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If not quite the cruelest month, August is definitely the hottest and most stifling for many New Orleanians. Hurricane season is in full swing; tourism slows to a trickle, and the kickoff to Mardi Gras season is still five months away. On the plus side, it's a prime time for locals to get reacquainted with facets of the city they may overlook during more hectic months.
"There's a reason the Vieux Carre has 10 million visitors a year," says Alfred Groos, president and general manager of Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans (300 Bourbon St., 586-0300; www.royalsonestano.com). "If you haven't had your vacation fix somewhere, why not experience your own city and do something you wouldn't normally do? You'll rediscover the wonder of the city you live in that you don't see on an ongoing basis."
Encompassing an entire city block, the Royal Sonesta is an aggregate of all things New Orleans. Guests can sip iced coffee from PJ's Coffee Cafe, take in Trixie Minx's burlesque act at Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse, or slurp down raw oysters at Desire Bistro & Oyster Bar — without ever leaving the premises (or the air conditioning). A new restaurant by chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto is now being built and is scheduled to open in early 2012. "Restaurant R'evolution will feature New Orleans specialties prepared in a very contemporary fashion," Groos says.
A graduate of Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, Groos wanted the hotel to reflect the authentic New Orleans experience. Formerly a brewery for Regal Beer, the Royal Sonesta opened in 1969, four years after the French Quarter was designated a historic landmark. "We came along when tourism was creeping into the fabric of the French Quarter," says Groos, whose first job was at the Royal Sonesta in 1977. "People were attracted to its history, and everything we have done is based on honoring the traditions and essential parts of the city."
Groos hopes locals will take time to get reacquainted with these essential parts, and to help, he has rolled out a cornucopia of room specials and packages.
"It's a great time of the year, because the rates are a little friendlier," says hotel spokeswoman Roberta Grove. "Satchmo SummerFest is coming up and Dirty Linen Night, so it's a wonderful opportunity to have a vacation before the kids go back to school."