New Orleans

New Orleans, on Lousiana’s Gulf Coast, is never short of an excuse to laissez les bon temps rouler—and the city’s popularity has been driven by what the Big Easy does best: eating, drinking, and being merry. The French Quarter has plenty to entertain beyond the neon-lit Bourbon Street, so it’s worth exploring the city’s outlying neighborhoods, from the manse-lined streets of Uptown to the boho Bywater. And one need only wander into any of the bars along Frenchmen Street to be convinced that New Orleans’s musical heritage beats on—and that no matter how small the venue, there’s always room to dance.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA USA- FEB 2 2016: An unidentified  local jazz band performs  in the New Orleans French Quarter, to the delight of visitors and music lovers  in town.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA USA- FEB 2 2016: An unidentified local jazz band performs in the New Orleans French Quarter, to the delight of visitors and music lovers in town.

Photo By GTS Productions/Shutterstock

Overview

When’s the best time to go to New Orleans?

Mardi Gras, Essence Festival, and Jazz Fest, the city’s biggest events, take place in winter, summer, and spring. Though summer brings fewer crowds due to the heat, it’s worth considering a nonpeak trip to avoid the tourist throngs and exorbitant hotel rates. August’s Satchmo Festival is a celebration of native son Louis Armstrong, while the holiday season brings bonfires, Reveillon dinners, and caroling in Jackson Square.

How to get around New Orleans

New Orleans’s Louis Armstrong International Airport is about 25 minutes from the French Quarter by taxi. The fare is a flat rate of $36 for the first two passengers, plus a $15 surcharge for each additional person. Airport shuttles are slightly more—$30 for a one-way ticket, $56 round-trip—and run every half-hour or so to hotels and other locations.

The French Quarter is easily navigated on foot, and the city’s streetcars can be useful if you’re planning to explore well-trodden parts of the city like the Garden District, City Park, and the Superdome; a day pass costs $3. For everywhere else, taxis are readily available.

Can’t miss things to do in New Orleans

If you’re within earshot of a brass band, chances are good it’s a second line; drop anything you’re doing and follow that sound—you won’t be sorry. Or head over to Congo Square in Treme, the epicenter of Black culture and music in the city.

A crawfish boil—ideally in someone’s backyard—is an iconic New Orleans pastime. If you don’t have a backyard to borrow, pick up crawfish, potatoes, corn, and sausage from KJean’s, and head to City Park.

Food and drink to try in New Orleans

New Orleans’s already renowned restaurant scene has only gotten stronger over the years. Restaurants that are shaking up the old guard, jazzing up Cajun classics, and bringing new flavors to the forefront include Mid-City’s Heard Dat Kitchen and Senegalese-inspired Dakar Nola. Lunching at Commander’s Palace (when martinis are a 25 cents apiece at lunch on certain days) or queuing for fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House is essential—but so are whole grilled fish at Donald Link’s Peche, globally inspired street food at Booty’s, and cocktails at Cure.

Culture in New Orleans

In Cajun cooking, the holy trinity is a riff on mirepoix that refers to onion, celery, and bell peppers and is the base for iconic dishes from gumbo to jambalaya. If the city of New Orleans had a holy trinity, it would be food, music, and the Saints. To understand the city’s culture, go for Friday lunch at Galatoire’s, grab a bench at Preservation Hall, and catch a game at the Superdome. There’s also a burgeoning gallery scene along Julia Street and a handful of worthwhile museums, including the Contemporary Arts Center and the National WWII Museum.

New Orleans is a city that likes to get its party on, and its festivals are nothing short of epic. The most famous are Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, but also of note are alternative music festivals like Satchmo Summerfest and Crescent City Blues and BBQ, plus the (free) French Quarter Festival. Even if you don’t plan your trip around a special event, there’s almost always a parade or a party going on somewhere in the Big Easy.

Local travel tip for New Orleans

The French Quarter—Bourbon Street in particular—is where the tourists go. If you’re a native, chances are you’re hanging out elsewhere.

Read Before You Go
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