We flew to Gulfport, MS to visit a friend in Biloxi, MS the first 2 days on our way to NOLA. It’s tragic the amount of damage still visible from Katrina: signs for places that were completely wiped out, brick or concrete stairs leading up to an empty lot, and so many people living in FEMA trailers. But a beautiful walk along the beach (posted reviews on MS section).
We drove to NOLA and of course saw more damage along the highway from the lake to the French Quarter. Most tourists will want to spend time getting to know the FQ, but we were also happy to get away from the cement and explore more nature-y areas.
Jackson Square for us included a short mule-drawn carriage ride $12 for approximately 15 minutes in a group carriage, which gave us an overview of the FQ, beignets at Café Du Monde (I thought they were ok, but simply small squares of friend dough), and a tour of the Presbytere Museum next to the Cathedral, which is a Mardi Gras display of costumes, information about its history, etc. (I found it interesting). The other enjoyable site for us in the FQ was the Old Ursuline Convent, with a fantastic display of mosaic art from the Vatican. The Aquarium is nice, and the boat ride to the Zoo is worth the combination ticket. The Zoo was also enjoyable, but I forgot that most of the animals would be snoozing in the noon-day sun, so aim for earlier in the day, or later (St. Charles St. bus runs to a couple of blocks from the entrance, or Magazine St. bus, too).
City Park is well worth visiting, but bring a picnic lunch if you are there mid-day. Our old map (pre-Katrina) showed a restaurant on site, but there is no food whatsoever on the premises other than a candy bar and a soda cooler at the botanical garden gift shop. The museum and sculptue garden have contemporary art, and the flowers in the botanical garden are gorgeous.
Jean Lafitte National Park & Preserve (need a vehicle, 20 minutes south of FQ): Friendly and helpful ranger at the visitor center pointed us in the right direction to the boardwalk complete with alligators, lizards, frogs, owls, and beautiful swampland. bring bug repellent and water to drink, and enjoy the peace!
Pat O’Brien’s: the piano bar is great fun, but food is served only in the restaurant part of the establishment, which is separate from the piano bar and the famous courtyard with flaming fountain. the food is so-so, with many other better restaurants nearby. do go and enjoy, but don't expect to have dinner or dessert with the music or the fountain.
Cannon's Restaurant on St. Charles Street in the garden district: The chicken pecan salad was fantastic, others in our party had shrimp salad, a hamburger, turtle soup, and the desserts were out of this world: best brownie sundae ever and a wonderful bread pudding. definitely recommend, need a vehicle or take the bus from Canal St.
Snug Harbor - Music (shows usually at 8 & 10pm) & dinner in restaurant section: we really enjoyed our visit & returned the following night for a different band. The fish marginy was really delicious. The jazz was wonderful. Highly recommend.
We would definitely return to “Star Steak & Lobster House” on Decatur Street. Excllent food including crawfish ettouffe and a nice 1-man band.
Tour of the 9th ward: heartbreaking, but everyone should see the truth about the rebuilding efforts and the outrageous delays in assistance and coordination. Some groups are working very hard to help out.
In summary, we met so many friendly people who are rebuilding their lives and businesses, and working hard. There is still a staff shortage in some restaurants and hotels which results in slower service, but that's not the fault of the employees! I need reminding sometimes to be so grateful for my life, home, job, and general stability.