackson Square, is a tiny, charming bookstore. The owners live upstairs, and yes, Faulkner stayed there when he was writing in New Orleans. If used books are more your style, hunt out La Librairie in the 800 block of Chartres Street. Here, you’ll find mostly used books, some new books and even an old printing press in the window.
T-shirts: You will see beaucoup T-shirt shops, but the two best are Saving NOLA in the Jax Brewery on Decatur Street near Jackson Square, where the proceeds benefit the musicians fund, started after Hurricane Katrina to help musicians who lost instruments and homes in the storm; and Fleurty Girl, 632 St. Peter St., which stocks an irreverent supply of T’s that resonate with locals.
Voodoo: The Voodoo Museum and shop in the 600 block of Dumaine Street, between Chartres and Royal, is a mysterious place of charms, talismans, tarot cards and more. You can get your palm read here, too.
— Paula Devlin, news editor on the Online News Desk of The Times-Picayune
Let’s start with that last thing. You may have read some silly thing about New Orleans being the murder capital of the United States, and in a technical way, it’s true. Violent crime is a problem in our city, but most of it is gang-related and not near the tourist haunts.
Still, downtown and the French Quarter are not immune to the more common kinds of pickpockets and purse snatchings.
So please take the usual precautions: keep wallets in front pockets or purses slung across your body; walk with a purpose; stay in groups.
The French Quarter between Bourbon Street and the river is generally crowded and safe well into the night, and that’s where most of the action is anyway.
One quirk: After midnight, it’s not a bad idea to steer clear of the first (100 block) of Bourbon, closest to Canal Street. Enter and exit the quarter on Chartres or Decatur street.
— Paula Devlin, news editor on the Online News Desk of The Times-Picayune
Music, food and fun
at French Quarter Festival
Music and food are two of the mainstays of New Orleans.
Put both outdoors, on more than 20 stages situated throughout the French Quarter, and you have the 29th annual French Quarter, Thursday, April 12 through Sunday, April 15. It’s one event you do not want to miss.
The festival is Louisiana’s largest free music event, and lucky for ACES members, it coincides with this year’s national conference.
The music and entertainment will be all around you, with more than 800 local musicians serenading your ear and providing 275 hours of entertainment. Taste buds will be awakened with more than 65 New Orleans restaurants setting up shop in the festival area.
Need something for the kids? Family fun will include two kid play areas and the return of the fireworks on the Mississippi River at 9 p.m. Saturday, April 14.
Catch Rebirth Brass Brand, Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews and Orleans Avenue, Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Soul Rebels and a lot more artists during the festival. The full lineup is featured on the festival website.
Just remember outside food or beverages are allowed. Come dance, shop and eat while you’re in New Orleans.
— K. Lenore Jean-Baptiste, Grambling State University
Hurricanes: Dangerous, delicious
and around every corner
The fruity rum concoction is said to have gotten its name from the glassware it’s served in — a distinctive oversized goblet shaped like a hurricane lamp. Which makes sense: doesn’t the traditional drink of choice on Bourbon Street deserve its own glass?
While Pat O’Brien’s is credited with creating the cocktail more than 70 years ago, all of New Orleans has embraced it as its own. Today there is no shortage of venues serving tourists their version of the classic Creole cocktail. Hurricanes are on the menu at drive-up daiquiri stands, five-star hotel lobbies, back alley dive bars and even tourist spots like the Hard Rock Café.
Pat O’s original recipe called for fresh squeezed fruit juices and no less than four ounces of rum, which explains its popularity with the party crowd on Bourbon.
But if Pat O’s courtyard is full or the party is on the move, you can grab a 32-ounce cup of the bright red brew at Fat Tuesday daiquiri bar on Bourbon Street.
And if a couple of Hurricanes don’t get the party started, there’s always the Hand Grenade — a trademarked knock-your-socks-off concoction sold only in New Orleans.
— Brooke Carbo, The University of Alabama
Bourbon Street: Once (and only once)
When visitors get to New Orleans, they all want to know what Bourbon Street is like.
And depending on what time of the year you visit, the response varies.
During Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, a Saints win or other sports event at the Superdome, Bourbon Street after dark is the place to be. The bars do not have cover charges and, even if there is no parade in town, large beads drop from the balconies above. It’s a big, raucous party.
But on an average night, Bourbon Street is just another French Quarter street.
As iconic as Bourbon Street is, you really only need to visit once, because like the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon or the Lincoln Memorial, it doesn’t change. Bars may change names and the music blasting from the buildings might be different, but Bourbon Street remains.
So visit Bourbon Street, but venture to the other areas of the French Quarter and explore the Garden District/Uptown and Downtown/Central Business District areas as well, so you get a fuller and richer New Orleans experience.
While everyone else is being a tourist on Bourbon, you will know New Orleans extends beyond more than just one street.
— Amber R. Perry, University of New Orleans
Bourbon Street, A Place Apart
By all means, walk down Bourbon Street, at least once. But don’t think this is New Orleans. Bourbon Street is our beloved but tawdry old aunt who gets her kicks flirting with the young kids from out of town by showing her undies. Or more. It’s just a small chapter in the big story of New Orleans and the French Quarter. Oh, and wear shoes you can clean when you get back to the hotel.
— Paula Devlin
A streetcar named St. Charles
Riding the streetcars in New Orleans is unlike any other public transportation experience.
Where subways and day trains in other cities are clogged with hurried passengers, the New Orleans streetcars are populated with residents who enjoy being tourists in their own city.
Residents are open and welcome conversations, turning a 40-minute ride into an often interesting, and too brief, story of life in the South.
The most popular of the three lines is the St. Charles streetcar (the other two are Canal Street and Riverfront).
Starting from the edge of the French Quarter, the St. Charles line encompasses the beauty and unique charm of New Orleans. It passes restaurants and shops, and passengers can get a view of the historic homes that line St. Charles in the Garden District and Uptown. In addition to the beautiful homes on the line, the Audubon Zoo and Park, and Tulane and Loyola universities are points of interest.
The streetcar then turns on South Carrollton, where there are more shops and restaurants. The end of the line comes at Claiborne Avenue, where if you have an all-day pass ($3), you can transfer to another line and experience more of New Orleans.
Schedules for all three streetcars are at the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority website.
— Amber R. Perry, University of New Orleans
Things that go bump in the night — and, no, it’s not the revelers on Bourbon Street
There is no question that New Orleans is the destination of choice for those in search of live music, Creole cuisine and legendary nightlife. But if the city’s 300-year-old rumor mill is to be believed, dark secrets lurk on corners of the French Quarter, where neon lights don’t shine and street performers dare not tread.
Visitors with a taste for the macabre will find a number of options for uncovering the mysterious past of the Big Easy.
On nightly walking tours of the city after dark, such haunted locales as La Maison Lalaurie (1140 Rue Royale, the “Hell House of New Orleans”) are brought to life by guides as dramatic and unnerving as the tales they tell. Most tours wisely include a stop at a local tavern, where sightseers can calm their nerves between spine-chilling legends and potential ghost sightings.
Daytime tours of the city’s eerily beautiful aboveground cemeteries are available for those who feel safer venturing out in the light of day. A stop by the final resting place of Voodoo queen Marie Laveau is thrown in to keep complacent tourists on their toes.
Even visitors not on the hunt for a ghostly encounter will find it hard to avoid the city’s more spirited residents, from a 10-year-old specter playing hide-and-seek with guests at the Hotel Monteleone, 214 Royal St., to a phantom prankster taunting the cleaning staff of the Le Pavilion Hotel, 833 Poydras St. In the “Most Haunted City in America,” what else could be expected?
— Brooke Carbo, The University of Alabama
Many people may think about Bourbon Street first when they think about New Orleans, but another great attraction in the French Quarter is the French Market.
For more than 200 years, the French Market has been a symbol of pride and progress for the people of New Orleans. The market has a lot to offer — there are six blocks of shopping running along St. Peters Street to Barracks Street on the riverside of the Lower French Quarter. The main offices are at 1008 N. Peters St.
My favorite part of the French Market is the flea market, which is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. In the flea market there are vendors from around the city who create paintings, jewelry, dolls and other merchandise you can only find in New Orleans. I bought my mother a beautiful matching jewelry set at an affordable price for a college student.
The retail shops and farmers market at the French Market are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
The French Market also features indoor and outdoor performance venues, restaurants and cafes. Try a New Orleans-style donut — a beignet — at the 24-hour restaurant Café Du Monde, 800 Decatur St., or walk farther down to the Market Café and listen to live jazz music while grabbing a bite to eat throughout the weekend.
The French Market is a sponsor of French Quarter Festival and there will be two stages in the district from April 12-15.
For more information about the French Market, go to http://www.frenchmarket.org and make plans to take home a piece of New Orleans.
— Eric Cummings Jr., Grambling State University
Beignets, jazz and seafood
Home of the Saints, jazz and spicy Cajun food, New Orleans entertains from sunup to sundown. Whether you’re interested in a fun night out or calm morning, New Orleans is the place.
I’ve had the pleasure to experience New Orleans on several occasions, including during the State Farm Bayou Classic every November since 2007. Each time I visit I gain a new perspective on the city, and all of it is positive.
One place I visit on each trip is Café Du Monde, at 800 Decatur St. in the French Quarter, just seven blocks from the ACES 2012 headquarters at the Sheraton. The café opened in 1862, and is a New Orleans landmark. In fact, the outdoor coffee shop is one of the city’s main tourist attractions. Patience is truly a virtue when standing in line — the beignets covered with powdered sugar are worth the wait.
If you are looking to hear a live band and all that jazz, House of Blues, just two blocks from the Sheraton, is a great location to enjoy many genres of music. The restaurant has a variety of entrées for guests as well, and — if you’re staying until Sunday — it features a Sunday Gospel Brunch. House of Blues is near the Riverwalk, a shopping area that is home to 140 shops and restaurants.
Gumbo, jambalaya and seafood dishes can be found on just about every street in the French Quarter. Some I recommend are the Gumbo Shop, 620 St. Peters St.; Acme Oyster House, 724 Iberville St.; and Arnaud’s Remoulade, 309 Bourbon Street. Most of the locations serve an assortment of Cajun entrees.
Walking the streets of New Orleans allows you the up-close experience of the city. If you don’t have a reliable source of transportation and wish to go farther away, the trolleys are inexpensive to ride.
New Orleans is full of fun and excitement; the key is to get out and enjoy it. From the art district to the shopping — and there’s a ton of shopping — to the historic sights and sounds of the city, New Orleans is like no other place.
— Kimberly Monroe, Grambling State University
Preserving traditional jazz
It’s dark, old and not always that comfortable. And there’s no better place to be for traditional jazz music in New Orleans.
Preservation Hall, 726 St. Peters St., is just around the corner from Bourbon Street, but it’s miles away in sensibility. There are no Hurricanes, gumbo or beads for sale at 2 a.m. But if you crave jazz improvisation from some of the stalwarts of the traditional scene before the clock strikes 11 p.m., you want to work your way inside and try to get a seat on the benches — where you can practically touch the musicians.
The building was a private residence in the 1750s and later served as a tavern, inn and art gallery. Preservation Hall opened in 1961 with the idea that it would be a sanctuary to protect traditional New Orleans jazz.
After paying the $15 admission, music lovers push their way slowly to the front to get a better view, but are happy to stand in the back and listen to a wailing jazz horn or the sound of deft fingers flying over piano keys. Things get started early for the French Quarter, with the music beginning each night at 8.
If you’re coming to the conference early or staying late, why not check out a session at Preservation Hall? (There’s no evening performance Sunday, April 15.)
And because ACES 2012 coincides with the French Quarter festival, there’s a chance to see the free New Orleans Old Style Open Jam Sessions on Friday and Saturday, starting at 8 p.m. (There are daytime hours, too, but you’ll all be in sessions, then, right?)
— Gerri Berendzen (not a native, but a frequent visitor)
Eat and shop in the French Quarter
The French Quarter should be a top priority for visitors to New Orleans, with its many places to eat and areas to shop. Bourbon Street may attract the biggest crowds, but other areas of the Quarter have a lot to offer.
On Decatur Street, you’ll find Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., a restaurant that started with a movie — “Forrest Gump.” The theme restaurant has different styles of shrimp — barbeque, popcorn, chilled, Cajun-spice — and a dish that will send your taste buds racing, Bourbon Street Mahi Mahi. The dish features charbroiled Cajun spiced mahi mahi, grilled shrimp and mashed potatoes.
After dinner, head over to 532 Frenchmen St. to the funk, blues, soul, and brass bar the Blue Nile. Thursday evenings are big for people to enjoy the smooth sounds of reggae with DJ T-Roy, starting at 10 p.m. Local artists such as trumpet player Kermit Ruffins perform at the Blue Nile as well. Ruffins is on the Blue Nile schedule for 7 p.m. Friday, April 12.
There’s a lot of great shopping in the French Quarter as well. Locals sell jewelry, clothing and handbags; shops feature antiques and art. But be careful where you park, lest you get towed. To be on the safe side, it’s best to park in one of the area’s garages or surface lots.
— Lacey Mayo, Grambling State University
Tips for traveling in New Orleans
New Orleans is one of the most vibrant and lively cities in the U.S. But it also can be one of the most difficult cities to travel in. Here are a few options if you won’t have a car during your trip.
From the Louis Armstrong International Airport to the Sheraton
The Airport Shuttle provides transportation to the hotel for $20 per person one way or $38 per person round trip. The first three bags are free. Shuttle ticket desks are located on the lower level of Louis Armstrong Airport, across from baggage claim areas 3, 6 and 12. For more information or for reservations call (866) 596-2699 or (504) 522-3500.
The Tiger Airport Shuttle provides transportation between the Baton Rouge and New Orleans airports. It can be more economical than a taxi or car service and decreases the hassle of having to find parking. For more information or reservations, call (225) 333-8167.
A taxi ride costs from the airport to the Central Business District is about $33. The per passenger fee is lower with three or more passengers. You can find taxis on the lower level, outside the baggage claim area. And the Airport-Downtown Express (E-2) bus picks up outside airport Entrance 7 on the upper level, with a fare of $2.
There are numerous rental car options provided at the airport. Some include Alamo Rent-A-Car, Avis Rent-A-Car, Budget Rent-A-Car, Dollar Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Hertz Corp, and Thrifty Car Rental. Call in advance for more information. Prices will vary.
In New Orleans
The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority is the city’s public transportation system. The standard fare is $1.25, with 25 cents for transfers. You can purchase a one-day Jazzy Pass for $3 from the bus driver. A three-day pass for $9 also is available. You can also take a ride on the historic St. Charles streetcar, which is covered by the Jazzy Pass. Plan your trip in advance by date and time and find a map and schedule by visiting http://www.norta.com. This is one of the most efficient ways to get around New Orleans.
As a tourist, take time to plan your trip in advance and travel in groups of two or more. Despite the dynamic energy of the city, it is always wise to be alert and aware of your surroundings.
— Andrea Beasley, Grambling State University