Weekend Getaways in New Orleans

There is just something about the city of New Orleans that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. With traditions from around the globe come together to meld into a very unique style that’s all New Orleans it’s an experience not to be forgotten. If you’re lucky enough to head to New Orleans for a weekend getaway there are some things you just have to do.

Mardi Gras

Now not every New Orleans weekend getaway will coincide with Mardi Gras as it happens only once a year, but it’s amazing how many people do plan their vacations so they can experience this fabulous event. The first modern day Mardi Gras happened in 1857 as a celebration the city put on for itself, but its history in America may reach back as far as 1699. The event also has some religious significance and is recognized by the Catholic Church as a festival before the Lent season. Non-profit clubs or krewes host their own celebrations of the party with some featuring parades and others holding masquerade balls. The schedule of parades and parties and excitement stretches for weeks, its length changes every year, so it’s best to check before you plan your party.

Jazz Music

New Orleans is just about as famous for its jazz music as it is for its Mardi Gras. Jazz music’s roots burst forth out of New Orleans and the city has served as home to some of the most famous musicians America has to offer from Louis Armstrong to Lenny Kravitz. If you’re visiting New Orleans there are a number of music festivals throughout the year which give you a chance to explore the local music scene, or you can stop in one of the many, many clubs to listen to the local jazz.

New Orleans Dining

The dining scene in New Orleans has exploded in the past decade turning the city into one of the top dining destinations in the United States. Some of the best known and noted chefs in the country own and operate restaurants in New Orleans. The local Times-Picayune carefully selects the 10 top restaurants each year and in 2009 their list includes: Commander’s  Palace, Emeril’s Delmonico, Galatoire’s, Gautreau’s, Herbsaint, Lilette, Restaurant August, Ristorante del Porto, and Stella! Be sure to take advantage of as much of the delightful and regionally inspired cuisine as you can, it’s truly extraordinary.

The French Quarter

The French Quarter in New Orleans is an extremely popular tourist attraction but it’s one of those places that the locals frequent regularly as well. This neighborhood is the oldest in the city and probably the best known as well. The entire district has been declared a National Historic Landmark and features a number of historic buildings. Most of the architecture reflects the Spanish style which was popular in 1794 when the old buildings were destroyed by fire and new ones rebuilt. In addition to the notable architecture there are many attractions that should also be viewed if you get a chance including Jackson Square and Bourbon Street.

Magazine Street

No weekend getaway is complete without a little shopping, whether you’re looking for souvenirs for others or a special something that you can only find in your vacation. In New Orleans the shopping Mecca is Magazine Street with its local character and loads of charm. There is a little bit of everything from unusual local stores to brand name stores you’re familiar with. The combination of stores gives it a bustling feel that isn’t entirely touristy nor is it all local. Better than a shopping mall any day of the week.

Cities of the Dead

The above ground tombs the litter the cemeteries of New Orleans are referred to as the Cities of the Dead. These incredible and creepy tributes to the dead are one of the most popular stops for tourists to New Orleans. The tombs have their resting place above ground because the water table is so high. You’ll hit water after digging just a few feet into the earth and caskets that are buried underground float and eventually rise to the surface. The tradition of burying the dead above ground is another Spanish custom that was brought to New Orleans and seems to have solved the problem of coffins coming out of the ground. But the few cemeteries that allow burials underground still have a random coffin come to the surface after a heavy rain. There are 42 cemeteries in the city and each one seems to have its own highlights and stories. There are also several different tour companies that offer guided tours through the confusing maze of tombs and point out the highlights.

Art and Culture

In addition to the partying, the food, the jazz music and the dead New Orleans has a lot of art and culture to offer as well. There are world class museums including some Smithsonian affiliates, The National World War II Museum and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art for people looking for a traditional museum experience but there are also a large number of art studios and galleries that feature works of art by local artists.

Outdoors New Orleans

For those who are inclined for the outdoors then New Orleans still has a lot to offer. There are golf courses, fishing, river boats and swamp tours or you can explore the animals of the region at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Audubon Insectarium, and Audubon Zoo. You can take as much or as little of it as you wish and feed it into your New Orleans weekend itinerary.

It may be impossible to accomplish everything you’d like to during your weekend getaway in New Orleans but getting a little taste of the highlights is a wonderful way to pack an entire New Orleans experience into one weekend getaway and leave you feeling as though you really got to sample the city.
Creative Commons License Photo credit: dbking