Making a reservation at the Ace Hotel is really the only advanced plan needed if your goal is to simply escape and discover Louisiana’s Crescent City, one of America’s oldest and most well-known Southern destinations, where the options are endless and minimal planning is required.
Celebrating its tricentennial this year, the port of New Orleans, also lovingly known as “NOLA,” is even more excited than usual to share its rich past and gumbo of cultures. While the city began with French settlers on the banks of the Mississippi River in 1718, it has continued to evolve over three centuries. Following those early days when the city was most challenged by natural plagues such as mosquitos, fires and hurricanes, the French Quarter was formed. The Warehouse District sprang up in the mid-twentieth century, when the post-war economy produced the need for gigantic buildings to manufacture and store a multitude of commodities. When those businesses closed or moved out, the buildings were abandoned, just waiting for their revival.
In 2016, the Ace Hotel moved into the old warehouse located at Carondelet and Lafayette Streets, bringing new life to the prominent corner building and district. Now, after just two years, the Ace has already developed a reputation for being a place of high energy where, any night of the week, you can find a great band playing or dance the night away at their live music venue, Three Keys.
You often don’t have to look past the hotel’s lobby for a good party. The night I checked in, a film director was celebrating her feature film at the New Orleans Film Festival, and the main floor of the hotel was pulsing with music as guests gathered for one of the city’s biggest events of the fall season. They filled the dance club for a late night of glorious Cuban music.
With its Art Deco style and artistic touches, the Ace is the perfect meeting spot. In a city that fuels creativity while paying homage to its rich architectural, musical, and culinary past, the Ace brings all of these elements together. After being greeted by the friendly concierge, I found my room carried on the creative vibe with its hand-painted armoire and radio playing the local blues. The midcentury modern style of the Smeg refrigerator, fully stocked and painted in French Quarter green, was a throw-back to the post-war boom in this district.
Josephine Estelle, the lobby restaurant, has dishes from fresh Italian to Southern which will make your palate sing and earn a standing ovation. Stay a while to enjoy the cozy leather booths, botanical atmosphere and turntable playing old records in the background—-and, maybe, one of the best bloody marys you could ever imagine.
If you are a fan of seafood, then Seaworthy oyster bar and restaurant is housed next door in a quaint historic townhome. Whether you pop by for oysters at happy hour or opt for a formal dining experience, you don’t want to pass up the chance to indulge in this authentic culinary delight. If you should walk to the French Quarter after dinner, make your way into New Orleans’ sweetest shop at Sucre. I tried the lavender-honey macaron and a scoop of red velvet gelato which rivaled the best confections a traveler could ever find.
If you’re simply in the mood to relax by the pool, head up to Alto, the Ace’s rooftop bar and garden, where you can take in panoramic views. Order up a few cocktails or small plates, if you’re in the mood for a little less food and a bit more relaxation.
Ready for some retail therapy? Right inside the hotel, you will find Freda, a shop originally hailing from Marfa, Texas. Freda carries hand-crafted and apothecary items from Louisiana, Texas and beyond. Need to update your travel wardrobe or find a new friend? The Ace even houses a menswear store bearing just that name, Friend, where you can find contemporary and casual clothing, collectibles, vintage records or books to commemorate your time in this beloved river city.
Located near the French Quarter, Sports and Arts districts, the Ace is within walking distance or a short car ride of multiple NOLA points of interest. With the holiday season upon us and Mardi Gras around the corner, there are so many great reasons to “laissez les bon temps rouler” at the Ace Hotel in the Big Easy.
Cover: Interior of the Ace Hotel’s Joesphine Estelle restaurant. Photo Fran Parente
Dana Kent is a Louisiana native and Louisiana State University graduate who now hangs her hat in Round Rock, Texas.