Of all the cities in the United States of America, few match the cultural pedigree and love of life that New Orleans possesses. Due to this mass collection of attractions, beautiful architecture and deep traditions that much of the country lacks, New Orleans ranks as one of the top destinations in the USA.
While many hit the city in time for one of the biggest parties in the world, dropping by this metropolis at any point of the year is certain to end with you head over heels in love with New Orleans.
Whether you duck in and out of bars on Bourbon Street all night, tuck into some heavenly gumbo and/or jambalaya, or saunter around its streets admiring its French and Spanish influenced architecture, all will fill your soul with the spirit that has long eluded it.
Round it out with some points of interest that you might miss in the midst of your revelling-centered days, and you’ll easily have a city that will vigorously contend for the title as your most favorite urban environment in America.
All tours of New Orleans should start out with the French Quarter, where many of the cities’ mainline attractions can be found. Jackson Square is home to Saint Louis Cathedral, a beautiful Roman Catholic church that ranks among the oldest of its kind in the USA, while live music and cafes serving beignets (a pastry unique to New Orleans) can be found around the remainder of this town center.
While many streets in the French Quarter are worthy of a long leisurely stroll (preferably with an empty memory card and a fully charged camera), Bourbon Street is the king of them all, as it is lined with bars, restaurants and charming guesthouses and bed and breakfasts.
Something well worth noting for party people is the fact that one can mill about this street and the French Quarter with an alcoholic drink in hand – so long as it is in a plastic cup. Don’t try this outside the French Quarter, as the city outside is still under the jurisdiction of typical North American attitudes towards open alcohol.
While those looking for a good party will be able to find it in New Orleans throughout the year, the city practically explodes with exuberance during Mardi Gras, the week long ode to decadence that takes place before the Christian holiday of Lent.
Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, a day where all the things that would be traditionally forbidden during Lent (fattening foods and booze among them, hence the name) are enjoyed in excessive amounts.
The parades that take place at this time are legendary, featuring intricately constructed floats (which can be viewed at any time of the year at Mardi Gras World) which toss the infamous beads that is often associated with these celebrations. Masquerade balls, cake parties, and highly symbolic costumes all add to the mystique of an event that any fun loving person ought to experience in their lifetime.
One institution that war buffs should check out while in New Orleans should be the National World War II Museum. This city played a key role in preparing the U.S. Army for the impending invasion of Normandy in the D-Day campaign of 1944, leading to the placement of this outstanding museum here in 2003. From airplanes to tanks, air raid shelters to coding machines, the infrastructure that the war was conducted with is all on display for everyone to see.
Those seeking to get in touch with the marine animals that inhabit the aquatic environments of the Southern U.S. should spend an afternoon at the Aquarium of the Americas. Here, animals from the Mississippi River, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean can be found, along with an exhibit on fish from the Amazon River basin, making this place especially suitable for families.
The creatively named City Park makes for a nice break from the high energy levels present elsewhere in New Orleans, featuring natural environments and attractions that make it the 7th most visited urban greenspace in America.
Sculptures, fountain, Spanish moss-coated oak trees and preserved sections of bayou gives this place plenty of appeal for those that adore outdoor spaces, while a small amusement park, art museums and golf courses give those seeking something a bit more uptempo plenty of things to occupy time on a day spent away from the French Quarter.
Interested in the smallest creatures among us? Then the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium will educate you on the creepy crawlies that compose the insect population of Louisiana. From the bugs of the swampland to a garden filled with fluttering specimens of the most beautiful insect on the face of the Earth, this attraction will delight the young and the young at heart alike.