Even a seasoned traveler should consider writing or calling ahead to the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, 2020 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans, LA 70130 (tel. 800/672-6124 or 504/566-5011; www.neworleanscvb.com). The friendly, helpful staff will help with advice and decision-making; if you have a special interest, they'll help you plan your visit around it -- this is definitely one of the most helpful tourist centers in any major city.

Once you've arrived, you also might want to stop by the Visitor Information Center, 529 St. Ann St. (tel. 504/568-5661), in the French Quarter. The center is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm and has walking- and driving-tour maps and booklets on restaurants, accommodations, sightseeing, special tours, and pretty much anything else you might want to know.

The following websites are also excellent information sources:

  • www.NOLA.com: The Times-Picayune newspaper's site, has news plus nightlife, culture, and festival information, and good links.
  • www.neworleansonline.com: Detailed info from the Tourism Marketing Corporation.
  • www.gonola.com: Fun videos to get you in the mood for a visit.
  • www.wwoz.org/livewire: To-the-minute nighttime music show listings.
  • www.artsneworleans.com: Good source for arty events and plenty more.

Among the many blogs about New Orleans, www.myneworleans.com and www.blogofneworleans.com keep good track of the goings-on; www.appetites.us has excellent NOLA food coverage; perennial fave www.gumbopages.com still has plenty of information about New Orleans-related food and music, though of late it's taken a sharp turn toward cocktail mania. The following literate locals offer musings (and sometimes rantings) about food, music, politics, and the gamut of aspects of their beloved city:

  • www.BlackenedOut.com: Food, food, and more food -- from a chef who knows it well.
  • www.Fleurtygirl.com: Fun flirty videos-about-town.
  • http://homeofthegroove.blogspot.com: Terrific music blog.
  • www.HesaidShesaidNOLA.com: A local couple agree (or don't) on subjects about the city.
  • http://redstreetcarline.wordpress.com: Good New Orleans ideas and finds.
  • www.noladefender.com: Commentary and info on the city.
  • http://b.rox.com: A catchall of politics, culture, warts, beauty spots, and so on.
  • http://humidcity.com/: More interesting commentary for the post-Katrina era.

As for apps, all the big festivals have them, complete with helpful schedules (French Quarter Fest, Jazz Fest, Essence, Voodoo, and so on). For ongoing general information, we also like the apps from Nola.com, Offbeat, GoNola, the GuidePal New Orleans map, and the cool Experience Mardi Gras parade-tracker. All are available for iPhones, some for Android, and we remain hopeful for the Blackberry users.

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.