New Orleans Revisited

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Says Christine Sory, director of sales at the 200-room Maison Dupuy Hotel in the Quarter, recalling the Katrina experience, “We experienced the wonder of our roof being detached. Everything literally had to be thrown out the window.” By March 2006, all rooms were restored and Maison Dupuy’s charming courtyard was replanted, its slate replaced and its Italian fountain repaired.

“In February of this year,” Sory says, “we opened a restaurant, Le Meritage, where chef Michael Farrell pairs wines with small and large plates. In August, our banquet room received a facelift, and we are now fully renovated.”

To celebrate all things New Orleans, book your clients on the hotel’s 2-night French Quarter Fling, which includes deluxe accommodations, complimentary valet parking each night, a 3-course dinner for two with a glass of wine at the Le Meritage Restaurant; breakfast for two at the French Quarter Bistro; martini’s for two upon arrival; and a NOLA Bonus Pack, offering up to a $300 value of discount coupons for restaurants, attractions and more. Weekend rates are $479 per room dbl.

At the Bienville House Hotel—its 83 rooms tucked inside a pair of vintage warehouse buildings at the Quarter’s Mississippi riverfront—a $6 million renovation was completed in November 2008. “Guestrooms were renovated from top to bottom,” says Erin Boreros, director of sales, “and so was the courtyard, where we added a heated saltwater swimming pool and a beautiful fountain. We also opened Iris Restaurant, which was formerly in the Garden District and moved to Bienville House last year.”

Here, the 3-night Art Connoisseur package, available through Dec. 31, includes deluxe accommodations, a welcome cocktail at the Carousel Piano Bar (located in the Hotel Monteleone), admission to the New Orleans Museum of Art, admission to the National WWII Museum, admission to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and shopping discounts at over 10 Royal Street Guild antique and boutique shops. Weekend rates for the package are $737 per room dbl and a 14-day advance purchase is required.

Even a new build arose in the early recovery picture. The 450-room Harrah’s New Orleans Hotel opened in September 2006 at the corner of Poydras and Fulton streets—linked by a tunnel to Harrah’s Casino. The property turned Fulton Street—a pedestrian-only block and the one-time main entertainment strip of the 1984 World’s Fair—into action central. Recently launched here are the seafood-themed Grand Isle (oh, the crispy duck debris po’ boy) and Ruth’s Chris Steak House, founded in New Orleans in 1965 by native daughter Ruth Fertel. Room rates start at $219.

Additionally, a sample 4-night Funjet Vacations package for travel Feb. 10-14 with accommodations at the three-star Holiday Inn Express New Orleans in the French Quarter, starts at $789.91 for two adults.

trimmings Tell your sports buffs that more than $200 million has been spent on the Superdome, with still more upgrades slated to be on view next year. And tip them off that the Super Bowl is coming back to town in 2013.

Mardi Gras, which never really left, is back in full throttle. This year, the city marked a return to pre-Katrina levels of attendance with nearly a million revelers on hand to leap for beads, dive for doubloons, and queue up for a muffaletta and a hurricane punch. In 2010, expect parade routes to resonate once more from Jan. 6 through Feb. 16.

Culture vultures may be more likely to opt for the 24th annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival. Which itself is fun-filled (this is the Big Easy, after all), with its nonstop schedule of plays, panels and parties, and visiting luminaries of page and stage. The 2010 dates: March 24-28.

Like Mardi Gras, the spring event is in full recovery mode. “In 2008 and 2009, the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival saw attendance figures and box office receipts return to pre-Katrina levels,” says Paul Willis, the festival’s executive director. “In an economic impact study conducted by the University of New Orleans in 2008,” Willis adds, “the festival generated approximately $1 million for the local economy during the 5-day event, which is the highest figure since 2004.”

Topping the roster of on-the-grow attractions, the National WWII Museum claims the spotlight with its $300 million expansion, the first phase of which is making a star-spangled debut this month. Famous guests are adding excitement to the new Victory Theater, The Stage Door Canteen for dining and entertainment, and The American Sector—yet another new restaurant by John Besh (who also mans Besh Steak at Harrah’s Casino—among others—and just may be the busiest chef in town). With the opening of additional phases, the museum plans to quadruple its size by 2015.