Boutique Hotel in a Landmark Building Steps from French Quarter
New Orleans simply has a better soundtrack than other cities. Instead of top 40 or classic rock, the background music in every shop, restaurant, and cab is something you've never heard before but know you want to hear again. In the lobby of The Queen and Crescent Hotel, the mix is mostly Dixieland jazz, with a little R & B thrown in for good measure. "Music is important," says front office manager Stacey. "It's something visitors can relate to when they get here, to start to get the feeling of New Orleans."
Named for the rail line once headquartered in the building—it ran from New Orleans, the Crescent City, to Cincinnati, the Queen City—this boutique hotel makes a comfortable base for exploring the nearby French Quarter. Strict preservation laws prevent major changes to the structure, which was the tallest in the city when it opened in 1913. The rooms, small but comfortable, house simple, elegant furnishings. Tasteful floral prints accent the deluxe queen rooms, and an armoire conceals the flat-screen TV.
On the hotel's fourth floor, a modest fitness center stays open 24 hours a day. Off the lobby, the Club Car Lounge pours local brews such as Dixie and Abita alongside the house-special Fire Starter cocktail, a potent concoction served with a flaming cherry on top. Every morning, the bar hosts a basic cereal-and-pastries breakfast buffet.
New Orleans's French Quarter: Vivid Local Color and Generations-Old Culture
"Stop thinking of New Orleans as the worst-organized city in the United States," writes author Dan Baum. "Start thinking of it as the best-organized city in the Caribbean." There's definitely something foreign about New Orleans, where life moves at a different pace and priorities incline toward enjoying life and living in the moment.
In the French Quarter, located a few minutes' walk north of the hotel, historical buildings with intricate wrought-iron balconies line the narrow streets. Just off Jackson Square, the legendary Café Du Monde serves beignets under heaping piles of powdered sugar, as well as cups of iced or steaming café au lait. Most evenings, street musicians set up shop on the north side of the square. At the open-air Café Pontalba, you can take in the scene while feasting on a roast-beef po boy and downing an Abita amber.
Deeper in the Quarter, the city's rich gumbo of cultural influences becomes even more apparent. Bennachin Restaurant on Royal Street serves excellent African cuisine, and nearby Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar claims to be the oldest saloon in the country.
And then there's Bourbon Street. Considered a mecca for some partiers, it might feel like a neon-lit level of perdition if you're in the post-collegiate crowd. Nearby Frenchmen Street, just north of the Quarter, offers an authentic alternative. Small jazz and blues bars line the street, drawing locals with performers such as trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, known to out-of-towners for his recurring role on HBO's Treme. At The Spotted Cat Music Club, where jazz and smoke fill the air, a sign warns that drinks and drunks are both barred from the piano—but like all rules in New Orleans, it's one that's bound to get bent from time to time.