New Orleans

New Orleans – beyond the airport

Have a little bit of extra time to spend in New Orleans? Here are some ideas we gathered recently for a story on CNBC.

Photo by Todd Coleman. Courtesy New Orleans & Company

Yes, New Orleans is a party town with bars and music on every corner and a festival – or three – in the streets just about every weekend.

But get off Bourbon Street and you’ll find plenty of other distractions.

Photo by Harriet Baskas

Stroll along Royal Street, where you’ll find art galleries, souvenir shops and boutiques, including Fleur de Paris (523 Royal St.) a colorful custom millinery and couture shop that boasts of being the largest millinery shop in the country.

At 630 Royal St., M.S. Rau Antiques has been selling high-end art, antiques, jewelry and exotic other items for more than a century. The 25,000-square-foot gallery feels more like a museum than a shop, with an ever-changing display of odd and eclectic items. If you’re a serious shopper, you may be invited into a secret room to see rare treasures.   

Photo by Harriet Baskas

The Historic New Orleans Collection is nearby, with free exhibitions at 520 Royal St., (which has a nice gift shop and the Café Cour courtyard bistro) and at 533 Royal St. and 410 Chartres. Free organ tours are offered Tuesday through Sunday at 520 Royal and there are free tours available via the museum’s smartphone tours and app.

Lunch spots to check out include Cochon, serving a modern, unpretentious take on Cajun food (in the Warehouse Arts District about three blocks from the Convention Center);  Compère Lapin (French for ‘brother rabbit; also in the Warehouse Arts District), which has a Caribbean-inspired menu, and Domenica, an Italian restaurant in the elegantly restored downtown Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans.

The new Sazerac House museum (and working distillery) at Canal & Magazine Street has a free self-guided, multi-media tour exploring the history of New Orleans through the Sazerac and other cocktails. Admission is free (reservation encouraged for busy times) and complimentary samples of three cocktails are included.

If you can, squeeze in a mid-to-late afternoon in-town visit to another of New Orleans’ many museums. Some top-rated ones include the New Orleans Jazz Museum (400 Esplanade, in the historic U.S Mint; Admission $8); the National World War II Museum (945 Magazine St.; Admission: $28.50, $18 for military with ID and free for WWII veterans).

Photo by Paul Broussard. Courtesy New Orleans & Company

Or grab a taxi, Uber or street car (Fare $1.25; $3 for a day pass) and head out to City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), which has a permanent collection of almost 50,000 objects. Museum admission is $15, but there is no fee to tour the museum’s twelve-acre  Besthoff Sculpture Garden, which has more than 90 sculptures in a lush Southern landscape with magnolias, camellias, and 200-year-old moss-laden live oaks.

For a classic New Orleans dinner experience, call or go online and get a reservation at the classic Commander’s Palace, in the Garden District.

Pay attention to the dress code (business attire, jackets for men, no flip flops, jeans discouraged) and consider this also as a lunch option weekdays, when 2-course specials and 25-cent martinis (limited to 3 per person) are served, or for the weekend Jazz Brunch.

Photo La Gourmetreise, Courtesy New Orleans & Company

For something more casual, try Coop’s Place in the French Quarter, where the house specialties are seafood gumbo and a rabbit & sausage jambalaya.

You can ease into the evening with a cocktail just about anywhere. Some popular options in the French Quarter include the historic French 75 Bar at Arnaud’s Restaurant (813 Rue Bienville); the rotating Carousel Bar & Lounge at the Hotel Monteleone (214 Royal St.)and the intimate wine-centric Patrick’s Bar Vin (730 Bienville St.) at the Hotel Mazarin.

Photo by Zack Smith, Courtesy New Olreans & Company

For live music of all stripes and a “not Bourbon Street-crazy” street scene, locals point visitors to the clubs on Frenchmen Street, in the Marigny neighborhood, not far from the French Quarter. Some popular venues there include Snug Harbor, d.b.a, The Maison, the Spotted Cat, Blue Nile and the Apple Barrel.

Leaving New Orleans

Photo by Harriet Baskas

When it comes time to leave town, be sure to head for the airport early.

Cab or ride-hailed (Uber or Lyft) journeys to the airport start at about $36 and can take upwards of half an hour, depending on traffic and time of day.

The good news is that the city just opened a brand new terminal at  Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) that features several stages for live music and many restaurants that represent New Orleans’ celebrity chefs and cuisine, including Emeril’s Table, The Munch Factory, Lucky Dogs and Leah’s Kitchen.

Art-filled Delta Sky Club at New Orleans Int’l Airport

Artwork by Skylar Fein

Planning a trip to New Orleans?

Lucky you!

New Orleans is a popular destination for both leisure and business travelers and the old airport terminal didn’t do the city justice.

Now there’s a gorgeous new terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY). And right now the only club lounge open is the Delta Sky Club.

The all-access Club at MSY should open early next year and a United Airlines club lounge is promised in 2020.

Stuck at The Airport stopped into the Delta Sky Club during an opening day tour of the airport. We are delighted to report that in addition to all the features you’d expect in a lounge (comfortable seating and lots of outlets) the 2nd-floor lounge definitely celebrates the New Orleans vibe and culture.

The menu includes regionally inspired snack and meals, including oysters, gumbo and muffuletta sandwiches. Of course, the bar menu includes local beers and cocktails.

And all the artwork is by Louisiana artists.

Delta was kind enough to share images of the artwork. Here are a few more of our favorites.

By Skylar Fein
Artwork by Kelly Mcgee
Artwork by Kelly Mcgee
Artwork by Masy Chighizola

Stay tuned for more details about the amenities at the new terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY). Next up: all the food!

Win a seat on a new Allegiant Air flight to New Orleans

king_cake

Allegiant Air is holding two fun contests to celebrate the launch of new services to New Orleans.

The first is a King Cake Eating Contest and Lucky Bead contest on Wednesday, February 4 at Cincinnati/Northern Kentury International Airport.

The winner of the King Cake eating contest will be the person who finds the plastic baby baked inside their cake. That person will get two round trip tickets on the first flight to New Orleans and a hotel stay at Saint James Hotel New Orleans from February 4 – February 7, 2015

A random drawing will decide the winner of the Lucky Bead Contest and that person will win two round trip tickets on a future flight to New Orleans.

Details on how to enter the contest are listed here.

Blackpool SuitcaseArrives

To celebrate Allegiant Air service between New Orleans and Indianapolis International Airport, there’s a “pack your bags” contest on February 5. The prize: 2 roundtrip tickets on the inaugural flights from IND to New Orleans and a three night hotel stay at the Holiday Inn Metairie New Orleans Airport Hotel.

Each contestant who shows up at the airport with bags packed will receive one entry into a random drawing for the prize, but contestants who arrive at the airport dressed in their Mardi Gras best get two entries into the giveaway.

There’s one more:

Allegiant is also starting nonstop seasonal service to New Orleans (MSY) from the Rickenbacker Charter Terminal (LCK) in Columbus, Ohio and to celebrate the airline is giving away two free round-trip tickets and hotel accommodations.

To enter: show up with a packed bag at that airport on Thursday, Feb. 5 no later than 10 a.m. and fill out an entry form for the two free round-trip seats on Allegiant’s inaugural flight to New Orleans.

One winner and their guest will be drawn at random. The giveaway includes one free checked bag for the winner and their guest and a free three-night hotel stay.

In New Orleans: vending machines in cabs

New Orleans_Taxi Vending Touch Screen

 

There’s no need to go thirsty in New Orleans.

Bars sell drinks in to-go cups so you can have your beer or a cocktail on the street. And now there are vending machines in some city cabs to ensure that parched passengers can sip soda in the back seats.

“You make a choice from a screen, swipe a credit or debit card and, for 99 cents, a cold soda pops out from a slot in the shelf behind the passenger seat,” said Simon Garber, the owner of New Orleans Carriage Cab and Yellow-Checker Cab. “It almost places the can in your hand.”

Garber told NBC News that it was his teenage son who first suggested the idea and, after several years of tinkering with the concept and the machinery, Garber figured out a way to install a vending unit in a cab trunk that can deliver cold soda to the back seat. About 40 of his city cabs have started testing the units.

We took a morning “ride-along” — by cellphone — with cab driver Kirk Lee and Kelly Robin, the first thirsty passenger of the day.

Robin, a server in a French Quarter restaurant, ordered a Dr. Pepper from the five choices on the screen during her short trip to work.

New orleans cab customer

 

“Cool, cold and convenient,” she said, popping the top on the can that she watched appear from a rectangular metal slot in the shelf behind the seat. “This is going to be a very nice customer service.”

Her driver agreed. “People come to New Orleans to have a good time and do something different than normal. Having this novelty in the cabs, especially on the ride in from the airport, is a great way to start,” said Lee.

He thinks cab drivers might come to appreciate the unusual amenity as much as the passengers.

“I can see building up the fact that we’re the only taxi company offering this service, and on a hot day buying my customer a soda,” said Lee. “Or let them use my swipe card and offer to just add the cost of a soda to their bill. It will be part of an enhanced cab experience and I think it will increase tips.”

New Orleans Dr. Pepper Pops Out of Dispenser

It will also help reinforce the city’s reputation as a hospitable place to visit, said Mark Romig, president and CEO of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation. “It really adds to the visitor experience, especially when you consider that 50 percent of our visitors arrive by plane,” and that most tourists take cabs into the city, a ride that typically takes between 20 and 30 minutes.

While the in-cab vending machines only sell sodas right now, “just think where this can go,” said Romig. “Other companies will likely embrace this technology. I think it’s an idea that will catch on.”

If it does, Garber is ready. He plans to install vending machines that will sell soda and, someday maybe cologne, small umbrellas and other items, in all 250 of his New Orleans cabs and, soon, in the hundreds of cabs he owns in New York City and Chicago, too.

“It’s something to improve our service, make the ride more enjoyable and our cab company more memorable,” said Garber. “And, of course, encourage people to choose our cabs over others.”

(My story about vending machines in New Orleans cabs first appeared on NBC News Travel)

 

New Orleans Int’l Airport restoring classic jazz mural

If you’ve been to New Orleans, perhaps you’ve seen this large mural in what’s called the Parabola Lobby at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY).

Titled “Louis Armstrong and his Heavenly All-Star Band – What you Loose on Earth Shall Be Loosed in Heaven,” the mural is 28 feet by 41 feet and was created by noted New Orleans artist Richard C. Thomas on commission for this space in 1996. It’s a tribute to “New Orleans musicians and their legendary colleagues who created jazz, shaped it, made it a living art form and are still a part of its evolving development.”

You won’t be able to see the mural for a while, as it’s been removed for restoration as part of a lobby revamping project that’s scheduled to be completed before the Super Bowl rolls around in February.

If you’re curious about all those musicians featured in the mural, there’s a key to the characters in this art brochure that lists much of the artwork in the airport’s $1 million Armstrong Art Collection. Look for Al Hirt, Fats Domino, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Professor Longhair, Mahalia Jackson, Louis Armstrong and many others.