It’s hard to believe we’re almost at the end of January and Mardi Gras 2015 is just around the corner. This year’s festival takes place on February 17th, and while there will be celebrations around the world, there’s truly no better place on the planet to celebrate Fat Tuesday than in The Big Easy.
New Orleans is often thought of as gritty and tough, but it is a city steeped in history. It is truly a melting pot of European, Caribbean, and African cultures that can be enjoyed year round.
Whether you’re craving world-class cuisine, roaring jazz clubs, or picturesque colonial buildings, New Orleans has it all. Without further ado, here are our top 5 reasons to visit New Orleans:
Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a big deal, like a really big deal. Mardi Gras falls between February 3 and March 9, always 46 days before Easter. It is a time of year when locals and tourists alike get together to celebrate the Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday” before Lent. If you’re a seasoned celebrant of the annual festival, you’ll love the new changes that are set to take place in 2015. For one, the parade routes are to change, including the Krewe du Vieux parade on January 31st. Those with a sweet tooth will find a bigger range of cakes offered this year, while Star Wars fans can rejoice – it seems that the Intergalactic Crew of Chewbacchus is now a religion in itself.
While throwing beads and dressing up might be one person’s cup of tea, for the adoring sports fan, New Orleans has a number of different options available. The New Orleans Saints have not always been the most popular team in the world, but following Hurricane Katrina, the city’s community spirit has really ramped up for the NFL team in recent years. College football is just as popular, with Sugar Bowl event taking place each year. Basketball fans can plan their trip in time to catch a New Orleans Pelicans game. If you like casinos, there’s also the Harrah’s Hotel and Casino in downtown on Poydras Street.
If you’re visit doesn’t coincide with Mardi Gras, then you’ll have the chance to really enjoy the French Quarter – a fascinating district near downtown that is home to several beautiful colonial buildings, excellent restaurants, quirky boutiques, and lots of souvenir shops. A visit to New Orleans wouldn’t be complete without strolling through the French Market, seeing the St. Louis Cathedral, having some world-famous beignets at Café Du Monde, and passing by some of the area’s historic buildings: French Opera House, Jackson Square, Hermann-Grima House, and the Cabildo House.
The New Orleans Street Car is a great (and inexpensive way) to access different parts of the city. Though not the fastest method of transportation, the street car gives passengers the opportunity to enjoy a traditional ride across town. There are three lines: St. Charles, Canal Street, and Riverfront. The St. Charles line is the oldest continuously operating streetcar in the world! The car itself features original brass fixtures and mahogany seats. For 150 years the St. Charles street car has transported people from the Central Business District through uptown New Orleans – an area with French revival mansions, some of the country’s best universities, and home to oak-lined St. Charles Avenue. Get off to stroll around the beautiful grounds of Audubon Park. A one-day unlimited pass on the streetcar costs $3. One-ways cost $1.50. The whole circuit is about 13 miles.
Tip: Don’t ever call the street car a trolley in New Orleans!
After all that excitement, it’s likely you’ll work up an appetite. Thankfully New Orleans is home to some of America’s best Creole and French-fusion restaurants. For a traditional meal, have a Po’ Boy, the traditional Louisiana sub sandwich. Po’ Boys are to New Orleans what lobster rolls are to Boston. Po’ Boys usually come with meat or fried seafood, of which the fried shrimp and friend oyster are our favorites! If you’re in the mood for gourmet, try spectacular Southern food in a quirky setting at Jacques Imo’s in the Garden District uptown. Other favorites among the locals: La Crêpe Nanou Bistro (uptown), Le Petite Grocery (uptown), Mr. B’s Bistro (French Quarter), and the famous Arnaud’s Restaurant (French Quarter). Some typical Cajun foods to try are: red beans and rice, gumbo, jambalaya, spicy boiled crawfish, Andouille sausage, crawfish étouffée, muffaletta sandwich, and bananas foster. It is no wonder why celebrity chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Susan Spicer got their careers started in the Big Easy!
This is by no means the ultimate list of reasons why you should visit New Orleans, but it’s a good start. New Orleanians are friendly and locals will always point you in the right direction if you’re looking for something fun to do.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
-Cajun expression meaning “Let the good times roll!”