There is something wonderfully anachronistic about traveling by train in this modern age. And I’m not talking about workaday back-and-forth commuting on some dreary regional transit full of pallid stiffs. Quite the opposite: I mean real rail travel, travel the old-fashioned way—a weekend summer sojourn by way of a great big, shining Amtrak locomotive. Specifically, the Sunset Limited, which has traversed Texas on its route from Los Angeles to New Orleans and back since 1894. Sure, there are speedier ways to get from point A to point B (motorcycle, car, bus, plane, dirigible, horse, tortoise), but sometimes a trip is enhanced via the mode by which a traveler has chosen to arrive at his final destination. Read the rest of David Courtney’s account of this sojourn from the May 2014 issue.
Here’s a guide to an extended Big Easy debauch by way of Amtrak’s Sunset Limited.
SEE + DO
Carousel Bar and Lounge in the Hotel Monteleone // In the lobby of the Monteleone Hotel, ride on New Orleans’s only actual working carousel bar while sipping a refreshing cocktail. 214 Royal Street (504-523-3341 or 866-338-4684)
The Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel // Enjoy a Ramos Gin Fizz just the way the Kingfish (infamous Louisiana governor Huey P. Long) liked ‘em back when he called the Roosevelt home. 123 Baronne (504-648-1200 or 800-925-3673)
The Polo Club in the Windsor Court Hotel // Savor the best Sazerac the Crescent City has to offer at the posh Polo Club Lounge (because at $25 a pop you may not be able to afford a second round). It’s the official cocktail of New Orleans. 300 Gravier (504-523-6000 or 888-596-0955)
EAT + DRINK
Galatoire’s Restaurant // Classic (and classy) New Orleans cuisine in a classic (and, again, classy) New Orleans setting. Have a cocktail, shrimp etouffee, black bottom pecan pie, and great time. 209 Bourbon (504-525-2021)
Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar and Acme Oyster House // When it comes to French Quarter bivalve consumption, folks seem to be either Felix’s people or Acme people. But there’s nothing stopping you from crossing the street. Do both. Have raw oysters, oysters Rockefeller, and oysters Bienville at Felix’s, and raw oysters, chargrilled oysters, and oysters Rockefeller soup at Acme. 739 Iberville (504-522-4440) and 724 Iberville (504-522-5973), respectively
Parkway Tavern // Come here for perfect po’ boys of all makes and models. Hot roast beef or golden fried shrimp are de rigueur. 538 Hagan Ave (504-482-3047)
Commander’s Palace // Shorts and T-shirts are never allowed and jackets are preferred when taking dinner at this charmingly doughty (and kinda touristy) Garden District landmark established in 1880. Have the famous turtle soup appetizer at jazz brunch. 1403 Washington Ave (504-899-8221)
Hotel Monteleone // A classic (and classy) French Quarter institution with deep literary roots. Truman Capote, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Eudora Welty, and Tennessee Williams have all been guests of the hotel, which has been designated a literary landmark. 214 Royal Street (504-523-3341 or 866-338-4684)
Soniat House // A small boutique hotel that offers rare peace and quiet in French Quarter. 1133 Chartres (504-522-0570 or 800-544-8808)
BEFORE YOU GO
There is no Wifi on the Sunset Limited, so be sure to download plenty of Louis Armstrong, Armand Hug, and the interesting Amtrak podcasts (“Vidor KKK: A Town Marked by Racial Tension,” and “Avery Island & Tabasco: The Sweetest, Spiciest, and Saltiest Place on Earth!”) for the San Antonio-to-New Orleans stretch of the Sunset Limited Route. Follow @Amtrak on Twitter
Photos from the observation car of the Sunset Limited. Swizzle sticks from famous cocktail bars.