It has been said that New Orleans, Louisiana, celebrates indulgence like no other city in the U.S.; its reputation for feasting and revelry, especially during Mardi Gras, is legendary. Tourism is flourishing. New restaurants, hotels and attractions draw millions of visitors to the city each year.

New Orleans is an extraordinary city, and with its unique culture and history, it has long enchanted a wide variety of visitors with a yearning for the romantic, the spiritual, the beautiful or the off-beat. (In what other U.S. city would a voodoo priestess be buried next to the mayor's family, or funerals be celebrated with a jazz band and a processional?) That magic feeling is stronger than ever, a calling card to a city with a spirit too beautiful to ever break.


New Orleans is sometimes called "the Crescent City" because it curves like a half-moon around a bend of the Mississippi River. Its orientation blunts the points of the traditional compass—no one in New Orleans navigates using north, south, east or west. Local directions refer to "riverside" (toward the Mississippi), "lakeside" (toward Lake Pontchartrain), "uptown" or "up river" (above Canal Street) and "downtown" or "down river" (Canal Street and below).

The city's position at the mouth of the Mississippi River and proximity to the Gulf of Mexico does make the area more prone to severe weather patterns such as hurricanes.


Mardi Gras was a pagan rite of spring before the Roman Catholic Church incorporated it as a last-chance celebration before the rigors of Lent. Mardi Gras literally means Fat Tuesday. It is the day before Ash Wednesday that begins the Lenten season.

The colors of Mardi Gras are purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power.

All bars in New Orleans are smoke-free.

Tennessee Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire in his French Quarter apartment on St. Peter Street.

The term Creole has been used to describe people, music, ponies, architecture and, of course, food. But purists insist that it should refer only to people, generally with French or Spanish parents, who were born in Louisiana during the colonial period.

New Orleans is known as the most haunted city in America, with many B&Bs and hotels claiming to be haunted. If you're not scared of ghosts, take in one of the city's many different haunted tours.

You haven't really experienced a cockroach till you've seen the large palmetto bugs that are everywhere in Louisiana in summer. And one of the worst things about these critters is that they can fly, although thankfully, they seem to scuttle more than they take wing.


The French Quarter, which is where nearly all visitors to New Orleans start their sightseeing, is the oldest part of the city and it's still a wonder —a mix of clubs, souvenir shops, restaurants, voodoo vendors and beautiful homes (you'd be surprised at what lies behind some of the plainest facades).

Some of the prettiest cast-iron balconies are along Royal Street. The cornstalk-motif fence that surrounds the Cornstalk Hotel is particularly striking. Royal Street is also known for its antiques shops and art galleries. Bourbon Street and its cross streets house most of the tourist bars and clubs, but the locals know to go to Frenchmen Street, just outside the French Quarter, to hear some great music. Across the city, you'll find amazing music being played in some of the most unlikely looking locations.

Among New Orleans' peculiarities—and unexpectedly popular tourist stops—are the cemeteries, which are aboveground because the city is well below sea level. The whitewashed tombs look like tiny houses, embellished with ornate ironwork and statues of lambs and melancholy angels. Seen from above, the cemeteries resemble miniature towns—so they are sometimes called "Cities of the Dead."



Local cuisine is a delightful mixture of Creole, Cajun, French, soul food and a number of other styles. By all means try the abundant seafood.  Gumbo is also special. It can be made with all or just one of the seafoods, as well as with chicken, okra and sausage. Also made with a variety of ingredients is jambalaya (peppery rice, usually with chicken or seafood).

Red beans and rice (with spicy andouille sausage) is a traditional Monday meal, and you'll usually see it offered (often for free) in bars on that night. And don't forget the local tradition of the jazz brunch—a late-morning meal spiced with live music—that'll kick-start your day. Be aware that some of New Orleans' Old Guard restaurants require jackets for men and equivalent attire for women.

Dos & Don'ts

Don't wander around any part of the city alone at night. Crime, as in any big city, is a reality in the Big Easy.

Do tip street musicians and bar bands. Although the quality of music is high in New Orleans, the pay scale for most musicians is abysmal. It's customary to pass the hat, so keep plenty of small bills on hand.

Don't drink alcohol from glass containers on the streets; however, plastic or aluminum containers are completely acceptable.

Do take your time strolling as the locals do. Residents can always spot tourists when they quickly dart along the streets.

Don't be offended if someone calls you "baby"; it isn't a come on (except perhaps late at night in a bar), they're just being friendly.

Travel 42

Copyright ©2017 Northstar Travel Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon

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