Finding the Dream Hotel

Your clients' trip to New Orleans can be perfect -- if you know the right neighborhood for their stay

By: George Abry

Last month, in the first of several special sections on New Orleans, we introduced you to the Crescent City, its history, culture and fun. So now, the neighborhoods. When your clients are looking for that special place to stay, it’s important to find the right neighborhood as it is to find the right accommodation.

New Orleans is a collection of historic neighborhoods, each with a distinct set of possibilities, each rich in its own atmosphere.

“New Orleans is an authentic city in terms of its history, architecture and culture, and its accommodations reflect that,” said Al Groos, president of the Greater New Orleans Hotel-Motel Association.

For that reason, Groos said, the Crescent City has become a Mecca for travelers searching for alternatives to the big-city hotel experience. New Orleans is flush with remarkable bed-and-breakfasts, boutique hotels and cozy corner inns, antebellum mansions and 19th century cottages.

Clients coming to New Orleans for the first time, or just a short visit, should consider staying in the French Quarter. Here, 24-hour entertainment of all sorts mingles with world-class dining, live jazz, art and antiques galleries and ubiquitous sidewalk entertainment.

Everything in the Quarter is within walking distance, so they can leave the rental car in the garage.

Some of the Quarter’s special hideaways:

The Soniat House bills itself as “The Small Hotel in New Orleans.” Tucked in a quiet residential section of the French Quarter, this genteel hotel was restored by Rodney and Frances Smith.

An unassuming facade gives way to a flagstone carriageway that opens on a verdant brick courtyard. The trickling fountain, the muffled conversations of guests at candlelit tables those are just about the only sounds guests are likely to hear in the evenings.

The Soniat House has 24 rooms in two adjoining 1830s townhouses, along with two wings of former slave quarters. A building across the street houses seven magnificent suites situated around a shaded courtyard. The guest rooms, which have the ambience of luxury hotel suites, are decorated in soft tones to highlight the Smiths’ vast collection of Louisiana, French and English antiques.

Frances Smith also runs an antique shop on the Soniat’s Chartres Street premises.

Overall, Chartres Street is real New Orleans. Top-notch restaurants and rare bookstores are a world away from the T-shirt shops and burlesque on Bourbon Street, two blocks away.

The Chateau Motor Hotel is a moderately priced alternative at Chartres and St. Philip streets. A bit closer to the action on Jackson Square, the hotel’s centerpiece is its courtyard, with a patio bar and pool.

The building’s carriageway leads to the rooms, which vary in size and decor. Avoid the smaller, windowless rooms; opt instead for one of the numerous balcony rooms or on the courtyard.

The hotel has 41 rooms, four suites, a restaurant and free parking. Ashton’s Bed & Breakfast is a restored 1861 Greek Revival mansion on oak-lined Esplanade, nine blocks from the Quarter.

Ashton’s is a sumptuous, full-service B & B with all the traditional fixings. Guests can rock to their heart’s content on the columned front veranda, or relax beneath a serpentine ancient live oak in the walled courtyard.

The main house has four deluxe rooms with names such as the Bienville and the Napoleon, each with its original marble fireplace mantle and furnished with antiques.

Guests can luxuriate in the spacious, well-lit Pontalba Suite, with its huge antique claw-foot tub sitting in a curtained corner, a la European bathrooms. The service wing contains four rooms, each with whirlpool bath, which overlook the rear patio.

Owners Patrick and Karma Ashton serve a wholesome breakfast, which often includes eggs Benedict, pain perdu (french toast), or eggs and crab cakes; as well as fresh-baked muffins and fruit.

Return visitors should skip the Quarter and stay in another of the city’s culturally distinct neighborhoods.

Faubourg Marigny, for instance, features Frenchmen Street, a vibrant stretch of 24-hour watering holes, world-renowned live-music clubs and authentic ethnic and local cuisine. It may sound like Bourbon Street, but the Marigny is quieter, a locals’ hangout and one of the city’s several intact antebellum neighborhoods.

House fans can stroll past Creole cottages, Greek Revival mansions and late 19th century Victorian homes.

The Casa Conchita Bed & Beverage Inn, “an oasis in the Marigny,” is an early 19th century cottage that once housed guests of Louisiana’s first governor. Nowadays, Connie Walker, Casa’s owner, receives visitors from all over the world.

This splendid, upscale inn, which Walker considers a “bed and beverage,” overlooks a leafy, oaken park on residential Dauphine Street.

The main house’s first floor has two bedrooms, a bath and sleeps six to eight people. A second-floor bedroom has two bathrooms and sleeps four to six people. The pool house offers two bedrooms and sleeps four to six people.

Casa Conchita (“Home of Connie” in Spanish) is inviting for independent-minded travelers interested in having a good time in a casual environment. But don’t expect breakfast or concierge service.

The same kind of relaxed atmosphere can be found farther uptown, in the Garden District. Many of its enormous antebellum and Victorian mansions have been turned into small hotels or bed and breakfasts. And clients will have the added pleasure of taking the historic St. Charles Streetcar back and forth to Canal Street. All along the streetcar line, flaming crepe myrtle, stately oaks, magnolias and other flora complement the classic galleried facades, intricate cast iron gates and even an occasional Queen Anne turret.

A stay at The Grand Victorian Bed & Breakfast will bring clients closer to the romance and splendor of Old New Orleans. Designed by renowned Victorian architect Thomas Sully and built in 1893, the three-story house had fallen into disrepair in recent years. Bonnie Rabe bought it and began restoring it in 1998, retaining the original pine floors and millwork.

The house occupies a huge lot at the corner of St. Charles and Washington avenues. Each of the six rooms and two suites are named after a historic Louisiana plantation and furnished with Victorian antiques. The ceilings are all 12 to 14 feet high.

Rabe said many of her guests are repeat visitors who enjoy the 10-minute streetcar ride to the edge of the Quarter but would rather stay in a quieter residential area.

Address Book

Soniat House, 1133 Chartres St., 800-544-8808,; $195 to $325; suites to $650

Chateau Motor Hotel, 1001 Chartres St., 504-524-9636,; $79 to $154; suites to $204

Ashton’s Bed & Breakfast, 2023 Esplanade Ave., 800-725-4131 or 504-942-7048,; $125 to $155

Casa Conchita Bed & Beverage Inn, 2121 Dauphine St., 504-329-6478 or 866-867-6309,; $125 to $500

The Grand Victorian Bed & Breakfast, 2727 St. Charles Ave., 504-895-1104,; $150 to $300