Accolades for New Orleans

The Big Easy has been quite popular with the travel media recently.

“Don’t believe your own press” is a classic bit of advice to help stay grounded when experiencing a rush of praise. But lately, the frequency and high-profile nature of top-destination rankings that New Orleans has been gathering from the travel media has been hard to ignore.

Most recently and prominently, New Orleans placed first in a reader survey from Travel+Leisure magazine for “America’s Best Cities.” Readers ranked their favorite cities in some 66 criteria. New Orleans finished in the top five in more than half of them, which ranked it ahead of much larger cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago.

“The Crescent City is the ultimate crowd-pleaser,” the magazine’s editors opined. “These high marks run the gamut from the quite civilized – fine dining, architecture and antiques – to the boisterously unpretentious, such as its top-rated music scene and the colorful people-watching.”

The honor followed a No. 8 ranking on Condé Nast Traveler’s list of “Top 10 Cities in the U.S.,” and it was quickly followed by a new accolade from CNN, which named New Orleans the top romantic city in the world, keeping company with – and ranking ahead of – Paris, Moscow and Buenos Aires.

For the city’s boosters, gearing up for the onslaught of attention next month as New Orleans hosts Super Bowl XLVII, these and other national kudos are a validation of the progress made since Hurricane Katrina at least temporarily knocked the Crescent City off the tourism map.

“I think it helps establish New Orleans as a truly iconic city,” says Mark Romig, CEO of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. “What these designations do is give people a new way of looking at the city.”

Romig says the diversity of praise the city is getting these days in part reflects the type of travelers now drawn here. Instead of the stereotype of Bourbon Street debauchery, more travelers are experiencing the city’s many neighborhoods and cultural richness.

“People coming now are looking for that experience of authenticity,” he says. “They’re not coming here to lay by the pool; they want to feel like they’ve experienced a culture and that’s something we have like no one else. We don’t have to make that up.”

 

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