A port city with a complex history and cultural heritage, New Orleans is coming back from catastrophe as a 21st century boomtown. With a vibrant art scene, stunning architecture, world class food, and amazing music, the city is its own ecosystem, or maybe even its own planet (that's definitely what it felt like for me growing up there). Visitors fall hard for the Crescent City and keep coming back for more.
• Jackson Square: The iconic destination is watched over by an 1856 statue of Battle of New Orleans hero Andrew Jackson and bordered by some incredible structures including St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo, and the Presbytère. Flanking the square since 1850, the Pontalba buildings are the oldest apartments in the US.
• Mardi Gras World: Blaine Kern Studios is the epicenter of Mardi Gras float-making. If your visit to NOLA doesn't fall on Fat Tuesday get a glimpse of the spectacle.
• Newcomb Pottery: Newcomb College was established in the 1880s to provide a liberal arts education for women, and gave rise to Newcomb Pottery, the brand heavily influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement. A major exhibition curated by Newcomb Art Gallery and The Smithsonian will run in New Orleans October 2013 - March 2014 before launching a national tour.
• St. Charles Avenue Streetcar: Take in the antebellum mansions, Tulane and Loyola campuses, and Audubon Park from the RTA's most fabled line.
• Cemeteries: New Orleans' distinctive cities of the dead were born of necessity: in a city below sea-level, the crypts and mausoleums are above ground. If you only have time to visit one, make it St. Louis Cemetery #1 in Treme.
• The Garden District: Hop off the streetcar and explore the historic district on foot for incredible architecture, food, and shopping.
• The French Market: There's nothing quite like the bustling farmer's and flea markets of the French Market on a Sunday. It's been a shopping destination for over 200 years.
• Magazine Street: The booming stretch is home to excellent antiques, boutiques, restaurants, and bars. Design standouts include Ann Koerner Antiques and Hazelnut, co-owned by actor (Salvatore Romano!) and native son Bryan Batt.
• Royal Street: Take in the architecture along this legendary stretch of the French Quarter while perusing antiques.
• Art Glass: New Orleans has a huge art glass scene, thanks in large part to Tulane's incredible program founded and directed by sculptor Gene Koss. Check out New Orleans GlassWorks and Studio Inferno.
• Cafe Du Monde: Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or after a night on the town, it's always beignet time.
• Central Grocery: There is no other muffuletta worthy of the name.
• Po Boys: Everyone is loyal to their favorite hole in the wall. Mine is Domilise's at 5240 Annunciation Street.
• Commander's Palace: New Orleans has countless legendary restaurants, but Commander's tops every list with its unforgettable Creole American cuisine.
• Southern Candymakers: Bon Appétit says that these are the best pralines in NOLA and we concur.
Stay:• Hotel Monteleone: The four star French Quarter hotel is a historic landmark full of old world charm.