Pictured: Windsor Court Hotel lobby
To call New Orleans a melting pot would be an understatement. This crescent by the Gulf passed from French to Spanish and back to French hands before becoming part of the States in 1803. Plus, it's always had a strong connection to the Caribbean. Even after that though, New Orleans stood as a city apart, welcoming immigrants from the islands, particularly Haiti, and enjoying a comparatively liberal, three-tiered society in which select people of color could live free. That changed during the reconstruction, but the laissez-faire, joie de vivre attitude remained and remains strong.
If you're traveling to New Orleans for Mardi Gras this year, or Southern Decadence over Labor Day, or perhaps even the jazz festival held every spring, here are a few reliable places to bed and breakfast in the Big Easy. The only real question to keep in mind is, "How close do I want to be to the action?" Do you want to be in the thick of it, in the non-stop party that is the French Quarter, or would you prefer to be walking distance, in downtown? Or maybe you prefer the residential atmosphere of the Garden District? Hopefully this will help make your decision a little easier.
This is only a sample of hotels we've visited, and we more than welcome your suggestions, so leave them in the comments to help us plan our next trip.
1. International House Hotel: The name International House Hotel may scream bed and breakfast, but the service and amenities at this elegant hotel make it more than a flop-house. Recent renovations brought a fresh wave of contemporary cool to the well-lit, airy standard rooms, while penthouses and suits feature over-sized ottomans and marble showers fit for royalty. Local myths and rituals are woven throughout, and guests can experience the latest massage therapies in the hotel spa.
2. Soniat House: For those who want to really feel New Orleans's history, check out Soniat House, an auberge composed of three 19th Century townhouses. This enchanting property's unique touches, like private courtyards and original spiral staircases, and European touches give it its charm, while magnolias, sweet olive and ginger growing in the garden keep things fragrant. With a dedicated staff, and simple amenities, Soniat House offers guests a no-nonsense but nonetheless memorable stay.(Rooms start at $225/night.)
3. Hotel Le Marais: If you want to be Bourbon Street but away from the noise, we suggest Hotel Le Marais, a "boutique" hotel with an emphasis on boutique: the rooms are quite tight, though still perfectly functional for the fashionista, hipsters and influencers it courts. Deep, poppy purples dominate in this luxury hotel, and trendy is the name of the game, but then there are also charming details, such as gas light lamps, that add a classic touch and hark back to the city's rich history. (Rates depend upon date and availability, but this is a pricier hotel.)
4. Bourbon Orleans Hotel: One of the Wyndham properties, the elegant Bourbon Orleans Hotel remains a favorite for gays looking for a grand stay in Crescent City. Only a block away from Bourbon Street, and crawling distance from many of the city's gay bars, guests can revel in the city's ongoing party while also enjoying a taste of true class while sipping mint juleps on overstuffed couches under the hotel's many regal chandeliers. (Using online booking sites, it's possible to get rooms starting at $190/night.)
5. Windsor Court Hotel: A luxury hotel inspired by the famous royals, the Windsor Court (pictured) aesthetic rests on deep, dark woods, 17th and 18th century art, intricate moldings and an elegant sage-green, ocean-blue and saddle-tan palate. A roof deck and pool provide a perfect place to have a pre-dinner drink in the warmer months, and new chef Kristin Butterworth will keep you well fed with Claire Island Salmon and sweet potato hash and buttermilk fried poussin, a regional favorite. (Rooms start at about $275-300/night.)
6. New Orleans Hilton New Orleans/St Charles Ave: Located on St. Charles Avenue, right in the center of town and walking district from both the French Quarter and the Garden District, this Hilton outpost offers the company's always-glittering 4-star service and amenities while adding a touch of aesthetic eccentricities -- bold floral patterns and Napoleonic wallpaper in blush -- that channel New Orleans's vibrancy. This is a comfortable, reliable and convenient option for those visiting Crescent City. (It's possible, if traveling off season, to get rooms from $160-210/night.)
Pictured: A room at the W New Orleans-French Quarter
7. LaFitte Guest House: Another hotel built on history, the LaFitte Guest House is housed an 1849 mansion originally constructed for the sprawling Gelieses family and includes 14-private, antique-decorated suits for guests hoping to get a feel for what it was like to live in new Orleans in the 19th Century while still enjoying 21st Century amenities and elegance in the city's iconic French Quarter. (The less ornate rooms can be had for about $140/night during the week.)
8. The Frenchmen Hotel: Budget-conscious travelers will definitely want to check out The Frenchmen Hotel in the quiet Faubourg Marigny district. Built around a small courtyard and pool, the charming rooms feature exposed brick, floor-to-ceiling windows and enchanting antiques. The better suits even have private balconies. Free continental breakfast only sweetens the deal. (One of the better deals in town, you can get a room for about $79/night on weekends during off-peak season. They go for about $250/night during peak season.)
9. W New Orleans-French Quarter: The hip W franchise puts it trademark contemporary spin on New Orleans chic (pictured above). Bold graphics and sleek, geometric shapes dominate many of the rooms, while the more luxurious accommodations come with private hot tubs. Their onsite restaurant, Zoe, celebrates the city's culinary amalgamations through truly inventive southern fusion dishes, including a very popular blackened redfish po'boy and sensational gumbo, while the bartenders at Whiskey Blue will keep you well lubricated for the night's adventures. (Rooms start at about $200/night.)
10. Elsyian Fields Inn: A bed and breakfast that's particularly popular among LGBT travelers, this 1860s Greek Revival mansion features eight guest rooms and one suite, all of which have remarkably high ceilings and a homey, bed-and-breakfast feel. There are no frills and no luxury at the Elsyian Fields Inn, but that's part of its unpretentious appeal, and wy it remains a great choice for those watching their wallets. Plus, it's within walking distance from the French Quarter, so you won't miss out on any of the city's action. (Rooms start at about $150/night.)
11. 1896 O'Malley House: Another bed-and-breakfast steeped in history, the gay-friendly 1896 O'Malley House features the standard amenities and details — continental breakfast, frilly curtains, antique tchotchkes, but the common space also comes with a piano, a detail that could prove instrumental to creating a memorable night with fellow guests. The courtyard's fountain also adds the right note to a relaxing night in, tucked away from the hustle and bustle outside and losing yourself in conversation. (Rooms start at $125/night.)
12. Hotel Indigo: A reliable go-to for those looking for an upscale, modern base camp while in New Orleans, the Hotel Indigo offers guests a comfortable stay away in the relaxed, peaceful Garden District that's only minutes to the French Quarter by streetcar, should your heart desire. One of the most popular packages is their ghost tours, something anyone who's never visited macabre New Orleans should check out. (Rooms in peak season go for about $199/night, depending on availability.)