New Orleans: Nightlife, Gumbo, Jazz, and Café du Monde
New Orleans, known to some as “The Big Easy”, is the
largest city in Louisiana and beams with the richness of the Cajun
culture. It is a truly unique city, located on the Mississippi River,
with French and African Creole foods, music, casinos, and endless
nightlife. New Orleans definitely knows how to throw a party. Any Mardi
Gras witness can attest to this fact. The deep historical roots make it
is almost like experiencing a foreign culture, which is one reason so
many people visit each year.
New Orleans is haunted by
historic graveyards, cathedrals, and voodoo sites. Even after the
damage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, tourism has begun to thrive again,
with the reopening of the Louis Armstrong International Airport, and
the functioning of taxis and the famous streetcars. It is a perfect
time to travel to New Orleans for the affordable accommodations due to
lighter crowds, or to participate in a Katrina relief program. Although
only half of the city’s population has returned, the hot and humid
weather still matches the hot and spicy cuisine, culture, and flavor of
The French Quarter is the oldest section of New Orleans and luckily was
not destroyed by Katrina. With eighteenth century architecture, fine
dining, music clubs, bars, antique shops, and stores, the French
Quarter is perhaps the most tourist populated area. It lies along the
coast of the Mississippi River, which can be seen while walking along
Woldenberg Riverfront Park. The French Market is where artists,
craftsmen, and vendors set up tables in an open air market. One of the
main reasons tourists come to this part of the city is to go to the
famous Café du Monde. Established in 1862 and located on Decatur
Street, it is the original coffee shop of the French Quarter. Café du
Monde offers an enormous outdoor seating area that often fills up
around breakfast and brunch, when visitors come for beignets and café
au laits. Beignets are the square shaped French style doughnut, deep
fried and covered in powdered sugar. They can also found at Morning
Call, another historic café in New Orleans.
Located along the French Quarter, Bourbon Street is the world famous
area stretching from Canal Street in the Central Business District to
Pauger Street in the Faubourg Marigny district. It includes several
blocks of bars, restaurants, adult entertainment, and souvenir shops.
Because the city has no open container laws, bar patrons are free to
carry their non glass or aluminum drinks as they bar hop down Bourbon
Street. Enjoy one of the traditional cocktails of New Orleans: the
Hurricane, the Hand Grenade, “sazerac”, or beers in large to-go cups
called “Huge Ass Beers”. Hand Grenades are only sold in large neon
green grenade shaped glasses at Tropical Island, where they were
invented. There are also no closing time regulations, meaning people
will be partying on the balconies of bars overlooking Bourbon Street at
all hours of the night.
Central Business District
The Central Business District is the main downtown area with
skyscrapers, hotels, restaurants, art galleries, museums, aquariums,
and the Superdome. The world class Harrah’s casino is located in this
neighborhood, providing plenty of gambling action and a twenty four
The Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans is more of a residential area,
with many old Victorian homes in the “Garden District”. However, there
are also many restaurants, antique stores, boutiques, eclectic
shopping, and art galleries and studios found along Magazine Street.
This is also the district that holds the Audubon Zoo.
Mardi Gras is the two week long party based on Carnival in New Orleans
leading up to Fat Tuesday, the main day of celebrations, and ending on
Ash Wednesday, the day when Lent begins in the Catholic tradition. New
Orleans and its visitors know how to have a good time and take
advantage of one of the largest free festivals in the world. To see the
work that goes into the celebration of Mardi Gras, visit Mardi Gras
World, where all of the floats, sculptures, and costumes are designed,
which operates all year in preparation. Several parades are
organized by “krewes” to take place throughout the city, and the
streets become lined with celebrators, wearing masks or costumes and
catching “throws” of beads, cups, toys, and coins tossed from floats.
If you are planning a trip to New Orleans specifically for Mardi Gras,
which falls on February 24 in 2009, make reservations in advance, as
the city will probably double in size.
Jazz and Heritage Festival, Voodoo Music Festival
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage is held every year in April and May
at the New Orleans Fairgrounds, and is the second largest festival in
the city. The name is misleading, as the event hosts jazz, folk, blues,
rock, rap, country, Latin, Cajun, and much more. In addition, the
Voodoo Music Festival is a three day music event with more contemporary
food available in New Orleans is a cultural experience all on its own.
The culinary feat of traditional Cajun cuisine includes: crawfish,
gumbo, oysters, Muffaletta, Po’ boys, and rice, beans, and cornbread.
Gumbo was originally a West African dish, and with the Louisiana
created Tabasco sauce, a very spicy and flavorful dish. Muffaletta,
invented in New Orleans, are sandwiches made with round Italian bread
and a variety of meats and cheeses. Po’ boys are world famous
sandwiches made with loaves of bread, similar to the French baguette.
Besides the delicious beignets, there are other well know desserts in
the city such as king cakes. King cakes are twisted sweet bread,
usually topped with icing or glaze, and a small plastic trinket that is
usually a baby is placed inside.
It is important to remember that while Hurricane Katrina is long past,
the effects are still present in New Orleans. For example, many businesses required cash after the disaster, and continue to prefer
cash over credit and debit cards. Although it is possible to walk from
hotels to restaurants to bars in New Orleans, there has been an
increase in crime, and it may be a good idea to get a taxi at night in
some areas. In addition, driving can be very confusing because many of
the street signs are missing or bent and no longer visible, not to
mention many of the streets were laid before automobiles existed.
By Carrie McCloud