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Summer may be coming to an end, but New Orleans is a hot destination year round. The French Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods have everything you’d want from a southern escape (minus the Bible Belt conservatism). As you prepare for this year's Southern Decadence, don't forget to explore the many indulgences of the Big Easy.
No trip to New Orleans can begin on an empty stomach, let alone without a proper taste of the local cuisines. Start with beignets at Café Du Monde—a popular spot to check out that is always delicious—or opt for bottomless brunch at The Country Club, where you can enjoy unlimited drinks and entrees like fried green tomato benedict or buttermilk fried chicken and waffles. (Don’t worry, you can work off the calories after by taking a dip in the pool out back.)
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If you’re craving a quick caffeine pick-me-up before dinner, stop by Who Dat Coffee Café or Spitfire Coffee, whose iced chai lattes are the perfect spicy cool-down. Once you’ve worked up an appetite (remember, there’s never enough food in NOLA!), check out the city’s Creole or Cajun selects. Head to K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen for legendary homestyle cooking, or visit Commander’s Palace, a classic, upscale fine dining landmark known for decades for its unparalleled Creole crawfish and succotash. For a more casual vibe, check out Coop’s Place for a tasting plate that has a little bit of everything (seafood gumbo, red beans and rice, rabbit and sausage jambalaya). Whichever place you choose, you’ll want to take a stroll afterwards. Wander through the Warehouse District where the culinary options are plenty and you can pick out your spot for tomorrow’s dinner, from heavenly Cajun dishes at Cochon Restaurant to the trendy-modern options at Root.
Where you stay while in New Orleans is very important: you want to be well-rested, but you also want a place where you can relax and decompress. Just around the corner from Bourbon Street is the Bourbon Orleans, a luxury hotel that combines convenience and class for you and your travel-mates. If you want to balance a weekend of activity with a hint of historical significance, there are numerous options. Consider Maison Dupuy, which is beautifully restored and offers various types of room. There’s also Lafitte Guest House, a boutique spot with gorgeous moldings and woodwork, or Soniat House, a seamlessly preserved building with modern amenities.
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Want to rest your head someplace a little more quaint? Nothing beats the charm of a bed and breakfast! Elysian Fields Inn in the historic Faubourg Marigny will make you feel right at home, or The Burgundy, an LGBT-friendly locale also in the Marigny.
Regardless of where you stay, this city is never short of recreation. Recently under new ownership, Oz remains one of New Orleans’ most popular gay clubs with the hottest go-go boys and the fiercest drag queens. Just across the street is Bourbon Pub & Parade, an ideal bar to pregame or day drink. Then enjoy some of the local favorites like Café Lafitte and Mag’s 940. Follow those up with any and all of the best gay clubs in the south, from Good Friends and Kajun’s Pub to Corner Pocket, Phoenix, and Rawhide 2010. There’s a spot for every scene, mild to wild.
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For fun outside the bar, make sure to go to the New Orleans Museum of Art, the oldest fine arts museum in the city of New Orleans that boasts the beautiful Besthoff Sculpture Garden. Then visit the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium for a touch of nature. A good lounge in the park also goes a long way, and Audubon Park or New Orleans City Park are two great parks to explore. Both have gorgeous 100-year-old oaks with spanish moss, lagoons and other picturesque scenery to tour. For a romantic cruise through New Orleans bayous, City Park offers rentals of an authentic, Venetian-made gondola. Romance not in the picture? Rent a bike, surrey or boat instead.
Once you’re feeling restored, make sure you bring a memento or two back home with you. Rubensteins and Aristocracy NOLA offer a selection of men’s clothing you won’t easily find anywhere else. Hazelnut has a mix of home goods and gifts that are both chic and timeless, in addition to Miss Smart Pants, where you can buy jewelry and candles. Just don’t forget to explore on your own—you never know what store you’ll end up finding.
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Whether you visit New Orleans for the perpetual nightlife, the Cajun cuisine or the charm of the southern boys, there’s a big something for everyone.