Why should you come to the 2018 National Planning Conference in New Orleans this April? You will experience an authentic, historic city celebrating its 300th anniversary and the epitome of resilience.
The dates of NPC18 (April 21–24, 2018) coincide with the city's Tricentennial celebration, much of which is free and open to the public. Plan to take advantage of the Tricentennial fireworks, a public display of historic "tall ships" on the Mississippi River, and other events.
To really get your take on the area, I would recommend coming to town a few days early or staying a few days after the conference to "make some land use."
Understand that New Orleans is the Paris of the south. Our French heritage goes back to the founding of the city in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville. In New Orleans we practice the joie de vivre (joy of life) through our passion for good food.
We frequently plan our next meal while we are in the middle of another. What distinguishes "creole" cuisine is the combination of the different ethnicities that settled in the city, creating the "gumbo", including French, Spanish, African, German, Italian, and Irish.
If you haven't gained a couple of pounds by the end of your trip, you are not committing to the joie de vivre enough!
A Day in New Orleans
There's so much to do and see in our great city — but what if you only have one day to explore? Here's how I'd spend your spare 24 hours in New Orleans.
I would begin your self-guided tour by walking east from the conference headquarters hotel (Hilton New Orleans Riverside) towards the Aquarium of the Americas through Woldenberg Park along the Mississippi River. You can also take the "Red Lady" streetcar to its terminus at the French Market. Leave the park when you reach the Jax Brewery mixed use development and the "Moon Walk" and enter the French Quarter.
The French Quarter or Vieux Carré (Old Square) is one of the oldest historic districts in United States. Definitely have some beignets and café au lait at Café Du Monde. You will see iconic Jackson Square (a Great Places designee) and the St. Louis Cathedral flanked by the Presbytere and the Cabildo (state museums). The Quarter is full of cool shops, boutiques, and (of course) restaurants, so take your time and enjoy!
Notice I haven't mentioned Bourbon Street, which if you haven't seen it you need to check out. As a native I don't prefer Bourbon Street, with the exception of Galatoire's (one of the oldest restaurants in the Quarter). I would much rather Royal Street, which I would recommend taking as you begin working your way back to the hotel.
Make sure and stop at the Monteleone Hotel. The Monteleone is an historic hotel with a Carousel bar, which rotates and offers great people watching opportunities within the hotel itself and out onto Royal Street.
Next, I would board the streetcar on Canal Street and take it to New Orleans City Park. Established in 1854, City Park is one of oldest urban parks in the United States. The park contains 1,300 acres with a botanical garden, sculpture garden, and miles of biking, jogging, and walking paths.
I would round the trip off with brunch at Commander's Palace, the go-to historic restaurant where natives celebrate special occasions. Definitely try the bread pudding soufflé, a house specialty.
After brunch, take a stroll through the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, directly across the street from Commander's. The historic tombs in our cemeteries are truly architectural gems and unique to the New Orleans area.
If time permits, continue your journey on Magazine Street through the Garden District, a few streets down and a wonderful example of main street/historic adaptive re-use of mixed use development with more shops and (of course) more restaurants.
Top image: Photo of the French Quarter by Flickr user Lars Plougmann (CC BY-SA 2.0).
About the Author
Lydia Jemison, AICP, is a New Orleans area native with over 30 years of experience in local, regional, and state planning with her own consulting firm, Jemison & Partners, Inc. She is the chair of the 2018 National Planning Conference Local Host Subcommittee, the immediate past president of APA's Louisiana Chapter, and a veteran of at least five national conferences and numerous Louisiana state chapter conferences.