Old Landmarks, New Life in Classic New Orleans

A decade after Hurricane Katrina, a new energy radiates from the Crescent City. Yet old standbys continue to bring a welcome sense of continuity and tradition to the heart of New Orleans. Here’s a look at what’s changed for the better and what happily remains the same in three classic NOLA neighborhoods.

> Uptown: 

Katrina scarcely mussed this quiet neighborhood of mansions and manners let alone disturb the residents of Lafayette Cemetery. It remains a treasure of the Garden District.

Tipitina’s, or Tip’s, as everyone calls the juke joint, has nurtured Louisiana’s musical heritage since its 1977 founding, nurturing artists such as Professor Longhair, the Neville Brothers, and the Meters. It continues to be a mecca for music lovers everywhere.

Planned to be grand, Audubon Park weathers the years by scarcely changing at all. The old oaks reign. Audubon Zoo still delights families, even more with a water park attraction that opened this year.

Freret Street, scarcely a thought before 2005, blossomed post-Katrina. Music club Gasa Gasa and restaurants like Company BurgerDat Dog, and Midway Pizza fill the ears and stomachs of Loyola and Tulane students and anyone else eager for a fun and affordable night on the town in this up-and-coming Uptown corridor.

> French Quarter:

The Vieux Carre soldiers on, the city’s lusty heart still seducing travelers with its narrow streets, filigreed balconies, and hidden courtyards.

New restaurants like SylvainAngeline, and R’evolution freshen palates while beloved icons like Café du Monde and the august Antoine’s, celebrating its 175th birthday in 2015, keep with tradition.

Reopening last fall after a family dispute closed it, the classic restaurant Brennan’s once more offers its famed pink-and-green décor, French-inspired food and flaming Bananas Foster.

> Central Business District (CBD):

After the storm, downtown New Orleans skyscrapers decided to take reservations. Lots of them. New hotel names in the neighborhoods include: ACLe Méridien, and Aloft. Redone and cushy: The Queen and Crescent.

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The National WWII Museum (for which this author once worked) and its expansion from one building to five immense pavilions on a six-acre campus, attracted attention from everyone.

The museum employs digital graphics, hanging fighter planes, and WWII-veteran docents to tell its story. A new exhibit documenting the war’s Pacific Theate, from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay, opens in December.

New Orleans-based writer Andrew Nelson is a contributing editor at National Geographic Traveler. Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrewnelson.

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