Hurricane Katrina

Storming back: Why renewed New Orleans is better than ever

Jill Becker, for CNNUpdated 11th August 2015
Editor's Note — This story, and several others on New Orleans, complement the CNNGo TV series. See more of the show here: www.cnn.com/gotravel.
(CNN) — Strolling down the streets of New Orleans today, it's hard to imagine that 10 years ago, after Hurricane Katrina came crashing in from the Gulf, much of the city was underwater.
The storm claimed more than a thousand lives and caused damages totaling more than $100 billion.
But New Orleans, like New York City post 9/11, has rallied, and is now experiencing unprecedented growth.
"What happened here is a complicated tale," says Kristian Sonnier, vice president of communications for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"I lost everything, but I have zero regrets about staying. Because we're not just rebuilding what was lost. We're way past that. We're building a city that we never thought we could have."
The resulting influx of restaurants, bars, shops, hotels, and attractions demonstrates how the Crescent City refused to go down without a fight.
It also means that New Orleans is most definitely back on the destination radar.
Here's a look at some of what's new in New Orleans.

Where to stay the night:

New hotels are popping up left and right, increasing the city's inventory by some 2,400 new rooms this year alone.
Among them is the 188-room Aloft New Orleans Downtown (225 Baronne Street.; +1 504 581 9225), a Starwood property in the Central Business District with, among other features, a rooftop pool and a lounge complete with pool table.
Marriott added its own hip brand, the AC Hotel (221 Carondelet Street.; +1 504 962 0700), to the mix here a few months back.
Residing in a revamped warehouse built in 1854 will be one of the city's funkier additions, the Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery (535 Tchoupitoulas Street.; +1 504 527 5271), a 167-room retreat outfitted with ceiling fans, hardwood floors, and exposed brick walls set to open any day soon.
Until recently a W hotel, the Le Meridien New Orleans (333 Poydras Street.; +1 504 525 9444) has livened up downtown, offering ample amenities for business and leisure travelers alike and sporting fun design elements like aerial maps of New Orleans on the elevators and Louis Armstrong quotes on the bathroom mirrors.

Where to get a taste of the city's famous food scene:

The New Orleans restaurant scene is hotter than a heaping bowl of Cajun crawfish.
New dining rooms and dives are popping up from one end of town to the other.
Eagerly anticipated is the opening this summer of chef-on-the-rise Nina Compton's first ever restaurant.
Compton fell in love with New Orleans while competing on season 11 of the hit show "Top Chef," and she's bringing her island flavors, along with a focus on local ingredients, to a yet-to-be-named spot inside the new Old No. 77 Hotel.
Two other celebrity chefs, hometown hero John Besh and Latin whiz Aaron Sanchez, have partnered to present Johnny Sanchez (930 Poydras Street.; +1 504 304 6615; open Sunday- Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday 11 a.m.-11 p.m. and Saturday, 5-11 p.m.), a lively taqueria featuring the likes of beef tongue tacos and tuna tostadas topped with caviar.
A new food hall is making it possible to sample several different cuisines in one place. The historic St. Roch Market (2381 St Claude Avenue.; +1 504 609 3813; open daily 7 a.m.-11 p.m.), built in 1875 but closed since 2005, reopens this month with a variety of vendors hawking everything from French crepes to Korean chicken wings to Nigerian jollof rice.
The swanky new digs of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (1504 Oretha C. Haley Boulevard.; +1 504 569 0405; open Thursday- Monday, 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; $10 entry fee for adult) offers displays on everything from cocktails to cake decorating, as well as cooking demos, discussions, and other tasty events.

Where to take in a show

Grammy winner Irvin Mayfield and his New Orleans Jazz Orchestra now have a permanent home, in a long-abandoned space that was once Gators Department Store.
The sleek new site, dubbed the New Orleans Jazz Market (2020 St. Charles Avenue.; +1 504 301 9006), is the ideal venue to experience the city's signature sound.
Come fall, it'll be worth checking out the newly reopened Orpheum Theater (129 Roosevelt Way).
The beautiful beaux arts building, built in 1918 and known for its ideal sight lines and acoustics, was shuttered post Katrina, but is currently undergoing a $13 million renovation in order to restore it to its former glory.
A performance by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra kicks off the 2015-16 season September 17.

Where to scope out the sights:

One doesn't automatically associate New Orleans with bustling public green spaces, but two new projects may just change that.
Crescent Park is a 1.4-mile recreational corridor bordering the Mississippi that includes a fenced dog run, picnic areas, and hike and bike trails. It spans from Faubourg Marigny to the trendy Bywater neighborhood, home to an ever-growing number of restaurants, clubs, and shops. Picture New York's High Line with a riverfront address.
To be completed just in time for summer is the Lafitte Greenway, a 2.6-mile linear park, formerly a canal and railroad right-of-way, designed to bring the community together in celebration of the great outdoors and to reconnect neighborhoods once cut off by urban sprawl.
Eight years in the making, it will extend from Mid-City to Treme and feature multi-use paths, ball fields, lush plantings, and more.
Ripe for some indoor exploration is the National WWII Museum (945 Magazine St.; +1 504 528 1944; open daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; entry fee from $23 per adult), which is in the midst of a $325 million expansion that will quadruple its size.
One of the most recent additions is the Road to Berlin: European Theater Galleries, which illustrates the struggles to defeat the Axis of power through historic artifacts, period newsreels, and re-created battle scenes.
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