Mardi Gras is not the only time to enjoy New Orleans, Louisiana. In the city known as the “Big Easy” celebration is carried to the very limits! Thousands go to enjoy all the annual festivities, but at any time of year you can experience the everyday charm of this historic city at the gentle crescent curve of the mighty Mississippi River. New Orleans holds a unique importance among the United States’ best places to see, with its Spanish and French influence still prolific from the days of Lafayette and before.
We began our stay with the modern Riverwalk Mall…a great place to shop, find entertainment, or enjoy quick and inexpensive food with that famous New Orleans seasoning. There are so many wonderful ways to spend your time in this area of the city, but we chose to see the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, which is ranked fifth in the nation’s best aquariums. We were fascinated by the wonderful presentation of underwater life. At the display explaining river fish we were surprised to find sitting calmly above and watching us, a real owl and bald eagle, which had been rescued in the wild with broken wings. The guides at each main exhibit are very friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful in answering any questions about exhibits. Children and adults alike enjoy watching the SCUBA diver feeding the huge fish. You can find more information
After spending half a day at the Audubon Aquarium our feet were tired, so we rested next door as we watched two wonderful films at the Entergy IMAX Theatre on the incredible five and a half story high screen. If you have had this experience you will need no persuasion to see whatever is showing there. If not, you are in for an amazing treat! Combo discount tickets to the Aquarium and IMAX are available by calling (504) 581-4629. After this cool rest we decided to have an authentic snack of Cajun beans and rice at Mike Anderson’s kiosk at the Riverwalk Food Court…we had remembered this as the best we’d ever eaten when we were here last time. We took it outside to a porch table overlooking the Mississippi River and had a lovely, very inexpensive meal that was delicious and satisfying: $6 each!
From here it is about a fifteen minute walk to the famed Bourbon Street, where you’ll find all the Jazz you could ever wish for. Bars, restaurants, music on the street, dancing, shows, and souvenir shops abound. You’ll be glad you got a good rest at IMAX because you’ll be set to party all night. You can see and experience almost anything here, especially during this most famous of all weeks…Mardi Gras! “Laissez les bon temps rouler!” (“Let the good times roll!”) This is the night life for which the Crescent City is famous. Be sure to stop for a little while at Preservation Hall, the birthplace of Jazz and the spiritual home of Rhythm & Blues. For just $5 you can watch locals performing some of the best jazz in the city where it began, right here in this very building at 726 St. Peter Street. This is a dilapidated, old building with standing room only and you must bring your own drinks. IT IS WORTH EXPERIENCING! But you do not want to use their bathroom!! The place is packed each evening, and you may only be able to see the ceiling when you’re there, but you can say you experienced the birth of jazz for it is newly created here each evening.
Now when you are in New Orleans French Quarter, there are so many marvelous restaurants from which to choose. But one is an absolute MUST! We were more than delighted with the sumptious champagne brunch at the Court of Two Sisters, which realized a dream I have had since I was twelve and had to babysit while Mother and Daddy dined there. Whether for brunch, lunch, or dinner, reservations are necessary for this world-famous dining. More than 80 selections were on the gorgeous morning buffet, served with mimosas, orange juice, and coffee. You’ll find their famous crepe suzettes in mandarin orange sauce, but my favorites were the assorted quiches. What a fabulous way to begin or end your day in this lovely courtyard setting with bountiful beauganvilla flaming overhead and the soft music of the live jazz band in this restful French garden setting! It is at 613 Royal Street. For reservations call (504) 522-72-61
Degas was the only major French Impressionist who painted in the United States, and the home where he lived is a lovely bed and breakfast! You can make reservations or appointment for a tour by calling (504) 821-5009. The Edgar Degas Foundation is responsible for preservation and restoration of the home at 2306 Esplanade Ave., where Degas spent some time and was inspired to begin the style which later became Impressionism, but only replicas of his art are here. We learned a lot about New Orleans history and architecture from the film and tour. Then we engaged the guide
who took us to Cemetery St. Louis I, where we learned that graves here in the city are both above and below ground here. We hit highlights of the entire Garden District and French Quarter, and Carl was a fascinating “walking history book” with little known tidbits about each place: Congo Square and its Louis Armstrong stories; Storyville which was once a legitimate redlight district; and a tour of the coveted private dining rooms which are not open to the public in the world renowned Antoine’s Restaurant at 713 St. Louis St. Dinner at Antoine’s, famous since 1840, is a most memorable event which must be personally experienced! They’re famous for many of exquisite creations, but you’ll not want to miss Cerises Jubilee! contact (504)581-4422 for reservations or see http://www.antoines.com
You will not want to miss one of the best tours of the city, which is almost free. For just $1.25 and $1.50 you can ride the St. Charles Avenue and Riverfront Streetcars and see the beautiful mansions of the Garden District or the sights along the revitalized Riverfront. We felt like we had entered a Monopoly Game when we rode down St. Charles Ave.past Toulane and Loyola Universities and headed for the wonderful Audubon Zoological Garden where we saw the famed white tiger and white alligators. Admission prices are just $8 adult, $4 seniors or children under 12. The Zoo is on Magazine Street behind Audubon Park. Magazine Street also has a full six miles of antique shops and art galleries. There are so many things to see and do in this fascinating city you’ll want to return again and again.
Please contact the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau at (504) 566-5045