New Orleans has been a staple of bachelor parties for decades, but these days the ladies are taking over the city. An annual conference, Festigals, drew 400 people this summer for a women-only celebration. One of the premier hotels, the Windsor Court Hotel, boasts a female chef and female sommelier, together crafting elegant-tasting menus. And a walking tour of the French Quarter -- led by a feisty 79-year-old female -- drops in tales of women affecting the city.
So what better place for a girls' getaway?
Stay out all night
Make sure to walk along Bourbon Street -- even without Mardi Gras, it's a circus all its own. But locals will tip you toward Frenchmen Street, a chance to dart in and out of bars where local bands play all night long. This weekend, you could catch the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival. Top off any night with a visit to Cafe du Monde, open 24 hours a day, for the city's famous beignets and rich chicory coffee, just in case the night is only getting started.
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Grab a daiquiri and your shopping shoes
Explore the unique boutiques of Magazine Street, a lengthy but doable walk or a quick cab ride from the French Quarter. Places like Buffalo Exchange offer consignment-store finds, like party dresses or a floral TopShop blouse. If your shopping can escalate to extravagant – or for a peek -- stop in at M.S. Rau Antiques, where pieces range from a Russian fossilized cave bear to Monets and a vampire killing kit.
Eat your way through the city
Leave the diet books at home. The waiters at legendary Arnaud's Restaurant on Bourbon Street may tell you the meals are zero calories, but that's not true - and you'll be robbing yourself of the city's best pleasures if you don't eat your way through New Orleans. The city's cuisine is incomparable - succulent shrimp often delivered straight from the Gulf, the spices are thrown together in a way New England just can’t muster, and, well, what other place constantly lights its desserts on fire? A few places to try:
Brunch is a must here. A favorite is Brennan's in the French Quarter. Craft a delicious prix-fixe meal like its famous turtle soup (you'd never know), shrimp sardou layered over artichokes and spinach
and, of course, bananas foster, created at the restaurant and now a New Orleans staple. If you’d rather eat all you want, The Court of Two Sisters down the street has a daily jazz brunch, with a live band in the courtyard and a shrimp-and-grits filled buffet.
For a quick sandwich along the way, grab another city staple, the po-boy. In the French Quarter, Johnny's has alligator sausage po-boys and Deanie's boasts the shrimp and oyster sandwiches as part of its seafood-centric menu.
Or consider taking a wine-tasting class from the Windsor Court Hotel’s sommelier Sara Kavanaugh, a Southern native who will walk you through the steps of tasting six wines, helping you identify berries or oaky hues. Her tips on swishing the wine around like mouthwash at the first sip will change the way you taste, and drink, wine. The hotel also offers a $100 per person tasting menu, featuring foie gras, steak and scallops.
Where to stay:
The Hotel Monteleone, legend says, is where the French Quarter begins.
The hotel, opened by a Sicilian shoemaker more than a century ago, has hosted luminaries from Tennessee Williams to Paul Newman and Liberace. Within walking distance from delicious brunch
spots and the invigorating, music-filled Frenchmen Street, the hotel is an elegant place to retire at the end of the day.