NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Hospitality is king in New Orleans whether the city is hosting major sports events, the annual Mardi Gras or thousands of visitors who have dropped in for a fun weekend.
Known as the Big Easy or the Crescent City, New Orleans, which straddles the Mississippi River, is famous for its French Creole cuisine, distinctive architecture, jazz music and unique blend of influences from the Caribbean, Europe and Africa.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors make the most of a short visit to Louisiana's largest city.
5 p.m. - The city is packed with hotels ranging from small B&Bs to luxury hotels. To get the most from a short visit stay downtown or in the French Quarter for easy access to many attractions. Click on "where to stay" on the website www.neworleansonline.com for a selection of hotels.
Absorb local culture at the 200-year-old Napoleon House bar with its aged walls and Napoleon-related lore. Relax in the main bar or courtyard with a Pimm's Cup or Bloody Mary. Try a plate of jambalaya or bowl of gumbo, or split a half-muffuletta sandwich with a friend. (500 Chartres St., 504-524-9752)
6 p.m. - Amble down the block to Jackson Square, where New Orleans took shape almost 300 years ago. Explore some of the city's oldest buildings, including St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo, which was once the seat of colonial government, and the historic Pontalba Apartments, the first of the Spanish apartments built in the city. Take a short walk across Decatur Street to the Moonwalk, a favorite spot to view ships and ferries plying the Mississippi River.
7 p.m. - Eat dinner at the Pelican Club, a lovely, hidden gem where sumptuous Creole and Cajun dishes reflect Italian, French and Asian influences. (615 Bienville, 504-523-1504)
8:30 p.m. - Feel the Bourbon Street vibe at Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse, just inside the Royal Sonesta Hotel. (300 Bourbon St., 504-586-0300)
Walk or take a pedicab to the neighboring Marigny District and sample sounds along Frenchmen Street from jazz at Snug Harbor or to other styles at the Spotted Cat, d.b.a. and the Blue Nile. (500 and 600 blocks of Frenchmen Street)
10:30 p.m. - Head to Cafe du Monde at the French Market for a steaming cup of dark coffee and a plate of French beignets. (800 Decatur St., 504-525-4544)
8:30 a.m. - Have a hearty breakfast at Stanley on Jackson Square. Poached-egg dishes and savory sauces highlight a menu of local specialties, along with scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes. (547 St. Ann St., 504-587-0093)
10 a.m. - See the city with New Orleans Movie Tours. During the tour clips from 30 locally shot films are shown while visiting sites from such films as "Green Lantern" and "The Expendables." The tour also offers close-ups on neighborhoods and sets of movies currently being filmed. (801 Decatur St., 800-979-3370)
12:30 p.m. - Time to try New Orleans' favorite sandwich. Johnny's Po-Boys offers dozens, from the classic fried oyster, fried shrimp or roast beef on French bread to crab cake or chicken Parmesan po-boys. (511 St. Louis St., 504-524-8129)
1:30 p.m. - Learn about local history at the Historic New Orleans Collection, a museum and research center housed in a complex of historic French Quarter buildings. Browse the artworks, books and artifacts, and tour a 19th century townhouse. (533 Royal St., 504-523-4662)
3 p.m. - Take a cab to Magazine Street to explore one of the city's most unusual retail scenes. Bohemian and upscale apparel shops stand among art galleries, antiques stores and restaurants housed in quaint, funky and historic buildings. Browse the shops. Indulge your sweet tooth at Sucre, with its irresistible selection of pastries, chocolates and specialty macaroons. (3025 Magazine St., 504-520-8311)
5 p.m. - Hail a cab to St. Charles Avenue and the stately Columns Hotel. Relax on the veranda with a Mint Julep amid the oak trees, or step into the Victorian Lounge for a cocktail in a setting from another era. Then ride the streetcar back downtown. (3811 St. Charles Ave., 504-899-9308)
7 p.m. - Enjoy the fabulous river view at Galvez Restaurant in the French Quarter. High arched windows showcase the glittering lights of passing ships as you dine on Spanish Seafood Bouillabaisse or Seared Scallops al Albariño. (914 North Peters St., 504-595-3400)
8:30 p.m. - Music is a must in the cradle of jazz. Visit One Eyed Jacks (615 Toulouse St., 504-569-8361) or Tipitina'S (501 Napoleon Ave., 504-895-8477). .
8:30 a.m. - Stroll along the river in Woldenburg Park, at the edge of the French Quarter or board the free ferry at the foot of Canal Street and take a quick ride across and back to sense the power of the Mighty Mississippi.
10 a.m. - Head for the Garden District and Commander's Palace restaurant for Sunday brunch. Enjoy sumptuous dishes in an elegant 19th century home, with live jazz music. (1403 Washington Ave., 504-899-8221)
12 noon - Ride the Canal Street streetcar through Mid-City, and take the Carrollton Avenue spur to the end of the line. Step into City Park and walk the promenade past moss-draped oak trees to the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, next to New Orleans Museum of Art.
Step into neighboring City Park Botanical Gardens and stroll the walkways through sprawling gardens, or view the latest exhibits and permanent collection at the art museum.
3 p.m. - Visit the Marigny District for a refreshing break at the Three Muses. Enjoy a cold beer or cocktail and snack on the Feta Fries as you wind down your weekend in New Orleans. (536 Frenchmen St., 504-298-8746)
Reporting by Kathy Finn; editing by Patricia Reaney