New Orleans offers some distinctive architecture that many visitors will enjoy.  The buildings of the French Quarter may be the best known example, with their iron lattice balconies, distinctive colors, and close, old fashioned townhouse style construction. The gas lamps add a terrific 19th century ambience to the French Quarter, especially late at night when most tourists have gone in.

     To see the real architectural highlights of the city, take the streetcar to the New Orleans Garden District, which boasts a number of distinctive and highly ornate mansions.  While there, you will also want to check out one or two of the city's famed above-ground cemeteries, which boast beautiful stonework and a style that can only be found in New Orleans. One of the most beautiful buildings in the city is the St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square.

     And if you're renting a car, a short drive out of the city will bring you to any number of former plantations and Civil War era mansions, many of which are open to the general public. One exceptional plantation to tour is Oaklawn Manor in the tiny town of Franklin, Louisiana.

The Preservation Resource Center at 923 Tchoupitoulas Street in the Warehouse district features both permanent and rotating exhibits on New Orleans architecture.  Its the perfect place to visit before touring the neighborhoods.  Pick up a walking tour brochure and maps of New Orleans National Historic Districts.  There is also a library for those who want to do more in depth research.

The Center of is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. Donations are appreciated and in the wake of Katrina, much needed. For more information, call (504) 581-7032, or visit: www.prcno.org .