Four days of networking, discovering, brainstorming, learning and inspiration await ISTELive 22 attendees at this year’s conference June 26-29. And what better place to celebrate coming back together than in the city where the good times roll?
"New Orleans is the city that gives you life while making you feel like you're finally at home," says Margret Atkinson, ISTE's community engagement manager and NOLA native.
New Orleans is all about the food, history and live jazz, making it the perfect place to continue great conversations after conference hours. To take full advantage if this magical city, consider arriving early or sticking around after the conference ends to take in all that NOLA offers.
The Morial Convention Center is situated between the French Quarter and Garden District, making it easy to take in some of the city’s charm in between sessions. You may want to walk over to Mardi Gras World during a short break. While the conference doesn’t coincide with the dates of NOLA’s most famous party, it’s still possible to peek behind the scenes at the enormous floats that take months to build and decorate.
Gumbo, muffuletta sandwiches, po‘boys, oysters Rockefeller, beignets and bananas Foster are some of the city’s most famous dishes. NOLA local Selena Guilbeaux, co-founder of LAB Education, suggests some of her favorite places.
After a full day of sessions, head over to either Emeril’s or Mirel, owned by NOLA’s famous chef Emeril Lagasse. Guilbeaux recommends Ruby Slipper Cafe for breakfast to fuel yourself for a full day of learning and networking.
The French Quarter
The French Quarter, NOLA’s most famous neighborhood, is a short ride from the Morial Convention Center on the Riverfront Streetcar. Fare is $1.25 and must be paid with exact change unless you purchase a Jazzy Pass, available with the RTA GoMobile app. Get off at Jackson Square and find yourself among the artists and street performers.
While you’re there, check out the museums housed inside the Cabildo. One entire floor is dedicated to Hurricane Katrina.
The New Orleans institution Cafe du Monde is here for beignets and cafe au lait. You’re also steps away from iconic Bourbon Street, where Guilbeaux recommends stopping by the Bayou Wine Garden or Tropical Isle for an aptly named Hand Grenade.
Wander through the open-air European-style French Market from Cafe du Monde for six blocks, a great place to look for souvenirs.
The home of New Orleans jazz is Preservation Hall. Here, the band carries on the traditions of New Orleans jazz just as it was in its heyday, with five hour-long sets each night. No reservations needed. The 21st Amendment is a Prohibition-era cocktail joint that’s all about jazz.
From the French Quarter, walk toward the water to connect to the Woldenberg Riverfront Park to enjoy a walk along the Mississippi River. To see the city from the water, buy a ticket for a jazz brunch or dinner cruise on the last authentic steamboat on the Mississippi River, the Steamboat Natchez.
The Garden District
When you’ve had enough of the busy French Quarter, hop a streetcar to the Garden District. While walking among some of the city’s most beautiful homes surrounded by lush trees and ivy, don’t miss the hauntingly beautiful Lafayette Cemetery No. 2. Living below sea level is a challenge for burying the dead and has resulted in elaborate marble above-ground chambers. No. 2 hosts many of the city’s old society.
Commander’s Palace is the place to find upscale regional classics, such as turtle soup, gumbo, and pecan-crusted gulf fish. For adhering to the dress code that requires collared shirts and close-toed shoes, you’ll be rewarded with 25-cent martinis.
Just outside the Garden District lies the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. A celebration of the food, drinks and culture of the American South, the museum offers tastings, demonstrations and live events.
The colorful bohemian neighborhoods of Marigny and Bywater are home to Frenchman Street, a vibrant but less-crowded alternative to Bourbon Street. For live music, try The Spotted Cat, Three Muses, and d.b.a.
Studio Be is a public art installation exploring activism, resistance, and Black American history. The creator, Brandan “Mike” Odums, collaborated with more than 40 other artists to create the large murals using spray paint and graffiti techniques.
If you’re thirsty while in Bywater, seek out Bacchanal Wine, the city’s liveliest outdoor patio.
Treme is New Orleans’ oldest African American neighborhood filled with colorful Creole cottages and traditional shotgun houses. Maybe you’ll be swept up in a second-line parade. Historically, the African American community began second lines as neighborhood celebrations. Every year, there are several thousand, primarily for weddings and other celebrations, most often on Sunday afternoons. If you see one, join in.
While here, Guilbeaux recommends Dooky Chase Restaurant. Dooky herself was the inspiration for Disney’s Princess Tiana. “This restaurant is a true classic and landmark for more than just food,” she says. “This restaurant held local civil rights meetings during the Civil Rights Movement.”
New Orleans City Park
With a half-day to spare before catching your flight home, seek out nature at the New Orleans City Park. This park, with the largest grove of mature live oaks in the world, includes some that are nearly 800 years old. The park complex also includes the New Orleans Botanical Garden, and the New Orleans Museum of Art is here. Guilbeaux recommends seeking out the statue garden and the current Egyptian exhibit.
She also recommends stopping here for the same beignets from the French District without the line. Ralph’s on the Park boasts creative takes on a French-Creole menu.
Jennifer Snelling is an education blogger based in Eugene, Oregon, who explores how technology enriches and enhances learning.