Sure you’ve been to New Orleans—for Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest, maybe a bachelor(ette) weekend. There was a late-night stumble along Bourbon Street, a Sunday stroll past Garden District mansions. You still have a string of beads stuffed in the back of a kitchen drawer.
But you’ve changed—and the Big Easy has, too. Since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the city’s population has nearly recovered from its post-storm lows, bringing new vitality to lesser-known neighborhoods. Now is the time see the Crescent City in a fresh way—skipping tourist zones for areas like bohemian Bywater and leafy Mid City. You can still have booze, beignets and brass bands, if you’re so inclined, but in a more intimate (and some might say, authentic) way. This is the season to do it—the heat has faded, and Mardi Gras throngs are safely months away.