Nestled along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, New Orleans welcomes travelers with its vibrant culture of art, tantalizing cuisine, and the warm embrace of its eclectic inhabitants. Often referred to as “The Crescent City” and “The Big Easy," it’s a city where the joy of life is contagious. Seemingly every street corner echoes with the rhythm of jazz, every bite tells a story, and every encounter is a celebration of life. As we strolled through the heart of the French Quarter and eventually down into Jackson Square, where local artists display their works beneath the shadow of St. Louis Cathedral, we found ourselves immersed in a living gallery of talent. New Orleans is a canvas painted with the hues of creativity. Local artisans showcase their crafts of intricate beadwork and vibrant paintings, lively street performers fill the air with spontaneous jazz sessions, singing, and laughter, and poets hunch over antique typewriters to clank out eloquent stanzas of their perspectives and offer visitors a chance to take home a piece of the city's soul.
From the historic French Quarter's wrought-iron balconies to the ever-evolving Warehouse District murals, art is woven into the very fabric of New Orleans. It’s here, just two and a half blocks from Bourbon Street, where we found Connor Landrum, an art collector and jewelry maker, who also serves as the Curator of the Kurt E. Schon Ltd. Art Gallery and Foundation. “Kurt Schon immigrated from Austria in the 1940s with his family, and their plan was to go back to Austria after the war and then settle down. But they fell in love with New Orleans,” Connor explains. Schon started his fine art collection with just a couple of pieces, but eventually built up one of the largest collections of 18th and 19th century European oil paintings in the country, if not the world. Schon would eventually buy several buildings in New Orleans’ French Quarter in the 1970’s and had them remodeled to create the five floor art gallery. “He wanted to create an environment where artists could come from all over the world,” Connor says, “and he wanted to bring the European flavor of art to the United States. And that’s what he successfully did throughout his career.”
A Louisiana native, Connor’s passion for art and collecting began at an early age, when as a child he would pick up and collect interesting looking rocks. “I’ve always just collected cool rocks, that’s how it kind of started. And then as I got older and got into my professional life, I kept entertaining my collections and would just play around with some jewelry projects on the side. Well, one of my coworkers heard me talking about a jewelry project that I had made for my girlfriend at the time, and said, ‘Connor, I have never heard you that passionate. Your voice changed when you talked about that.’ He saw the fire in my eyes and he called me out. So I decided that I needed to continue to entertain whatever it is that made me come alive in that way.” Connor began learning the gem and jewelry trade and eventually started his own business, Collector’s Selection. Upon a chance encounter on the streets of New Orleans, he met the COO of Kurt Shon’s Foundation and had a chance to tour the gallery that night. “There’s no other place like New Orleans on earth that has such a diverse melting pot of creatives in one area. It’s incredible. But here in New Orleans it's more than just looking at the art, you know, you are the art. It has challenged the depths of my projects, I don’t want to be making something just to put out there I want to have meaning and history to it and that’s one thing that I’ve always loved with art is just the history behind these pieces. I don’t know how long I’ll be in New Orleans, I don’t know if I’ll be here forever, but it definitely has changed me for the better that's for sure.”
But no visit to New Orleans is complete without indulging in iconic Creole dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and etouffee. Fortunately for us, Connor is not only the curator of a thriving art gallery, but he is also an excellent host, giving us a local’s inside scoop on dishes to try and restaurants to visit. A haven for food enthusiasts, the city's culinary scene is a fusion of French, African, Spanish, and Creole influences that result in unique and soul-satisfying experiences. The French Quarter's narrow streets are lined with eateries that serve up these classics, while the scent of freshly fried beignets from Café du Monde lingers in the air. But what truly sets New Orleans apart is its people. The locals, known for their warm hospitality and a spirit that can't be dampened, welcome visitors like long-lost friends and have become the architects of an atmosphere that permeates the city. New Orleans is not just a destination, it's an experience that leaves an indelible mark on the soul. Beckoning travelers with open arms and inviting them to join in the city's rhythmic dance of art, food, and people, New Orleans ensures that every visitor departs with a piece of the Big Easy nestled in their hearts.
Embark on a local's tour of New Orleans, diving into the heartbeat of this vibrant city. Start with a jazz-filled night wandering through historic neighborhoods, and explore Jackson Square's artistic art. Visit stunning art galleries and unwind in hidden courtyards. Cruise along the Mississippi on a boat tour, absorbing the city's rich history while enjoying picturesque views and the rhythmic charm of the river. This list will take you on an adventure where culture and charm converge.
Jackson Square Art and Street Performers
St. Louis Cathedral
Kurt E. Schon Art Gallery
Ghost, Voodoo & Vampire Tour
Steamboat Nachez Jazz Cruise
Swamp Boat Ride
City and Cemetery Bus Tour
French Quarter Food Walking Tour
Cocktail History Tour
National WWII Museum
St. Louis Cathedral
Living in New Orleans means indulging in a daily dance with culinary excitement. From savoring gumbo's soulful warmth to delightful powdered beignets, every meal feels like a hometown celebration. These restaurants are like a kitchen away from home for the locals, where the flavors of Creole and Cajun recipes unfold like a cherished secret passed through generations. Connor shared with us a list of his favorite spots that include a place to get a bite to eat or an incredible cocktail.
Fives Raw Bar
Clover Grill and Diner
Chemin a la Mer
Vieux Carre’ Pizza