Visit New Orleans – Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras is the main event for most who visit New Orleans. The height of Mardi Gras celebrations are a two week period ending on Mardi Gras Day (Fat Tuesday). After the Mardi Gras party ends, it’s Ash Wednesday and the first day of Lent. Since Mardi Gras depends on the timing of the full moon, the date for Mardi Gras varies between February 3rd and March 9th. The carnival season kicks off earlier though – on January 6th with Epiphany.
Mardi Gras Parade
The riders on the Mardi Gras Parade floats toss “throws” to spectators. The most common throws are strings of colored beads, which have become synonymous with Mardi Gras and with partying youth. The Mardi Gras Parade route is along St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street, upriver from the French Quarter, because the streets are too narrow around Bourbon St.
Visit New Orleans – French Quarter
The French Quarter is a must see for those who visit New Orleans. This small district was founded by the French in 1718. It has Creole influence from the French and Spanish in its architecture, music and food. The French Quarter is 13 blocks by 7 blocks, bounded by Canal Street, Esplanade Avenue, Rampart Street and the Mississippi River. View the wrought iron balconies, distinctive window shutters and magnolia trees.
French Quarter Highlights
- Bourbon Street – Jazz, drinks and New Orleans pub fare.
- Jackson Square with the Louisiana State Museum Cabildo and St. Louis Cathedral. Walk Pirate’s Alley and Pere Antoine’s Alley which run on either side of the St. Louis Cathedral.
- The French Market including Cafe Du Monde
- House of Blues
- Royal Street – art galleries in the 200 – 400 block.
- Julia Street – art galleries in the 600 block of Julia Street. The street is interesting too for the 13 mid-19th century townhouses referred to as Julia Row or the Thirteen Sisters.
The Rapid Transit Authority operates 4 streetcar lines in the French Quarter. These streetcars add a special atmosphere to the city of New Orleans. Jazzy Pass fares are very inexpensive. The St Charles Avenue Streetcar has been designated a National Historic Landmark. The Canal Streetcar Red Line has bright red cars that are called Red Ladies. The Riverfront Street Car runs south along the Mississippi River from the French Quarter, which is a great way to get from downtown hotels to Jackson Square in the French Quarter.
The Audubon Institute includes the Audubon Insectarium, the Audubon Zoo, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, a swamp tour which features live white alligators and an IMAX theatre with a feature on Hurricane Katrina. Take a zoo cruise between the Audubon Park Zoo and the Aquarium of the Americas.
Visit New Orleans – City Park
City Park – nearly 1,300 acres makes it bigger than Central Park in New York. City Park includes the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden, the New Orleans Botanical Garden, Storyland playground, the Carousel Gardens amusement park and the NOLA Gondola, for a Venetian style gondola ride. Take the Canal Street Green Line Streetcar from the French Quarter to City Park.
Visit New Orleans Cemeteries
St Louis Cemetery No 1 is the most famous New Orleans Cemetery. New Orleans cemeteries are above ground mausoleums. You can walk to St Louis Cemetery No 1 from the French quarter. You can also take a Red Lady (Canal Streetcar Red Line) or Green Line Streetcar from downtown to St Louis Cemetery No 2 and then walk a short distance to St Louis Cemetery No 1. The Red Lady Streetcar continues on to the Metairie Cemetery. To reach the Lafayette Cemetery No 1 in the Garden District, ride the St Charles Streetcar, which goes between downtown and Audubon Park.
Visit New Orleans – More Sights
- St. Charles Streetcar – ride between the French Quarter and the Garden District. The Garden District is an American version of New Orleans with no French influence. Visit the historic Pontchartrain Hotel along the way and stop at Audubon Park to see the zoo.
- Bayou Swamp Tour – arrange a bayou swamp tour at most hotels. Venture just out of town to an airboat swamp adventure and see alligators in the wild. Pole a pirogue down the bayou.
- The Mississippi River (Big Muddy) – take a dinner cruise on the Steamboat Natchez. Catch a ferry on the Mississippi to Mardi Gras World, where the Mardi Gras Parade floats are built.
- Tour a plantation on Old River Road.
- See the devastation of Hurricane Katrina from 2005.
- Watch an NFL football game in the Superdome.
Savor the Tastes of New Orleans
- Jambalaya – the best known Canjun style spicy “throw it together” dish in New Orleans.
- Crawfish etouffee – Cajun style crawfish.
- Gumbo – Creole influenced stew that concentrates more on bay leaves and sassafras while down playing spicy tastes.
- Muffulettas – New Orleans Italian sandwich with salami, cappicolla, provolone and Italian toppings.
- Rice and beans.
Visit New Orleans – Hotels
- Hilton New Orleans Riverside – great location near the French Quarter, downtown, the Mississippi and the cruise terminal.
- Holiday Inn French Quarter – Chateau Lemoyne
- Loews New Orleans Hotel
- Astor Crowne Plaza New Orleans French Quarter
New Orleans Weather
New Orleans weather is hot in the summer and humid year round because of the waters of the Mississippi River delta. Average summer highs in July and August are 91 F (33 C) and lows at that time are about 75 F (24 C). From December to February average highs are about 65 F (19 C) and lows are roughly 48 F (9 C). Rainfall is fairly constant throughout the year, but June is the rainiest month. Mardi Gras is a bigger factor for timing a visit to New Orleans than the weather is.
Get to New Orleans
You get to New Orleans by flying to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY). The airport is about 25 minutes west of the major downtown attractions in the French Quarter. You can also get to New Orleans on Amtrak, which has connections to Chicago, New York, Orlando and Los Angeles. There is no subway system serving the city, so taxi is the best option to get to the French Quarter from the airport.
Visit New Orleans – Background
New Orleans is a US port on the Gulf of Mexico in the Mississippi River Delta. The city is named after the Duke of Orleans from France. Its nick name is the Big Easy – which might refer to the laid back life style of jazz musician origins. New Orleans is influenced by European French and Spanish – known as Creole. It is also influenced by Canadian Acadian French, known as Cajun. Both cultures have added their version of spice and seafood synonymous with New Orleans. New Orleans is best known for Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras and Hurricane Katrina.