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Top 10 New Orleans Hot Spots

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All work and no play makes Jack (or Jill) a dull doctor. Thankfully, New Orleans offers lots of respites and recreation to keep your work-to-play ratio in the right balance.

While there are literally hundreds of restaurants, clubs, museums, and attractions to choose from, the following top 10 list hones those choices down to the best of the best. Enjoy!

  1. Breakfast at Brennan’s

A culinary phenomenon since 1946, Brennan’s is particularly famous for its imaginative breakfasts, including their Crabmeat Omelette topped with Hollandaise sauce and the ever-popular Eggs Bayou Lafourche.

Brennan’s is located at 417 Royal Street, in the heart of the French Quarter. Reservations are required. Call 504.525.9711 to save yourself a seat.

  1. Emeril’s Delmonico Restaurant

No trip to New Orleans would be complete without a visit to one of Emeril Lagasse’s famous restaurants — and Delmonico’s is not to be missed. Serving just brunch and dinner, Delmonico’s offers up some Big Easy favorites, including Emeril’s BBQ shrimp with Baked Grits, Seafood Gumbo and of course, Bittersweet Chocolate Bread Pudding with Milk Chocolate-Jack Daniels Ice Cream and Gingered Apricots. Can anyone say “seconds”?

Delmonico’s is located at 1300 St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District. Reservations are not required, but they are highly recommended. To make sure they have a table for you, call 504.525.4937.

  1. Café Du Monde

The world-famous French market coffee stand never disappoints. Pull up a chair and relax while you enjoy rich chicory coffee and sweet, powdery beignets. If you aren’t familiar with either of these delicacies, then make Café Du Monde your first stop.

The original shop is located at 800 Decatur Street, with another location in the Riverwalk Marketplace.

  1. Riverwalk Marketplace

If it’s shopping you’re after, then the Riverwalk Marketplace is for you. Riverwalk Marketplace is the premier festival marketplace in New Orleans. Constructed on the site of the 1984 World’s Fair along the Mississippi River, this half-mile of fun contains nearly 100 distinct shops, cafes and restaurants. Best of all, it is within walking distance of the French Quarter, Downtown and most major hotels. Plus, it is adjacent to the Convention Center!

Choose from tried-and-true stores like Ann Taylor Loft and the Gap, or explore the local flavors of Me-Mi Culture, Orleans Jewels and Mardi Gras Madness. When you’ve shopped ‘til you dropped, stop on in at Fat Tuesday on the Spanish Plaza and sip on a hurricane while you enjoy live jazz and steamboat parade.

The Riverwalk Marketplace is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

  1. Mardi Gras World

Never been to Mardi Gras? No problem! You can experience all the magic at Mardi Gras World. Since 1947, Blaine Kern's family-run company has grown to create 75 percent of all the spectacular props and floats seen in Mardi Gras parades.

From the minute you arrive until the minute you leave, you are immersed in the fun and excitement that is Mardi Gras. After a brief introduction by a knowledgeable guide and a spirited video about the history of Mardi Gras, you have the opportunity to dress up in authentic, ornate carnival costumes. Ladies can slither into sequined headdresses and gowns, while the gentlemen don regal coats of armor.

During the self-guided portion of your tour, you'll enter a maze of amazing props of all sizes. In one area, artists, painters and sculptors work their magic before your very eyes, repairing heaps of props on the spot. You can even watch floats being created in the artists' warehouse, a big carpentry and paint shop where workers build and decorate sensational floats.

But the scene-stealers are the colorful Mardi Gras props themselves — including a gigantic jovial jester, fiercely realistic alligators and a gorgeous Marilyn Monroe — all of which are sure to enchant even the most skeptical. You even get a chance to see some the most impressive floats ever built for carnival — the Orpheus 140-foot triple-tandem sea monster "Leviathan" and the 240-foot quintuple-tandem "Captain Eddie's S.S. Endymion," with tens of thousands of fiber optic lights.

This amazing fantasy factory is located at 233 Newton Street, and is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

  1. The Backstreet Cultural Museum

For a different side of Mardi Gras and Big Easy life, visit this museum devoted to an amazing assortment of memorabilia indigenous to Mardi Gras, jazz funerals and other traditions found only in New Orleans.

Located in the Treme section, the oldest African-American neighborhood in the United States, the Backstreet Museum, once the home of the Blandin Funeral Home, houses the city’s largest collection of Mardi Gras Indian costumes. These brilliantly colored and elaborately designed costumes are handmade by local artisans. Each costume boasts thousands of beads, shells, rhinestones, sequins and feathers and takes a year to make. Costing upwards of $10,000 a piece, the costumes are artistic treasures.

Today more than 20 tribes are found in Louisiana — White Cloud Hunters, Wild Apache, Flaming Arrows and Yellow Pocahontas, to name a few. These tribes design and create elaborately beaded and feathered costumes worn only on Mardi Gras day and the Sunday preceding or following St. Joseph’s Day. These costumes can be worn only in the year in which they are created.

The museum also houses an enormous collection of still photos and video footage of Mardi Gras Indians, jazz funerals and second lines.

The Backstreet Cultural Museum is located at 1116 St. Claude Avenue and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  1. Voodoo Museum

This is not your run-of-the-mill museum. Whether you believe in voodoo or are simply intrigued with the dark arts, this museum is guaranteed to intrigue.

You’ll learn about Marie Laveau, a free woman of African, Indian, French and Spanish heritage who was the first commercial Voodoo Queen in the world. She became so famous and powerful that she acclaimed herself the Pope of Voodoo in the 1830s. A devout Catholic, going to mass each day, she got permission to hold rituals behind St. Louis Cathedral.

You can also take one of the most unique tours you’ll ever experience, including the Mourning tour, which visits the oldest cemetery in New Orleans, which just so happens to house Marie Laveau. Or perhaps you’ll opt for the Tour of the Undead, an evening tour that investigates haunted houses and reveals documented ghost and vampire stories. If you prefer something a bit “safer,” check out the Singing Bones Tour that explores voodoo’s gift to the music of New Orleans.

The Voodoo Museum is located at 724 Dumaine Street. Call 504.680.0128 for tour times.

  1. Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

The extraordinary Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, nestled against the Mississippi River, is home to 15,000 sea-life creatures, representing nearly 600 species, living happily in a state-of-the-art facility.

Visitors can get up close and personal with some of the most fascinating creatures of the ocean. The Caribbean Reef tunnel, for example, is 30 feet long and allows the visitor a view of the Caribbean sea life viewed only by divers. The new Seahorses Gallery showcases these beautiful creatures as they swim gracefully between the grasses in their home and glide through the water. Remember, only the male seahorses give birth.

You’ll also find rare and endangered species, such as the white alligator — just 18 of these animals were found in a Louisiana swamp. And if you hold true to Cajun lore, seeing a white alligator is considered good luck!

Want to pet a shark? Here’s your chance. The shark touch pool allows visitors to touch a baby shark and talk with the naturalist. Want to be entertained by sea otters, rare neon colored frogs or jaunty penguins? They are all here! The half-million-gallon Gulf of Mexico exhibit teems with fully-grown sharks and undersea life that thrive around the barnacled pilings of a simulated oil rig. If anaconda snakes, poisonous frogs and stunning exotic birds are your interest, then visit the aquarium’s Amazon rain forest exhibit.

The Audubon Aquarium is located at 1 Canal Street. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. Be sure to set aside plenty of time to enjoy this amazing museum filled with aquatic life you’ve only read about.

  1. Pat O’Brien’s

No one can visit New Orleans and not venture into the historic Pat O’Brien’s for at least one Hurricane. Famous for its dueling pianos, this French Quarter bar/restaurant also boasts another unique trademark — a flaming water fountain with fire emerging from the center.

With several bars to choose from, including the large Main Bar, the lively Piano Bar or the cozy Bourbon Bar, you are sure to get a taste of New Orleans at Pat O’Brien’s.

Pat O’Brien’s is located on the corner of Bourbon Street and St. Peter’s Street in the French Quarter.

  1. d.b.a.

As the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans has a long and distinguished musical history, with jazz clubs on virtually every corner. But if you want to experience New Orleans like a local, then cruise on over to d.b.a., a self-described “hip but not trendy” jazz club that offers off-the-cuff music geared toward local music lovers.

d.b.a. is located at 618 Frenchmen Street, in the heart of the Frenchmen Street music district.

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