New Orleans welcomes tourists; along with Baton Rouge area, offers wide variety of tastes, sightscomment (0)
October 11, 2007
By Linda Holloway
Louisiana is an ideal place to visit in winter. In this state, you will find a multicultural city inviting visitors to sample unique cuisine. You can travel to a town where buttons fill the lobby and vault of a bank. You can also enjoy the attractions of the capital city, including wild animals, dolls and a World War II relic.
The city of New Orleans — and especially the French Quarter area — has always been as diverse as the people who visit there. Tourists can soak up history, architecture, art and antiques and can enjoy the family attractions. New Orleans is also known for famous chefs who can whip up their signature dishes in minutes. While volunteers from Habitat for Humanity, City Year, Catholic Charities USA, Baptist churches and other organizations continue to help rebuild neighborhoods, the city has the answer to rebuilding its tax base — one tourist at a time.
Before Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005, tourism was the city’s top industry, accounting for 40 percent of its local economy. According to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, there are more than 850 restaurants open in Orleans Parish — well above the pre-Katrina total of 809. All the major hotels and attractions are open as well.
Visitors can enjoy the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, paddle wheeler cruises on the Mississippi River and bus tours and carriage rides in the French Quarter. You will want to visit museums such as the New Orleans Museum of Art and National World War II Museum.
On a walk down one of the most famous streets in the French Quarter, Royal Street, you will find such businesses as Hotel Monteleone, the oldest hotel in New Orleans. Since 1886, the family-owned hotel has drawn such visitors as authors Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner and earned the Friends of Libraries U.S.A. Literary Landmark designation.
Since 1946, Brennan’s Restaurant is where tourists have flocked for morning delicacies. The restaurant on Royal Street is housed in a historic building constructed around 1795 for the great-grandfather of the French impressionist painter Edgar Degas. For more fine dining, try Mr. B’s Bistro and for casual dining, enjoy Café Beignet.
You will find more than a dozen galleries and antique shops such as Keil’s Antiques. Hermina Keil opened her business in 1899 as one of only three antique shop owners in the Vieux Carré. Today fourth-generation family members run the business.
You will also want to take a stroll to 624 Pirate’s Alley in the French Quarter, where you will find rare-edition books at Faulkner House Books. This bookstore is located in the house where William Faulkner lived on the ground floor in 1925. For more New Orleans information, call 1-800-672-6124 or visit www.neworleanscvb.com.
Baton Rouge is the state’s capital and home to Louisiana State University. Learn about the state’s history at Louisiana’s Old State Capitol Center for Political and Governmental History. You will also want to visit the Louisiana Art & Science Museum, which houses the Irene W. Pennington Planetarium. The museum also features art exhibitions, hands-on science exhibits and treasures from ancient Egypt. At the Baton Rouge zoo, children can see more than 1,800 animals, and the KidsZoo has a playground and hands-on encounters with farm animals.
Another Baton Rouge attraction that adults and children will enjoy is the Enchanted Mansion. In this doll museum, you can walk through a life-size Victorian doll house. Here, you will find rare, antique dolls, as well as one-of-a kind dolls.
For those with a military interest, be sure you visit the USS KIDD Veteran’s Memorial Museum. You can also board a restored National Historic Landmark, the USS KIDD (DD-661) WWII Fletcher-class destroyer, and travel through more than 50 inner spaces, which are rooms within the bowels of the destroyer such as the galley, sleeping quarters and chief’s quarters. The USS Kidd was awarded 12 battle stars in the Pacific during World War II and the Korean conflict. For more information, call 1-800-LA-ROUGE or visit www.VisitBatonRouge.com.
Less than an hour’s drive from Baton Rouge, you will find the historic town of St. Francisville, where there are more than 100 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Some of the South’s most renowned plantations homes, including Rosedown, are located here. You will find specialty shopping in the downtown area, and be sure to visit Grandmother’s Buttons located in the historic district.
In 1985, Susan Davis and her 95-year-old grandmother spent the afternoon sifting through the odd assortment of tins and boxes that held the grandmother’s lifetime accumulation of buttons. Davis turned the buttons into elegant jewelry, and today the jewelry is distributed to stores across the country.
The 19th-century buttons are made into jewelry in a historic 1905 bank building, where the majority of pieces are still made with actual 100-year-old buttons. You will find the jewelry displayed in the lobby, and the vault houses the Button Museum, which features an assortment of antique fasteners. The highlight of the museum is a rare George Washington inaugural button that was produced for the delegates to our first president’s inauguration. For more information, call 1-800-580-6941 or visit www.grandmothersbuttons.com. For St. Francisville tourist information, call 1-800-789-4221 or visit www.stfrancisville.us.