Destination Guide: New Orleans
Let the good times roll, without watching your healthy attitude roll right out the door. Yes, it can be easy to stay on Plan in the Big Easy.
If you do nothing more than saunter through the seductive, gaslamp-lit streets and move to the mysterious moan of an alto sax wailing over the ancient slate roofs, you’d be properly visiting New Orleans. But beyond those absolutes, the city is rich in sights to see and things to do. Few visitors realize how small, level and activity-friendly New Orleans is – so your workout doesn’t have to take a vacation just because you do. Pack the pedometer, and do attend to appropriate attire, sunscreen and hydration. Need more direction? Try these ideas:
- Strolling the French Quarter is as good as sightseeing gets, and you’ll also rack up some activity PointsPlus® values. We love the eye candy along Royal Street, where the windows flaunt fabulous antiques (check out the outrageous collection at M.S. Rau), lavish jewelry and elegant art. And there’s no shame – and more activity PointsPlus values – in doing the Dougie or jitterbugging to those street bands! Or, succumb to the tempting boutiques along Chartres Street or the permanent Spring break that is Bourbon Street, in all its sordid, neon-lit glory.
- Power walk the Moonwalk, the scenic promenade fronting the Mississippi River along the French Quarter’s edge. The mile-long path is dotted with public art and the occasional busker for your entertainment.
- Bicycling is such an ideal way to see New Orleans that these tours fill up fast, so book in advance with Confederacy of Cruisers or Big Easy Bike Tours. Sociable, local guides lead small groups through some of the cool, lesser-traveled neighborhoods – like the Marigny and the Tremé – on comfy cruisers (helmets provided). The rides aren’t strenuous but a comfort level with street riding is in order.
- Placid Bayou St. John is not only lovely for kayaking, it’s actually the reason New Orleans was built. The smart guides from Kayakiti-yat will explain it all, bring the equipment and work your upper body something fierce.
- City Park has 1,300 dazzling acres of oaks draped in Spanish moss, lakes with pedal boats and rowboats, tennis courts, golf courses, running and walking paths and a kids amusement park. Mix your workout with artwork here at the top-notch New Orleans Museum of Art and Besthoff Sculpture Garden.
- Club hop and booty shake on Frenchmen Street. Bourbon has the booze and breasts (and you should go, just to say you did) – but nowadays Frenchmen boasts the true funky, music-drenched New Orleans experience. Every night, the sounds of brass and banjos beckon from ten clubs in a four block stretch. Our faves: The Spotted Cat, d.b.a., and Snug Harbor.
- Gaze at the glamorous antebellum mansions as you ride the leisurely St. Charles Avenue streetcar. Take a round-trip, or hop off at Washington Street. It’s the starting point to a walking tour of the Garden District homes and elegantly decaying Lafayette Cemetery; and maybe (if you’ve reserved a table), lunch at the perpetually-splendid Commander’s Palace, the city’s premier restaurant.
- Take a swamp tour. Up close and in their natural habitat, alligators are magnificent and fascinating – as are the ancient, serene Louisiana swamps. The superb Captains of Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tours know every flora, fauna and flyer, making this picturesque outing a must-do (even when the ‘gators are in winter hibernation).
- Visit beautiful Jackson Square and tour the surrounding historic attractions, starting with a look inside stately St. Louis Cathedral, which dates to 1729. History buffs will want to spend time in the Cabildo, site of the signing of the Louisiana Purchase, now a state museum housing Napoleon’s death mask (left of the Cathedral). The Presbyteremuseum, with terrific Mardi Gras and Katrina exhibits, is on the Cathedral’s right. The nearby 1850 House recreates a typical New Orleans family apartment, circa mid-19th century, and tells the scandal story of the Pontalba family who built this square.