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Big Easy wants tourists to come marching in

The new Musicians' Village in New Orleans' Upper Ninth Ward is a joint effort by Habitat for Humanity and Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis, musicians and both natives of the city. The new Musicians' Village in New Orleans' Upper Ninth Ward is a joint effort by Habitat for Humanity and Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis, musicians and both natives of the city. (Eric Gay / AP)
Email|Print| Text size + By Richard P. Carpenter
Globe Correspondent / September 9, 2007

Two years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans's troubles are hardly at an end, but tourism has come marching back. The sounds of zydeco, jazz, rock, and so many other kinds of music pulse from the clubs on bustling Bourbon Street and, indeed, throughout much of the city. Diners spill powdered sugar on their clothes from the beignets at Café du Monde. The drama and terror of one of history's greatest conflicts is captured at the National World War II Museum. The Carnival Fantasy sails out of the new Erato Street Cruise Terminal, with other cruise ships soon to follow. And the Bananas Foster at Brennan's is as addictive as ever.

The sparkle is back on the tourist trail as the city's recovery continues. Much work remains and some popular spots have yet to return, while others may never do so. But tourist dollars are helping, according to the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau. Tourism generates $5 billion in visitor spending and creates 85,000 jobs, the bureau says.

New Orleans has many fine restaurants - Arnaud's, Broussard's, Luke, Muriel's, Bourbon House, GW Fins, the Besh Steakhouse, and the Court of Two Sisters among them. But budget-minded travelers may find two of them especially rewarding. The Gumbo Shop on St. Peter Street offers a true taste of New Orleans called the Complete Creole Dinner for $19.99, with choices including seafood okra gumbo, crawfish etouffee, and praline sundae. Meanwhile, Mother's on Poydras Street presents down-home cooking at reasonable prices. A breakfast of eggs and grits, for example, costs just $4.50.

Visit gumboshop.com and mothersrestaurant.net.

The Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans on Bourbon Street has a three-night Streetcar Named Desire package for $399 a person, including accommodations; breakfast one morning from room service or in the hotel's Begue's Restaurant; hurricane cocktails and souvenir glasses at Pat O'Brien's; a choice of a swamp, plantation, or city tour; one lunch at the hotel's Desire restaurant; dinner one evening at Arnaud's or Begue's; and his and her Mardi Gras masks.

Call 800-766-3782 or visit sonesta.com/royalneworleans.

The destruction and rebuilding are undeniably an attraction for visitors. Pamela Pipes, a seventh-generation New Orleanian, has released a self-guided audio tour titled "Hurricane Katrina: Devastation & Progress and Her Lessons for Us All." With the two-CD set, drivers can visit all the key sites as residents tell their stories. Narrators take drivers through the Lower Ninth Ward, Gentilly, Lakeview, and Musicians' Village.

The tour is available for purchase or download at alanet.com for $19.95 and at stores in the New Orleans area.

For those who prefer a guide, Tours by Isabelle offers a Post-Katrina City Tour for $58 a person that visits both the city's most famous sites, from the French Quarter to Bayou St. John, and the hurricane-affected areas.

Visit toursbyisabelle.com or call 877-665-8687.

The city allows gaming, and at Harrah's New Orleans Hotel & Casino, a Dusk till Dawn package begins at $199 a night and features accommodations in a luxury room plus breakfast for two at Riche, Todd English's brasserie. Those who book online at least 14 days in advance can save up to 20 percent.

Visit harrahs.com or call 504-533-6000.

A New Orleans Power Pass includes admission to 30 attractions, including the war museum and Garden District Walking Tour, plus discounts at other spots, and is available for one, two, three, or five consecutive days, with prices for adults from $55 to $127. The same company also offers a Meal Ticket, good for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at eight well-known restaurants with prices from $45 to $191.

Go to visiticket.com or call 800-490-9330.

Some say that ghosts haunt many places in the Crescent City. With Ghost Expeditions, participants can join in three-hour field investigations combining scientific methods and psychic exercises, directed by a Ghost Expeditions researcher, or conduct their own "freestyle" ghost hunts or paranormal investigations. The cost is $75 per participant for guided expeditions and $26 per hour for freestyle expeditions.

Visit ghostexpeditions.com.

Because New Orleans is a 24-hour city, the Convention & Visitors Bureau has launched 24NOLA, an interactive website and planning tool, with visitor suggestions that are not always found in guidebooks.

Visit foreverneworleans.com/24.

Foliage specials

The Killington Grand Resort Hotel and Spa in Killington, Vt., which recently underwent a $2.5 million renovation, has fall foliage packages that include a round-trip gondola ride starting at $62 per person per night. Foliage lodging packages for Killington Resort's condominium properties start at $25 per person and also include the gondola ride.

Visit killington.com or call 800-621-MTNS (6867)

The Peepin' Paddlers Weekend Package at Purity Spring Resort in East Madison, N.H., includes a guided kayaking trek along the Saco River and a guided kayak tour of Purity Lake. The Fall Foliage Covered Bridge Tour package features a bridge tour throughout the White Mountains and a trip on the foliage-intensive Kancamagus Highway. Both packages start at $107 per night for adults and include six meals, taxes, and tips.

Visit purityspring.com or call 800-373-3754.

Although New Englanders may hate to admit it, New York state has grand foliage, too. The Sagamore on Lake George calls its offering the Land, Air, and Lake Getaway. Guests can choose to view foliage from a hot-air balloon, through the Adirondacks by train, and from the lake aboard the Morgan, a 19th-century replica of a Hudson River touring boat. The package is available through Oct. 8, Monday to Saturday, and includes two nights in either the Lodges or Historic Hotel; a choice of a luncheon lake cruise Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday, or a two-hour sightseeing train ride aboard the Upper Hudson River Railroad Wednesday to Sunday; breakfast daily; and cider and ginger snaps on the evening of arrival. The price is $245 per person, unless you choose the balloon option, which costs an additional $225 per person and includes champagne upon landing.

Visit thesagamore.com or call 800-358-3585.

You may not have thought of Michigan as foliage heaven, but the state's Traverse Bay area boasts glorious colors. For information about attractions and package deals, go to visittraversecity.com or call 800-TRAVERSE (872-8377).No more lugging

If you can afford the tariff and want to avoid toting luggage to the airport, groups such as the Luggage Club will send those suitcases to their destination ahead of time, at prices that depend upon the amount and kind of luggage, where it is going, and the level of service. I arbitrarily selected sending two medium-sized upright bags weighing up to 45 pounds each from Boston to San Francisco, round trip, and found the lowest figure to be $340.30, involving six days in transit. A two-day service would have begun at $451.57.

Visit theluggageclub.com or call 877-231-5131.

When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at carpenter@globe.com.

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