GETTING THERE: US Airways has round-trip flights from Reagan National to New Orleans starting at $270. Fares on Continental, Delta and Northwest go for about the same price.
WHERE TO STAY: The Pontchartrain Hotel (2031 St. Charles Ave., 800-777-6193, www.pontchartrainHotel.com) is a landmark in the Garden District and a short streetcar ride to the French Quarter. Weekend rates start at $69. Magnolia Mansion (2127 Prytania St., 888-222-9235, www.magnoliamansion.com) is a grand, upscale B&B, also in the Garden District, catering to romantic couples over 21. Lavish suites with names like Vampire's Lair and Bordello Moulin Rouge start at $200.
In the Quarter, the Dauphine Orleans Hotel (415 Dauphine St., 800-521-7111, www.dauphineorleans.com) has 18th-century townhouse walls and a palm-tree-lined courtyard. Rooms start at $149. For contemporary New Orleans, try International House (221 Camp St., 800-633-5770, www.ihhotel.com), two blocks from the Quarter in the Central Business District. The elegant hotel inside this sleekly redone beaux arts-style building includes a bar named after Voodoo deities and illuminated by candles only. Rooms start at $199. Want a hotel with a ghost? Take your pick at www.neworleansgetaways.com/hauntedhotels.htm.
WHERE TO EAT: In the Quarter, Alex Patout's (720 St. Louis St.) specializes in southern Louisiana cuisine -- appetizers like Cajun-style crab-stuffed mushrooms and Louisiana won tons stuffed with shrimp and crawfish on a bed of mango chutney; and entrees such as smoked pork loin in a wild mushroom and garlic sauce laced with Southern Comfort. Dinner runs $80 to $100 for two, depending on wine.
For fresh Gulf fish (shell or fin), a raw oyster bar and several other classic New Orleans seafood dishes, try the Redfish Grill (115 Bourbon St.). Start with baked Louisiana blue crab fingers with Creole tomatoes, Vidalia onions and garlic ($6) or the $11 Bourbon Street sampler (coconut shrimp, grilled alligator sausage, mini crab cakes and BBQ oysters; serves two). Follow with the hickory grilled fish of the day in a barbeque glaze with roasted sweet potatoes ($22).
For lunch, try the Gumbo Shop (630 St. Peter St.), with po' boys from $5.95 to $7.95. Or check out the chicken andouille gumbo for $6.95, reputedly a local favorite. Or take a leisurely streetcar ride through the Garden District, heading out of town on the St. Charles line, for a simple, old-fashioned breakfast or lunch at the Camellia Grill (626 S. Carrollton Ave.), a diner inside an old weather-beaten building. Eggs, burgers, sandwiches -- it's all good and cheap ($20 for two, with tip).
INFORMATION: New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp., 504-568-5661, www.neworleansonline.com.
-- William Triplett