New Orleans, Louisiana
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- New Orleans, founded in 1718, was destroyed twice by hurricanes in its first three years.
- The Battle of New Orleans occurred after the War of 1812 ended, but the anniversary was once a national holiday.
- The 1947 play, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” is set in New Orleans; there was a real streetcar line called Desire.
- The city has the most buildings on the National Register of Historic Places of any U.S. city (35,000-plus).
- New Orleans boasts the oldest opera house in America, from 1796.
Where jazz was born
On arrival in the Crescent City, especially in the French Quarter, the newcomer is greeted by a vision of low-rise buildings with wrought-iron balconies plus gates leading to brick courtyards. The definitive backdrop to this is, of course, the mighty Mississippi River.
Nowadays, after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, visitors see damage but they see much of the French Quarter more or less as it was because that area rests on a knoll that protected it from most floodwaters. More important, residents haven’t given up on their city, and they haven’t given up on tourism, either.
Although repairs and rebuilding will continue for years, the beat goes on. This, after all, is where jazz was born, and the musicians wasted no time getting back into the streets and into their jazz halls.
Visitors also can still eat themselves silly, starting their days with sugar-covered beignets. Whether they choose the most expensive restaurant or the cheapest po’boy shop along the Mississippi, they will get great food because New Orleans people are passionate about their eats. This is the place to have regional food, from spicy jambalayas to fresh gulf seafood to rich desserts and sauces. Or, how about bread pudding souffle with whisky sauce?
The ambience of New Orleans also benefits from its history and its natural setting. Founded by the French, it belonged alternately to France and Spain for nearly 100 years. As to the geography, the city stretches along a bend of the Mississippi, with luxuriant foliage everywhere and everyone seeming to move in a slow rhythm that goes with the heat and the sluggish pace of the river itself.
New Orleans is noted for festivals — as well as a round-the-calendar party attitude in the French Quarter. Annual events include the world-renowned Mardi Gras as well as a springtime Jazz and Heritage Festival and the Satchmo Summerfest. It’s obvious that New Orleans residents throw these parties for themselves and are happy to invite visitors to participate. A note of warning: Preparations to attend the big ones, like Mardi Gras, should be made a year in advance.
Things to do for Venturers
- Participate in a voluntourism project in or near New Orleans if the options are still available when you intend to travel.
- Paddle a canoe or kayak along the waterways of the Barataria bayous at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.
- Curious about voodoo and witchcraft? Visit the grave of the infamous Marie Laveaux at St. Louis Cemetery. Spend time at the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum in the French Quarter, and buy a souvenir voodoo doll there. Alternatively, ask about arranging psychic readings or attending voodoo rituals. Ask about swamp and cemetery tours, too.
- Book your room, pack your party clothes and come to Mardi Gras.
- Make a night of it, visiting clubs along Bourbon Street. Frenchmen Street is an alternative — Ellis Marsalis Jr. plays a monthly gig at Snug Harbor there.
- Head to nearby Chalmette or St. Bernard and try your luck at fishing coastal waters for trout and redfish.
Things to do for Centrics
- Listen to the music at the iconic Preservation Hall — if you can get in, that is.
- New Orleans cemeteries are included in every guided tour. They are called “cities of the dead” because most graves are above ground to avoid being washed away, and tombs are arranged on named narrow paths as if they were tiny houses in a village.
- Plan well ahead to attend the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in April or May. Musicians, cooks and craftspeople come together to put on the show.
- If you are a fan, plan an itinerary around New Orleans sites featured in Anne Rice’s vampire/witch novels.
- For birders, a tour through the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans is a chance to add unique sightings to your list.
- The Chalmette Battlefield, site of the Battle of New Orleans, is one of six sites of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. Visit in early January when reenactors recall the long-ago fight and other activities commemorate the 1815 battle.
Things to do for Authentics
- Munch your way through town. Also, see a demonstration of Cajun cooking at the New Orleans School of Cooking.
- Spend time at the National World War II Museum and recapture some of the urgency of that wartime effort for the U.S. and its allies. Also, the Stage Door Canteen provides 1940s-style entertainment.
- Check out the shopping at New Orleans’ French Market along the river for different kinds of wares, some trashy, some terrific.
- Ride around in the downtown area on one of the city’s streetcars, and take a river cruise, too. However, for a really good look at the historic French Quarter, guided tours are your option.
- Buy fresh seafood and have it packed for travel back home, or arrange with the seller to ship it to you. Also, visit the Aquarium of the Americas at the foot of Canal Street.
- Play golf in Audubon Park in the city’s historic district. The course is one of a dozen in the state on the Audubon Golf Trail.
For more information, consult the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation at www.neworleansonline.com