Hotel at a Glance: The Pontchartrain Hotel
Ginger Rogers, Frank Sinatra, and Tom Cruise have all stayed at the Pontchartrain Hotel, which has occupied the same spot on St. Charles Avenue since 1927. Antique chandeliers, vaulted ceilings, and period furnishings trim up the hotel, which is steps from the Josephine Street streetcar stop. Hop aboard one of the city's iconic streetcars to head to the French Quarter or the Arts District in style.
- Other notable guests: Walt Disney, Bob Hope, Nicolas Cage, Naomi Campbell, and Tennessee Williams, who stayed here around the time that he wrote A Streetcar Named Desire
- Sip a Moscow Mule to the twinkling sounds of piano music at Bayou Bar—noted R&B pianist Tuts Washington once had a residency here.
- Room with a view: Guest rooms feature city views and kitchenettes.
- Stay connected with free wireless Internet access.
New Orleans’s French Quarter: Let the Good Times Roll
"Stop thinking of New Orleans as the worst-organized city in the United States," writes author Dan Baum in Nine Lives, his post-Katrina book. "Start thinking of it as the best-organized city in the Caribbean." Some folks think there is something distinctly foreign about New Orleans, a place where people’s priorities seem inclined toward enjoying life and relishing the moment at hand. Nothing says it better than the town’s unofficial Cajun creed: “Laissez les bons temp rouler,” or "Let the good times roll."
Historical buildings with intricate wrought-iron balconies line the narrow streets of New Orleans’s French Quarter. Here, street musicians often fill the air with jazz music, their trombones and tubas swinging back and forth. Just off the Jackson Square park and near the towering St. Louis Cathedral, the legendary Café Du Monde serves beignets under heaping piles of powdered sugar, as well as cups of iced or steaming café au lait.
And then there's Bourbon Street, where neon lights advertise frozen cocktails and gaudy strip clubs and crowds gather along 13 city blocks. The nearby Frenchmen Street, just north of the Quarter, provides a slightly less touristy taste of New Orleans nightlife. Some of the city’s most popular live jazz and blues bars dominate this historic two-block district, with each venue hosting world-class musicians nearly every night of the week. Jazz fills the air at the Spotted Cat Music Club, where a sign warns that both drinks and drunks are barred from the piano—but like all rules in New Orleans, it's one that's bound to get bent from time to time.