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Things to do in New Orleans

Climb in a kayak for a history tour

Leave the madness of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter behind and explore New Orleans' serene side from a kayak. Bayou St John runs through the city, so paddle along with Kayak Iti Yat (tel: +1 985 778 5034; www.kayakitiyat.com), past St Louis Cemetery and the charming Spanish Custom House, whilst guides explain the local history.

Glide over the Louisiana swamps

Flanked by lakes, swamp and sea, there are plenty of water-based activities to be enjoyed in New Orleans. Joe Rugs Water Adventures (tel: +1 504 621 3858; www.joerugswateradventures.com) offer the most, from airboat swamp tours and fishing trips, to kayaking and sunset cruises. They also operate a convenient shuttle service to and from the French Quarter.

Have one for the road with a cocktail tour

With Hurricanes, Brandy Milk Punch and the pleasingly potent Absinthe Frappé, New Orleans is as famed for its libations as much as its food. Slurp your way through a selection of the best, with Drink and Learn (tel: +1 504 578 8280; www.drinkandlearn.com) as your guide. Be warned though: you have to find your own way home.

Play chef at a Louisiana cookout

Whatever you enjoy about Louisiana food, whether it's the Cajun hit in a crawfish dish, a traditional Creole jambalaya (meat, vegetable and rice dish) or just the lively names, a cookery school can help the holiday linger even longer. At the New Orleans School of Cooking (tel: +1 800 237 4841; www.neworleansschoolofcooking.com), pupils can get hands on with a gumbo or just watch an open demonstration.

Take a paddle steamer back in time

A dying sight, take a cruise on one of the Mississippi river's few remaining paddle steamers. Steamboat Natchez (tel: +1 504 569 1401; www.steamboatnatchez.com) departs from the French Quarter for a two-hour cruise of the Port of New Orleans. Passengers can see inside the engine room as well as enjoying live jazz and even dinner.

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Featured Hotels


Hampton Inn

Formerly a 1903 'skyscraper' office building, the Hampton Inn is just two blocks from the French Quarter. Every Monday to Thursday 1730-1900, the lavish lobby is the scene for the complimentary manager's reception. Rooms are large and comfortable with high-speed Internet and king-size or two double beds. The hotel also has a gym, concierge, coffee shop and parking for a fee, along with access to Spa Atlantis, directly across the street. The daily hot breakfast buffet is included.

La Quinta Inn and Suites Downtown

This hotel has great facilities for bargain prices, such as guestrooms with either king-size or two double beds and large bathrooms, and some have microwaves. In-room business facilities include data ports, oversized desks, free high-speed Internet access and local calls. Add to that, cocktail lounge, business centre, a heated pool, and fitness centre, plus a free breakfast. The location is convenient for the French Quarter, Superdome, downtown, and the convention center.

Melrose Mansion

A tasteful, small property on the edge of the French Quarter, this luxury Victorian-era mansion dates back to the late 19th century. The interiors are suitably plush, with antique furniture, original artwork and all the mod cons you'd expect (iPod dock, LCD TV, Wi-Fi and minifridge). There's also a fairly large outdoor swimming pool.

Soniat House

Old books, fine artwork, Oriental rugs, American and European antiques: it is the little touches like these that make this hotel unique. The two restored 1830s townhouses have spiral staircases, balconies and patios. Sweet olive, magnolia, guava and ginger grow in the courtyards. Each of the 19 rooms and 14 suites are furnished with antiques that are accompanied by Frette Egyptian cotton bed linen, Wi-Fi, data ports and two phones.

Dauphine Orleans Hotel

This unassuming building on a quiet stretch of the French Quarter is recorded back as far as 1775, almost to the city's own beginnings. A former bordello site, the hotel now has 111 modern rooms and a host of old, atmospheric cottages. The pool and courtyard are nicely secluded and the hotel bar, May Baily's Place, also harks back to those hedonistic times.

Grenoble House

Set in a renovated French Quarter property just a block from the action on Bourbon Street, Grenoble House provides modern suites with old-timey touches, such as exposed brick fireplaces, hardwood floors and crown molding. Full kitchens make for ease if you want to eat in, though the fabulous restaurants of New Orleans will always beckon. The central courtyard has a sparkling swimming pool and is a welcome respite from the heat.