The last time LSU played for a national championship in New Orleans, the phrase "Katrina and the Waves" referred only to a mostly forgotten '80s band that struck it big with the song "Walking On Sunshine" in 1983.
August of 2005 gave the phrase new meaning, though. Much of what made up the Crescent City back in 2004 was washed away. Some of it has returned, however, just as the Tigers have returned to the Big Easy on more than one occasion.
A year has yet to pass since LSU destroyed Notre Dame in the 2007 Allstate Sugar Bowl, and not even four months have gone by since the Tigers made Tulane their fifth victim of the 2007 season on the floor of the refurbished Louisiana Superdome. For those who witnessed the beating of the Green Wave in person, not much has changed in "The City that Care Forgot." (Just two paragraphs, and that's already three nicknames for New Orleans. I haven't even used "NOLA" or "K-ville" yet. This is like trying to keep up with Auburn's identity crisis!)
Considering that the Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game is being played on a Monday night, it would seem that there will be two types of LSU fans heading to New Orleans. There will be those who are going down for the day and those who are planning on making this a short vacation to recuperate from the recent end of the year and New Year's break.
For those who are simply looking to make this a one-day trip, there's plenty to keep you occupied before the 7 p.m. kickoff. For those of you staying the weekend prior to the game and longer, there's certainly more than enough to keep you busy.
WHERE SHOULD I STAY?
At this point, it's doubtful that you're going to be able to get that Bourbon Street hotel with the balcony to throw beads from after requesting, "Show me something, Mister." A quick check on the Inn on Bourbon's reservation site all but confirmed that every room already has someone sleeping in it during the days prior to and day of the game. Yes, even the ones where there isn't a "view."
Unless you are absolutely determined to stay on Bourbon Street, here are some other places you may want to try that won't cost as much.
Best Western Parc St. Charles – Located on one of the Big Easy's best Carnival corners and just blocks from all major attractions, this high-rise hotel has all rooms with indoor corridors. Guest rooms are decorated with contemporary furniture and include in-room safes and mini-bars. Non-smoking rooms are available. Other amenities include a restaurant, bar, petite pool, exercise facility, and valet parking. Distance from the French Quarter: four blocks. Address: 500 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans, LA 70130. Web site: www.parcstcharles.com.
A Creole House Hotel – Cozy French Quarter guesthouse located just two blocks from Bourbon Street. Experience New Orleans the way it was meant – intimate, inviting, and romantic. Located in the heart of the French Quarter and within walking distance from all the local attractions, including Jackson Square, the St. Louis Cathedral, and world-class restaurants. Amenities include private baths, tour planning, and complimentary continental breakfast. Distance from the French Quarter: zero blocks. Address: 1013 St. Ann St., New Orleans, LA 70116. Web site: www.acreolehouse.com.
Hotel Le Cirque – New Orleans' hottest and hippest hotel, located in the Arts District, within easy walking distance to art galleries, the Convention Center, the Superdome, and the New Orleans Arena. Zipping to the French Quarter or Garden District is a breeze! Take a virtual tour of the hotel with its new 360º IPIX photos! Distance from the French Quarter: seven blocks. Address: 2 Lee Circle, New Orleans, LA 70130. Web site: www.neworleansfinehotels.com/hotellecirque.
St. Peter Hotel – The place to be for French Quarter excitement. The renovated guesthouse is surrounded by famous Bourbon Street, Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, world-class restaurants, hot nightspots and plenty of local flavor. After exploring the Quarter, relax in your room, which features down comforters, feather pillows, private bathrooms and flat screen TVs. Complimentary continental breakfast and tour planning is included. Located in a quiet section of the French Quarter.
Distance from the French Quarter: zero blocks. Address: 1005 St. Peter St., New Orleans, LA 70116. Web site: www.stpeterhouse.com.
WHERE SHOULD I EAT?
If, for some ridiculous reason, you should find yourself walking into a restaurant while in New Orleans that you have eaten at outside of New Orleans, just stop. Turn around, keep walking, and find somewhere else to go. There is no reason to eat at a chain restaurant during your stay. None.
If your relatives or friends aren't feeding you at their house in the days leading up to the BCS National Championship Game, consider giving a few of these places a try. And please, dress appropriately.
Acme Oyster and Seafood House (724 Iberville St., 504-522-5973): The place for raw oysters, oyster po-boys, oyster dishes, and some of the best fried seafood around. $5-13.
Antoine's (713 Saint Louis St., 504-581-4422): Serving authentic French/Creole cuisine since 1840, Antoine's is the home of Oysters Rockefeller and many other classics. Try this favorite for dinner or Sunday brunch. $35-49. Jacket required. Reservations recommended.
Arnaud's Remoulade (309 Bourbon St., 504-523-5433): New Orleans at its casual best – Creole specialties from Arnaud's, po-boys, fresh local seafood favorites, burgers and pizza. Full-service bar. Seven days a week, 11:30 a.m. to Midnight. $6-20.
Creole Queen Jazz Dinner Buffet on the Mississippi (Paddlewheeler Creole Queen - Riverwalk/Canal Street, 504-529-4567): Savor the splendor of Southern cuisine with an unrivaled buffet featuring Louisiana at its finest! Spicy Crawfish Pasta and tender, succulent "Cajun Style" Beef Brisket, and Paddlewheel's Famous Bread Pudding with Bourbon Street Sauce! $58. Open for dinner only. Reservations required.
Galatoire's (209 Bourbon St., 504-525-2021): Galatoire's is one of the few places around that New Orleans natives will stand in line for. This venue provides dining with a longstanding Creole tradition. $12-20. Tuesday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Jacket required.
Gumbo Shop (630 Saint Peter St., 877-525-1486): As traditional as the name implies, this eatery is very New Orleans. They serve three types of gumbo and many other New Orleans favorites. $7-16.
Louis XVI (730 Bienville St., 504-581-7000, 888-535-9116): Nestled in the St. Louis Hotel and serving classical French cuisine with exquisite care and style. Excellent wine list. $24-38. Jacket required. Open for dinner only. Reservations recommended.
Maximo's Italian Grill (1117 Decatur St., 504-586-8883): Maximo's offers an urbane setting for dishes from all regions of Italy. There's an open kitchen in the back where diners can watch from the marble-top bar or booths. The wine list has the most extensive selection of Italian wines in the city. $9-25. Open for dinner only.
Tujague's (823 Decatur St., 504-525-8676): Tujague's is the city's second oldest restaurant. A beautiful bar with mirrors imported from Paris greets visitors off the street. The menu for dinner is a traditional Creole prix fixe selection, including their signature beef brisket, shrimp remoulade and choice of entree. $26-32. Reservations recommended.
WHERE SHOULD I DRINK/PARTY?
There are only about 300 bars in the French Quarter, so you may be out of luck trying to find somewhere to pass a good time. For some reason, I doubt you're really going to need help with this, but just to be sure …
Pat O'Brien's Bar (624 Bourbon St. or 718 St. Peter St.): Home of the Hurricane, New Orleans' best known cocktail. Pat O's features several barrooms, including a dueling baby grand piano room and a courtyard with a flaming fountain.
Old Absinthe House (240 Bourbon St.): No, absinthe isn't actually served here anymore. The Absinthe House renamed itself for the liquor in 1874 when it created the Absinthe House Frappe cocktail.
Wine Loft (752 Tchoupitoulas St.): The Wine Loft offers a rather extensive list of wines by the glass. There's plenty of space and a small gourmet menu.
Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro (626 Frenchmen St.): The top local spot for modern jazz, but you'll also hear some traditional jazz and R&B in the mix. There is a restaurant and a bar, where the club room music is generally piped in.
Monteleone Hotel Carousel Bar (214 Royal St.): The Monteleone features a bar overlooking Royal Street. A piano bar is also set up for regular requests. Immortalized in the writings of Ernest Hemingway among others, the revolving Carousel Bar is a part of New Orleans history and has a wild circus motif.
In all seriousness, you are probably a Tigers fan, and we're talking about New Orleans. How in the heck are you not going to be able to find a good time?
It's true. A lot has changed about New Orleans since 2005. A lot of that change, however, is outside of the confines of the New Orleans you're used to enjoying. The French Quarter is still there. Audubon Zoo is still there. The Aquarium of the Americas is still there. The museums are still there, too.
Just follow the same rules you followed before: Don't go out alone. Stay in populated areas. Be mindful of how much partying you, your friends, and family members are doing.
New Orleans is still enjoyable for the young and not so young. Be responsible. Be safe. And laissez les bon temps rouler!