In New Orleans, music plays all night, the drink flows until dawn, and the party never stops. But there is a softer side to this city known variously as the Big Easy, the City of Mystery and the Crescent City.
It’s a place recognized for its rich history and colorful culture, for the Spanish-inspired architecture, the French-flavored language, and the literary giants–Tennessee Williams, Richard Ford and William Faulkner, among many others–who’ve called it home. It’s also a place where you can take a leisurely steamboat ride down the Mississippi, paddle a kayak along the bayous, bike about an old neighborhood, see the city by streetcar, or join a walking tour through a historic cemetery. And, while you may have to look harder for vegetarian fare, it’s here–along with a green market, organic delis, and yoga studios.
Laid Back Tours
You pick the bike: mountain, recumbent, or old-fashioned cruising style. Husband-and-wife team Musa Eubanks and Veda Manual (she’s a fifth-generation New Orleanian) will lead the way through Faubourg St. John–the oldest neighborhood outside the French Quarter–City Park, and St. Louis Cemetery No. 3. “Virtually anyone who can pedal,” says Eubanks, “can do it.” Or join the couple on a kayak float through the bayous, where you can expect to see, depending on the season, alligators, great blue herons, owls, great white egrets, and small mammals. Bike tours: $50 per person; Kayak tours: $95 (box lunch available for $8). (504) 488-8991; www.LaidBackTours.com
Gray Line of New Orleans
Consider a walking tour of the Garden District, a neighborhood fashionable with the well heeled in the 1840s and ’50s. Shuttles ferry guests to the neighborhood, where the tour continues on foot. Licensed guides with Gray Line of New Orleans offer information on the history, the neighborhood who’s who, and the architecture. Tours cost $19, cover twenty-one blocks, and last roughly two and a half hours. Reservations recommended. (504) 569-1401
Astanga Yoga Room and Alvina’s Yoga Studio
Drop-ins are welcome at both the Astanga Yoga Room and Alvina’s Yoga Studio. Both are just outside the French Quarter and accessible by streetcar. Classes at Astanga are led by certified instructor Melanie Fawer in the Mysore style of Astanga. At Alvina’s, classes are in basic, intermediate, and advanced Hatha Yoga. For hours and rates, call Astanga Yoga Room at (504) 864-1999 or Alvina’s at (504) 866-3505.
Old Dog New Trick Cafe
Located in the trendy Faubourg Marigny neighborhood just outside the Quarter, this restaurant offers grain burgers, tofu, tempeh, vegetarian soups, and even a blue plate special of black beans, organic rice, and blanched purple kale. The drink menu includes such specials as freshly squeezed watermelon juice with vodka and mimosas made with fresh orange juice. Everything on the menu is $12 or less. 517 Frenchman; (504) 943-6368
All Natural Foods and Deli
One part grocery store, one part deli, All Natural Foods and Deli is known for its albacore tuna salad (the only “meat” in the shop). “People buy it by the pound,” says manager Mike Ryan. Also available are vegan salads, sandwiches, and soups. Lunch specials average $5.95, including a small salad. 5517 Magazine Street; (504) 891-2651
Described as one of the best-kept secrets in the French Quarter, Bayona is known for its light Mediterranean fare. Vegetarian specials change daily but have included roasted garlic and fava beans and the beggar’s purse (filo dough made into a purse) with portobello mushrooms and green tomato sauce. Entrees range from $15 to $28. 430 Dauphine; (504) 525-4455
Crescent City Farmer’s Market
Every Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon, farmers, fishermen, bakers, and chefs gather at 700 Magazine Street to offer fresh produce, seafood, pastries, plants, flowers, and bread. The market is also held on Tuesdays at 200 Broadway and Thursdays at 3700 New Orleans Avenue. (504) 861-5898; www.crescentcityfarmersmarket.org
One of the city’s premier boutique hotels, International House is also known for its employee-friendly practices. Employee perks include profit sharing, a first-time home buyer program, health education, and financial aid for continued education. Rooms come with ionizers, and guests may opt to take part in the green card program designed to conserve water and cut back on the use of laundry soaps. 221 Camp Street; (504) 553-9550; Rates: $319 deluxe; $379 superior; $460 terrace; $500 suite; $700 penthouse
House on Bayou Road
The House on Bayou Road is set on the grounds of an eighteenth-century plantation that’s now in the heart of the city. The house, built in 1798, is in the West Indies style with generous use of French doors and an eye toward ventilation. The backyard includes a barn, two ponds, a swimming pool, and an outdoor hot tub. Gardens include sugarcane, indigo, and organic herbs, squash, and tomatoes for the adjacent Restaurant Indigo. 2275 Bayou Road; (504) 945-0992; Rates: $155 to $320 winter; $320 to $145 summer