The Wife and I just returned from 5 days in New Orleans. If you've never been or if you've not been since Katrina I have just one thing to say "GO VISIT." The areas most familiar to tourists - The French Quarter and The Garden District look much as they always did. Those areas were not flooded and sustained mostly wind damage, the bulk of which has been repaired/cleaned up. The fabulous food, freely flowing liquor, and general anything goes feel of the French Quarter has not changed. New Orleans is trying desperately to come back and what they need most right now is tourist/convention dollars. We stayed at the Hotel St Marie just one block off of Bourbon St in the heart of the French Quarter. It's a great location and if you get a room facing the courtyard rather than the street it is very quiet. I thought it was a good value too. We took 2 tours. We took a cemetary tour with Haunted History Tours (Earnest was our tour guide, he's awesome) and a walking tour of the Garden District with Gray Line Tours. We saw homes owned by Nicholas Cage, John Goodman, Archie Manning, and Anne Rice (formerly). I had been in New Orleans probably half a dozen times before but they were mostly for work so I never had an opportunity to do any of the tours before. I'm really glad we did them this time.
We also ate lots of good food. We hit the old standbys - Cafe du Monde, The Gumbo Shop, Acme Oyster House, Central Grocery for muffalettas, Johnny's Po-boys for roast beef and oyster po-oys, and several other restaurants. We spent a Saturday evening in the piano bar at Pat O'Brien's and a very amusing Sunday night trolling the gay bars including Good Friends and Bourbon Pub. We also took a paddlewheel cruise on the Mississippi on the Steamboat Natchez (don't bother with the buffet lunch - not worth it.)
It was in the 20s when we left Newark and it was in the 70s and sunny in New Orleans. It was so great to be somewhere warm. New Orleans, despite Katrina, hasn't lost its inate warmth either. It's a friendly place, and incredibly worth saving.