Downtown Addition

The new Harrah’s casino stands out as it blends in

By: Cheré Dastugue Coen

There’s a new feel to downtown New Orleans as hotels, restaurants and attractions are back online with a clean coat of paint. Even hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton, located inside a historical Canal Street building, have been completely renovated, offering visitors a breath of fresh air.

Harrah’s New Orleans Hotel, the newcomer to the block, offers visitors a shiny new hotel that blends into the architecture of the historic warehouse district that surrounds it.

Located just minutes from the French Quarter, Harrah’s opens onto the Fulton Street promenade, a pedestrian walkway that separates the hotel from the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant. On the hotel side of the street, celebrity chef Todd English serves up French and Creole cooking in elegant Riche, also a newcomer to the city.

Not much of the original building was saved for the actual hotel, but visitors will be greeted by the original porte-cochere. Much of the 26-story, 450-room hotel was designed to match this element and to fit in with the city’s architecture, said Sandie McNamara, vice president of marketing for Harrah’s.

Rooms weren’t created for historical accuracy and that’s a good thing. The rich purple and gold-accented guestrooms are spacious, especially the oversized bathrooms. Room features include high-definition televisions, twice-daily housekeeping services, refrigerators, data-port accessibility, cordless phones in rooms and baths and Wi-Fi.

Hotel amenities include 24-hour concierge service and a fitness facility that offers communal TV screens along with individual TVs and iPod connections.

Luxury suites on the 26th floor offer stunning views of the river and city. No two rooms are alike, according to McNamara, but most feature flat-screen TVs, luxurious bathrooms with everything from beveled granite countertops to Jacuzzi tubs and high-end furnishings. One room we visited offered a grand piano. All suites offer butler service.

“Butlers do everything from shine your shoes to put rose peddles in your tub,” McNamara added.

In an effort to maintain the New Orleans atmosphere, local artwork is featured throughout the hotel. Upon entry, visitors are greeted by the monumental embedded glass wall creation by Tulane University art professor Gene Koss. Most of the rooms display Richard Sexton photographs, offering sleepy seductive views of the Crescent City. Other notable artists include leading Louisiana landscape artist Elemore Morgan Jr. and John Scott, winner of the MacArthur Foundation Genius award.

Harrah’s New Orleans is the largest hotel to be built by the casino chain. Naturally, it’s only a short walk from Harrah’s New Orleans Casino, the largest Vegas-style casino in the South. For those who love to gamble while enjoying a luxury hotel, the proximity is ideal. The casino also offers nightly entertainment, from lounge acts to the current “Hats! The Musical for the Rest of Your Life” that follows members of the Red Hat Society. Those who prefer elegant accommodations without the hum of a 115,000-square-foot casino needn’t worry. There is enough space between the two structures for hotel guests to feel completely removed from the fray.

Harrah’s, of course, hopes for guests who enjoy both the hotel and casino, but nonetheless has created partnerships with New Orleans establishments to cater to non-gamblers, said Jim Hoskins, Harrah’s senior vice president and general manager. The casino is the only one of its kind in an urban environment that encourages its visitors to seek out other aspects of the city, he said.

When the casino was first proposed for the foot of Canal Street, residents feared that local establishments would lose customers. Since it’s improbable that visitors to the historic city would gamble without checking out the sites, it appears to be a win-win situation for all.

“This city is built on fun,” Hoskins said. “You come here to have fun, to relax, to get away. It really makes for a great experience.”
And there’s plenty of fun to go around.


8 Canal St.
New Orleans, LA 70130

“Hats! The Musical”
7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays

Tickets can be booked online or by calling 800-847-5299

Discounts are available.