A Day in New Orleans: The Insider’s Guide

HYPERLOCAL

When it comes to travel, it’s nice to have an insider’s perspective. Here at Blueprint, presented by CBRE, we are fortunate to have an expansive network of local colleagues around the globe who are not only real estate experts, but also local tastemakers. We have asked them to provide an insider’s perspective on some of the best, most iconic cities across the globe. Today we explore New Orleans, La.

City: New Orleans

Country: United States

Nicknames: The Big Easy, the Crescent City, the Birthplace of Jazz, NOLA

Population: 378,715

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What is your favorite public space? Why?

The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art. With five sprawling acres of beautiful and unconventional installations, there’s more to this outdoor exhibit than initially meets the eye. Sculptures include timeless statues of Venus and Hercules, and even a 21-foot-tall safety pin. For a different perspective, rent a paddleboat from the neighboring Boat House on Big Lake and venture into the lagoon that winds through the center of the garden.

Other great public spaces can be found on Magazine Street. Enjoy all the galleries, restaurants, bars and frequent public events hosted in the Garden District, Uptown and Irish Channel.

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Where can you find the best view of the city?

You don’t have to go somewhere special for a beautiful view in New Orleans. Some of the best vistas can be seen as you drive eastward into the city. As Interstate 10 bends toward downtown, just past South Carrollton Avenue, you’ll get a great view of the New Orleans Superdome and the surrounding cityscape. Another great view of the city can be found watching the streetcar line from the porch or upper veranda at The Columns Hotel on St. Charles.

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You are going for a bike ride. Where do you go?

The Audubon Park running and bike trail. Life moves a little slower here as you pedal beneath sleepy oak trees, past horse stables and alongside the Mississippi River. Stop off at the Audubon Zoo to check out Louisiana’s local wildlife, or continue your ride to the riverside area locally called “The Fly” in the park’s rear.

Along the east side of the park you’ll find the Tree of Life—a huge, 500-year-old oak tree—and The Labyrinth meditation garden. While you’re there, you might even catch a few of the Audubon Zoo’s giraffes spying on you from behind the nearby fence! 

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What is the best place to discover local music?

Frenchmen Street is hands down the best place to find music venues, and the area is easily accessible. Located in the Marigny neighborhood at the edge of the French Quarter, the street’s music venues feature the best live music New Orleans has to offer. You can also find some of the cities premiere restaurants, bars, shops and galleries, all within a three-block area. 

In addition, Preservation Hall is an intimate music venue tucked inside the French Quarter. It’s a great place to experience traditional New Orleans jazz and blues, created by the city’s finest musicians. Nightly shows treat audiences to both familiar tunes and improvised masterpieces. But be sure to get in line early: This popular first-come, first-served attraction reaches maximum capacity quickly. 

What is the “don’t judge a book by its cover” restaurant?

Bacchanal Wine is a worthwhile stop for those who seek a laid-back after-hours experience. Step inside the understated house on the corner of Chartres Street and Poland Avenue, and you’ll discover an eclectic wine shop featuring labels from all over the world. Continue on to the upstairs bar or the cozy backyard patio to enjoy fine wines, original cocktails, delicious small plates and live music, played nightly. Bacchanal is the latest go-to spot for locals, tourists and even celebrities visiting New Orleans.

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Favorite place to watch a game?

The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is home to not only the New Orleans Saints, but also several other large sporting events like the annual college Sugar Bowl. It is one of the most iconic and recognizable fixtures in the city’s skyline. The acoustics in this enclosed arena have earned it a reputation for becoming extremely loud during home games, which is never a problem for passionate New Orleans sports fans!

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Best public transportation experience?

New Orleans’ famous streetcar is more of a slow-moving recreational ride than a speedy transit option, but no one should visit the city without taking a scenic and relaxing journey down St. Charles Avenue on the oldest continuously operating streetcar in the world. A streetcar ride here truly feels like a peek into New Orleans’ past—from the old-fashioned vehicle interiors to the rhythmic bumping and rumbling of wheels on the track below. The streetcars are stored in facilities called “barns” when not in operation. These modern-day garages get their name from their former use as a home for the mules that would pull the cars up and down the city streets.

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Favorite place to unwind?

Woldenberg Park. Located on the riverfront, this park opened to the public just in time for the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans. If you find yourself visiting this serene spot, make sure to sit back and relax on a bench facing the Mississippi River while you listen to the calliope on the Steamboat Natchez whistling well-known melodies like “Turkey in the Straw” and “Oh Susannah.”

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Favorite place to be inspired?

The French Quarter is filled with art studios, street vendors and curbside performers that dazzle and delight the passersby. Whether it’s a beautiful oil on canvas in a gallery window, a centuries-old antique in a historic shop or an incredibly talented saxophonist on the street corner, The Quarter always offers something new to soak in.

Best place to be alone?

The Singing Oak inside New Orleans City Park is adorned with several wind chimes up to 14 feet long—each tuned to the pentatonic scale. The majestic oak tree canopies a single bench and produces an eerily enchanting, harmonic melody on breezy days. Aside from being a welcome reprieve from the New Orleans summer heat, The Singing Oak is often described by locals as one of the most tranquil and inspiring spots in the whole city—a true hidden gem.

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Best place to feel like you’re not in your city?

The National WWII Museum. This robust collection of wartime documents, artifacts, weaponry, aircraft and more is now No. 11 among the top museums in the world. Immersive, sensory-driven exhibits set the scene for learning about the strategy, battlegrounds and politics that paved the American way of life during the war. It’s easy to forget you’re in New Orleans while inside the U.S. Freedom Pavilion—with fighter and bomber aircraft towering overhead along with large tanks surrounding you on the ground level.

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Best insider place to take the kids?

Storyland in City Park is a literal childhood dream come true. The incredibly unique playground, hidden beneath the oaks, features life-size scenes from classic children’s tales—you can step inside Cinderella’s magical pumpkin carriage, climb the mast of Captain Hook’s ship or visit the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. This real-life enchanted forest is a favorite of adults and kids alike!

For the older adventure-seekers in the family, simply venture into the Carousel Gardens amusement park right next door to enjoy classic carnival rides—including a hand-carved, hand-painted carousel. 

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Best independent shopping venues?

The historic French Market on North Peters Street spans two blocks near the intersection of the French Quarter and the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. With hundreds of vendors setting up shop each day, you’re sure to find unique treasures, beautiful antiques, silly souvenirs, or (more likely) all of the above. Once you’re done, head to the boutiques and galleries nestled inside the neighboring French Quarter.

Best hidden gem museum?

Featuring all sorts of unique items, each with a fascinating story to tell, many of the French Quarter’s antique shops feel more like museums than stores. As you stroll through a few of the stores along Royal Street, you’ll discover everything from Civil War relics to turn-of-the-century timepieces, Victorian-era furniture and perhaps a coat of armor or two. For a visit to North America’s largest antique gallery, take a jaunt through M.S. Rau Antiques—you might catch a glimpse of an original work from a world-renowned artist.

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Best place to get a local specialty?

Don’t leave New Orleans without stopping by the original Café Du Monde on Decatur Street, just outside Jackson Square. Opt for the traditional order of beignets and a café au lait, then have a seat and listen to the street musicians playing soulful New Orleans jazz on the sidewalk just outside. You will also get a great view of the iconic St. Louis Cathedral from the patio.

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