Though it’s a town that rarely pauses for breath between big events, New Orleans actually enjoys a quiet(ish) period between fall’s cooler weather and the beginning of the Mardi Gras calendar (which starts on January 6!). Of course, the city doesn’t shut down over the winter months, it’s just that the streets aren’t crawling with party people. Visitors get a seat at the table, or bar, beside the locals and enjoy some of the gracious hospitality the city can offer when there’s a moment to catch up.
See the city at its best
The most New Orleans museum imaginable just opened: one devoted to a cocktail. Sazerac House, a celebration and exploration of one of the city’s two signature cocktails (the other being the Hurricane, of course), opened in October. Visitors can take a free 50-minute tour, and guests over 21 will find ample opportunities to try samples of the drink, made of Sazerac rye whiskey, Herbsaint (an anise-flavored liqueur, like absinthe), a sugar cube, and a few drops of Peychaud’s bitters. The New Orleans–made ingredients are available for purchase, too, of course.
The National WW II Museum recently unveiled the newest building on its six-acre campus, the Hall of Democracy. The wing contains exhibition space as well as a research library, auditorium, a media center, and classrooms. The first exhibit mounted in the new wing is Operation Finale: The Capture & Trial of Adolf Eichmann, which runs through January 5, a multimedia installation produced in partnership with the Israeli Secret Service. (The museum has also started construction of a Liberation Pavilion, which will focus on the Holocaust, slated to open in 2021.)
Through March 1, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art is hosting Memory is a Strange Bell: The Art of William Christenberry. Christenberry, who died in 2016, was known primarily as a photographer of the South, and in particular of Hale County, Alabama. Christenberry made other art, too, including assemblages, paintings, drawings, sculpture, and installations. This exhibit at the Ogden includes more than 125 pieces of the artist’s work over his lifetime, much of it giving a plaintive and contemplative view of the rural South.
You may not think a health-focused restaurant would be a good investment in a city known for debauchery, roux, and regret, but Oprah does. The television and lifestyle goddess is on the advisory board of True Food Kitchen, along with health guru Dr. Andrew Weil. The restaurant, which promotes clean food, is a new ground-floor tenant in the Julia at Saint Charles, a mixed-use development in the Warehouse District. The kitchen offers gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan dishes, as well as some options made with sustainable meats. This being New Orleans, cocktails are also on offer (the menu’s calorie count is a bit of a buzz-kill, though).
Providing a fried counterbalance to the health-food impulse, the beloved French Market favorite Café du Monde has opened a location in City Park, and since it opens daily at 6 a.m. you can top off your morning run with a powdered-sugar-heaped beignet and healthful cup of chicory coffee.
And don’t worry if you arrive at the airport hungry. Great food options abound at the new terminal at Louis Armstrong Airport, including the loudly recommended fried chicken at Leah’s Kitchen. All sorts of the city’s signature goodies are available on your way in and out of town, including cocktails, more beignets, and gumbo.
Remember to sleep
New Orleans’s successful National WW II Museum holds so many seminars and conferences for scholars and experts that it decided to build its own hotel and conference center, the Higgins. Beginning December 6, guests can check in to the hotel in the Warehouse District and get extra perks like early access or night visits to the popular museum. In addition to modern and understated guest rooms that look nothing like army barracks, the hotel has some pretty cool artifacts on-site, including General George S. Patton’s piano.
>>More: Start Planning Your Visit With AFAR’s Travel Guide to New Orleans