A City Reborn - New Orleans Plantation Country
stateside | NeW Orleans
Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, business and tourism are booming in New Orleans.
A City Reborn
New Orleans struts its stuff with a remarkable recovery.
By Sharon McDonnell
Photo: © Lawrence
Weslowski Jr |
n the 10 years since Hurricane Katrina flooded most of the city
after the levees collapsed, New Orleans has soared in a phoenixlike recovery. The city that loves to celebrate now boasts more
hotel rooms, restaurants, green space, live music venues and transit
options than before, plus hundreds of new development projects.
Often topping best-city lists, in 2014 New Orleans drew 9.52 million
visitors who spent $6.8 billion, the highest per-visitor spend in its
history. More than 1.1 million business travelers arrived for conventions and trade shows.
A former French and Spanish colony with strong Caribbean
and African accents, New Orleans is famous for its distinctive
culture, food, ubiquitous music from blues and jazz to zydeco,
and architecture ranging from Creole cottages and lacy Spanishstyle cast iron balconies to Greek Revival mansions and shotgun
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houses. Forbes publisher Richard Karlgaard called the changes
“the greatest turnaround of our lifetime,” as its business startup
rate exceeds the national average. In a story about the biggest U.S.
brain-magnets, Forbes named New Orleans the top U.S. city luring
college graduates under age 25.
“Katrina became a catalyst for our reinvention and growth,”
says Stephen Perry, president, New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau, of the costliest storm in U.S. history. Reform-minded
Mayor Mitch Landrieu, $120 billion in Federal recovery funds,
billions in private aid, the resilience of residents who rebuilt plus
an influx of thousands of newcomers (many of whom came to
volunteer but stayed) transformed New Orleans, whose population
of 384,000 reflects 79 percent of its pre-Katrina figure.
Hotels range from major chains to boutiques and small inns,
many with outdoor pools due to the steamy climate. The 22,000
downtown hotel rooms cluster less than a mile from major attractions and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Some are just a
few steps away, like Hilton New Orleans Riverside, which features
the city’s biggest fitness facility, a 90,000-square-foot health club
and air-conditioned tennis courts plus more than 130,000 square
feet of event space.
New hotels include the nearby Le Méridien New Orleans, an
Ernest N. Morial Convention
Hilton New Orleans Riverside
Mardi Gras World
Le Méridien New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS ORIGINAL: Po' boy sandwich
Photo: © Darryl Brooks | Dreamstime.com
artsy contemporary-style hotel with 20,000 square feet of
meeting space, opened following a $29 million renovation
and rebranding of the former W New Orleans Hotel. The
city’s first Four Seasons, part of a $360 million redevelopment of the World Trade Center at the foot of Canal Street
and the Mississippi River, is slated to open in 2018, New
Orleans’ 300th anniversary.
The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, whose 1.1
million square feet of contiguous exhibit space is considered
one of the biggest in the country, offers a 4,000-seat theater;
a 60,000-square-foot Great Hall; and 140 meeting rooms.
The center’s ongoing $90 million-plus improvement plan
includes a re-imagining of its riverfront with a new hotel, a
park and retail and arts venues. For an only-in-New Orleans
VIP experience, business groups can strut in a memorable
private parade with a brass band, arranged through the city’s
One Stop Shop, or hold an event at Mardi Gras World,
where most of the fanciful floats for Mardi Gras are created.
Long revered as a dining destination for its Creole
cuisine — with gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish étouffée, po’
boy sandwiches, beignets and trout amandine among local
specialties — New Orleans lays claim to 12 winners of
the James Beard Best Chef: South award. Chefs have won
every year but one from 2010 to 2015 for new restaurants
like Cochon, Peche Seafood Grill and Domenica (in The
Roosevelt New Orleans, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel), while
previous winners include Commander’s Palace (whose chef,
Emeril Lagasse, won back in 1991) and Galatoire’s. The city
boasts 1,400 restaurants — 600 more than before Katrina.
As befits its state of perpetual festivity, the city holds 130
festivals a year, including the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage
Festival, where dozens of internationally and regionally
known bands perform outdoors; the New Orleans Wine &
Food Experience, whose Grand Tasting stars more than 100
local chefs and more than 200 winemakers in the convention
center; and Mardi Gras, the two-week bacchanal.
New Orleans Convention &
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage
New Orleans Wine & Food
Nottoway Plantation & Resort
Oak Alley Plantation
One Stop Shop
The Roosevelt New Orleans
Northwest of New Orleans, wander Louisiana’s Great River Road to see the many ornate antebellum
plantation mansions shaded by live oaks. Once owned by wealthy sugar, cotton and indigo planters,
many of the mansions are open to tour, and some offer B&B rooms, restaurants and space for events
and meetings. Oak Alley, a much-photographed white 1839 Greek Revival mansion, and Laura, a
Creole plantation once owned by a French family, both reside in Vacherie. Nottoway, the largest
surviving plantation home in the South, lies farther north in White Castle, 18 miles south of Baton
Rouge. From New Orleans, take I-10 west to Exit 220, turn onto I-310 and follow it to Highway 48,
which becomes Great River Road, or Highway 44. Bridges connect the river’s west and east banks.
ANTEBELLUM MANSION: Historic Nottoway Plantation & Resort
Photo: © Jorg Hackemann | Dreamstime.com
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