Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Business travelers and partiers find common ground here
The Royal Sonesta fronts one of the world’s most notorious streets, but the property takes up nearly an entire city block, so the majority of its rooms do face something other than Bourbon Street. Adding to the unlikely calm is the hotel’s full-time horticulturist, who nurtures the romantic banks of lush flowers and trees in the property’s three courtyards.
The hotel’s relaxed floor plan makes for a fluid walk from their corner Desire Oyster Bar through the Irvin Mayfield Playhouse (where live jazz and cocktails flow every night), then on to the main courtyard and a flowery, crystal-lit lobby. A round tower, staggered decks, white walls, and riots of flowers give the grounds a hacienda feel. This openness isn’t taken for granted, and at night security guards keep non-guests from getting hotel access.
One place on the property that lets in the energy of Bourbon Street: the hotel pool, a sprawling flesh festival of singles mingling at the poolside cabana, and lounging in the water. The cabana provides drinks, snacks and even free sunscreen, a thoughtful touch.
For those who must work, the Royal Sonesta has an impressive lineup of stage set designers and carpenters, audio visual technicians, digital and graphic artists, and computer rental staff who can put on nearly any kind of business or event production.
The hotly anticipated Restaurant R’evolution, a partnership between top chefs John Folse and James Beard award-winner Rick Tramonto, opened in spring of 2012. Featuring modern interpretations of classic Creole and Cajun cooking, Restaurant R'evolution builds off of Louisana's traditional fare but revamps it for a new generation of NOLA afficionados.
In the center of the French Quarter, within easy walking distance of art galleries, boutiques, museums, and world-class dining
The Royal Sonesta sits in the liveliest heart of the French Quarter, directly on Bourbon Street and within walking distance of streetcars, the Mississippi River and its riverboats, Harrah’s Casino, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, the Insectarium, Jackson Square, Preservation Hall, and dozens of world-class restaurants. Adults looking for strip clubs, free-flowing cocktails and an always-buzzing, electric street crowd need only walk out the hotel door.
The French Quarter, or the Vieux Carré, is an historic neighborhood that stretches 12 blocks to the Mississippi River. Originally settled by the Spanish, and then the French, the Quarter features a variety of architecture, including colorful Creole cottages, gorgeous antebellum mansions, intricate ironwork and some buildings that date to the late 1700s.
Today, the Quarter is a mix of private homes, museums, commercial shops, restaurants and hotels, as well as wide open public spaces. Property values in the Quarter have gone up since the 1984 World Fair, driving more tourist-related development but also creating a residential demand among elites and celebrities.
The French Quarter is fairly safe during the day; at night, you’ll be fine in tourist areas. Local cops are experts at crowd control, and it's rare for a visitor to get into trouble. Taxis are easy to find, except during Mardi Gras and Halloween. Keep in mind that the heavily tourist parts of Bourbon Street are closed to vehicles (except for delivery trucks, taxis and airport shuttles) every night after 6 p.m.
Canal Street is a retail center and the upriver boundary of the French Quarter. Canal is one of the widest streets in the country and a major thoroughfare in the New Orleans, though it’s packed with national retail and souvenir shops that aren’t worth exploring for a visitor with limited time.
Eclectic French Quarter or courtyard views
Many of the hotel's 483 rooms have pool, courtyard, or French Quarter street views. During spring 2011, the hotel began phasing in renovations that have freshened up guest room decor with a sleek palette of dark woods, new carpets, and cream or sage furniture. Still, until the refresh is complete, guests might get a room with faded florals and pastels, which is more vintage New Orleans.
Great outdoor pool in a flowering courtyard
Desire Bistro & Oyster Bar and the hopping Jazz Playhouse
It takes a block-long hotel to provide so many different options for food, whether it’s caramel sticky buns and an iced coffee at PJ’s Coffee House (just off the lobby) or at Desire Bistro & Oyster Bar (try the Creole Trio platter of gumbo, jambalaya, and red beans and rice, with a side of Bloody Mary).
Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse offers cocktails and a chic, small-plate menu, as well as live jazz every night (and a wee-hour burlesque show once a week). Also on the hotel grounds is Le Booze, offering cocktails and cigars at a copper-topped bar that opens onto Bourbon Street.
The hotel resumed its more upscale dining experience when Restaurant R’evolution, offering fresh New Orleans cuisine that draws on Chef John Folse’s Southern roots and Chef Rick Tramonto’s global expertise.
The Royal Sonesta is Bourbon Street’s swankiest hotel, and guests can customize it to their level of party pleasure. Low-key travelers should ask for a hushed interior room deep in the property, while those who want a certain New Orleans experience can take a balcony room and watch an eclectic parade of people go by at all hours. Live jazz and a hopping pool scene add appeal for weary business people who can’t wait to break out of their meetings.