Disused warehouses have made perfect homes for trendy art galleries and restaurants in New Orleans’ rejuvenated centre.
Once a down-at-heel jumble of derelict warehouses and shipping offices, the Arts District is now a vibrant and thriving area on the west bank of the Mississippi River. The former Warehouse District was given a new lease of life during the 1980s, after the World’s Fair was held in the city, when its historic but neglected buildings were restored and reborn as fashionable art galleries, shops and restaurants.
Every August the start of the new arts season is celebrated with White Linen Night, when the commercial galleries along Julia Street throw open their doors in aid of the nearby Contemporary Arts Centre and everyone dresses up entirely in white for the occasion. Julia Street contains many of the area’s most interesting galleries, showcasing fine and contemporary art as well as mounting special exhibitions and events throughout the year.
The art of cooking is equally well represented, with every cuisine from Cajun and Creole to modern American on offer from a wide variety of stylish restaurants. The most fashionable venues get booked up quickly, so if you’re tempted by a particular establishment it’s worth calling in advance for a table. For a more informal culinary experience, check out the farm-fresh produce at the Saturday morning Downtown Market, on the corner of Girod and Magazine streets, and treat yourself to some delicious home-grown specialities.
The National World War II Museum opened in 2000 on the 56th anniversary of D-Day and focuses on the contribution made by the USA to the allied war effort. New Orleans was the home of Higgins Industries, the company that manufactured the amphibious boats that played a vital part in the D-Day operations. Youngsters will have fun experimenting with the interactive and educational exhibits at the Louisiana Children’s Museum, including the locally inspired Little Port of New Orleans. Thanks to these and other attractions, this former industrial zone has successfully reinvented itself as the Southern-style entertainment and cultural hub of New Orleans.
The Arts District is well served by bus and tram routes and parking nearby is plentiful.