If you can't afford to stay at the Monteleone Hotel on Royal St. in the French Quarter (and prices are steep), then you owe it to yourself to at least stop in for a drink at the revolving bar, known as the "Carousel" as much for its decor as for the fact that it really does revolve in a constant 360 degree circle.
Once you enter the sumptuous lobby, you'll find the Carousel bar on your right. It's a refreshing respite from the outside heat (well, at least that's how I come to view it, since it was my favorite place to grab a cold drink when I was working for a time share resort on Chartres St. one summer in between college semesters - I would stop in to the cool, dark lobby of the hotel and refresh myself in the carousel bar for a quick 15 minutes.
As much now as back then, you'll find both guests and local businessmen conducting negotiations over a glass of scotch or cognac, the bartender discreetly keeping his own counsel behind the revolving counter.
This hotel is considered a Literary Landmark in New Orleans and has been owned and family operated since the late 1800s.
This place is beloved by locals and by my estimate, the entire Tulane and Loyola student bodies. I never missed a Saturday or Sunday morning for the chili cheese omelets (look out - they are GIGANTIC - served with fries)
It's a diner with mostly black staff behind the counters - I recall an elderly gentleman known as the "Captain" - a real funny character who stood regally behind the counter barking out orders and training the younger staff with a sharp eye. Once in a while you'd hear him reprimand one with "Nigger! Hurry up on that nutty!" (The Captain was himself, black - which incidentally, don't be surprised if you hear some of the black folks in NO refer to each other as "nigger" in a friendly manner. If you're white - or even if you're black but NOT from New Orleans, do not attempt this kind of familiarity. The blacks in New Orleans tend to be deferential to the whites, but this is really pushing it).
It's a toss-up between the delicious cheeseburger with grilled onions, or the chili-cheese omelet, or the pecan waffle ("nutty waffle" in Camellia Grill terms) - and do NOT leave this place without ordering a slice of pecan pie warmed up on the grill. It's so buttery it will melt in your mouth.
Order a "coffee freeze" and watch as your waiter hands you the drink and straw so that you pull the paper off of it (a traditional Camelia Grill ritual). Also, and this may sound strange, but venture into the bathroom at this place - if you're not from New Orleans, you'll find it strange how the bathrooms are always located in the kitchens in many restaurants. I used to love to walk back through the Camelia Grill kitchen and watch the staff chopping up the lettuce or tomatoes - everyone is a colorful character here.
I have so many DELICIOUS memories of this place, I can't return to NO without eating here at least once during my visit, usually for breakfast or lunch. Simply the best. Reasonable prices, counter seating. Usually a wait.
The Dragon's Den is above Siam-an excellent Thai food restaurant on Esplanade- that offers live music every night, from Rockabilly to Jazz to experimental, cheap drinks, and a balcony with a view of the French Market. If you want to meet people that actually live in New Orleans, this is the place to do it.
Bourbon is overpriced and dirty. Check out Frenchman St instead-1 block out of the French Quarter- follow Decatur St to Esplanade, cross over it and take the street that curves behind Check Point Charlie's, you're on Frenchman-it's got bars with some of the best local bands, great food, and the city's best jazz club: Snug Harbor. Mix with the locals and enjoy cheap drinks and a 24 hour party.
The Prytania Theatre, founded in the early 1900s, is the last remaining single-screen suburban theatre in Louisiana. The owners have gone through an exorbitant amount of work to bring out the unique, old-fashioned feel of this historical landmark. It ranks as my best place to see a movie, because of its quaint qualities. Normally no lines and low prices, with discounts for students = its time to go to the movies!
Igor's Lounge & Bar - bar, pool hall, and laundromat all rolled into one. Should you get stuck doing laundry head on down to 2133 St. Charles Ave. and be entertained while you wait for your whites to dry. http://www.igors.org.
For a great taste of nightlife and a good place to meet locals, head over to Frenchmen Street. Its a little difficult to find (and best not to try to find it at night because some of the surrounding areas are a little shady) but worth the effort. Its a small street lined with cafes and bars with live music. Its less crowded than Bourbon Street, less touristy, and every bit as fun.
Here's a map of the area around Frenchmen (thanks to MapQuest.com) - notice the residential end of Bourbon Street on the bottom of the map, just left of center.
Le bar 'Le bon temps roulé'. Situé à l'extérieur du Vieux Carré (4801 Magazine, on doit y aller en voiture du Carré Français), on peut y voir de très bons bands de blues. On y a vu Kermitt Ruffins dont j'avais acheté un CD quelques jours auparavant. Excellent show! Bar de jeunes universitaires avec tables de billard et bonnes bières. Ça n'a rien à voir avec la rue Bourbon et c'est intéressant parce qu'on peut y voir des gens locaux. Très peu de touristes y vont.
À voir pour ceux qui peuvent se déplacer par leurs propres moyens : la plage qui longe la 90 Est direction Biloxi. Belle vue!