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Posted: Thursday, 04 July 2013 6:21AM

French Quarter beats popular tourist spots as top destination

What's the most popular destination this Fourth of July?  Well, for New Orleanians it's sitting right in your own backyard.

The French Quarter edged out Chicago's tony North Michigan Avenue as the most popular spot to spend Independence Day.  The Crescent City even beat out Paris at #4 and New York City's Midtown West, which came in at #3 on Priceline.com's list. 

Priceline's spokesman Brian Ek (The Travel Ekspert) says the federal government's sequestration is one reason, as a lot of smaller municipalities have cut their fireworks displays.  He says the Go Fourth on the River fireworks show on the Mississippi River near the Quarter is one of the biggest in the nation and is drawing crowds.

New Orleans is also being helped by "An increased appetite for more exotic/cultural destinations over the July 4th holiday," Ek says.  "We think this is probably tied to the fact that July 4th falls on a Thursday, giving people the long weekend.  For example, Paris neighborhoods appeared twice among the top 10 destinations this year, while London also made the list."

Low airfare to the city is another reason.  "National average airfare is up almost 5% for July.  Not so here in New Orleans, where the average airfare is down 4%, to $376 in July.  And it gets better.  In August, the average airfare to or from New Orleans drops even further, to $325." 

If you're looking to get away from New Orleans for a vacation, "This is the summer to do it," Ek says.

"We've historically seen a strong demand for New Orleans travel, but the trend reversed in 2005 after Katrina.  The city came back strong and topped our July 4th list in 2009," Ek says.  "Then the Deepwater oil spill hurt tourism to the entire Gulf Coast.  New Orleans resiliency shows, as the city has worked its way to the top yet again.  Its really a testament to the grit and determination of the people of the city."

His picks for bargain destinations this summer: 

Take a look at Washington, DC.  Sequestration has affected business travel to the city, and hotels are more than willing to make up the difference with deals for tourists. 

If you can get past the recent headlines, cruises are a bargain, especially if you pick an itinerary like the Eastern Caribbean, where there's a glut of ships. 

And be sure to browse the hotels and packages to Europe.  Airfares are high, but pressured economies in many of these countries can yield travel bargains.

For more from The Travel Ekspert, click here.

Priceline.com's Top 50 Destinations list is based on over 30,000 hotel room booking requests made by customers using Priceline.com's Name Your Own Price hotel reservation service.  
#1           New Orleans, French Quarter
#2           Chicago, North Michigan Ave./River North Area
#3           New York City, Midtown West
#4           San Francisco, Fisherman's Wharf
#5           Las Vegas, Strip North Area
#6           Oahu, Waikiki Beach Area
#7           Paris, Champs Elysees/Arc De Triomphe
#8           Paris, Opera Quarter East/Louvre Museum Area
#9           New York City, Upper East Side
#10         London, Westminster
#11         Orange County, Disneyland/Anaheim North
#12         San Diego, Coronado     
#13         Las Vegas, Strip Vicinity South
#14         New York City, Times Square/Theater District
#15         Maui, Ka'anapali/Lahaina
#16         Portland, Downtown
#17         Chicago, Millennium Park, Loop & Grant Park Area
#18         St. Louis, Downtown
#19         Seattle, Downtown/Pike Place
#20         St. Catharines, Niagara Falls
#21         Washington, DC, White House/Downtown
#22         Montreal, Downtown/City Center
#23         Las Vegas, Fremont St. Vicinity
#24         San Diego, Downtown/Harbor Island
#25         San Francisco, Union Square East
#26         Buffalo, Niagara Falls
#27         Los Angeles, Downtown
#28         San Diego, Hotel Circle/Mission Valley West
#29         New Orleans, Downtown
#30         Boston, Boston Harbor Front/Aquarium
#31         Orlando, Downtown Disney/Lake Buena Vista
#32         Boston, Boston Common, Theater District
#33         Seattle, Seattle Center/Space Needle
#34         Chicago, McCormick Place/Medical District
#35         New York City, Midtown East
#36         Paris, Opera Quarter West/Jardin des Tuileries
#37         Vancouver, Downtown
#38         Hilton Head Island
#39         San Diego, Gaslamp Quarter/Convention Center
#40         Toronto, Downtown Toronto North
#41         New Orleans, New Orleans Airport Area
#42         Milwaukee, Downtown
#43         Virginia Beach
#44         Destin (FL)
#45         Paris, Eiffel Tower Area
#46         Ocean City (MD)
#47         San Diego, Point Loma/Shelter Island/Old Town
#48         Savannah, Historic Savannah and Riverfront
#49         London, Mayfair/Soho
#50         Charleston, Downtown

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