Loews New Orleans Hotel specializes in meetings for groups booking 35 rooms or less. A dedicated access manager can help you plan and confirm an event within 24 hours. The hotel has 285 guest rooms (including 12 suites) all with views of the Mississippi River or New Orleans skyline. Its 17,000 square feet of flexible function space includes the 4,243-sq. ft. Louisiana Ballroom (capacity: 300), with 16-ft. ceilings and wall-to-wall windows. Nine smaller meeting rooms fit groups of 10 to 300.
The 693-room Crowne Plaza French Quarter sits elegantly on the corner of two famous streets, Canal and Bourbon, and has 13 meeting rooms and 32,000 square feet of event space. Its largest room capacity is 800 people. The 292-room Crowne Plaza New Orleans Airport has 12,000 square feet of event space and 10 flexible meeting rooms. You’ll find it just one mile from Louis Armstrong International Airport (MSY) and 15 miles from the city center. Like all Crowne Plazas, these two promise a two-hour “response guarantee” for space and date availability inquiries. A designated meeting director can assist with advance planning, last-minute changes and can help planners stay within budget with a daily debriefing. Crowne also gives discounts and bonuses through its loyalty program, Priority Club Meeting Rewards.
The 250-room Hilton New Orleans/St. Charles Avenue began life as a Masonic Temple in 1926 and is six blocks away from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, blocks from the world-famous French Quarter and Arts District, and 25 minutes from the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY). The 1920s’ high-rise has 10,000+ square feet of meeting space, including the Skyview Terrace and a historic chapel. It’s largest meeting room is 2,320 square feet in size. Four generations of Monteleones have managed the Hotel Monteleone, which has stood at the corner of Royal and Iberville streets in the French Quarter since the 1800s. Amenities include a spa, rooftop pool, plush guest rooms, on-site dining and more than 20,000 square feet of meeting space, including ballrooms, meeting rooms and reception areas for groups up to 400. According to the International Society of Paranormal Research, the hotel also hosts the playful spirits of former employees and guests — a fun, if unexpected amenity for planners interested in themed events or “ghost hunter” adventures. Built in 1893, The Roosevelt, formerly the Fairmont New Orleans, has hosted kings, queens and presidents. Amenities include 60,000+ square feet of event space, including a grand ballroom and 23 meeting rooms, 504 guest rooms, 135 suites, a full-service Guerlain spa, and three dining venues, including the legendary Sazerac Bar and Restaurant. The Sazerac is the city’s official cocktail, but don’t order it on the rocks — it’s not meant to be served on ice. The National World War II Museum has extensive, interactive exhibits on the Pacific and European theaters, special exhibits on such events as the Normandy Invasion, and artifacts from the war at home and overseas. The venue can accommodate up to 1,200 guests. Next door, check out the retro 1940s vibe of the American Sector, chef John Besh’s canteen tribute to 1940s comfort food, handcrafted sodas and quick bites. Or combine a museum visit with an evening at Besh’s Restaurant August, an upscale spot with private rooms and fine dining for 100 to 200.
The contemporary International House is a member of the Green Hotels Association. New Orleans’ first boutique hotel, it uses indigenous materials in the décor: Vases in the rooms are crafted from a local apothecary’s mineral water bottles, photos of local musicians are on the walls, a history book of New Orleans is on the desk. If you have a small group, stop at the hotel’s attractive Loa Bar (named for a voodoo deity or divine spirit), a popular spot for visiting celebrities.
The W Hotel New Orleans is a few blocks from the French Quarter and within walking distance of the Morial Convention Center. It has more than 13,000 square feet of meeting space, including 13 meeting and banquet rooms with stellar views of downtown. The AAA Four-Diamond property has 423 rooms, a 4,992-sq. ft. great room, a Pets Are Welcome program (P.A.W.) and a Whiskey Blue cocktail lounge. French Quarter hotels tend to have fun, unusual outdoor venues. The Royal Sonesta has a tropical courtyard and wrought-iron balconies. In the Central Business District, Hilton New Orleans/St. Charles Avenue has a Skyview Terrace overlooking the city.
The über-contemporary Saint features a $45 million redo of the Audubon (circa 1909), a former hotel and office building. The eight-story boutique hotel sits on prime Mardi Gras-viewing real estate and has 166 rooms and 1,450 square feet of meeting space with all the technological bells and whistles. The big wow here: The urban-chic guest rooms, columned lobby, beaux arts architectural details and Halo rooftop bar. Sweet Olive, on the lobby level, is the second restaurant from Mike Stoltzfus, chef and co-owner of Coquette Bistro & Wine Bar, the seasonally driven eatery on Magazine Street. Another phase of renovations will include 4,500 additional square feet of meeting and banquet space. The Hyatt Regency, a central business district convention hotel damaged by Hurricane Katrina, is back after a $275 million redesign and revitalization. The hotel, adjacent to the Mercedes Benz Superdome, has 1,193 guest rooms/suites, 200,000 square feet of flexible event space — the most in town — and diverse restaurants. The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans has more than 35,000 square feet of meeting space for groups up to 500 and newly renovated guest rooms. Also available there: the French Quarter Bar, the Library Lounge, the Courtyard & Mercier Terrace for more intimate gatherings. Each group gets its own event concierge.
Mardi Gras World, the riverfront museum and workshop where floats are created for the famous Carnival, is a mix of whimsy, fantasy and action. Just steps from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, it can handle 50 to 8,000 people. Entertainment options include private after-hours tours, demos, float rides, second-line parades and cooking demos in the fully equipped catering kitchen. MGW even has an atmospheric Grand Oaks Mansion, a movie-set-worthy uptown manse with faux live oaks and Spanish moss. There’s a huge patio facing the Mississippi River and meeting rooms with river views. The Audubon Zoo and Aquarium has indoor and outdoor meeting space for groups of up to 350; the entire facility can be booked for progressive dinners and receptions. The National World War II Museum has several private event venues, including a 242-seat theater; an aircraft hanger/pavilion that holds up to 1,200 people, and stylish private dining rooms for gatherings of 12 or fewer. The Foundry, near the Mississippi riverfront in the city’s historic Warehouse District, boasts an open floor plan that can accommodate groups of 100 to 1,000, and evokes the romance of the 19th-century era of steamboats and horse-drawn wagons.
Dining is No. 1. Many attendees will be familiar with the names of the most famous restaurants (and, in some cases, the chefs): Galatoire’s, Cochon, Antoine’s, Commander’s Palace, Brennan’s, Bourbon House, Mr. B’s, K-Paul’s, Palace Café, Lilette, Arnaud’s, Broussard’s … we could go on and on. Many offer team-building cooking classes or gift shops that planners can troll for takeaway gifts. Voluntourism is a popular conference or meeting add-on. The CVB has a list of opportunities on its website.
Amusement Masters has a large inventory of indoor and outdoor amusements and games, from familiar favorites to high-tech interactive simulators and green screens. It can provide services for corporate events, theme parties and team-building. Events can center around arcade, casino or sports games, zip lining, green screen photo imaging, virtual reality simulators, karaoke, inflatables, Xbox, Wii or Playstation 3 kiosks or good old-fashioned pool tables, LED dance floors or laser tag.
Stage an off-site event at Café Reconcile, an innovative community-based nonprofit that gives at-risk young people the skills to succeed in the hospitality business. The Café’s “Feed Your Soul” package offers groups of 30 to 80 a New Orleans-style meal, with proceeds benefiting the Reconcile mission. Pricing starts as low as $25 per person. Reconcile also can be hired to cater off-site events at such venues as the Cabildo, Presbytere, U.S. Mint, New Orleans Museum of Art, Contemporary Arts Center and Degas House.
All of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants have private dining options, a distinct vibe and seafood-centric cuisine. Nola is rustic and relaxed, with space for 20 to 500 throughout three floors. Each floor has its own bar and restroom. Emeril’s Delmonico provides understated elegance, a fantastic wine program and modern steakhouse Creole cuisine, with space options for up to 230 seated, 375 for a reception. The cornstalk fence space in the back is a hidden gem that offers a private entrance and courtyard for cocktailing. Take over the chef’s kitchen table at the original Emeril’s, or the wine room, where intimate groups can enjoy an award-winning wine cellar. The entire restaurant accommodates up to 200 guests. Whether or not Emeril is in the house that night, guests leave with a bag of Bam! — a takeaway that might include a signed cookbook, spice blends, feathers or Mardi Gras beads.
The Audubon Insectarium in the historic U.S. Custom House on Canal Street covers everything you’d ever want to know about bugs, butterflies and creepy-crawlies. Between cocktails at the reception, your group can see the world from a bug’s perspective, stroll through a Louisiana swamp or wander through a butterfly garden.
Although it has plenty of meeting and event space on-site (80,000 square feet), the 1,275-room New Orleans Marriott is known for its mastery of over-the-top group events: Transport by mule-drawn carriages to a sit-down dinner at the Presbytere on Jackson Square, where local musicians perform. Or take part in second-line parades in which your group follows a marching brass band to a Bourbon Street balcony and a Mardi Gras-style party. The event staff has access to swank Garden District manses, which can be rented for candlelight cocktail parties with interactive food stations and live music.
The Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve consists of six sites in Louisiana; three are in the metro New Orleans area: the historic French Quarter’s Laura C. Hudson Visitor Center, the Barataria Preserve, and the Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery. Visitors can walk through a swamp and view wildlife or take a walking tour of the French Quarter. Limited to 25 people, tours are on a first-come, first-served basis. Passes, limited to one per person, must be picked up in person on the day of the tour.
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band derives its name from Preservation Hall, the venerable, weathered music venue located in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter. The band has performed worldwide, spreading its mission to nurture and perpetuate the art form of New Orleans jazz. To this day, Preservation Hall has no drinks, air conditioning, or other typical accoutrements strictly welcoming people of all ages interested in having one of the last pure music experiences left on the earth.
Faubourg Marigny, an original Creole neighborhood about a mile from the French Quarter, is a hub of nightclubs, bars and restaurants where locals hang out. Frenchmen Street is the main nightlife district, with half a dozen live music clubs and as many restaurants in four short blocks.Hear the Ellis Marsalis Trio play traditional jazz every Friday at Snug Harbor, local and touring groups at d.b.a., and eclectic live girl groups and bands at Mimi’s in the Marigny. Large groups can convene first at The Louisiana State Museum Jazz Collection at the Old U.S. Mint to see an incredible collection of jazz memorabilia (Louis Armstrong’s cornet, Dizzy Gillespie’s bent-bell trumpet and some 10,000 photographs dating to the 1950s. The French Market can handle groups of 10 to 350.
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New Orleans always has captured the imagination of travelers, both domestic and foreign. It's a robust melting pot of European, African and Cajun cuisine and culture, a place where celebrations often spill out on to the streets and music is heard on every corner. Since Hurricane Katrina, it also has had an emotional draw that has encouraged celebrities, corporations and citizens to offer economic and hands-on support for its rebuilding efforts, which continue in residential areas.
The city’s reputation for dining has only grown post-Katrina, with foodies from all over the country discovering what locals have appreciated for a long time. The French Quarter may be the city's best-known district, but other neighborhoods offer equally rich experiences for attendees as well as excellent meeting venues and hotels.