Known for its use of Cajun pepper, tropical fruits, and spices, dining out in New Orleans is an exciting sensory experience. Creole cuisine is a melting pot, incorporating French, Spanish, Mediterranean, Caribbean and African flavours, as well as hearty comfort food from the Deep South.
Travellers will find the world-famous French Quarter, mostly geared towards tourists, is where just about any and every kind of Creole restaurant is found, particularly on the famous Bourbon Street. Restaurants serve mouth-watering arrays of jambalaya, red beans and rice, gumbo and Cajun crawfish, among other local favourites.
Those with a sweet tooth are in for a treat in New Orleans, where the desserts are as sticky as they come. Favourites include pecan pie, while pralines and Bananas Foster are staples on most restaurant menus.
Visitors shouldn't forget an order of deep-fried beignets with their coffee, nor should they miss the chance to sample a notorious cocktail called the 'Hurricane'.
New Orleans has its own special take on the sandwich, which comes in two varieties. Po'boys are served on a round French loaf and packed to the rafters with beef, oysters, shrimp, gravy and all the trimmings; uffalettas are huge Italian loaves stuffed with cold meats and olive salad.
Shopping in New Orleans promises a great selection of antiques, arts, vintage clothing and unique jewellery. There are various malls, markets, boutiques and specialist shops that satisfy most retail desires. Like the city itself, the shopping experience tends to be quirky.
The French Quarter is unsurpassed as a sightseeing or boutique shopping experience. It's also home to legendary New Orleans voodoo shops and some fantastic costume and mask shops, great for extravagant Mardi Gras celebrations or Halloween.
Magazine Street also has costume and mask shops, as well as stores offering elegant furnishings, hand-smocked garments and local arts. There are various jewellers in town offering unique, custom-made adornments.
New Orleans confectioners have a special touch, and sweets such as pralines make popular gifts. Some of the best are sampled at Southern Candymakers, Leah's Candy Kitchen and Aunt Sally's Praline Shop. For those into food markets, there's Crescent City Farmer's Market, which sells exotic vegetables, beautiful flowers and fresh seafood.
Travellers shouldn't forget to sample the best in local music. Dixieland records make fabulous souvenirs, bought at many vibrant music stores. Items such as Louis XIV chairs and African masks are available from numerous antique stores, while art galleries on Royal Street also hold infinite treasures.
New Orleans is a city of music and rhythm, most famous for jazz, Cajun and zydeco music, and its nightlife reflects this with enthusiasm. There are countless bars along Bourbon Street, and the party invariably pours out onto the sidewalks. While most places have a cover charge, it's not always necessary to actually go inside! Some of the best clubs and bars are in the neighbourhoods of the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny.
Preservation Hall is a must for jazz fans, while Maple Leaf Bar is another popular spot for live music. Molly's is said to be the best bar in the French Quarter and Napoleon House offers a fantastic Pimm's Cup Cocktail. Nightclubs come and go but the best nightlife districts are lively and fun almost every night of the year.