The Ultimate Girls’ Guide to a Non-sleazy Big Easy

The Ultimate Girls’ Guide to a Non-sleazy Big Easy

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The howling frat boys of Bourbon Street don’t immediately summon to mind the ideal atmosphere for a civilized girls’ weekend. But New Orleans has many delights beyond the totally debauched — even for ladies seeking relaxation and (a tiny bit of) revelry.

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    We joined a historic walking tour of the Garden District where a gossipy guide (ask for Jane) not only pointed out all the celebrity mansions — hello, Sandra Bullock! — but also gave us the dish.
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    We headed to The Columns hotel to enjoy Bloody Marys and snacks on a sweeping porch while listening to live music. It’s here that Brooke Shields filmed the movie “Pretty Baby,” and the interior still feels like an upscale brothel.
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    Launched in 1835, it’s the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world, and each cab is a designated landmark. Sadly, the streetcar named Desire no longer runs, but other trolleys will satisfy you just the same.
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    The most crucial factor is getting the right hotel, and we struck gold with the Windsor Court. It is an impenetrable fortress of Southern charm just a few minutes’ walk from the best of the French Quarter.
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    At this three-story juke house near the river that feels like a secret speakeasy, there are no reservations, so once the bouncer lets you in, you have to find your own table either inside or in the garden, where the band plays. 
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    After dinner, instead of Bourbon Street, we opted for classier Frenchmen Street where live jazz is played until 4 a.m. The Spotted Cat Music Club is one of the liveliest joints in the hood, with cheap drinks and great bands so close you can touch them.
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    When things got too hot, we stepped outside and discovered a magical outdoor market where local artists sell one-of-a-kind clothes, crafts and jewelry from 6 p.m. till midnight. 
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    My friends and I kept the good times rolling with a jazz brunch at Antoine’s (soft-shell crab is $32 and worth it!)
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    Another of our favorite boutiques. As we strolled, at least two wedding parades strutted past, complete with roaring brass bands and guests waving handkerchiefs in the air.
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    There are myriad emporiums here filled with treasures, but this was one of our favorites — and the friendly shop assistants made it impossible to resist scooping up something special. 
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    For snacks, we ate puffy, fluffy beignets at Café Du Monde — a cliché but a must-try nonetheless. We had them with frozen café au laits instead of the famous chickory coffee and weren’t disappointed. 
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    We were thrilled over the dishes at Herbsaint, which is at the cutting edge of modern Southern dining. Jessica Lange dined just a table away, but the waiters treated us like we were the only movie stars in their midst.
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