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New Orleans

Let the good times roll in the Big Easy

With its gorgeous old mansions, wrought-iron balconies and colorful facades, New Orleans, Louisiana, looks like nowhere else in the United States. This gorgeous old city is as entertaining as it is charming, and though NoLa, as it is frequently referred to, is best known for its lively Mardi Gras celebrations, it’s a great place to visit any time of year. Visitors will enjoy great (though sometimes a bit humid) weather, a lively nightlife scene, delicious local delicacies and some of the world’s best jazz venues.

French colonists founded New Orleans back in 1718, and the city retains much of its French look and feel to this day, notably in the 18th-century Vieux Carre (aka the French Quarter), the oldest neighborhood in the city. The old-fashioned ambiance can also be found in the gorgeous and historic Garden District which is characterized by street after street of gigantic Italianate, Greek Revival and Victorian homes. The neighborhood is perhaps best known as the final destination of the famous Saint Charles Streetcar line, which many visitors will recognize from the iconic play and film, “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Many of the city’s historic streets retain their Gallic names, and French terminology pops up from time to time in the local vernacular.


Annual Festivities

New Orleans is synonymous with Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, celebrated late every winter on the day before Lent. Frequently re-ferred to as the “Greatest Free Show on Earth,” this annual carnival features spectacular parade floats, costumed revelers and lots of booze, food and festivities. While it’s generally considered a wild event, Mardi Gras is not just for party animals; families and those whose party days are long over can still watch the parade in quieter parts of town, such as the Garden District.

While New Orleans is best known for Mardi Gras, the Big Easy also attracts thousands of jazz aficionados every year with the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (most people just call it Jazz Fest). It’s one of the biggest music festivals in the entire country, and in addition to myriad jazz performances (with a few other gen-res making their way in), it also offers tons of cultural and culinary activities for participants of all ages.


The French Quarter

Most visitors base themselves in or near the French Quarter, which puts them within easy reach of popular sites. Don’t miss a visit to Jackson Square, which is presided over by the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, the oldest continuously operating cathedral in the country. The square is full of interesting characters and quaint shops—including one devoted entirely to Tabasco sauce, Louisiana’s best-known export. The square also doubles as a stage for a regular rotation of musicians and street performers, and you’ll find plenty of local artisans selling paintings of the city’s gorgeous streets. It’s also the best place to hire a horse-drawn carriage to take you on a leisurely tour around the French Quarter’s cobble-stone streets.

The French Quarter is, indeed, a great place to go shopping. Tourists in search of jewelry, antiques and high-end art pieces will want to head straight to Orleans Street, which eschews the voodoo sup-plies and tourist kitsch found in other areas in favor of more re-fined—and considerably more expensive—wares. While in the French Quarter, be sure to stop by the famous French Market, an enormous, partially covered open-air market full of stalls selling everything from handicrafts to candles and incense.

There are also plenty of food stalls in the French Market, many featuring local favorites—think gumbo, jambalaya and the New Orleans take on the hoagie/subway sandwich: overstuffed baguettes known as Po’boys. And if you love what you’re tasting, you can buy all the spice blends, instant mixes and hot sauces you could dream of at one of the market’s many culinary shops.

If you still have room, don’t miss a visit to the internationally renowned Café du Monde, known for its steaming-hot beignets (French donuts) dusted in powdered sugar and served with cups of chicory-infused coffee. It’s open 24 hours in case you find yourself in need of a 3 a.m. caffeine boost!

Speaking of nightlife, New Orleans kicks into overdrive after dark, and drinking here is not just for the young and wild; it’s an integral part of the local culture. Unlike most American cities, open con-tainers are not a problem. Bourbon Street is at the epicenter of the city’s nightlife scene, and this artery can get boisterous on weekends and when the New Orleans Saints, the city’s beloved football team, are playing home games.

Cocktail connoisseurs should note that one of the city’s most famous beverages is the Hurricane, a sugary rum drink invented at Pat O’Brien’s on St. Peter Street. Mint juleps are also popular—this is the South, after all—and even teetotalers will find plenty of “mocktails” to enjoy at the French Quarter’s numerous bars.

For More Information

New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau




Louisiana Office of Tourism