The Best Things to Do at The Higgins Hotel
My late father, Andrew Ernest Benson, Jr., was born in May of 1929. He was a war history buff, particularly when it came to WWII, which dominated his New Orleans childhood. For years I have gone to Parkway Bakery when I want to connect with him, ordering his favorite poor boy sandwich – fried oysters with butter and pickles only. I remember him telling me how my grandfather (ditto my father’s choice in sandwich) would take him to get paper-wrapped sandwiches at Parkway that they would then cart out to the Lakefront on those thrilling days when my father was allowed to accompany him to Higgins Industries where my grandfather worked as an engineer during WWII doing his part to save the world as we know it while fueled on Parkway poor boys.
I now have another place to celebrate the spirit of the era that had such a profound impact on the person my father became. The Higgins Hotel (1000 Magazine St., 504.528.1941, higginshotelnola.com), a boutique project with 230 guest rooms operated as part of a Curio Collection by Hilton, opened in December on the campus of the World War II museum. The building itself, nine stories and classic Art Deco in style with stone base cladding and stepped facades, is a chic addition to the New Orleans skyline. The Higgins, America’s first museum hotel, affords an immersive experience, due largely to the meticulous, glamorous Art Deco era period interior design by Kay Lang + Associates. The drama begins in the soaring lobby atrium lobby where a 14-foot Art Deco chandelier bathes in light a grand patriotic mural by M. Kungl depicting factory wartime industry workers backed by the New Orleans skyline. At the top of the mural is a plane—the PBY-5A Catalina, a twin-engine US Navy patrol/flying boat, which was crucial to the war effort. The New Orleans made “Higgins LCVP Boat,” which is credited with winning the war for the Allies, is also depicted.
The lobby lounge, Kilroy’s, is a clever nod to the graffiti art “Kilroy was here” that Allied soldiers doodled to mark places they had visited during the war. Table lamps were made to resemble USAF M3 FLAK helmets, B-25 Mitchell Bomber chandeliers, and a vintage “Willys MB” Jeep Hood with the bald-headed doodle painted front and center. Replica bomber jackets, custom leather handmade patriotic pillows and aviator style chairs round out the clubby space where happy hour brings $5 drinks from 4-6 p.m. daily.
Café Normandie, the hotel restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, features deep, plush velvet armchairs that invite lingering. The tops of the banquette dining tables feature digital prints of the World. At the back of the space is a large mural of the beaches of Normandy that were made accessible to the Allied Forces via the Higgins U-boats. Menu standouts include ethereal crab beignets served with herb aioli; Gulf fish ceviche; a stuffed Portobello mushroom with Asiago cheese, aged Balsamic vinegar, truffle oil and garlic confit; and Snapper amandine with sauce Meuniere. A special Valentine’s Day menu will be offered for $56 per person.
The hotel’s rooftop bar, Rosie’s on the Roof, is adorned with photography celebrating the women who worked in factories and shipyards during World War II, many of whom produced munitions and war supplies, replacing the male workers who had joined the military. The invigorating environment affords panoramic views from an outdoor theater including the Canopy of Peace and the downtown warehouse and art district. Next Tuesday you can catch “Rosie and the Riveters” gratis beginning at 7 p.m. Happy Hour drink specials are offered daily from 4-6 p.m. The bar, complete with a menu of casual fare, is open until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends and snacks are served until midnight.
Have a great week, everyone. Use it to celebrate the people and the community you love.