New Orleans is one of the most captivating cities in the United States.
Colloquially known as “The Big Easy,” its fun-loving vibe and cultural resonance form a signature DNA that sets it apart from any other major city.
The rich cultural diversity of this port city bears the influence of Cajun, Creole, African American, Spanish, Italian, Hispanic and Asian heritage.
This tenor of variety permeates throughout New Orleans, abundantly reflected in the food, music, theatre and culture it lavishly provides.
A sightseeing tour of New Orleans is exhilarating and bound to delight a visitor with the treasure trove of experiences bristling within its confines.
Whether the person is a starry-eyed first-timer or a returning visitor hungry for more excitement, it hardly matters. In this bustling vortex of adventure, there are more than enough places and events to satisfy whatever curiosity happens to pique your interest.
A plethora of events attracts millions of tourists each year to New Orleans. These is just a cursory look at some of the delights that await a discerning visitor to the Big Easy.
Carnival Season Sensation
If there is a signature celebration that captures the essence of New Orleans, it is the carnival season that culminates in the iconic Fat Tuesday festivities popularly known as Mardi Gras.
New Orleans’ carnival season is probably only rivaled by that of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in scope and pageantry. If your sightseeing itinerary happens to coincide with the time and routes of this festivity, then you are in for a rare treat of flamboyant extravaganzas.
The carnival season starts in February and extends to March. During this time, the carnival spirit consumes the town, with venues all over the city brimming with parades, masquerade balls, and live music.
Tourists and residents pour into the streets to see the famous Mardi Gras Krewes and marching bands, which are ubiquitous along lively parade routes across the city.
The carnival season dominates the city like a planetary force, pulling everything into its orbit. Edibles like King Cakes, which has a special place in New Orleans, are colorfully made to adorn the official Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold, and green.
Mardi Gras is the grand finale of the carnival season. It embodies the entire season’s festive spirit of street parties and raucous costumes. The day’s events aim at putting an exclamation point to an already lavish season’s celebrations with a higher-octane level of gaudier spectacles, colorful costumes, exuberant revelries, elaborately decorated floats, meandering parades, and customary bead throwing traditions.
The French Quarter: The Modern and Antique Bond Together
Also known as the Vieux Carré Historic District, the French Quarter is considered the city's birthplace and appropriately designated as a National Historic Landmark.
The French Quarter is indeed an enigma, a place of where contradictions coexist so seamlessly you hardly notice the starkness.
This crown jewel of New Orleans manages the delicate act of balancing the old with the new so well that conflicting themes melt into one beautiful symphony of cohesiveness.
Its fusion of the ancient and modern will mesmerize you, as you explore the vibrant nightlife on the raucous Bourbon Street, only to encounter the sedate, hallowed halls of St. Louis Cathedral not far off.
If you’re a music lover, you can regale yourself with the rhythms waltzing through the numerous Jazz bars on Frenchmen street. Or better still, get inside and enjoy the live bands.
Then there’s the French market, where modern boutiques rub shoulders with old restaurants and antique stores. You can find a motley crew of contrarian souls such as street artists and performers, along with fortunetellers dotting Jackson Square.
The frenetic pace at the French market can harry a sightseer at one moment, only to find themselves hitching onto the deliberate pace and locomotive speed of the antiquated streetcars that traverse the city. During the day, you might encounter innumerable tour buses zooming past the mad Madame LaLaurie’s mansion, infamous for its own gory history.
As it implores you, in its own unique way to relax and revel in its dissonance, it eventually dawns on you that the dizzying bedlam of both historic and new activity swirling around you is the perfect emblem for the French Quarter as timeless portrait.
That is why its magnetism draws both locals and tourists alike to its allure like hapless sailors succumbing to a siren’s reality-warping seduction.
History Brought Alive
For the history buffs interested in historical artifacts, there is a plethora of places to visit just brimming with historical resonance.
The National WWII Museum, located in the Central Business District of the city is a stellar example.
This military history museum will awe you with its immersive multimedia exhibits, along with an expansive collection of wartime artifacts primed to transport visitors back into time.
It viscerally brings to life courage and carnage, the indelible legacy of WWII.
In close proximity to the WWII Museum but farther down history lane, is the Confederate Memorial Hall Museum. Established in 1891, it commemorates the military history of the Civil War in the South and contains one of the largest collections of Confederate memorabilia in the United States.
In case your interests lean toward the less somber, then you can continue your excursion into the past by visiting the French Quarter.
Louis Armstrong Park and Congo Square
Visitors can stroll a few steps from the French Quarter and encounter other modern monuments built to commemorate annals of the past.
There they will find Louis Armstrong Park on North Rampart, built in the honor of the jazz impresario, encapsulating other echoes of the past and signposts of the present.
Within the park’s confines are the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts, New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park and Congo Square.
Named after the New Orleans born gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, the theater serves as the long- term residence of the city’s ballet and opera. Congo Square is famous for its African American music, the only place where enslaved Africans were allowed to gather on their Sundays off. There, they sang, danced, and participated in commerce, which enabled some to raise enough money to purchase their freedom.
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, often known (Jazz Fest)
New Orleans is in a realm of its own, especially when it comes to music. Music permeates the city, from the bands playing inside bars to its vibrant live-music and round-the-clock nightlife.
However, in case your appetites run towards more grandiose, they can hang around for the city’s annual Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Billed as a celebration of music and culture, Jazz Fest attracts both contemporary, veteran and international artists of all genres, featuring live performances and abundant food.
Essence Music Festival
If you’re visiting New Orleans during summer, you probably won’t mind the heat because you’ll most likely be bracing in red-hot anticipation for the Essence Festival.
Essence was initially conceived as a one-time event to celebrate its eponymously named magazine, which is aimed primarily toward the African American woman. It has since morphed into an annual event usually held around early July each year.
While Jazz Fest strives to provide a diverse array of musical genres, Essence, on the other hand, attempts to keep faith with its central audience by serving a musical menu of Hip-Hop, Jazz, Soul, Blues, Rhythm & Blues, Gospel and Funk.
However, music isn’t its only repertoire in its arsenal. If you are interested in robust debates on current affairs or interested in business networking, then there are also conferences and roundtable talks
Being a southern city, New Orleans has a storied reputation to maintain with regard to culinary delights. As a melting pot of African American and French cultures, their influences are pervasive throughout the various food choices offering finger-licking sumptuousness.
You can sink your teeth into any of the culinary assortments of Cajun, Creole and soul food delicacies for which the Louisiana is reputed.
Food connoisseurs can whet their appetites on the Cajun cuisine of crawfish étouffée, or luxuriate in a bistro courtyard with a bowl of gumbo or a spicy dish of Jambalaya. On the other hand, those experiencing just a fleeting pang of hunger can satiate their cravings with a quick Po' boy sandwich stuffed with fried oysters.
Bayou and Gulf Coast Waters
For the environmentally conscious, they can take one of the numerous cruises through the swamps and the bayous of the surrounding Gulf coast, and feast their eyes on its variegated ecosystem teeming with marshes, crustaceans and alligators.
Some of these attractions are located within driving distance of the city or about a 30-mile radius of New Orleans. Places like Bayou St. John, is a great place to enjoy and relax. You can participate in kayaking or standup paddleboard. Also, its bank is a great place to enjoy music festivals like the Bayou Boogaloo.
Grand Isle, which is the only barrier island in Louisiana, supplies New Orleans with seafood such as shrimp and oyster, is also a cool vacation spot.
The abundance of fun-filled enjoyment that awaits a sojourner to New Orleans are virtually boundless. In addition, provided for you free of charge by the hospitality gods is the relatively warm climate of the Gulf Coast, made so much warmer by the friendly spirit that southern-hospitality is famous for.
So, you are implored to come visit this city simmering with cultural and historical ferment. More than enough adventure abounds in this unassuming city to create memories worthy to be cherished for a lifetime. There is never a dull moment and time spent here will be time spent well.
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