Food and Fall Fun
in New Orleans and the Northshore
October gives us hope. The sun begins its winter descent, temperatures drop below 90 and the sounds of football fill the air. It’s still early to bring out the sweaters and we’re not out of the hurricane woods, but our hearts lift. It’s time to get outside. It’s time to plan a road trip.
The great weather reprieve makes it a perfect backdrop for festivals. Before COVID-19, we stressed over which ones to choose or if we could make two events in a weekend. Alas, these are unstable times and many fall festivals have been cancelled.
But that doesn’t mean fall fun isn’t possible.
Take New Orleans and the Northshore, for example, easy drives to some of the world’s best cuisine, hotels and attractions — and many of it accessible in the great outdoors.
Big Fun in Big Easy
The New Orleans hotel boom continues and each new option offers something unique. The Four Seasons took over the closed World Trade Center and International Trade Mart reopened as luxury accommodations complete with restaurants, the exquisite Chandelier Bar and river and city views from the 34th-floor observation deck. The Virgin also opened this summer, a hip boutique hotel located in the Warehouse District.
The Chloe on St. Charles Avenue combines 14 guest rooms, a restaurant and a bar within a 19th-century mansion, along with plenty of ways to grab a cocktail by the pool or patio and enjoy fall weather outside.
“October is a great time to be outside,” said Lauren Cason, director of marketing and communications for neworleans.com. “At The Chloe on St. Charles Avenue, you can sit outside and watch the streetcars go by.”
Visitors can spend hours biking and hiking the varied landscape of City Park, one of the largest public parks in America — 1,300 acres. In addition to the park’s centuries-old oak trees, recreational opportunities and the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park reopened in July and the Children’s Museum resumes after being shuttered for most of the pandemic.
The outdoor Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, as part of the New Orleans Museum of Art, doubled in size in 2019, now containing more than 90-plus artworks. In addition to its whimsical and more traditional 19th-, 20th- and 21st-century works, the expanded site includes fascinating — and Instagram worthy — water features amid a lush landscape.
“The sculpture garden is one of the great prides of New Orleans,” said Susan Taylor, director of the New Orleans Museum of Art. “It’s considered one of the top sculpture gardens in the country.”
Best of all, it’s free.
Dining options have also expanded since the pandemic began, with restaurants creating more outdoor seating to allow for social distancing. Lilette on Magazine Street, for example, now has charming sidewalk and patio seating. Vals in the uptown Freret neighborhood offers a beautifully designed patio with lush tropical landscaping. The Columns Hotel, always an ideal location for imbibing cocktails overlooking St. Charles Avenue, has been restored but be sure to bring proof of vaccination.
Even though many events have been postponed this fall, “P.5: Yesterday we said tomorrow,” the fifth iteration of Prospect New Orleans’ citywide contemporary art triennial opens in October and remains on view through Jan. 23, 2022. The event features 51 artists in approximately 20 venues throughout New Orleans.
Plans are in the works for Holidays New Orleans Style, Cason said, but some events may be postponed; check the tourism website for updates. Annually, the holiday promotion features hotel specials, historic Creole Reveillon dinners, home tours and more.
“Hopefully we’ll have caroling in Jackson Square this year,” Cason said.
(Editor’s Note: Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test is required for New Orleans restaurants, bars and some other businesses. Please check before visiting.)
Across the Lake
Years ago, New Orleans residents referred to traveling across the 23.83-mile Causeway Bridge to St. Tammany Parish as “going to the country.” The Northshore has grown up quite a bit since those days, but a trip to Mandeville still feels like a world away from the bright lights of New Orleans. There are several historic bed and breakfasts to choose from, boutique shopping on tree-lined Girod Street, great dining options, many of which are in historic properties, and lots of ways to enjoy Lake Pontchartrain and the surrounded rural countryside.
After rising from a good night’s sleep at Mandeville’s many accommodations, rent a bike fromBrooks’ Bike Co-op and take the Tammany Trace toward either Covington or Slidell or conquer the entire 31 miles. For a lazier ride, scoot along Lakeshore Drive and watch pelicans darting in the lake waters. Pause for locally roasted Flamjeaux coffee at the quaint The Book & The Bean coffee shop, lunch at Liz’s Where Y’at Diner and top off the afternoon with dessert at The Candy Bank.
One of the oldest and largest state parks in Louisiana lies a short drive from the heart of Mandeville — or by bike since the Tammany Trace runs through its 2,800 acres. Fontainebleau State Park owns a unique history, as well, once a sugar plantation of Jean-Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville. The park offers cabins and glamping tents right on the water; nature trails lead visitors into lush oak forest and remnants of Mandeville’s old mill site.
For dinner, take a short drive over to Madisonville for seafood at The Anchor, a casual eatery that’s perfect for families, or upstairs at Tchefuncte, a fine dining restaurant helmed by Chef Michael Gottlieb. Both overlook the Tchefuncte River, providing great backdrops to meals, especially at sunset.