In today’s world of Google maps, Siri and Alexa, it’s sometimes hard to imagine what the early explorers must have gone through. Those attempting to conquer the Mississippi believed it flowed east to west, and since they were on a quest for China, it seemed to be the perfect route. So how did New Orleans go from a mosquito-filled marshland to a stylishly cool and creative world destination? In my first book I spent a tremendous amount of time researching the stories of those explorers and centuries that followed.
I researched the neighborhoods and the characters that made them sparkle and I truly feel as if I've been given a good perspective on where the city came from with that research. I've written so many posts mentioning my favorite places to hang in the city. and last week I wrote a post (one of my most popular this year you guys!) about how to to NOT look like a tourist.
Today's post features a few places and neighborhoods that I've always spent time in when I'm in New Orleans, however, I haven't really mentioned any of these destinations in detail before. This list is for the art & history lover.
So what's on my list of places to see, stay & visit if you're an art & history lover?
1. The Roosevelt Hotel
The first placed I ever stayed in New Orleans (then it was the Fairmont), The Roosevelt has become known as a "beacon of luxury in the South". Famous faces walked these halls from opening day (1893) until now - Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles and Jack Benny were regulars, and today on any given night legendary folks can be spotted in the Sazarac bar sipping on Gin Fizzes late into the night. Even if you're not staying there's much to see and do in the hotel.
On my most recent visit I spent an afternoon in the Waldorf Astoria Spa. I had a massage, maybe the best of my life, and a pedicure, and relaxed in one of the most glorious relaxation suites ever - complete with champagne, btw. Post treatment, I took advantage of the Spa Club Membership.
The membership gives access to the Rooftop Pool, and if there's something I know about it's a rooftop pool (what else are locals supposed to do in the summer months?!).
Hands down, this pool wins - on my next visit I'll be renting a cabana and staying for the day.
2. The Julia Street Gallery District
Art lovers can visit any of the twenty-five-plus galleries that call the area home, and today, business professionals, tourists and convention attendees are spotted all around the neighborhood at the many award-winning restaurants and music venues. The area, originally an industrial neighborhood, was transformed in 1976 with the opening of the Contemporary Arts Center. The style of the neighborhood is one of dressed up elegance. The charm and warm hospitality abound.
My personal favorite is Martine Chaisson Gallery.
To be honest Martine is a friend of mine and a FABULOUS friend at that. I've spent years hanging around her gallery. If you looked back far enough in my instagram or if you were a reader of my first blog you'll recall shows from my NOLA Fashion Week days housed in Martine's glamorous ballroom. While fashion show production isn't something I'm doing anymore, hanging around Martine's gallery is.
Martine's most recent exhibit by artist Christa Blackwood was an interesting take on the male form juxtaposed against the glory of the American Southwest. The colors of each piece just made it for me, and surely whatever Martine's got happening next is not to be missed!
3. Neighborhood Walking Tours
Ok, so this isn't exactly a place and I've never recommended tours before, however, a few months back my girls Christine and Krystal came in and it was Krystal's first visit!
We decided to take two walking tours.
The first tour was a home tour of the Garden District.
The Garden District is considered one of the best-preserved collections of historic Greek Revival and Italianate mansions in the country, including lavish gardens and scenery. The streets bare the names of the nine muses of Greek mythology. Dubbed the “Garden District” for its English-style gardens featuring lush azaleas, magnolias and camellias, this neighborhood is noted for its astounding scenery. The walking tour covers everything from stories about the residents of these brilliant homes to details about the preservation.
Our second tour was the Tremé. Often overshadowed by its sister next door (the French Quarter), the Tremé, an eight-square-block neighborhood filled with nineteenth-century Creole cottages and Spanish-style mansions is where so many traditions of New Orleans were truly born. History is fully alive in the Tremé: the brass bands, second lines, jazz funerals and Mardi Gras Indians parade through the streets as they always have, creating a pulse and experience that can be found no where else.
I've had so many of you ask for continued recommendations when visiting New Orleans and I surely hope this list serves you!
I'll be home (again!) at the end of this month for Jazz Fest so keep following along on instagram to see more of the city I love so much!
*photos of the Roosevelt were provided by the property, a portion of the post was originally featured in my book "New Orleans Style."