No need to be an expert in architecture to appreciate the lovely mansions that grace the Garden District, one of the more notable neighborhoods of New Orleans. Originally developed in the early 19th century via the vision of urban planner and surveyor Barthelemy Lafon, the area—now a National Historic Landmark District—features a number of striking design styles, including elegant Greek Revival, English, Spanish, French and Italianate homes. A visit to this tranquil part of town is a welcome respite from the bustling chaos of Bourbon Street. Groups will appreciate the genteel surroundings, where streetcars travel past the oak trees of St. Charles Avenue, and antique shops, vintage clothing stores and renowned restaurants dot Magazine Street, as well as the relaxed tempo that Garden District meeting venues embrace.
Bordered by St. Charles Avenue to the north, Magazine Street to the south, First Street to the east and Toledano Street to the West, the center of the Garden District is 11 miles from the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. Taxis and the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority Streetcar service allow visitors to get from place to place.
Located just eight minutes away via streetcar, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is the primary location in the city for major business events. The facility offers 1.1 million square feet of contiguous exhibition space, including The New Orleans Theatre, a versatile 4,000-seat auditorium, the Ma Maison VIP Dining Suite and the open-air, 26-acre Festival Park.
Meeting venues in the Garden District include Van Benthuysen Elms Mansion and Garden, which is an elegant setting for private parties. Built in 1869, the European-style home has a 48-foot grand ballroom lined with jeweled windows, a Louis XVI Room complete with French consoles and mirror, as well as other distinctive spaces. For a less formal feel, The Avenue Pub, housed in a building dating back to 1845, features two levels and 47 draft beers on tap (including Abita, the local favorite).
While most of the hotels are concentrated closer to the French Quarter, the Garden District does offer a range of accommodations. The Clarion Grand Boutique Hotel – Garden District features 44 junior suites along with meeting rooms for up to 35 people and access to the St. Charles Athletic Club. Five of the buildings that make up the historic Maison St. Charles were former antebellum homes. Today, the property features cozy parlors, artwork from Louisiana artists and 113 rooms and 15 suites. Also in the Lower Garden District, the Prytania Park Hotel boasts a king room in charming old-world style featuring original red brick circa 1836, high ceilings, pine-wood floors and modern amenities among other choices.
Dining venues in the Garden District are a delight. Emeril's Delmonico specializes in "New" New Orleans Cuisine created by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. Groups can enjoy a meal in one of the private rooms: Anthony (54 seats), Rose (52 seats) and Crystal (16 seats). Another institution, Commander's Palace, is not hard to miss—just look for the turquoise and white Victorian-style building. Inside, foodies can order such Creole specialties as Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish and Veal Chop Tchoupitoulas.
As for sightseeing, there are several spots that continue to intrigue out-of-towners: Lafayette Cemetery No.1, featuring a location from Interview With A Vampire, the house used in the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, celebrity homes and Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World.