I haven't even begun to get my schedule together for ALA Annual in New Orleans later this month, but I can't wait to visit one of my favorite cities with my people.
If you're headed to New Orleans for the first time, I hope you have lots of time to wander around. Don't miss the Odgen Museum of Southern Art. It's a Smithsonian affiliate, a great space with excellently curated exhibits. I saw their last Birney Imes photography exhibit, and it was incredible and how perfectly appropriate for a visit to the Deep South! And if I had never been to New Orleans, I would definitely take the streetcar, probably into the Garden District. A few more suggestions....
Everyone likes Cafe du Monde, but I really like CC's Community Coffee House on Royal Street. Royal Street is what you think of, all the wrought iron, crumbling plaster, and street signs in French. Someone asked about music. There's music everywhere. Try Frenchman Street any evening. The Avenue Pub over there is fun, too. If worse comes to worse, there's always Preservation Hall.
I'm a teetotaler, but when in New Orleans I will have a Pimm's cup at Napoleon House, which was closed during the last ALA Annual in 2006, and a hurricane at Pat O'Brien's, where you have to sit in the courtyard. Whatever you do in New Orleans, it should involve ample sitting in courtyards. And, when I was there in February, there was a new Pinkberry near the conference center, but no courtyard.
New Orleans is NOT vegetarian-friendly. When I was there last, I was served a grilled cheese sandwich filled with bacon. So don't say I didn't warn you... If I were going to splurge on one meal, I'd eat at Bayona. You'll get all the Susan Spicer references in Treme. It's an incredible menu that melds all kinds of influences. I also really like the strawberry milkshakes at Stanley! on Jackson Square, a stone's throw from the cathedral and all the street artists and performers. Also try Stella! and the Cafe Beignet, with its courtyard next door to the police station, where there are usually some cats.
For shopping, you will definitely want to hit the French Market for the best tat. There's Hemline, and some great stores in the Shops at Canal Place and at the Riverwalk, especially the store which sells repro folk art. Also, some of the stuff from Marie Lauveau's House of Voodoo is worth a look. Also, find Faulkner House Books in Pirate's Alley.