HOTELS, INNS & LODGING IN NEW ORLEANS
The first few times I visited New Orleans I will confess that I acted a bit like a “tourist”, and did what most tourist do – booked a room at a big chain hotel on Canal Street. There are a couple of incredibly luxurious places on and around Canal – such as the Ritz, the Roosevelt, and the Monteleone – and if you have the money, I say go for it! However, if you looking for something a little more economical, and with more local ambiance, I would suggest looking inside the French Quarter or Faubourg Mariny . . . or seeking small inns and B&Bs in other neighborhoods such as the Garden District, Mid City & Esplanade Ridge . . . or heading Uptown along St. Charles Avenue towards Carrollton-Riverbend . . . or you can even be unconventional and cross the river to stay in Algiers.
If you check out any online hotel-booking site, you will find the cheapest deals near the airport and around the suburb of Metairie – but, unless you’re strictly there for business, you’ll be missing out on the architecture, music, culture and overall vibe of the historic & unique aspects of the city.
I have also found that the chain hotels in NOLA are not always as quiet, clean and nice as they may be elsewhere. People often come to the city seeking dreams of debauchery – believe it or not – and they tend to party all night . . . and even get sick in their rooms. Most hotels are thoroughly cleaned . . . but there is only so much you can do. People can also be quite loud and obnoxious; of course, this can happen anywhere – but the chances are a little greater at a big chain hotel than they are at a cozy smaller inn. However, if you don’t mind these minor inconveniences, or don’t plan on spending much time in your room, such places will probably suit you just fine.
I stayed at one of the upscale, big chain hotels on Canal Street about 20 years ago, and was a bit surprised to find that the room looked and smelled more like a well-worn budget motel – the room wasn’t even very clean. I also stayed at The Hilton Garden Inn at the Convention Center, in the Warehouse District. It was after Katrina, so it was freshly renovated and very affordable; our room was lovely, it was extremely clean, and we had a great view. We also found that the side-street next the hotel was one of the few that still had free parking without a permit (Shhhhhh). The only issue we had, was that it was slightly out-of-the-way for easy walking access to the French Quarter & the Marigny. I’ve also stayed at a couple of chain hotels in Metairie, and they were fine – but nothing I couldn’t find off of any exit ramp on any freeway in America.
Since you’re going to New Orleans, look for a LOCAL hotel, inn or B&B! There are a lot of them, and each one has its own unique charm, feel and appeal. I would suggest that you read reviews on Trip Advisor and other travel review sites before booking any rooms – because sometimes the local flavor and charm may not be quite what you are seeking. One person’s paradise can be another’s nightmare.
For example, the first time I ever visited New Orleans I stayed at a very small “International Hostel” that has long since been closed. However, it was extremely affordable, and consisted only of 3 double beds in a single room shotgun house, including a small kitchen & bathroom. I discovered on the first night that the 3 beds often slept 6 people . . . so, I learned to share. I had traveled extensively in Europe and loved meeting my new roommates each day – but most Americans probably wouldn’t have felt quite the same. There are several hostels in New Orleans – but if you want privacy, I wouldn’t suggest it. It is highly suggested that you read reviews and do a little research before staying anywhere, so that you know exactly what to expect when you arrive . . . unless you like surprises.
My wife prefers rooms with exposed brick or wood, and a rustic, historic, romantic ambiance that just “feels like” New Orleans. One of the coolest places we’ve stayed over the years was the Degas House – an upscale B&B in the former home of impressionist painter and sculptor Edgar Degas. It was more akin to staying in a museum, with the added appeal of also being cozy, romantic, and unique.
My wife and I usually are only able to visit New Orleans once a year – typically the last week in July / first weekend in August. The primary reason for this is the Satchmo Summerfest, which is a local music festival honoring the great Louis Armstrong. The other reason, is that it is the only time of year we can actually afford to stay where we want to – rates are at their lowest point during this hottest time of the year. We stay at 4 & 5 star hotels for 1 & 2 star prices.
Last year my wife and I stayed at the Chateau Hotel on Chartres in the French Quarter, and had an extremely pleasant experience. It started off a little weird, because they lost our reservation, but . . . it worked out better than we expected. As a result of the snafu they upgraded us to one of their best suites for no extra cost. We’ve had that sort of thing happen a few times in New Orleans – and it always turns out to be a blessing in disguise. The room was lovely, cozy and unique; the courtyard was relaxing & beautiful; and the staff was nice and very accommodating.
We have previously (and repeatedly) stayed at several different Hotels in the French Quarter, such as the Place D’Armes, Hotel St. Marie, The Frenchman Hotel, The French Market Inn, Le Richelieu, and Villa Convento. Each place has its own charm and personality, each room is different (a few even claim to have their own ghost) and each one is more convenient to certain places and restaurants in the Quarter than all the others – which makes us miss the convenience of that particular hotel any time we hike through the heat to our destination. Since we attend the Satchmo Summerfest every year, which takes place in and around the Mint, I have had a good experience at each of these hotels – with stays for up to a week at a time – and would return to any of them in a heartbeat . . . if the rates are decent. The rates have risen each year since Katrina due to necessary upgrades, renovations and improvements – which makes them better & nicer places to stay . . . but also forces us to seek out new places with better rates each summer. Le Richelieu is our current hotel of choice, having stayed 3 times in a row – nice, clean, friendly, and has an extremely convenient parking lot in the back.
A few places we’ve heard good things about in the French Quarter – but have never had the pleasure of staying – are the historic & elegant Hotel Provincial, the hip & ultra-modern W New Orleans, and the beautifully upscale Omni Royal Orleans Hotel. There is also a lovely hotel that puts you right in the middle of the hustle, bustle and noise of Bourbon Street – the Royal Sonesta Hotel. It IS a nice place, but it is located on one of the noisiest streets in the world. The energy is appealing to some, and anathema to others – so, if that sort of thing bothers you, don’t stay in the middle of it. There are quiet places to stay, and noisy places to stay – so, choose accordingly. I honestly don’t understand those that come to stay, or choose to live full time, in the French Quarter . . . and then COMPLAIN about the live music. That is like going to the beach and complaining about the sand & water. New Orleans is all about sound, music, color, food, festivals, spice & rhythm – so don’t visit if you don’t like that kind of thing. I have better suggestions for you in the mountains of North Carolina.
You might also wish to explore the overall city of New Orleans rather than just stay in the French Quarter as my wife and I prefer to do. Each area has its own unique flavor, atmosphere and appeal – such as Uptown, Treme, Central Business & Warehouse District, Lakeview, Algiers, The Marigny, Garden District, or one of the many lovely neighborhoods with their own restaurants and inns.
We stayed at the Hotel Modern for a couple of nights during the New Orleans Film Festival, and it provided us with a completely different experience & atmosphere than what we typically find in the French Quarter. The Hotel is a converted YMCA and former flop house; transformed into a hip, funky, modern boutique hotel on Lee Circle. It is right around the corner from the Arts District (and the amazing WWII museum) and within walking distance of Magazine Street – so it gave us the opportunity to explore those areas a little more in depth.
If you prefer to rent from local hosts ,and actually stay in people’s homes, there is Air B&B – where options range from elaborate homes to private guest suites, to studios & single bed-sits. This service allows anyone with an extra room or sofa to rent it out to travelers & visitors. Another option is VRBO which offers fully furnished apartment and home rentals (short term and long term) for those that prefer to be independent from any hosts or hotels.
If you have a favorite place to stay, or have found particularly good rates at a clean, cozy local hotel, inn or B&B – please share the info below in the comment section! I’ll spread the good news.
You may also be interesting in checking out my other blog entries on the subject of New Orleans:
By the way, If anyone ever wants to invite my wife and I to stay with them in their home in New Orleans – or, house sit for them during any time of the year – we’ll do that! We’re very nice, and we can be highly entertaining. My wife is cute and very funny. I’m . . . well, my wife is cute and very funny. Besides . . . the more we socialize and spend with locals, the better!
Oh, one more thing – parking. If you have a car in the French Quarter, it can be a problem. There was a time, years ago, you could park almost anywhere – but there is no such thing as free parking anymore. Many hotels offer on site or off site parking lots, but they typically adds $20+ per day to your overall cost. Make sure you work that into the equation if necessary.
Happy hotel hunting – and let them know the Jazz Evangelist sent you!
J. Scott Fugate, “The Jazz Evangelist”