For nearly 300 years, Jackson Square has served as gathering grounds for New Orleanians of all stripes. Initially laid out as military parade grounds, the site was redesigned as a public park during the 1850s and named a National Historic Landmark in 1960.
Anchoring the square, St. Louis Cathedral features beautiful stained glass windows depicting the life of King Louis IX. To its right is the Presbyteré, to its left the Cabildo, where the signing of the Louisiana Purchase took place; both are part of the Louisiana State Museum system. Surrounding the square are the circa-1850 Pontalba Buildings, the oldest apartment complex in the U.S.
The Pontablas offer residential spaces above and retailers below. The fashion-minded will want to step into NOLA Foot Candy and NOLA Couture, while the Little Toy Shop caters to kids. Art collector? Scope out the budding talents displayed on the square’s fence.
Eggs benedict po’boys, bananas Foster pancakes, brandy milkshakes: Get the day off to a decadent start at Stanley. Neighboring Muriel’s, famed for its crawfish crepes, sets a nightly table for its resident ghost, while Tableau, on the other side of the square, offers kicked-up Creole fare (crabmeat ravigote, redfish Bienville) and psychic medium experiences.
Brass bands and street performers set up in front of the cathedral each day, starting at 10 am. Thousands gather during the holidays each December for the annual Caroling in Jackson Square. Le Petit Theatre, one of the nation’s oldest continually operating community playhouses, which served as inspiration for the Théâtre des Vampires in novelist Anne Rice’s “Interview With the Vampire.”