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Excellent Conference Hotels

SANS is always looking for the best in conference hotels - Stephen Northcutt describes some of them.

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What hotel should I choose in New Orleans

By Stephen Northcutt
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When we were planning the SANS conference in New Orleans 2012 we needed to select the best possible hotel. New Orleans will be gearing up for Mardi Gras and we wanted to be close to the action, but not so close we could not retire for the evening. We selected the Sheraton on Canal Street, which is, bar none, the place to stay in New Orleans: it is a great hotel and convenient to everything. But don't miss the parades! If we stay an extra day we might even be able to watch the Krewe Du Vieux parade. Here is a calendar to help you plan. Last year, I even ponied up $40 to attend the party, met some great locals and learned a lot about the history and purpose of Krewe. Or pop over to Slidell and catch the Krewe of Slidellians.

If you are a foodie, there is no better restaurant city in America. Many of the instructors, like myself, are really craving world class Creole, and we ate very well. If you know you are coming to New Orleans, my strongest suggestion is to book the kitchen table at Commanders Palace. You will need four people and the sooner you book, the better, it sells out. This was the only restaurant we visited that required a taxi; it is in the garden district, which is not to be missed. Notable culinary experiences right downtown and within a couple blocks of the Sheraton include:
  • Brennan's. At least once make sure you show up for breakfast, it is like no other breakfast in the world, and to be completely decadent, try the bananas foster. Kathy and I went together for supper, we went a bit early and for three quarters of our meal we were the only ones in a wing of the restaurant with our own dedicated waiter. Can't promise that will happen to you, but I can promise a world class wine list. It is no longer 35,000 bottles as it was before the hurricane, but, like everyone in New Orleans, they are rebuilding.
  • Lunch at K-Pauls is always fun! Thursday - Saturday they do it deli style.
  • Palace Cafe, literally across the street from the Sheraton. Give them a call, they have a fixed price menu if you dine around 6 PM, so we got the works for forty dollars a plate and I had the best grilled fish I was to experience on the trip.
  • For more casual dining where you feel comfortable if you are not wearing a sport coat or a suit, we found the Redfish Grill to be the ticket. Last year I enjoyed the pecan encrusted catfish and I still feel they have the best tasting alligator sausage and seafood gumbo in the city.
  • If you are really hungry, Harrahs, just down the street is one of the best casino buffets I have enjoyed.
  • Kathy had to leave a couple days before me, so I snuck into the original Popeyes on Canal street across the street from the Sheraton for dark meat chicken, a buttermilk biscuit, and Cajun rice ( shhh don't tell Kathy). Their chicken and sausage gumbo and red beans and rice is as good as anything you can get anywhere in the five mile vicinity.
  • Here is a guide to more choices.
My favorite mode of exercise is walking, every day I would leave the Sheraton, and take a walk in the French Quarter. If you appreciate art or antiques, this is ground zero, I would put the galleries of New Orleans up against San Francisco's any day. There are plenty of shows to watch ranging from comedy to music, music, music! If you like dancing two fun nightclubs are Ampersand in an old bank and Masquerade right inside Harrahs. And, of course, there is plenty of adult oriented entertainment especially on and around Bourbon Street, however I will leave that research to you, but be wise and only enter the big names. If you have never done the river cruise, that is fun, just a couple blocks from the hotel straight to the river. While you are there, enjoy the Riverwalk mall, lots of fun stuff to buy ( I didn't) and a great food court (I did). The bottom line, don't worry about a thing, this is a fun city and fully operational in the tourist zone. I was thinking about zipping down for the Essence Music Festival, but waited too long and the hotels I checked were sold out.