Balcony   photo by jeff anding pyt2k0

Image: Jeff Anding

Destination: New Orleans, Louisiana

Duration:  1 hour

Average fare: From $158 via Southwest out of Hobby

With a nickname like the “Big Easy,” you know you’re going to have a good time in New Orleans. It’s a short flight from Houston with an array of activities to make it a family vacation or a romantic weekend getaway. This culture-rich city guarantees a successful escape out of Houston.

What to do: For a historical background in one of the quaintest neighborhoods in New Orleans, go on a Garden District tour. Walk through the neighborhood of antebellum mansions and pristine garden while learning about the settlement created after the Louisiana Purchase for the new American residents. After the tour, visit the Columns Hotel to watch the street cars go by and enjoy a happy hour cocktail on the patio.

Streetcar   photo by jeff anding wapdlp

Image: Jeff Anding

When in New Orleans, one must go shopping, of course. There are a handful of local, eclectic boutiques that only exist in Nola: Faulkner House, a rare and used book store on Pirate’s Alley; Fleur de Paris, the best hat shop ever, in the heart of the French Quarter on Royal Street; and Derby Pottery and Tile, a working artisan tile studio, on Magazine Street.

Although Bourbon Street is an infamous spot in the city, there are other nightlife activities. If you’re game for another tour, a walking ghost tour is a great way to learn some history about the 298-year-old city. For a nightcap, Patrick’s Bar Vin is a quiet lounge located in Hotel Mazarin. Treat your palate to one of the signature cocktails (I recommend the St. Germaine Cocktail with St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, bubbles, club soda and an orange slice). If the mood strikes, and it probably will as the menus have a cork covering, you can’t go wrong with the Nicolas Feuillatte Rosé or Reynolds Family Pinot Noir.

Cafe du monde   photo by pat garin pbwzsn

Image: Pat Garin

What to eat: The breakfast staple of the city is obviously Café Du Monde, and they are a staple for a reason. The simplicity of beignets and coffee will cure any hangover Bourbon Street gave you the night before. You can even get a few to-go to take back to your room.

K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen is the perfect spot for a laid-back lunch. The paper tablecloths and bustling atmosphere of the deli-style lunch service create an authentic New Orleans atmosphere. You have to get the gumbo and a po-boy—you’re in New Orleans after all! You won’t leave hungry, that’s for sure.

For a romantic dinner, make a reservation at The Grill Room, located in Windsor Court Hotel. The exquisite venue will transport you back in time with the grand chandeliers, painted walls and the piano. Try the cane sugar-roasted beet salad for a fresh medley of flavors. For the main entrée, the Painted Hills strip loin won’t disappoint. Save room for dessert—the tempura banana bread pudding tops off the meal perfectly.

Where to stay: InterContinental New Orleans, from $181 per night; Hotel Monteleone, from $239 per night.

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