Lounging next to the quiet courtyard pool of the Royal Sonesta New Orleans, it's hard to believe you're only a few feet away from the often-chaotic scene that is Bourbon Street. But step outside the hotel's main entrance and you're right in the middle of the daiquiri bars, street musicians and cocktail-carrying crowds.
For those looking for the party, the Sonesta is an ideal location, with balcony rooms overlooking Bourbon Street and a cocktail bar, Le Booze, located on the ground floor.
But there are also two side-street entrances so guests can enter the hotel without having to deal with the sometimes-raucous Bourbon Street scene.
"It's a great way to stay on Bourbon Street without actually being exposed to Bourbon Street," said the Sonesta's marketing manager, Colleen McCourtney.
The hotel opened in 1969 and contains 483 rooms (including 36 suites), all of which were renovated in 2015. As a guest of the Sonesta on a recent visit, my room looked out onto the pool area, located in the interior courtyard of the hotel's second floor. After a day of seeing the sights (or of hitting the bars, depending on your preference), the quiet, family-friendly atmosphere at the pool is a great way to unwind or have a predinner cocktail at the pool bar before heading out for the night.
With its central location, the Sonesta makes a great base for exploring the French Quarter and other neighborhoods. On the first day of my stay I headed to Freewheelin' Bike Tours to pedal through various New Orleans neighborhoods, including Treme and Bywater. There were stops at City Park and the St. Louis Cemetery No. 3 and the chance to appreciate the mansions and beautiful oak trees on Esplanade Avenue. It was a great way to get a taste of the city and decide which areas I wanted to explore more as well as learn some of the fascinating local history.
Another day, I headed to City Park — easily accessible from the Sonesta by catching a Canal Street streetcar — and kayaked through the New Orleans Museum of Art's sculpture garden. Being able to observe the works of world-famous artists (along with a small alligator sunning itself on a log) while paddling along in my kayak was a great way to experience the park.
And while there is so much to see and do in New Orleans, guests can catch a lot of the highlights without ever leaving the grounds of the Sonesta.
Slurp down some oysters at the renovated Desire Oyster Bar or enjoy some Cajun food at the Restaurant R'evolution. You can catch some great live music at the Jazz Playhouse's nightly shows; on my visit I was lucky enough to catch the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band, founded in 1910 and performing weekly at the hotel.
"Having so many options on the premises is great for people who are short on time," said McCourtney. "We have a lot of pre- and post-cruise stays, people who will tack on an extra night or two, and you can kind of do everything pretty quickly."
Room rates at the Sonesta rooms range from $149 to $629, depending on season and room type. See www.sonesta.com.