As I indicated in my last post , today's date has long been associated with the horrendous terrorist attacks that took place in the United States on September 11, 2001. Despite the understandably dark cloud that's hung over this day, I do have a small piece of good news – albeit unrelated to the date's significance. Purely by coincidence, the third edition of Moon New Orleans  was released today. Admittedly, the project took a bit longer than anticipated, but given how long I've wanted to write about my favorite U.S. city (and beloved hometown), I have to say that I'm pretty proud of this particular guide.
Filled with a slew of photographs, detailed maps, helpful facts, and suggested sights, restaurants, nightlife options, shops, cultural and recreational offerings, and hotels, Moon New Orleans is a useful tool for all types of visitors, whether you're a seasonal resident or a first-time visitor to the Crescent City . As with other Moon Cities guides, the “Discover” chapter features suggested itineraries, including a three-day tour of New Orleans. Of course, to get the most out of your Big Easy encounter, you should set aside at least a week to experience the best that this legendary town has to offer.
So, to celebrate the book's release, I've decided to present a weeklong itinerary of the city's top cultural and recreational attractions – in three parts.
Here, then, is the first part of this fun-filled tour:
From your French Quarter or Faubourg Marigny hotel, begin your day by heading to the longstanding Old Coffeepot Restaurant on St. Peter Street for one of the city's best breakfasts, including dishes like Callas cakes and eggs Sardou. After breakfast, stroll through picturesque Jackson Square, not far from the Mississippi River. Take some time to tour the stunning structures that surround this historic, well-landscaped park. Besides the majestic St. Louis Cathedral, you'll see curious historical exhibits inside The Cabildo and The Presbytère and glimpse period Creole furnishings inside the 1850 House, part of the lovely Upper and Lower Pontalba Apartments.
Walk two blocks up Decatur Street to Cafe Maspero, once a 19th-century slave exchange and now an affordable seafood eatery popular among locals. Following lunch, cross the street and amble toward the French Market, a historic collection of eateries, gift stores, and praline shops, including Southern Candymakers. Beyond the farmers and flea markets at the northern end, you'll encounter the magnificent Old U.S. Mint, now an engaging museum about the building's history as well as the city's jazz legacy. Before heading back to your hotel, be sure to stop by Central Grocery, an eclectic gourmet shop famous for its massive muffulettas.
Don your finest attire, then head to Galatoire's on Bourbon Street for a quintessential French Creole dinner. Established in 1905, this well-regarded restaurant features classics like oysters Rockefeller, shrimp étouffée, and poisson meunière amandine. Afterward, walk to the world-famous Preservation Hall for a short jazz concert, then stroll back to Bourbon, where you'll find other well-respected live jazz venues, such as the Maison Bourbon Jazz Club and Fritzel's European Jazz Pub. Be sure to pay a visit to Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo, where in addition to purchasing voodoo dolls, ceremonial masks, and relevant books, you can opt for a private tarot card reading in the back room.
Wake up with an early breakfast at Stanley, a casual café offering a view of Jackson Square and serving New Orleans-style dishes, such as eggs Benedict po-boys, plus Italian sodas and decadent ice cream desserts. Afterward, walk along the riverfront and explore varied marine exhibits inside the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, home to Spots the rare white alligator. Watch a vibrant documentary in the adjacent Entergy IMAX Theatre, then take a short stroll to the Audubon Insectarium, a living insect museum inside the U.S. Custom House, where you'll encounter everything from cockroaches to butterflies.
For lunch, savor a delectable salad at Dickie Brennan's Palace Café (pictured above), located alongside the French Quarter, or relish a cup of seafood gumbo and a roast beef po-boy at Mother's Restaurant in the CBD. Then, wander back to the river and browse the souvenir shops inside the Riverwalk Marketplace. From here, you can hop aboard the Creole Queen and take a river cruise to the Chalmette Battlefield, a pivotal site during the Battle of New Orleans.
Following your return, freshen up at your hotel, then head out for dinner at either Mr. B's Bistro, a French Quarter eatery that serves classic New Orleans-style cuisine, or The Praline Connection, a soul food restaurant in the Marigny. After dinner, enjoy live jazz, blues, and rock music inside the venues along Frenchmen Street, including The Spotted Cat Music Club, a smoky, somewhat cramped jazz bar made famous by HBO's Treme.
If your curiosity has been piqued, stay tuned for the next part  of my suggested itinerary. In the meantime, be sure to enter my latest giveaway for a chance to win a signed copy of Moon New Orleans. To do so, simply answer the following question: “Upon arriving in New Orleans, what would you like to see, do, or eat first?” You can do this in one of three ways: leave a comment below this post, send an email to laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com, or post a comment on the Moon New Orleans Facebook page . The contest will end at 11:59 p.m. PST on Tuesday, September 25th.
Good luck – and don't forget to stay tuned for the continuation of my seven-day tour of the Big Easy.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below, contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com, or connect with me on Facebook  and Twitter .
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo of Dickie Brennan's Palace Café © 2012 Daniel Martone / Text © 2012 Laura Martone