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Our Top Five Must-See Spots for the Holidays

Bienville House’s prime location in the French Quarter gives guests an unforgettable New Orleans experience any time of year – but at Christmas, the scenery is even more magical. We’ve put together a list of all the must-see spots for the holidays in the area, all within walking distance of our hotel. Enjoy the holidays (and a scenic walk) with these five festive activities:

View the holiday decor at Hotel Monteleone.

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Hotel Monteleone has a lobby brimming with stunning holiday decor. (Photo courtesy Paul Broussard)

Our sister property, Hotel Monteleone, bedecks their lobby with trees, lights, and garlands to ring in the holidays. You’ll also find live music in their Carousel Bar & Lounge, caroling from local school choirs, and plenty of yuletide cocktails.

Check out Riverwalk, too.

You’ll find a large, decorated Christmas tree and lots and lots of lights. There’s a Chanukah celebration on site, and you’ll also have sweeping views of the Mississippi River – and bedecked vessels like Steamboat Natchez dressed in their holiday best.

Follow the lights down Canal Street.

One of the best light displays in the city is Canal Street itself. You’ll find more than one million lights lining the street, whether they’re wrapped tightly around iconic palm trees or spiraling up lamp posts. The display spans the street from the Mississippi River to Elk Place.

Explore the Great Hall of Trees.

NOLA ChristmasFest at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center has more than 50 decorated trees on site. Whether themed or dressed in traditional Christmas cheer, each tree is between 10 and 15 feet tall.

Carol in Jackson Square.

The New Orleans tradition of caroling in Jackson Square on the Sunday before Christmas continues this year on Dec. 21 at 7:00 p.m. Thousands of residents and visitors amass on the square to sing classic carols by candlelight using provided music and candles – plan to arrive early, as the amount of participants often exceeds the square’s capacity.

Our hotel still has rooms available for you to enjoy unbeatable access to all the merriment of New Orleans at Christmastime. Happy holidays!

Walk to NOLA ChristmasFest from Bienville House

Bienville House’s proximity to the French Quarter and the Central Business District keeps our guests close to all the holiday action. This year, the CBD is turning out a host of holiday events, including a Menorah lights at Riverwalk, plus the Holiday Movies on the Mississippi (playing Elf tonight at 6:30 p.m.!). Another holiday destination is NOLA ChristmasFest, a massive, all-indoor event at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center kicking off tonight. ChristmasFest runs through Dec. 24 and features a flurry of holiday festivities:

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Throughout our hotel, you’ll find beautiful decorations that reflect the Christmas spirit. (Photo courtesy Annie Quast)

Ongoing Highlights

NOLA ChristmasFest has turned the convention center into a winter wonderland. You’ll find a Santa’s Playland with plenty to do for the kids, including a very modern update: Skyping with Santa’s elves. The event will also host cooking demonstrations, a petting zoo, putt-putt golf, and an ongoing gingerbread house competition that benefits Operation Homefront, a non-profit organization aiding military families in need.

Meet-and-Greets

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Children and families can meet the Ice Princesses at NOLA ChristmasFest. (Photo courtesy NOLA ChristmasFest)

‘Tis the season for a great photo op, and you’ll have several options at this event. On Dec. 18, local children’s musicians the Imagination Movers will play a holiday-themed set. Tickets are $30 and include a meet-and-greet after the show where fans can take pictures with the Movers.

Just before Christmas, the Fest will host a sing-along pajama party with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Tickets are $35 and include a photo with Santa, story reading, and milk and cookies.

The Ice Princesses will be at NOLA ChristmasFest as well. Children and families can meet the princesses for $35 (includes general admission to the Fest and autographs) over the course of several days: the princesses are hosting half-hour meet-and-greets twice daily at 12:00 p.m. and 2:15 p.m.

Special Events

On Sunday, the Santa Paws pet parade and costume contest gives pet owners the chance to dress up their dogs in their holiday best for a good cause: proceeds benefit the Louisiana SPCA.

The festivities continue into next week as well. Head to the Fest on Thursday, Dec. 18 at 8:00 p.m. for Karaoke Caroling & Cocktails, a 21+ event where guests can belt out their favorite Christmas songs as they sip on seasonal drinks.

General admission tickets are $15, and the convention center is just about a 20-minute walk from our hotel. We still have rooms available so you can enjoy all the Christmas cheer New Orleans has to offer.

Best Bets for Holiday Shopping in New Orleans

Christmas is a magical time in New Orleans. You’ll find holiday beauty all over the city, from the glittering lights of Celebration in the Oaks to the festive decorations right within our lobby. You’ll also find plenty of worthwhile destinations for shopping in New Orleans. Work through your gift list with our guide to nearby stores!

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Take care of your holiday shopping in New Orleans at a mix of local and national stores. (Photo courtesy Alice Harold on Flickr)

Where: Shops at Canal Place

How Far: 0.2 miles from Bienville House

What You’ll Find: Shops at Canal Place features high-end stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany’s. Beloved national chains like Lululemon, Anthropologie, and J.Crew are also inside, alongside local New Orleans shops like Mignon Faget and Jean Therapy. After you’re finished shopping, head to the theatres upstairs for a holiday movie, complete with in-seat dinner service!

Where: UAL

How Far: 0.2 miles from Bienville House

What You’ll Find: An acronym for United Apparel Liquidators, this store is a label lover’s dream. UAL is chock-full of brand-new designer pieces at deeply discounted prices. Find brands like Lanvin, Chloe, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Current/Elliott, Rag & Bone, and much more. The prices can still be high, but if you consider the overall savings, you’ll understand why UAL is a must-do.

Where: The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk

How Far: 0.5 miles from Bienville House

What You’ll Find: Under new management and a makeover inside and out, this outlet mall re-opened earlier this year, enticing visitors with incredible deals from stores like Coach, Neiman Marcus, Gap, and more. You can experience stunning views of the Mississippi River as you nosh on beignets from Café du Monde (located inside).

Where: H&M

How Far: 0.1 miles from Bienville House

What You’ll Find: H&M delivers on affordable gifts for the entire family. In addition to on-trend clothing for women, men, and children, the store also features an impressive selection of home goods. Bedding, decorative items, rugs, and towels in fun prints and colors cover the upstairs portion of the store. High on design but low on prices, H&M also features fun stocking stuffers like candles, lotions, and accessories.

After your shopping excursion is over, head to our on-site restaurant and bar, Latitude 29. Sip on tiki cocktails as you review all your fantastic purchases!

New Orleans Christmas Tradition: Celebration in the Oaks

New Orleans is full of beloved holiday traditions, from Christmas Eve bonfires on the levees to five-course Reveillon dinners like the ones available at our sister hotel’s restaurant, Criollo. Another perennial favorite this season is Celebration in the Oaks, an ongoing event in New Orleans City Park where all decorations are completed in house. While the light show is a local favorite, we encourage visitors to experience it for themselves! Here’s what to expect:

A Twinkle in the Trees

Celebration in the Oaks starts the day after Thanksgiving on Nov. 28, offering a perfect way to cap off your day of shopping. Centuries-old oak trees get a holiday makeover thanks to thousands of sparkling lights, creating a magical spectacle for guests who walk under the glistening boughs. Children will delight in themed trees (the Who Dat tree is a local favorite for Saints fans) and the kid-friendly light displays in Storyland. For adults, head to the Botanical Garden for glittering lights that adorn the more than 2,000 varieties of plant life on the property. Along the way, you’ll see charming walkways decorated by local schools. Are your feet tired yet? There’s also a two-mile train ride to take you through the exhibit.

Christmas in the Oaks is kid-friendly but also romantic. Here, the Botanical Garden greenhouse is drenched in light and holiday decor. (Photo courtesy Justin McGregor on Flickr)

Christmas in the Oaks is kid-friendly but also romantic. Here, the Botanical Garden greenhouse is drenched in light and holiday decor. (Photo courtesy Justin McGregor on Flickr)

Overall, the light display spans more than 25 acres, and our typically mild winters make the park an excellent spot for meandering and admiring (with a cup of hot cocoa, perhaps?) at your own pace.

Getting There

While you can drive and park at City Park, we suggest taking the streetcar for fun and festive transportation. Our hotel is just steps from Canal Street, where the streetcar line runs to take visitors all the way to the Celebration in the Oaks venue. While the streetcar is iconic, though, it’s not always the quickest. If you can’t wait to get there, let us know so we can arrange a taxi!

 

 

Turkey Day, NOLA Style: Things to do on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving means different things to different people. For some, the perfect Turkey Day entails staying in pajamas and watching football with the fam; for others, it’s a day off to explore and enjoy. If you’re in the latter camp, take a look at things to do on Thanksgiving in New Orleans.

Friendly Competition

College teams the Southern Jaguars and the Grambling Tigers play one another in the Bayou Classic, a Thanksgiving tradition at the Superdome that celebrates one of the biggest team rivalries in the region. You may not find turkey with all the fixings, but there are plenty of concessions at the Superdome to keep you satiated and smiling.

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Thanksgiving is also opening day at the Fair Grounds Race Course. (Photo courtesy MissMalaprop on Flickr)

Thanksgiving at the Track

If the weather is nice, you can head to the Fair Grounds Race Course in lieu of the dining table. Thanksgiving is opening day for thoroughbred racing season, and the course hosts a Thanksgiving buffet in the upper-level clubhouse to celebrate (guests must be 21 and older). Guests can also enjoy concessions on the lower level as they watch live racing from 11 a.m. until about 3 p.m. Come in festive finery – this event draws fanciful crowds who love a good costume and a good time.

Where to Dine

Our new restaurant, Latitude 29, will be closed on Thanksgiving, but guests who book now at Bienville House can still take advantage of plenty of incredible restaurants in the area. Criollo, the restaurant at our sister property Hotel Monteleone, will host Thanksgiving dinner from 12:30 to 8 p.m. French Quarter favorite The Court of Two Sisters is open from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. for lunch and then again from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. for dinner. Luke, Borgne, Morton’s The Steakhouse, and Dickie Brennan’s Tableau are just a few of the many restaurants open on this food-filled holiday.

Latitude 29 Grand Opening: Bienville House’s New Restaurant

Walk into Latitude 29 prepared for a good, old-fashioned game of eye spy.

Do you spy the ship’s bow that doubles as a host stand? Real starfish suspended for eternity in a stained-glass lamp? How about an expanse of textured seagrass (hint: look up)?

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Sip your Latitude 29 cocktail (like the Mississippi Mermaid pictured here) overlooking the courtyard pool at Bienville House. (Photo courtesy Annie Quast)

Authentic tiki carvings and totems line the walls, and nautical elements like buoy-esque lights create a believable Polynesian atmosphere: we’re not in New Orleans anymore.

Latitude 29 celebrated its grand opening on Wednesday, and Bienville House couldn’t be more excited about this incredible bar and restaurant, housed right within our hotel.

The work of the world’s leading tiki expert, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, this restaurant is authentic, fun, and full of special details. We walked through our lobby and into the restaurant for a closer look (and taste) at all things Latitude 29. Here’s what we found:

The Drinks

Our waiter guided us toward the Pontchartrain Pearl Diver to start. This creamy, frothy concoction gets its flavor from a honey-butter-spice mix blended with passion fruit, lime, and plenty of Jamaica rum. We couldn’t help but notice the glass, a retro vessel with a cylindrical shape and banded detail. As it turns out, the glass is a replica of a rare vintage design: you can search all over the world, but you’ll only find it – and the delicious drink inside – at Latitude 29.

Another drink of note is the Mississippi Mermaid. Presentation alone makes this cocktail a standout: a tiny, plastic mermaid (perfectly kitschy) sits on the rim with a tamarind candy balanced on her tail. You’ll find notes of tamarind in the drink as well, alongside allspice, lemon, and vodka. The effect is festive without any cloying sweetness: spicy and delicious.

The Food

Chef Chris Shortall created the “PolynAsian” menu – one that beautifully complements traditional tiki cocktails. Shrimps in blankets were the starter of choice. We loved how the giant shrimps (with the heads on) were a subtle nod to New Orleans-style crawfish; the sweet-and-sour dipping sauce cut through the rich flavors of the outer won-ton pastry.

Perhaps our favorite dish of the day was the Loco Moco – an absolute must-try. The dish has its roots in traditional Hawaiian cuisine, although this version is made with sumptuous ground filet rather than pork. Fashioned into a patty and sandwiched between savory mushroom rice and a fried egg, the filet is topped with shitake mushrooms and a sprinkling of green onions. As for the taste? Shepherd’s pie meets stir fry: ultimate comfort food with subtle Asian flavors.

Berry’s wife, Annene, has long been a fan of this traditional Hawaiian dish. “I joked to my husband that it’s the most expensive Loco Moco ever,” she says. “Someone had to build a restaurant to make it for me!”

 The Atmosphere

On an unseasonably cold day, we were grateful that Latitude 29 could take us through time and space to a 1950s tiki utopia. From retro music to staff outfitted in Hawaiian shirts, the playful mise en scene was immersive: we felt completely transported. Despite the vintage vibe, however, the space is technologically advanced. Latitude 29 doesn’t feel like such a throwback when you’re charging you’re phone in an outlet (available in each booth) and posting photos to Instagram in real time. #yum.

For unbeatable access to Latitude 29, book now at Bienville House.

Enjoy Music and a Healthy Heap of (Vegan) Gumbo

The Jazz and Heritage Foundation has a reputation for spotlighting important, New Orleans-centric music throughout the year. Just a few weeks ago, residents celebrated Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival, and April always draws a major crowd for Jazz Fest. This weekend, the Foundation is hosting yet another event that pairs the authentic sounds of New Orleans music with its iconic cuisine: Treme Creole Gumbo Fest starts this Saturday (Nov. 8) in Armstrong Park.

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The Treme Brass Band is one of several live music acts playing at Treme Creole Gumbo Festival. (Photo courtesy Paul Broussard on Flickr)

Running from 11 a.m. until 7:15 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, the festival will feature some of the finest brass music in the city, including the Treme Brass Band, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra Brass Band, and the Soul Rebels. In a fun cross-section of Jazz and Heritage Foundation events, the festival will also feature the winners of the foundation’s annual “Class Got Brass?” high school band competition.

While brass music treats your ears, you can indulge in another classic New Orleans offering: gumbo. The festival will see several amazing area restaurants serving up their signature gumbos, filled with meats, seafood, rich broths, and plenty of flavor.

For the second year, festival organizers are also hosting a vegan gumbo competition, where participating chefs must dream up a gumbo completely free of any animal products (including meat-based stocks). Audience members can purchase samples of each gumbo and vote for their favorite – and if you find one worth recreating, you can do so at home! After the festival, each recipe will be available on the Jazz and Heritage Foundation website.

Another exciting addition to this year’s festival is the fusion of the children’s area and the arts market. Parents can peruse handmade artwork and wares while their kids stay engaged with a series of creative workshops.

Saturday’s lineup will give children the chance to make a nature collage card, stitch, screen print, and create rhythm makers with the help of local artists leading each workshop. On Sunday, children can attend workshops to make prints, jewelry, castanets, and more.

Bienville House is just a 15-minute walk from the park, providing our guests with a uniquely New Orleans way to spend their afternoon this weekend. Book now to enjoy Treme Creole Gumbo Fest in addition to all the excitement of the French Quarter.

Get the Scoop on Latitude 29

We’re gearing up for our Latitude 29 launch happening soon, and we couldn’t be more excited! Over the past few weeks, we’ve had several exciting updates. Take a look at what’s been happening as we finalize the details of Latitude 29.

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Monday was a busy day for us. The Fire Marshall visited our location to ensure that all equipment is installed and in working order, and both our contractor and lead architect were on hand to address questions and comments. We also had a reporter from the Times-Picayune drop by, setting the tone for other press and publicity folks who visited throughout the week.

In addition to stream of inspectors, friends, and acquaintances who’ve dropped by throughout the week, Latitude 29 also caught the eye of Eater, the online food and nightlife magazine with extensions in major cities like New York and Los Angeles. Their article, “Rise of the Zombie King,” profiled Jeff “Beachbum” Berry as he steps into his new role at Latitude 29.

As the piece details, not only is Berry working on his own restaurant (we couldn’t be more excited!), but this famed Tiki historian has also influenced the menus and even the very existence of other Tiki bars across the country.

Take, for example, Three Dots and a Dash, the famed Tiki bar in Chicago. The name, as it turns out, is a reference to a long-lost drink that Berry uncovered and decoded as part of his endless fascination with Tiki culture.

We can’t wait for visitors to enjoy Latitude 29 for themselves and try the authentically Polynesian creations so characteristic of Berry’s life’s work. While we can’t give too much away, let us say this: the phrase “simple syrup” is a misnomer when Berry is involved. His nine-ingredient simple syrup – which will sweeten up Latitude 29’s Professor Remsberger Punch – offers a glimpse into the meticulous, delicious world of “Beachbum” Berry.

Stay tuned for more updates about Latitude 29, and book your stay at Bienville House for prime access to this hot, new restaurant.

Halloween Happenings in New Orleans

On any given day, New Orleans offers a bustling social calendar packed with things to do, but with Halloween happening on a Friday night, you can bet there’s even more to check out than usual. Take a look at our list Halloween happenings in New Orleans – both on the day of and throughout the weekend.

Voodoo Experience

This three-day festival kicks off on Halloween and runs through Sunday. Major headliners like Outkast and the Foo Fighters are sure to draw substantial crowds to the City Park festival grounds. Expect vivacious live music, installation art studding the venue, and an arts market with jewelry and other handmade wares. “Foodoo” is also available for hungry revelers: choose dishes from restaurants like Bratz Y’All, Woody’s Fish Tacos, and Antonio’s Italian Restaurant.

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Voodoo Experience kicks off on Halloween in City Park. (Photo courtesy of Dan Merino on Flickr)

Halloween Parade

French Quarter bar Molly’s at the Market will host its 19th annual Halloween Parade, cruising down Decatur at 6 p.m. on Oct. 31. The Irish bar, also on Decatur, is famous for its Frozen Irish Coffee and (perhaps more appropriately for Halloween) its Bloody Mary. Krewe of Boo parades through the Quarter the night before at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 30.

Haunted Houses

Locals are split on which is scarier, but both The Mortuary Haunted House and House of Shock are prime choices if you’re looking for a horror-filled haunt. The Mortuary, housed in a real, 100-year-old house, has a zombie theme while House of Shock combines elements of pyrotechnics and live entertainment for an incredibly believable scare in its final year.

Family-Friendly Events

Can’t wait until Halloween? The next few days present several chances to don your costume. Boo at the Zoo runs from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Audubon Zoo on Friday, Oct. 25, and Saturday, Oct. 26. Kids and families can enjoy trick-or-treat houses, a ghost train, concessions, and candy at the event. The Audubon Society will also host Crawloween at the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. This event will feature plenty of creepy crawlies, pumpkins filled with insects, and a “Guess How Many Maggots are in the Jar” contest.

Our location in the French Quarter offers quick, seamless access to several of these events: the parades and Crawloween are within walking distance, and Voodoo Experience is accessible via street car. Book now to experience a New Orleans Halloween at one of the city’s most iconic hotels.

Dance and Dine at Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival

When people think “New Orleans,” they think jazz and jambalaya, but this weekend, blues and barbecue is the more accurate pairing. The Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival starts Friday in Lafayette Square, a park within the Central Business District just a few blocks from Bienville House. Running through Sunday, Oct. 19, the event features a variety of musicians and foods that will add spice and soul to your weekend. Here are some of the highlights the fest has to offer:

Music

Louisiana Blues has remained one of the most recognizable genres out our state. Adding jazz characteristics and Caribbean influences to classic blues, New Orleans Blues rose to fame in the 1940s and ‘50s as a prominent sub-genre, adding a new sound to our jazz-heavy city. Blues and BBQ Festival celebrates our rich – though not always recognized – blues history with a lineup of prominent musicians.

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Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival will take place in Lafayette Square this weekend. (Photo courtesy Nelo Hotsuma on Flickr.)

Local blues guitarist Little Freddie King performs on Friday, and Anna Popovic closes the festival that evening. Originally from Serbia, this singer/guitarist exemplifies the international reach of the blues sound born out of the American Delta. Other standouts throughout the weekend include Los Lobos, Denise LaSalle, and Valerie June.

Food

Just like the blues, barbecue often plays second fiddle to Creole cuisine in New Orleans. At the festival, however, visitors can expect a wide selection of dishes from local restaurants, including cochon de lait po’boys from Walker’s BBQ and pork and slaw tacos from Squeal. With more than a dozen gluten-free options available, as well as options for vegetarians and vegans, everyone can enjoy a helping or two of smoky, sweet flavors.

Arts and Crafts

Every year, the festival chooses 35 local and regional artists to sell their wares at the event. Visitors can peruse the booths and purchase handmade items like soap, pottery, silverworks, wooden mirrors, and more. Check out a complete list of vendors and view a slide show of select vendors’ work to get a head start on what to buy.

If you’re looking for hotel options for this fun and free event, book now at Bienville House. We have rooms that include access to amenities like a complimentary breakfast and heated saltwater pool – not to mention we’re within walking distance to the festival.