New Orleans is bawdy, yet gentile; slow paced and brustling with energy; old but new; a place to cover childrens’ eyes--or a place of discovery for the whole family. It depends on what you want to find.
The Beautiful Crescent, with its many waterways to facilitate trade, and its fertile soil, began as a French colony in 1718 bringing French and Germanic peoples to the area, and pushing out the Native Americans. In 1719, the first large group of enslaved African men and women were brought to the Louisiana Territory. The Spanish formally took possession in 1766; and Acadians, exiles from Canada, made their way here. By the time Louisiana became an American Territory in 1803, many cultures contributed to this city on the Mississippi River. Ten-thousand Haitian refugees, including whites, slaves, and free blacks added their own customs in 1809, and Italians began arriving at the end of the century.
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New Orleans still retains the flavors of all these groups in its language, food, architecture, and music. Making the city a major tourist attraction. The Big Easy is a wonderful walking town, where visitors can take their time popping into souvenir shops, ice cream parlors, and beignet (puffy fried bread sprinkled with powdered sugar) shops, or strolling along the Mississippi River’s edge between attractions in the French Quarter.
From the St. Louis Cathedral built in 1794, to museums featuring a wide variety of subjects like art, history, and voodoo, visitors may enjoy the modern zoo and aquarium. Later, the trendy night spots or funky nightclubs and strip joints offer diversions after enjoying a quick Lucky Dog on a street corner, or dining in high style at one of the city’s fine, award-winning restaurants.
The World War II Museum is a short walk down toward the Morial Convention Center. Art galleries and antique shops are plentiful in the Quarter and on Magazine Street. Many old homes, the New Orleans Museum of Modern Art in City Park, and other sites may be reached by street car. A free ferry ride across the Mississippi River takes you to Algiers and Mardi Gras World.
The Superdome hosts many events each year other than sports. Runners come from all over to participate in the 10K Crescent City Classic, Mardi Gras Marathon, and a couple of dozen other local runs.
Music lovers gravitate towards their choice of tunes spilling out into the streets from the clubs or they enjoy impromptu performances by street musicians throughout the French Quarter. And on the last weekend of April and the first of May, music lovers come from around the world to celebrate the New Orleans Jazz Festival.
Writers gather in New Orleans each year for the traditional Tennessee Williams Festival, and in 2006 the novelist Heather Graham began an annual conference for writers to help bring people back to the area after hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated much of the area surrounding the French Quarter.
Though New Orleans was knocked flat during the latter half of 2005, the tourist industry was well prepared to host large conventions at the Morial Center by early 2006 including the American Library Association conference. Sporting events and Mardi Gras also resumed. Hotel rooms are plentiful.
Mardi Gras is billed as the greatest free show on earth. From family-oriented parades where no one goes home empty handed, to risqué fashion shows on Bourbon Street, the events are free just for showing up.
Many visitors see Mardi Gras as the perfect place to lose their inhibitions and Bourbon Street is more appropriate for that behavior than along the parade routes where families gather to enjoy the spectacular floats and plead with riders to “Throw me something, mister!”. It’s also a great place for pickpockets, so put a few dollars and some identification in a hard to reach pocket or money belt, and leave the rest in a safe at your hotel.
Portable toilets line up in the most popular areas and unless you are a customer, do not expect access to restaurant or hotel bathrooms. Rooms usually are reserved in blocks for the four-days of Mardi Gras weekend. And they are sometimes booked a year ahead, so don’t expect on Thursday before Mardi Gras to get a room for Monday night only.
India House: This hostel is located only 10-minutes from the French Quarter, and the tram stop is right outside the hostel. You must be an American student or a foreign traveler to stay at the hostel. The hostel has a fully equipped kitchen and has a wonderful outside patio, and even a pool. Check out their website!
Before you come to New Orleans, check out http://www.nola.com/ for up-to-date information on events, attractions, accommodations, and weather.