Category: Attractions

New Orleans Mardi Gras

You haven’t experienced Louisiana until you come here for the New Orleans Mardi Gras festivities.  The term “Mardi Gras” signifies one day of parties and parades on the day before Ash Wednesday.  Mardi Gras literally means “Fat Tuesday” in French.  It is the Tuesday before the beginning of the Christian season of Lent.  During Lent, many people stop eating rich food or candies, culminating on Easter Sunday, when a big meal is eaten to break the fast, including chocolates, in the form of Easter eggs or bunny rabbits, and delicious desserts.

King of Rex
New Orleans Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Mardi Gras in New Orleans has come to mean more than just one day of partying and eating like a king.  Mardi Gras carnivals have turned into a months’ long period of activities, some beginning in January and building up through February right up until the actual Mardi Gras Day.

New Orleans Superdome
Mercedes-Benz Superdome at Mardi Gras

If you’re wondering what goes on during Mardi Gras, here’s a few tips and ideas of what to expect before you make your New Orleans hotel reservation.  First of all, do plan ahead, as the city gets very crowded during this time of year.  If you plan on being in the Big Easy on Mardi Gras Day, study the parade routes and plan on being where you want to be with plenty of time to spare.

Mardi Gras New Orleans
Mardi Gras Flags

Do come to New Orleans  with fun in mind!  Dress up in a costume for the parades – anything goes here.  You’re here to watch and to be seen.  And be ready to catch some Mardi Gras beads and “throws” that are tossed into the crowd from the parade floats.  These can include beads, cups, doubloons and stuffed animals.  The beads are the most visible symbols and souvenirs of Mardi Gras and there are more than enough to go around.

Interestingly, there is no one “official” Mardi Gras.  It’s a holiday that belongs to anyone and everyone who wants to take part in it.  There are different parades with their own themes and best of all, it’s free to go to any of them.  Enjoy the marching bands, over three hundred floats, and thousands of parade-goers.  Whether you are in a parade or watching one, chances are you’ll be wearing an outlandish costume just to fit in!    So have a great time and participate in one of the New Orleans Mardi Gras festivals.

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City Park New Orleans

NOMA

In City Park New Orleans you will find yourself in a 1300 acre public park. This is about half the size of New York City’s Central Park and that is one large public space, indeed! The nature and scenery here are tremendously impressive. The park was built in 1853, establishing itself as one of the oldest public parks in America. City Park is located on City Park Avenue, once known as Metairie Road. It lies along what remains of the Metairie Bayou.

New Orleans City Park
City Park New Orleans

 Within City Park New Orleans can boast ownership of the largest collection of live oak trees the world over, some as old as 600 years. If you are looking for more New Orleans travel info beyond the Mardi Gras festivities and the Garden District, take a close look at City Park. It boasts dozens of attractions for the tourist and native alike. If you travel to New Orleans, go to City Park for the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, especially if you are traveling with kids. This quaint amusement park is over one hundred years old.

Ride the miniature train or the small roller coaster; the children will have a blast! Wooden carousels are difficult to find these days, but City Park has one of the few that remain. It is a carved wooden carousel and unique in its own way.

There is a place called Story Land within City Park; New Orleans loves to entertain children with this fairy tale-themed playground. The twenty-six fairy tale exhibits from recognizable stories that children love are ready to be climbed on and make excellent photo opportunities for you.

Ted Gormley Stadium was built in the 1930s as a public works project and then renovated in 1992 for the Olympic Trials held in New Orleans. It seats 26,500 people and is used for various games and competitions. There’s also another stadium in the park, known as the Pan American Stadium. This stadium is home to the Jesters, a New Orleans soccer team of the highest caliber. Other soccer games and school-level football games are regularly played at the stadium.

New Orleans Museum of Art

Do not miss the thirteen acres given over to create the New Orleans Botanical Garden located in City Park. Here you will find a lush collection of temperate, tropical, and semitropical plants. The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) is another do-not-miss attraction here. It is one of the best museums located in the South.

NOMA
New Orleans Museum of Art

For those who don’t play professional sports but still want to get out there and compete a little, City Park does not disappoint. Take a run on the 400 meter track (which was also used at the “Track and Field” Trials), hit a few balls on a tennis field, take out a boat on a lagoon, fish to your heart’s content in a lake, tour the bayou, or check out the horses in the stables.

If you are a lover of the arts but you also want to be outside instead of inside an art museum, check out the Syndey and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. View more than thirty works of sculpture in the beautifully landscaped garden built in 2003. Within City Park there are also historic sculptures such as the Peristyle, Pop Bandstand and the Casino Building, all built before 1920. In 1937, the Pop Fountain was built.

City Park New Orleans hosts a calendar of events such as free concerts, plant sales and various fundraising events.

New Orleans Aquarium

Audubon Aquarium

Visiting the New Orleans Aquarium is just one of the many wonderful things to do after walking around in the heat of the French Quarter. In fact, this aquarium, is a destination vacation spot on its own. Especially if you have children traveling with you, do not miss a visit to the Aquarium of the Americas at the foot of Canal Street.

Audubon Aquarium
New Orleans Aquarium

New Orleans Aquarium

Many come to this New Orleans Aquarium just to see the famous white alligator. This is also home to the Energy IMAX Theatre. These places are great to cool off after strolling in New Orleans’ humid weather.

There is a stingray touch tank and a nurse shark touch tank. The kids will love this part of the aquarium – a moment to actually feel the underwater creatures they have seen behind glass and in picture books. And how many people can claim to have actually touched a live shark? This modern New Orleans aquarium is home to more than 15,000 creatures from the sea, some exotic, rare and fascinating.

The aquarium is not limited to life in the Mississippi or the Bayou. Here you can walk through a thirty-foot long Caribbean Reef tunnel and see reef creatures that are normally seen only by divers. If you’ve ever been fascinated by seahorses, there is a Seahorses Gallery where you can watch them swim between the grasses of the water. Visit the Amazon Rainforest exhibit to take a look at anaconda snakes, poisonous frogs and gorgeous exotic birds.

The famous white alligator is an endangered species that you can see at this one-of-a-kind New Orleans aquarium. There were only eighteen of these alligators found in a Louisiana swamp. They are not albino alligators; they have blue eyes that contrast amazingly with their white skin. They are a sight to see. Cajun culture tells us that seeing a white alligator is a good omen. That should be enough incentive to get most people to the aquarium and they will be more than glad they came. Another rare sight to see there are the neon colored frogs! Talk about glowing faces!

You can literally spend all day at this aquarium. One of the best things about it, other than its inhabitants, is its location on the Mississippi river. Any good New Orleans vacation package will include tickets to the Aquarium of the Americas along with all of the other attractions. Just blocks from Jackson Square and the French Quarter, the Aquarium can take up your day or round it out with the other sights and sounds of the city.

Old Custom House
Audubon-Insectarium

Audubon Insectarium

If insects do not make your skin crawl, make sure you travel across the street to the Audubon Insectarium located in the historic Custom House. One of the city’s newly added tourist attractions, it is not only a favorite of visitors, but also locals alike.

Mercedes-Benz Superdome

Mercedes-Benz Superdome

Officially, the New Orleans Superdome was renamed the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in 2011. You will not hear that term from many locals though. In neighborhood circles, it is still referred to as simply, The Superdome. Thanks to the strong structural support of the Superdome, many victims of Hurricane Katrina were able to take shelter in the huge arena, seeking shelter from the storm. Since that catastrophic event, the arena has been remodeled and reopened during a spectacular televised Monday Night Football reopening on September 25, 2006.

New Orleans Superdome
Mercedes-Benz Superdome

New Orleans Saints

The Superdome hosted six of football’s famed Super Bowl games with the seventh (Super Bowl XLVII) being held there in February of 2013. This is more than any other venue. Thanks to the visionary New Orleans businessman Dave Dixon (June 4, 1923-August 8, 2010), the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was built, after much discussion and planning. It was designed in 1967 by the New Orleans modernist architectural firm of Curtis and Davis, who also designed the main branch of the New Orleans Public Library. In Mr. Dixon’s honor, a portion of Girod Street has been renamed in his honor. New Orleans will be forever grateful to this pioneer who had the vision of bringing pro football to the city in the late 50’s. The New Orleans weather, with rainy summers and high humidity, made a good argument for a permanently domed, air-conditioned stadium. The New Orleans Saints played their first game at the Superdome on September 28, 1975. Whether you are a huge sports fan or not, the Louisiana Superdome is a sight to see. Now decorated in beautiful lights at night, coordinating with the season, it is a must stop on your trip to The Big Easy.

Bourbon Street New Orleans

If you are traveling to New Orleans for an event at the New Orleans Superdome, there are many hotels and motels nearby that are convenient to the arena. Its proximity to the French Quarter, the Central Business District and the Lower Garden District make the surrounding area an appealing location for tourists to stay. There is the Holiday Inn Downtown, which is the closest to the Superdome, at less than half a mile away. Also downtown are the Quality Inn and Suites which is within walking distance of the Superdome at just a few blocks from the French Quarter’s Bourbon Street. The newly renovated Hyatt Regency on Loyola Avenue has 1,193 guest rooms and 95 suites for its visitors. Keeping up with the trends, each room is outfitted with an iPod docking station and stone baths. This beautiful, spacious hotel is also home to Borgne, a John Besh restaurant, one of the city’s great chefs. Besides being the author of various cookbooks and owner of several other restaurants around the city, Besh was awarded the James Beard Foundation Award which is given to those that are labeled as the best and brightest in the food and beverage industry. Also located in the Hyatt is a convenient 24-hour fresh market and a 2,000 square-foot Starbucks

If a chain hotel is not your cup of tea, there are numerous boutique hotels within walking distance also. Take the Loft523 hotel: here you will have spacious loft rooms with the luxury only a boutique hotel can accommodate. If you truly want a luxurious experience while in town, check out a luxury hotel such as the Ritz-Carlton on Canal St. Indulge in the marble bathrooms and the thirsty terry cloth robes there after taking in the sights of exciting New Orleans.

Don’t forget to check out what’s going on in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. You are sure to find a concert or sporting event there while you are visiting the city.

Jackson Square

Jackson Square

Jackson Square is the place to be if you want to see a bit of history. This historic park (a National Historic Landmark) is also known as Place D’Armes. It is located in the French Quarter, hence the French title.

New Orleans Insider Guide
St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square

Jackson Square Was Once Named Place D’Armes

So if this beautiful park was once named Place D’Armes (also known in Spanish as Plaza de Armas), why did residents change its name to Jackson Square? Well, the answer goes back to the Battle of New Orleans, in 1815, the final battle of the War of 1812. The American Forces had General Andrew Jackson in charge there. Jackson was able to defeat the British and save New Orleans and other large Louisiana land areas gained in the Louisiana Purchase. When you take a stroll through the park, you will take note of the statue of Andrew Jackson on horseback erected in his honor at Jackson Square New Orleans.

Jackson Square New Orleans makes its love of the arts very apparent. For years it has been a gathering place for painters, musicians and a variety of street performers. Live music is a regular event in Jackson Square, from New Orleans jazz to big brass bands. Shopping for artwork? Make sure you check the iron gate surrounding the square for bargains. Feel Lucky? Grab a Lucky Dog for a quick bite to eat. It is a New Orleans’ tradition and quite filling.

Here, you will have a fantastic view of the St. Louis Cathedral, making it a fine spot to take photographs. Take in the ambiance of the street performers and everything else going on around you and snap some precious photos.

Cafe du Monde

Café du Monde
Cafe du Monde New Orleans

There are many restaurants to take care of any hunger pangs you might be having and, best of all, the Cafe du Monde is close by. Here you can sip a delicious cup of coffee spiced with clover and munch on New Orleans’ famous beignets coated with powdered sugar so thick, you may have to blow some off right into your partner’s face! Across the street from Cafe du Monde, in front of the Square, you can take a carriage ride for a slow-paced tour of the area. The tour guides are full of information regarding the history of the buildings and the French Quarter.

For architectural lovers, the 1850 House is a National Historic Landmark overseen by The Louisiana State Museum. It is royally furnished and a pleasure to tour. Also check out the Potalba apartments, erected by Baroness Micaela Almonester de Pontalba, daughter of the benefactor of St. Louis Cathedral. While sightseeing, make sure during your tour, you take a moment to look up. The ironwork that adorns the balconies of these historic buildings is breathtaking.

Jackson Square  is on my “top 10 Sites” location to visit. If you are a tourist looking for a lively place to people watch and interact with others, Jackson Square is the place to be. Have your caricature drawn by a local artist; let a fortune teller predict your future; be an unintended guest at a wedding celebration at the park.

More Historic New Orleans Buildings

New Orleans Insider Guide

 

New Orleans Buildings FREE eBook

Historic New Orleans Buildings

When visiting this great city there are many historic New Orleans buildings you must see. Of course, there is the St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. It is the oldest continuously active Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States. It is also the grave site for several bishops and archbishops that have served the city. Most recently,the beloved 98 year old Archbishop Philip Hannan was entombed under the sanctuary. Known as one of the city’s biggest NFL Saint’s Fan, he was truly beloved by not only Roman Catholics of the city, but many people of different faiths.

Old Ursuline Convent

Beneath the Cathedral’s floor, is also the burial site of several clergymen and early residents of the city. Make sure to take a glimpse upward to the ornate ceiling to see photos of several of the clergymen interred in the Cathedral. St. Joseph’s Church on Tulane Avenue boasts the longest aisle in New Orleans. Old Ursuline Convent on Chartres Street is the oldest surviving example of the French colonial period in the United States. Built in 1752, it houses the Archdiocesan archives and is known as the “treasure of the archdiocese.”

On Governor Nichols Street in the historic neighborhood of Treme, just outside of The French Quarter, is the home of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church. After Hurricane Katrina, there was fear that this historical church would be shuttered forever, as was the faith of many of the city’s Catholic churches. Citizens and hurricane recovery workers rallied and it remained opened. Founded in 1841 by free people of color, it is the oldest African-American church in the nation. If you are visiting during The Satchmo Festival, make sure you take the time to attend Sunday Mass. The Jazz Mass is celebrated with a standing-room only crowd. It is a favorite of visitors and locals alike. Also located in Treme on St. Philip Street, is St. Peter Claver Catholic Church. This church has the state’s largest African-American congregation. It is a ray of light to its parishioners, neighborhood, and also the city. As visitors are always welcomed, take time to attend. The gospel choir is one of the best in the city.

Take a visit to the Preservation Resource Center and discover how a Creole cottage and a double gallery Garden District mansion differ. Or take a look at a standard shotgun house and a camelback style. The Preservation Center keeps the historic and unique architectural character of New Orleans’s neighborhoods intact for both its historical purposes and for the artist and historian in us all. The New Orleans buildings are so unique to to other cities in the country. Keep your camera batteries charged and memory cards empty because you have a lot of pictures to take on your visit to New Orleans.