These days New Orleanians describe their lives using the terms “pre-Katrina” and “post-Katrina.”
The devastating hurricane and its aftermath are still felt nearly eight years later. But since post-Katrina New Orleans has shed its storm-sacked facades, a canvas of design opportunity has taken root.
There’s a new buzz in the city, and signs of real recovery are showing in repopulated neighborhoods where rebuilt and renovated homes in both traditional and contemporary styles are springing up.
And the energy has certainly spread outside the city’s borders. The city had the second-highest number of visitors in its history in 2012. The record before that was in 2004, the year before Katrina hit.
The resilient city has endured many hardships over its past 300 years, but that’s what gives it a uniqueness revered around the world.
As the celebrated birthplace of jazz and dozens of culinary specialties — gumbo and the po’ boy, to name two — what has emerged is an extreme mix of ethnicities nestled between the largest saltwater lake and the largest river system in North America. If you plan to visit New Orleans — pronounced “new OR-luhns,” not “new or-LEENS” or “new or-le-ANS” or “NAW-lins” — the following design-minded destinations will help peel back the storied layers of its history.
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Noteworthy: Across the street, the historic Cafe Du Monde is open 24 hours and sells powdered beignets, a deep-fried pastry that's ubiquitous in New Orleans.
Over the centuries this historic central square in the French Quarter neighbourhood once held public executions of criminals; it now hosts regular art sales and live music events. The Saint Louis Cathedral across from Jackson Square is worth a visit. The design of Jackson Square mimics the Parisian Place de Vosges.
A mule-drawn carriage, like the one seen here, can take you on a guided tour of the area. The carriages line up along the Decatur Street side. Or pop into the French Quarter Visitor centre and join a ranger-lead tour along the riverfront beginning at 9:30 a.m.
Cost: Adults, $22; seniors, $19; grades K through 12 and those with a military ID, $13
Devote a few hours to the National World War II Museum, on the edge of downtown's Warehouse District. Voorsanger Architects of New York designed this new addition -- The Freedom Pavilion; it's an impressive contemporary complex with a 4-D theatre, restored pieces, interactive exhibits and historical World War II--era machines.
More info: National World War II Museum
The Freedom Pavilion is a 100-foot-high space with multiple mezzanine levels. Fully restored Boeing aeroplanes with engines and mannequin pilots hang from above.
The uppermost mezzanines provide this skyline view and a sneak peak at the expansion of the museum — a $300 million project expected to be completed in 2015.
The New Orleans Museum of Art is a must-see—make sure you check out the building's exterior along with the indoors tour.
Cost: Adults, $10; seniors, $8; active military and students with ID, $8; children ages 7 to 17, $6; age 6 and under, free
Noteworthy: Free admission on Wednesdays
While the artwork inside is a definite must to check out, the City Park outside is a destination all its own. It's the second largest urban park in the U.S., after New York City's Central Park. Take a ride in an authentic Venetian gondola around the tributaries and waterways.
Location: French Quarter
Noteworthy: The street is full of galleries, antiques shops and Spanish architecture
Throughout the French Quarter, historic gallery houses like the one shown here, with Spanish wrought iron accents, date back to shortly after the 1788 fire. Since the Spanish were ruling at the time, these structures made of adobe brick and with flat roofs replaced the common pitched roofs and wooden structures of the French style.
Spaces by New Orleans Architect Adam BreauxAlong Royal Street you'll find a bustling art scene featuring many styles, with work from local and international artists. Art by Francoise Gilot, a former mistress of Pablo Picasso who was also the mother of two of his four children, fills the Vincent Mann Gallery. Gilot's work spans many decades, and Picasso's influence on her is undeniable.
The Galerie D'Art Francais is also worth a stop.
And you're likely to get famished, so grab a fried shrimp po' boy at Central Grocery or some jambalaya or etouffee at Coop's Place on Decatur.
Location: Faubourg Marigny neighbourhood
Noteworthy: No cover charge, and in New Orleans you're welcome to take your drink with you outside in a 'go cup.'
For a more relaxing atmosphere than the mania and exhaustion you'll experience on Bourbon Street at night, Frenchman Street in the nearby Marigny (pronounced 'MARE-uhn-nee) neighbourhood is the place to go. Brass bands and blues bands abound.
And when you're partying like a local, it's recommended that you drink like one, too. Abita Amber is the most popular beer, but other favourites include NOLA and Covington Strawberry.
A crowd gathers at twilight on Frenchman Street for an art walk adjacent to the Spotted Cat Music Club, which is a jazz and blues music venue in the heart of the neighbourhood.
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