Tips for Planning a Romantic French Quarter Getaway

Steeped in history, the French Quarter is one of the most romantic destinations in the world, and the beautifully restored Place d’Armes Hotel is the perfect launching pad for love. Surrounded by lush tropical courtyards, it’s in the heart of the Quarter, where you can stroll hand in hand under the moonlight to a candlelit dinner. Swoon! Though it’s an ideal setting for just following your heart, you’ll get more out of your getaway with a little advance planning.

When to Go: A Season-by-Season Guide

You can find romance every day of the year in a city that keeps inventing new festivals for everything from daiquiris to fried chicken. But, depending on what you’re looking for, every season has its own attractions.

Holiday Season
Dance with the Ghost of Christmas Past in the Quarter, where you can join the throngs of carolers in Jackson Square, and eat elaborate, multicourse Reveillon Dinners based on traditional Creole meals once served after midnight mass. Make advance reservations in classic restaurants like Muriel’s Jackson Square (801 Chartres St.), right next to Place d’Armes, which dishes up specialties like fried oyster chowder and citrus-poached Gulf shrimp.

Mardi Gras Season
The biggest free party on earth is an entire season that can stretch on for weeks, depending on when Easter falls, so be sure to check the Mardi Gras Calendar before booking your rooms. Serious revelers hit town the final, parade-packed weekend leading up to Fat Tuesday, but you can also join the revelry at a less frenetic pace. Come for the lovely, romantic Joan of Arc Parade on 12th Night (January 6), which winds its way through the Quarter on horseback and foot and launches Mardi Gras season.

Spring & Summer Festival Seasons
Come spring, music lovers make a beeline for New Orleans during French Quarter Fest and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the great-grandaddy of them all, so advance booking is essential. But things slow down in summer, when you get more romance for your buck, thanks to great deals on hotels and restaurants. Summer also brings several marquee events in and around the Quarter, including Tales of the Cocktail, Satchmo SummerFest, White Linen Night and Dirty Linen Night.

Spooky Season
Many lovers come to New Orleans to pledge their troth as the witching hour of Halloween approaches, and the Quarter becomes even more haunted. And while destination weddings require precision planning, casual visitors can just slip on their fangs, walk out the door of the Place d’Armes, and join the masked revelry throughout spooky season at several parades and happenings. Fall also brings football fans eager to catch Who Dat fever in Saints country, which spreads like wildfire in the Quarter on a Sunday afternoon.

Where to Go: Tips for Lovers in Any Season

Take a Jazz Cruise on the Creole Queen

Cruising the Mississippi at night is très romantique on the Paddlewheeler Creole Queen, which takes you back to the glamorous days of high-rolling riverboat gamblers. Cut a rug on the parquet dance floor to hot live jazz, then cool down with a stroll on the decks and enjoy the skyline view under the stars.
(Book in advance online)

Take a Carriage Ride Through the Quarter
What better place to whisper sweet nothings than in a mule-drawn carriage clip-clopping through the Quarter?  Royal Carriages offers several group tour options led by savvy guides. But if you’re looking to pop the question, or just want to cozy up with your honey alone, book a private ride with your own personal driver, who can steer you to properly romantic backdrops for snuggling.
(Book in advance online)

Have a Candlelit Dinner in a Romantic Restaurant
For old-school Creole elegance, book a table for two at Antoine’s (713 St. Louis St.) or Arnaud’s (813 Bienville) and dine on classic French cuisine like Chateaubriand. Or go new-school at Bayona (430 Dauphine St.), chef Susan Spicer’s flagship restaurant, which serves beautifully plated dishes like Fennel Pepper-Crusted Lamb Loin in a lovely atmospheric setting.

Men’s Shopping in the French Quarter

Chart a more leisurely course in and around the Quarter, where you’ll discover world-class menswear shops unique to New Orleans, along with trendy hotspots for t-shirts and sneakers. The best part? There are plenty of watering holes along the way.

Rubensteins (Canal St., corner of St. Charles)

Founded in 1924, this classic old school haberdashery was the first retail store on Canal St. to open after Katrina, less than two months later. Talk about staying power! Repeatedly cited as a gold standard store by Esquire magazine, Rubensteins is known for its outstanding made-to-measure service, which tailors suits and shirts to your exact build. It also stocks a fine selection of off-the-rack designer suits, sportcoats, shirts, sportswear, shoes and accessories. Pro tip: Keep an eye out for sales events, when they serve up cocktails on the house.

Meyer the Hatter (120 St. Charles Ave., just off Canal St.)

Nothing puts a spring in a man’s step like a snappy Panama or fedora. Just down the block from Rubensteins is the largest and most renowned hat store in the South. Family-owned since 1894, Meyer the Hatter stocks everything from bowlers, top hats and safari hats to newsboy caps, and boasts an extensive collection of fine Panama straws. A splurge here won’t break the bank, either. Frequent sales abound, and everyday prices range from $20 to $100 for most styles, while top-tier toppers like the Stetson Aficionado Panama ($125) are under $200.

George Bass (201 St. Charles Ave.)

Known for its carefully curated collection of fine menswear from Italian labels like Santoria, Ferragamo and Luciano Barbera, George Bass is a relative newcomer to the Canal St./St. Charles corridor. First opened in 1985, it caters to guys who dress with continental flair but like to relax on the weekends in rugged Raleigh Denim stitched and signed by jeansmiths in Raleigh, NC. You’ll also find a small but choice selection of personal grooming products, including Aesop hydrating skin toners and Art of Shaving straight and safety razors.

NOLA Couture (528 St. Peter St.)

Born in the wake of Katrina, NOLA Couture created a witty collection of men’s bow-ties and ties with iconic local symbols like Shrimp Cocktail, Fleur de Lis and NOLAgators. It’s since expanded to include ready-to-wear styles for women, kids and pets. But unique ties are still its primary stock and trade and make terrific souvenirs to wow ‘em back home.

Dirty Coast (713 Royal St.)

You can stock up on t-shirts with hokey slogans like “Drunk #1” in any Quarter tourist shop. But guys with a more refined sense of humor head for Dirty Coast. Launched the year before Katrina, the brand made its mark post-K with a pithy tagline: “Be a New Orleanian wherever you are.” Buttery soft cotton Dirty Coast tees are emblazoned with clever slogans like “New Orleans Is My Favorite Restaurant.” One of our faves offers a crash course in local directionals: “River. Lake. Uptown. Downtown.”

Sneaker Politics (216 Chartres St.)

The streetwise sneaks at Sneaker Politics are the coolest kicks in town. When the Lafayette, LA-based store opened its French Quarter outpost across from House of Blues, a long line of fans waited in the rain to get first dibs on the latest releases from Nike, Converse, and Vans. Their patience was rewarded when New Orleans-born rapper Curren$y showed up and started pouring free champagne. How cool is that?

Girls Weekend in the French Quarter

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

New Orleans is the belle of the South, perfumed with magnolias and veiled with mysterious secrets, and her crown jewel is the French Quarter. Small wonder it’s become the destination of choice for fun-loving ladies from near and far.

Place d’Armes makes a great base camp; it’s right by Jackson Square, where colorful fortune-tellers ply their trades. But you don’t need a soothsayer to predict what the future holds. You’re here to eat, drink, and be merry (and do a little power-shopping). This guide helps you chart your course, but it’s only a starting point. Once you get the lay of the land, make it up as you go along. Discovering hidden gems on your own is part of the fun of the French Quarter.

Rise and Shine at Cafe Du Monde (800 Decatur St.)

Since 1862, New Orleanians have been dipping sugar-dusted beignets into steaming cups of cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde, where jazz combos provide a jaunty soundtrack and silver-painted mimes across the street stand still as statues. It’s a great introduction to the charms of the Quarter, and the perfect place to caffeinate for your adventures.

Browse the French Market and Stroll the Riverwalk

Cafe Du Monde is the gateway to three centuries of history in the French Market (1100 N. Peters St.), where you’ll find a lively flea market packed with affordable New Orleans souvenirs and handmade crafts by local artisans. Grab a sweet treat from Loretta’s Pralines, then stroll along the Mississippi and watch the passing parade of tourist riverboats and working vessels.

Have a Boozy Lunch or Brunch

For old-school elegance at bargain prices, you can’t beat the $20 three-course prix fixe lunch at Antoine’s (713 St. Louis St.), where you can wash down house specialties like char-broiled oysters with 25-cent martinis. Or live large at the Sunday jazz brunch at Arnaud’s (813 Bienville), and splurge on signature dishes like Savory Crabmeat Cheesecake, topped off with boozy Café Brûlot prepared tableside with fanfare and flames.

Go on a Shopping Spree

Release your inner diva at Fifi Mahoney’s (942 Royal St.), home of the wildest wigs on the planet and scads of glam accessories. Head for Bambi Deville Vintage (632 St. Ann St.) to try on timelessly elegant styles. And don’t miss Trashy Diva (537 Royal St.), which specializes in vintage-inspired dresses that make women of all sizes and shapes look like Hollywood stars.

Sip Classic Cocktails in Elegant Bars

It may be a UK import, but the Pimm’s Cup went viral in the 1940s at the Napoleon House (500 Chartres St.), which remains the go-to spot for the summery, herbaceous, gin-based cocktail. Sip a couple cucumber-garnished Pimm’s, then keep the buzz going with the namesake drink at French 75 (813 Bienville). Named one of the Top 5 Bars in the country by Esquire, its signature cocktail blends Courvoisier VS, lemon and sugar with Moet & Chandon champagne.

Dine Out in a Swanky Restaurant

Woman cannot live by po-boys and muffalettas alone. Doris Metropolitan (620 Chartres St.) caters to adventurous carnivores with aged Japanese beef and exotic entrees like “Falls off the bone Shpondra (short ribs),” cooked 24 hours and served with root puree. And seafood lovers swoon over the menu at Tableau (616 St. St. Peter St.), which offers a truffled crab claw appetizer and redfish cooked in blue crab butter and white truffle oil.

Go Dancing on Frenchmen Street

After all that eating and drinking, it’s time to burn off some calories. There’s no shortage of places to hit the dance floor on Frenchmen Street, the city’s premier live music corridor. Though no longer a “local’s secret,” you’re guaranteed to have a blast at more than a dozen clubs in a few short blocks where the music goes well into the wee, wee hours. Top hotspots include Blue Nile (532 Frenchmen St.), The Spotted Cat Music Club (623 Frenchmen St.) and d.b.a. (618 Frenchmen St.)

French Quarter for History Buffs

If you’re staying at the Place d’Armes Hotel, in the heart of the Quarter, you’re already immersed in history. You’re just steps away from Jackson Square, the Cabildo and the iconic St. Louis Cathedral, and even strolling around informally, you’ll discover storied landmarks just about anywhere you go. But true history buffs like to dig deeper, and there are plenty of places to do that in a city as aware of its living past as New Orleans.

The Historic New Orleans Collection (533 Royal St. & 520 Royal St.)

Dedicated to preserving local history, art and culture, the Historic New Orleans Collection offers a vast trove of materials for both amateur history buffs and academic researchers. The main 533 Royal St. campus presents free rotating exhibits on subjects ranging from “Storyville: Madams and Music” to “African Heritage of New Orleans,” while a new expansion across the street houses a continuing exhibition of French Quarter history and hands-on installations that make the past come alive. Visitors can also take a guided tour of the Williams Residence, an 1889 Italianate townhouse restored by HNOC founders General L. Kemper and Leila Williams.

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park French Quarter Visitors Center (419 Decatur St.)

The notorious pirate Jean Lafitte left a big footprint in and around New Orleans, from the wetlands of Barataria Preserve to Chalmette Battlefield, where legend has it Lafitte helped General Andrew Jackson win the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Jean Lafitte’s French Quarter Visitor Center is filled with maps, photos and interactive exhibits that tell the story of the Mississippi River delta Lafitte once called home. Want to learn more? Park rangers and volunteers offer a free history talk at 9:30 a.m. from Tuesday through Saturday.

Hermann-Grima + Gallier Historic Houses

Take a step back in time at these two 19th century architectural gems, which were restored to their original glory and are filled with period paintings, decorative fixtures, objets d’art and furniture, many of which are original to the homes. Built in 1831, the Hermann-Grima House (820 St. Louis St.) served as a boarding house for unchaperoned working women from 1925 until the mid-’60s, when restoration began. Home to renowned New Orleans architect James Gallier, Jr. and his family, Gallier House (1132 Royal St.) dates back to 1857 and was restored using Gallier Jr.’s own floor plans and original house inventory. Both homes are open daily as museums and offer guided tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which visitors can book online. Admission is $15 for one museum or $25 for both.

New Orleans Music & Heritage Tour

Keith Abel’s unique aural-visual walking tour taps more than three centuries of music in New Orleans and uses a Bluetooth speaker to provide a soundtrack for the city’s many musical landmarks. Tapping his vast knowledge of local lore, Abel leads you from the boyhood home of brass band pioneer Danny Barke to J&M studios, the birthplace of rock and roll, to the Royal Orlean Hotel where rock stars like Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead partied in the 1960s. Learn about, and listen to, Irma Thomas, Dr. John, Deacon John, and many more iconic artists. Tours run two hours, cost $25/person, and leave three times a day from the Louisiana Music Factory (421 Frenchmen St.). Call or book online to reserve your space.