If you're doing your New Orleans trip right, you shouldn't be doing much sleeping.
Accommodations in New Orleans range from your basic lodger to over-the-top luxurious: like the city itself, there’s something for every preference. Prices also vary widely. The rates shown here don’t reflect spikes during high season or discounts during low season, or 14.75% room tax.
Hotel taxes are 14.75% plus a per-night occupancy fee of $1 to $3.Parking rates shown may not reflect tax or rates for oversized vehicles. Parking can up your day rate considerably, and may not include ins-and-outs. By law, all hotels are now nonsmoking, although some provide an outdoor smoking area.
Given a choice, we tend to favor slightly faded, ever-so-faintly decayed, just-this-side-of-elegant locales. A new, sterile chain or even a luxury hotel doesn't seem right for New Orleans, where atmosphere is everything. Slightly tattered lace curtains; faded antiques; mossy courtyards with banana trees and fountains; a musty, Miss Havisham air -- to us, it's all part of the fun. We prefer to stay in a Tennessee Williams play, if not an Anne Rice novel (though in summertime, we'll take air-conditioning, thank you very much).
Understandably, this may not appeal to you. It may, in fact, describe your own home, and who wants to stay in one's home on vacation? Meanwhile, here are a few tips. Don't stay on Bourbon Street unless you absolutely have to or don't mind sleepless nights. The open-air frat party that is this thoroughfare does mean a free show below your window, but it is hardly conducive to . . . well, just about anything other than participation in the same. On the other hand, making a night of it on your balcony, people-watching -- and people-egging-on -- is an activity with its own merits, one enjoyed by a number of happy tourists. If you must stay on Bourbon Street, try to get a room away from the street.
We think accommodations in the French Quarter make the most sense for first-time visitors. We adore the feeling of being ensconced in the essence of the city every time we step out of the hotel -- besides, you'll probably spend the bulk of your time there. That said, if you'd prefer to get away from it all or simply see a neighborhood whose raison d'être isn't to entertain first-time visitors, try the beautiful Garden District instead. It's an easy streetcar ride away from the Quarter and close to a number of wonderful clubs and restaurants. Finally, staying in the increasingly interesting Mid-City, Marigny, or Bywater neighborhoods will give you more of a local's perspective.
Tourism is the city's largest industry, so to be on the safe side, always book ahead in spring and fall. And if your trip coincides with a major event, book way ahead, up to a year in advance if you want to ensure a room. We can't stress this enough, especially for the biggies: Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, Essence Fest, French Quarter Fest, Southern Decadence, Halloween, and Sugar Bowl. Also, there's always the chance that a big convention or sports event will be in town, making it difficult to find a room. (Though we have to admit that's often when the maligned anonymous chain hotels do come in handy. If a convention hasn't taken one over with block booking, there is often an extra room for a decent rate floating around.) You should also be aware that rates frequently jump more than a notch or two for Mardi Gras and other festival times (sometimes even doubling), and in most cases hotels require a minimum 4- or 5-night stay during those periods.
If you want to miss the crowds and the lodgings squeeze that mark the big festivals, consider coming in the month immediately following Mardi Gras or, if you can stand the heat and humidity, in the summer, when the streets are not nearly as thronged. December, before the Sugar Bowl and New Year's activities, is a good time, too, but it can get a bit chilly and rainy. In both cases, hotel prices fall dramatically and great deals can be had just about everywhere.
Sorry. If you consult former editions of Frommer’s New Orleans, you’d find options for inexpensive French Quarter hotels. But demand has increased, the recession has recessed, and some formerly acceptable budget properties have upgraded into moderate or high-end hotels. Alas, we regret to say that the days of cheapie French Quarter digs may be gone. Try the Bywater . . . for now. If you're on a budget and must stay there, consider a guesthouse. On the whole, however, you'll have a better selection of inexpensive lodgings outside the Quarter. New Orleans also has a couple of hostels; check the website www.hostels.com for more information.
Spare Rooms & Other Alternate Lodging Options
New Orleans is awash in short-term listings on Airbnb, HomeAWay, VRBO and their ilk. Certainly some will save you a few bucks. Be aware that, until pending laws pass, they’re illegal (though largely unenforced), and heed the scam-cautions. But there are deeper concerns. First, New Orleans’ economy is indelibly tied to the tourism industry. Its workforce – the servers, cooks, bartenders, and performers whose talents and hospitality you are presumably coming to enjoy – rely on reasonable, available housing stock. Second, the city depends on revenue from legit, tax-paying, regulation-adherent businesses.
Further, even in the most urban environments, there is a delicate balance between commercial and residential; an expectation of stability, peace, and neighborliness. And crucially, in New Orleans the precious evolution of culture and transfer of traditions occurs within long-established communities. When all of this is eroded or undercut, expect the ripple effects to be unfortunate at best, disastrous at worst: on the quality service and affordability you deserve; on New Orleans’ incredible, unique culture; and on so many livelihoods.
As one displaced bar manager said, “Sometimes the best deal you can find results in an exceptionally rotten deal for everyone else.” Until the playing field can be levelled and controlled, please consider this.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.