Discover New Orleans’ New Frontier of Contemporary Art, Gastronomy, and Design
With vibrant, yet classic design (including gorgeous Art Deco touches) and top-notch creature comforts, the new Virgin Hotels New Orleans brings dreamy lodging to the nerve center of one of the city’s most stylish, resurgent neighborhoods.
Few cities are as fun-loving and eclectic as New Orleans, a city defined by centuries of cultural communion—and with the newly opened Virgin Hotels New Orleans, that spirit is on full display in the Warehouse District, an area that embodies the Crescent City’s way of life. With its singular cuisine, eye-popping style, and a round-the-clock propensity to celebrate, the city has been inspiring the intrepid since the 18th century and shows no signs of abating. For everyone from gourmands and tastemakers to lovers of history, there’s no time in New Orleans like the present, few neighborhoods like the Warehouse District, and even fewer accommodations quite like Virgin Hotels New Orleans.
Wedged between the decadence of the French Quarter and the elegance of the Lower Garden District, the Warehouse District was, for much of the 19th century, largely a storage center for goods shipped down the Mississippi. As the storehouses fell into disuse, however, the city transformed one such building into the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) in 1976, and a string of art galleries soon followed. Virgin Hotels’ newest addition, set at the heart of it all, reflects the industrial aesthetic of the neighborhood and its artistic tradition as well.
The new kid on the block
Encased in glass and filled with sun-kissed foliage, the hotel’s playful, breezy elegance personifies New Orleans’ nickname of the “northernmost Caribbean city.” Art Deco-inspired brass and marble furnishings are punctuated by bursts of tropical color. Plus expressive, local art throughout the lobby, including a hyperrealist, chess-playing Bunny Man, keeps you company while you caffeinate in the Funny Library Coffee Shop, and a grand, two-story chandelier overlooks the burlwood Commons Club bar.
Opportunities for congregation and jubilation abound, whether for work or pleasure. In the porch-like seating at the chef’s table, you can perch alongside The Common Club’s open kitchen. Choose something more secluded by the trellis in the private dining alcove or cozy up to the fireplace beneath the mirrored ceiling in The Shag Room.
The hotel’s 238 light-filled guestrooms and suites keep the good times rolling, marrying the hotel’s deco-chromatic motif, including chic French wallpaper and Moroccan tile, with features like a SMEG mini-fridge stocked with snacks, a full vanity, makeup desk, and oversize shower. And local art and historic touches complement integrated technology, such as ample outlets, smart lighting, and the ability to order room service using the mobile app, Lucy, give you the ability to work and eat without getting out of bed. Elect for a room with a soaking tub and hit the 24/7 gym and fitness center (complete with internet-equipped Technogym cardio machines) to balance out your getaway with some wellness.
Wild designs for wild times
Once you’re ready to venture out, guys looking to suit up for DJ nights at Virgin Hotels New Orleans’ rooftop pool and lounge will find ethical, casual-chic fashion at Friend, the little shop-around-the-corner. Those looking for more feminine looks might venture afield to neighboring boutiques Blue Dream and St. Claude Social Club for kaleidoscopic clothes and accessories.
In the home of the first American pharmacy, why not seek out the nurturing candles and curios of the Haus of Hoodoo on St. Charles Avenue, or Waysides, the petite florist and apothecary down on Magazine Street? Vinyl hunters might also consider a visit to Wayside’s neighbor, NOLA Mix Records, for a taste of local hip-hop and jazz.
Working your way back toward the Warehouse District, you’ll cross Harmony Circle, formerly named for General Robert E. Lee. Keep an eye out for “Sentinel (Mami Wata)”, artist Simone Leigh’s homage in bronze to the sacred African deity. From here, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art offers a diverse glimpse at regional works, not to mention the fifteen-odd art galleries within a block or two, including Arthur Tracy on Julia Street, and newcomer Spillman | Blackwell right next door to the CAC.
A culinary heritage like no other
Few cities do brunch better than New Orleans. At Virgin Hotels’ Commons Club, award-winning Executive Chef Alex Harrell offers his modern take on southern standards all weekend, including a spectrum of drink options for the hair o’ the dog. If you’re out early, keep it easy with some fried oysters at Elizabeth’s in the Bywater, or have a meat-heavy morning at Toup’s in Mid City.
French Quarter dining can be iffy, but Jewel of the South feels like a voyage through time, with inventive cuisine leading a historical cocktail menu nearly matched in inventiveness by the Bywater’s offbeat Bar Brine. Those who can’t book the Garden District’s 19th-century powerhouse Commander’s Palace might find Coquette’s global look at southern cuisine a touch more approachable. Either way, be sure to cap your night at Dreamboat, Virgin Hotels’ other rooftop bar, for great views of the city and even better cocktails, always within stumbling distance of your comfortable bed. Remember, in New Orleans, it doesn’t have to be good for you, it’s just got to be good.