As a frequent traveler to the Crescent City, I've probably stayed in at least 30 different hotels in New Orleans over the years. Each has given me a different kind of experience—some great and some not so much. From boutique hotels to Airbnbs to the big chains, each kind of lodging has its pros and cons.
In New Orleans, at least, location is always an enormous asset. Public parking prices can quickly add up if you're moving your car from place to place, and that's to say nothing of the difficulty in trying to deal with one way streets and tiny spaces. Valeting your car, meanwhile, can cost nearly half the price of your hotel room.
Take my advice: Staying somewhere near the French Quarter that doesn't cost un bras et une jambe is your best bet. Note that I said near the Quarter; staying in the Quarter itself is certainly convenient, but the crowds and noise can be a little annoying if that's not why you're there. This can make the nearby Warehouse District a better option during busy times and festival weekends. And if you catch a good deal on Spirit or Southwest, you might be able to fly in for less than the price of parking your car.
There are 162 hotels in New Orleans, not including home-stays and Airbnbs, so it's doubtful you'll ever cross all of them off your list. Instead, aim for the places with personality; New Orleans is full of them. For those who don't yet have a favorite New Orleans haunt of their own, here are some of my favorite picks on both sides of Canal Street:
You'd never guess from inside your fancy room at the Ace Hotel that this nine-story Art Deco building is 90 years old. I recently stayed at this former furniture store-turned-boutique hotel, where the all-new rooms were designed from scratch during a recent $80 million renovation. They're big and open, with a full-size, green, retro-looking Smeg refrigerators in each room, a funky wraparound drape to make the bathroom more private, and a lot of creative furnishings. The room decor is some of the most unique I've ever seen, with hand-painted antiques mixed in among more modern touches. The lobby is a one of the most happening spots in the area with a great, old-fashioned bar, an amazing Stumptown Roasters coffee shop that creates the perfect cappuccino, and an oyster bar a few doors down with a top-notch lobster roll that might not be the reason you came to New Orleans, but it'll be the reason you return.
Ace Hotel, 600 Carondelet St., acehotel.com/neworleans, rooms from $329.
Standing in stark contrast to the Ace is the Monteleone, one of the city's oldest hotels, providing luxury accommodations since 1886. You'll also find one of the most interesting bars in the city, the Carousel Bar & Lounge that is, yes, an actual carousel complete with colorful animals that spin lazily around the room. The bar rotates just fast enough so that when you return from a trip to the bathroom, you're half convinced you've either lost your date or your mind. The rooms here aren't exactly spacious, as is common in older hotels, but there's a traditional old-world charm that makes the trade-off worthwhile. You can't get any more old-school NOLA than the Monteleone.
Hotel Monteleone, 214 Royal St., hotelmonteleone.com, rooms from $199.
The Cornstalk Hotel
If it's good enough for Elvis, it's usually good enough for me. But there are plenty of other reasons to stay in The Cornstalk Hotel other than the fact that The King used it as his headquarters when filming Kid Creole, or numerous other celebrities from Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to Bill and Hillary Clinton have stayed there over the years. This photogenic bed and breakfast was built at the beginning of the 19th century and is one of New Orleans's most historic hotels, having first been built in 1816 as a home for the state's attorney general at the time. Besides being located in the center of the action on Royal Street, the Cornstalk is also considered to be one of NOLA's most haunted hotels. You probably won't spot the ghost of Elvis, but many passersby have witnessed ghostly children playing outside and, even stranger than that, some guests claim to have discovered photos of themselves sleeping in their rooms taken on their own cameras. Let's hope ghosts are to blame for that too...
The Cornstalk Hotel, 915 Royal St., thecornstalkhotel.com, rooms from $197.
Looking for a unique get away with some local flavor? Rent a floating villa, a houseboat of sorts, and stay on Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans. At the Pontchartrain Landing resort, visitors can dock their boat and jet skis or go fishing right off the back porch. The 50-foot floating villa sleeps up to eight people, so you can bring your extended family to your home away from home. Your houseboat also offers access to the resort's swimming pool, hot tub, restaurant and bar. There are even daily shuttles into the French Quarter if you don't want to drive or deal with parking (and, as discussed above, you don't).
Floating Villas at Pontchartrain Landing, 6001 France Rd., pontchartrainlanding.com/pages/floating.php, villas from $355.
Place d'Armes Hotel
There's something wonderful about walking out of your room and being in the middle of Jackson Square without a 10-minute hike. Literally across the street from the famous square is the Place d'Armes, a traditional hotel with a great courtyard and cool balconies that sums up the essence of the French Quarter. The only downside: you might get a brick wall instead of a window. Upside: location, location, location. You're unlikely to be kept up all night by the party crowd (especially with a brick wall to block the noise) or awakened too early by the garbage trucks rumbling down the street outside. If you're a Cafe Du Monde fan, even better: you're only a block away. If you feel a sudden need to buy some art, ride in a carriage, take a picture of a living statue, have your palm read, or indulge in any other typically NOLA tourist activity, you can't get any closer than this.
Place d'Armes Hotel, 625 Saint Anne St., placedarmes.com, rooms from $156.
I've had some great stays at the Sonesta and it's right in the heart of the action. You can ride the mechanical bull at the Bourbon Cowboy across the street, grab some oysters at Acme, walk five minutes to Harrah's Casino or indulge in some seedy NOLA nightlife. Unfortunately, the nightlife can get a little too seedy when the quarter is hopping, and the riff-raff downstairs can be a little disconcerting. If you stay off-peak, chances are you'll get a good rate and avoid some of the amateur drinkers and wannabe bucket drummers. The Sonesta has its own restaurant and lots of rooms with balconies for the true Bourbon Street experience.
Royal Sonesta Hotel, 300 Bourbon St., sonesta.com/us/louisiana/new-orleans/royal-sonesta-new-orleans, rooms from $299.