Best Grammar School
1. Lusher Charter School (7315 Willow St., 862-5110; www.lusherschool.org) — Children seem to love the arts-based education they receive at this Uptown school, and parents like the innovative teaching techniques and collaborative leadership model. The school focuses on comprehensive arts education, high academic achievement, cultural diversity and preparing students for college and a successful life.
2. Isidore Newman (1903 Jefferson Ave., 899-5641; www.newmanschool.org)
3. TIE: Academy of the Sacred Heart (4521 St. Charles Ave., 891-1943; www.ashrosary.org)
3. TIE: Holy Name of Jesus School (6325 Cromwell Place, 861-1466; www.hnjschool.org)
Best High School
1. Ben Franklin High School (2001 Leon C. Simon Drive, 286-2600; www.benfranklinhighschool.org) — This public high school and the high-caliber students it fosters are a great source of pride for the city. The mission of the school, which first opened in 1957 with classes for the 10th grade only, is to prepare students for adulthood and professional success by inspiring their creativity and honing their abilities to think, invent and understand the world around them.
2. Jesuit High School (4133 Banks St., 486-6631; www.jesuitnola.org)
3. Isidore Newman School (1903 Jefferson Ave., 899-5641; www.newmanschool.org)
Best Local University
1. Tulane (www.tulane.edu) — Tulane University recently was ranked in the top 200 of the nation's colleges and universities by Forbes magazine. The university comprises the undergraduate college and competitive graduate and professional schools for social work, public health and tropical medicine, law, medicine and business.
2. Loyola (www.loyno.edu)
3. UNO (www.uno.edu)
Best Saints Player
1. Drew Brees — What's not to love? His precision spirals led the New Orleans Saints to the winner's podium and a world championship in Super Bowl XLIV, and earned him the Most Valuable Player honor. He's recognized as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and his Brees Dream Foundation has poured more than $1.8 million into rebuilding the city's schools, playgrounds and other institutions — and he let his fans help name his second son. Heck, he was declared king in 2010 (No, really, he was king of Bacchus during Carnival.). The man's a saint.
2. Jonathan Vilma
3. Marques Colston
Best Hornets Player
1. Chris Paul — He grabbed the gold in senior men's basketball at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and as a Hornets point forward netted NBA All-Star status four times (so far). CP3 may be small in stature for a basketball star (at 6 feet), but he's long on talent. He's the darling of the scoreboard, averaging 22 points, 11 assists and six or seven rebounds per game. Off the court his CP3 Foundation is dedicated to enriching communities in New Orleans and his hometown of Winston-Salem, N.C., particularly mentoring children to be physically fit and stay active. His good lucks and winning ways have attracted plenty of attention: Paul was among People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful" in 2006, and GQ named him one of its "Men of the Year" in 2008.
2. David West
3. Emeka Okafor
Best Zephyrs Player
1. Chris Aguila — The outfielder/power batter leads the Zephyrs in homeruns and runs batted in. The California native played in the major league with the Florida Marlins, New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates before coming to New Orleans as an outfielder. He was named the Pacific Coast League's Player of the Week in July, an honor he also earned for the Zephyrs in June 2008. He now is looking to break J.R. Phillips's career franchise record of 56 home runs.
2. Matt Dominguez
3. Mike Cervenak
Best Jesters Player
1. Jordan Lower — Not all our readers are aware New Orleans has a professional soccer team, but you'd probably remember if you watched Jordan Lower guard the goal. A senior at the University of Rio Grande, where he's studying physical education, Lower has only one year of experience in the USL Premier Development League. We hope the protagonist in his favorite movie Gladiator will provide inspiration for his future development.
2. Patrick Mullins
3. TIE: Anthony Judice
3. TIE: Reece Wilson
Best Local Novelist
1. Anne Rice — The "Queen of the Vampires" might be eternally identified with New Orleans, but — psst — she's not local any more, having moved to the West Coast nearly a decade ago and settled in Palm Springs, Calif. (As for the rest of the category: "Doc" Brite is living in Central City but is effectively retired as a novelist, and Burke splits his time between New Iberia and Montana.)
2. Poppy Z. Brite
3. James Lee Burke
Best Local Nonfiction Book Author
1. Chris Rose — The columnist-turned-TV commentator hasn't published a book since 2006's 1 Dead in Attic, but his appearances on Fox 8 News are turning into a good body of work. Maybe a new one soon, Chris?
2. Ian McNulty
3. Tom Piazza
Best Local Artist
1. George Rodrigue (www.georgerodrigue.com) — Long before the Blue Dog — or loup garou, aka Tiffany — George Rodrigue was an accomplished painter known for Cajun country portraits full of brooding oak trees and scenes of rural Acadian folklife. He rendered famous portraits of Huey and Earl Long as well as a few U.S. presidents, but most people know him for the now ubiquitous Blue Dog, which has graced everything from new canvases to Jazz Fest posters to major national advertising campaigns.
2. James Michalopoulos (www.michalopoulos.com)
3. Frenchy (www.frenchylive.com)
Best Art Gallery
1. Arthur Roger Gallery (432 Julia St., 522-1999; www.arthurrogergallery.com) — Arthur Roger has built up one of New Orleans' premier contemporary art galleries and represents artists including Douglas Bourgeois, Robert Colescott, John Scott, Ida Kohlmeyer, Willie Birch, Lin Emery, Dale Chihuly, John Waters and others. A local leader on the innovative edge of contemporary art, he added a room for video in 2010.
2. Martine Chaisson Gallery (727 Camp St., 302-7942; www.martinechaissongallery.com)
3. Cole Pratt Gallery (3800 Magazine St., 891-6789; www.coleprattgallery.com)
1. New Orleans Museum of Art (1 Collins C. Diboll Circle, 658-4100; www.noma.org) — The century-old New Orleans Museum of Art is constantly evolving. The museum embraced African art and new mediums like photography and folk art ahead of the pack of national institutions. The edition of modern and contemporary art curator Miranda Lash has led to increased shows by relatively young local artists and related performance events. The musuem's Friday night Where Y'Art series has also made the institution a hub of social activity on Friday evenings.
2. World War II Museum (945 Magazine St., 528-1944; www.nationalww2museum.org)
3. Ogden Museum of Southern Art (925 Camp St., 539-9600; www.ogdenmuseum.org)
Best Character on Treme
1. Antoine Batiste — As portrayed by Wendell Pierce, trombonist, father and would-be ladies' man Antoine is the heart and soul of the show and the glue that binds many of the characters together. Pierce's upbringing in Pontchartrain Park has a lot to do with the character's authenticity. Everyone loves him — except, perhaps, for the taxi drivers he's forever trying to stiff.
2. Davis McAlary
3. Ladonna Batiste-Williams
Best Food Festival
1. New Orleans Po-Boy Preservation Festival (www.poboyfest.com) — It was almost a victim of its own success, as tens of thousands of po-boy fanatics descended on Oak Street to sample their favorites, clogging traffic and making parking impossible. But some adjustments have made the Po-Boy Fest manageable (though still crowded); this year's event is Nov. 20.
2. Creole Tomato Festival (French Quarter; www.frenchmarket.org)
3. Strawberry Festival (Ponchatoula; www.lastrawberryfestival.com)
Best Live Music Festival
1. New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (www.nojazzfest.com) — Fans of both traditional Louisiana music and various national headlining acts agree, the 2011 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival delivered. The stellar array of headliners included Robert Plant, Willie Nelson, Wilco, Sonny Rollins, Lucinda Williams, Tom Jones, Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons and many others. For those who prefer the more local strains of Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, social aid and pleasure club parades, dancing to Cajun and zydeco music at the Fais Do-Do stage, traditional New Orleans Jazz or the Radiators' final festival performance, there also was plenty to enjoy.
2. French Quarter Festival (www.fqfi.com)
3. Voodoo Music Experience (www.thevoodooexperience.com)
Best Local 5k/10k Race
1. Crescent City Classic (www.ccc10k.com) — Since first setting its course in 1979 with 900 runners, the 10-kilometer race through the heart of New Orleans has grown into a premier race that draws 20,000 athletes from all over the world. In addition to the race itself, the Crescent City Classic starts with a two-day health and fitness expo, provides about $20,000 in grants to schools and organizations each year — and has a rocking post-race party with New Orleans cuisine, live music and plenty of libations.
2. Red Dress Run (www.neworleanshash.com)
3. Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure (www.komenneworleans.org)
Best Golf Course
1. Audubon Golf Course (6500 Magazine St., 212-5290; www.auduboninstitute.org/visit/golf) — Located in the heart of Uptown between St. Charles Avenue and Magazine Street, the Audubon Golf Course provides beautiful scenery, manicured greens and challenging holes. The 4,220-yard course was designed by Denis Griffiths and features four lagoons and 18 holes. To regain your strength after a day on the links, there's the Audubon Clubhouse Cafe, which attracts golfers and regular diners alike.
2. City Park (1051 Filmore Ave., 483-9410; www.cityparkgolf.com)
3. Tournament Players Club (11001 Lapalco Blvd., Avondale, 436-8721; www.tpc.com/tpc-louisiana)
Best Tennis Courts
1. City Park (1 Palm Drive, 483-9383; www.neworleanscitypark.com/tennis) — Whether you like to play on a hard surface or clay, the new City Park/Pepsi Tennis Center can accommodate your preferences with 16 regular courts and 10 made of clay. There's also a fully equipped clubhouse with a pro shop and showers — all set among a 1,300-acre park, named one of America's "coolest city parks" by Travel + Leisure magazine.
2. Audubon Park (6320 Tchoupitoulas St., 895-1042, www.auduboninstitute.org)
3. New Orleans Lawn & Tennis Club (5353 Laurel St., 899-1574)
Best Carnival Day Parade
1. Rex — In 2011, Rex emerged on Fat Tuesday with its typically colorful and erudite pageantry on St. Charles Avenue with a parade celebrating the British Isles' history, literature and myth. Viewers enjoyed floats depicting everything from St. George slaying the dragon to the works of Shakespeare, John Milton and Lewis Carroll to Queens Elizabeth and Victoria to the Loch Ness Monster.
Best Carnival Night Parade
1. Muses — The 2011 Muses parade had New Orleanians dancing in the streets. Fun satirical floats showed viewers the Greg Meffert "Hustle," Sarah Palin's "Poll Dancing" and how Sen. David Vitter does the "Vitterbug." As usual, the procession was full of crowd-pleasing marching bands and parading groups like the Camel Toe Lady Steppers and 610 Stompers.
Best Bike Path
1. City Park — The 5-mile path — and its Wisner path extension — winds through massive oaks, the New Orleans Museum of Art, NOLA City Bark and acres of green space before edging along Bayou St. John to Lake Ponchartrain. It's the hallmark path of the more than 30 miles of bike lanes in New Orleans added since Hurricane Katrina, and Gambit readers voted it the best ride in town.
2. Mississippi River Levee
3. Audubon Park
Best Local Charity Event
1. Zoo To Do (Audubon Zoo, 6500 Magazine St., 800-774-7394; www.auduboninstitute.org/ztd) — Music by the Four Tops made the charity event at the Audubon Zoo magical, but dining and enjoying cocktails under the stars didn't hurt either. The black-tie event also included a raffle for a Lexus, a silent auction of luxury items, vendors from more than 100 local restaurants and more — and all the money raised goes to support the zoo. It's strictly a grown-up event; there's a Kid's Zoo-To-Do for the younger set.
2. Red Dress Run (www.neworleanshash.com)
3. Zach Strief's Big Night Out (www.dreambignola.com)
1. Bridge House (4150 Earhart Blvd., 522-4474; www.bridgehouse.org) — Substance abuse treatment center Bridge House — which also runs two thrift stores and a used car donation center — does important work. According to the organization's own statistics, 46 percent of Bridge House's admitted patients had been arrested or imprisoned at least twice in the six months before they came in. Eighty percent of those who complete the program never return to jail, and 77 percent have a steady job for at least six months after they leave.
2. LA/SPCA (1700 Mardi Gras Blvd., 368-5191; www.la-spca.org)
3. Junior League (4319 Carondelet St., 891-5845; www.jlno.org)
Best Place for a Wedding Reception
1. Audubon Tea Room (6500 Magazine St., 212-5301; www.auduboninstitute.org/weddings) — It's an elegant way to start a life together: a wedding reception at the beautiful Audubon Tea Room. (You can get married there as well). It's easy for your guests to find — it's on the grounds of the Audubon Zoo — has high ceilings, silk drapes and doors that open onto a garden. It's the perfect place to say "I did."
2. Pavilion of the Two Sisters (New Orleans City Park, 1 Palm Drive, 488-2896; www.neworleanscitypark.com/pavilion.html)
3. TIE: Southern Oaks Plantation (7816 Hayne Blvd., 245-8221; www.southernoaksplantation.com)
3. TIE: Latrobe's on Royal (403 Royal St., 299-0601; www.latrobesonroyal.com)
Best Pothole to Avoid
1. Fleur de Lis North of Vets — Lakeview in general and Fleur de Lis Drive in particular have been frequent answers in this category since Hurricane Katrina, but a fresh concrete roadway has replaced the potholes on Fleur de Lis from Veterans Memorial Boulevard past Harrison Avenue. Once you reach 32nd Street, however, you feel like you've been jettisoned into the wilderness and landed on a washed out hog trail. What's up with that? Aren't there any voters living past 32nd Street?
2. Jefferson Avenue & Willow Street
3. St. Charles Avenue near Nashville Avenue