Step one: Start dieting now. New Orleans is the calorie and cholesterol capital of the United States, and proud of it.
Step two: Contact the Greater New Orleans Tourist and Convention Commission, 1520 Sugar Bowl Drive, New Orleans, La. 70112, (504) 566-5011. Or when you arrive, visit the French Quarter office, 529 St. Ann St., (504) 566-5031. They can even tell you how to pronounce Tchoupitoulas.
Getting there: Delta and United fly nonstop from Los Angeles to New Orleans. Continental has direct flights with one stop. Round-trip fares start at about $200.
Tip sheets: Offbeat magazine, available in most hotels, is an honest, forthright guide to music, special shows and art galleries. Gambit, an alternative weekly paper, has excellent restaurant listings. Friday's Lagniappe section of the New Orleans Times-Picayune touts weekend happenings.