New Orleans is not known as a fitness and healthy lifestyle mecca, nor does it try to be--that's one thing Katrina didn't change. Its saucy and spicy food is too delicious, its steamy and sticky weather too oppressive, and its jumpin' and jazzy nightlife too tempting. Let's face it, The Big Easy didn't earn its nickname for an abundant supply of athletic venues and that's okay.
This country needs destinations like NOLA--where sweating on purpose takes a back seat to perspiring from a zippy bowl of jambalaya. Of course, there are ways to stay active in the Crescent City. You simply have to look a little harder. Here's what the Athletic-Minded Traveler found.
Where to Stay
Our first-hand tours uncovered several New Orleans athletic-minded hotels, spas, and bed and breakfasts.
Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Spa
As expected with this luxury chain, guest rooms are meticulously decorated with the finest comforts including soundproofed walls, 300-thread-count Frette linens, goose-down pillows, CD players and high speed internet access (surcharge). Though the décor is upper class, it's the 20,000 square-foot hotel gym and spa space that is uppermost in our minds.
The bright and expansive cardio area houses 18 new Precor machines with attached individual plasma television screens. On the far end of the gym, the weight room provides an impressive selection of cutting edge stack-loaded machines, free weights and dumbbells (up to 65 pounds).
Between the cardio and weight rooms is the facility's most unique feature--a 10-foot long resistance pool. One of these pricey swim-in-place toys has been on top of our Christmas list for years. It operates like a treadmill for swimming with controllable, jet-propelled water resisting forward motion while you stroke.
Ritz's upscale day spa provides a full menu of pampering (massages, wraps, scrubs, waxes, etc.) to reward your exercise diligence.
Loews New Orleans
Loews is a contemporary accommodation with rooms marked by clean lines in crisp brown and white shades. Don't be surprised if you see Fido roaming the halls. Pet friendly Loews accommodates critters of all shapes and sizes, but they cannot use the fitness center or pool.
You will be in our doghouse if working out escapes your daily routine. So heel our command and hightail it to the hotel's 8th-floor fitness center and spa. This expansive and sparkling room, filled with the latest in Cybex cardio and weight technology, will have you panting in no time. While free weights are AWOL, Loews' assortment of stack-loaded machines and dumbbells are acceptable substitutes.
Hilton New Orleans Riverside
Boasting 1600 rooms, this Hilton does not provide a quaint, boutique hotel experience. But it does offer the best and biggest hotel gym in New Orleans. The newly renovated 90,000 square-foot Health Club by Hilton sports every sweat option under the NOLA sun...except a lap pool.
Exercisers can enjoy tennis, racquetball, an indoor driving range and a feast of a fitness floor including A/V-enhanced Precor cardio machines, 16 Nautilus Nitro strength stations, dumbbells up to 85 pounds and a ton of free weights. Unfortunately, only Hilton Honors or Diamond guests receive complimentary admission--all other hotel patrons must pay $12 per day ($15 per day if you're not staying at the hotel).
Maison Perrier Bed and Breakfast
Located in the appealing and upscale Garden District (a couple of miles from the French Quarter), Maison Perrier is a fantastic bed and breakfast option for those in search of a friendly accommodation with a hometown vibe.
Chef prepared southern breakfasts, full concierge service, wireless internet access and uniquely decorated rooms are standard features here. An on-site gym is too much to expect from most bed and breakfasts, including Maison Perrier. However, St. Charles Avenue (3 blocks) and Audubon Park (2 to 3 miles) are convenient outdoor options for jogging and walking.
For a full listing of places to stay, go to athleticmindedtraveler.com.