New Orleans, Louisiana is one of America's most visited cities, vibrant and unique. Famous all over the world for Jazz music, its cuisine and Mardi Gras celebrations. The heart of the city is centred around the French Quarter and the infamous Bourbon Street. This city has such a deep southern vibe with horse drawn carriages, Mississippi River steamboats and Creole and Cajun food that tourists line up for.
The most popular area of New Orleans is definitely the French Quarter, located along the Mississippi River, the main attraction here is the architecture. It is also home to some great dining and entertainment with its distinctive French influences with some of the buildings dating back 300 years. Bourbon Street is the most famous to visit and comes alive at night. Royal Street offers a great mix of history, fine cuisine and unique shopping as well as luxury stores and galleries or head to Frenchmen Street to hear some good quality Jazz musicians. Preservation Hall is an unassuming old fashioned building that has long been an institution in New Orleans known for jazz music and still showcasing traditional jazz by local artists.
Originally known as the Place d'Armes, Jackson Square is the main square in the French Quarter. Surrounded by trees and greenery you will find an Equestrian Statue of General Andrew Jackson (1856) in its centre. Another prominent landmark is the 1794 St. Louis Cathedral with its white façade and cone shaped spires. Built on the site of two previous Churches it is known for being the United States' oldest Cathedral in continuous use with Pope John Paul II visiting the Cathedral in 1987. In front of the Cathedral, you will see many shops, restaurants and local street artist’s.
Built in 1795 the Cabildo was originally the residence of the Spanish Governor. It is notable as both a historic building and as a museum. The first town council met here in 1799 and the Louisiana Purchase was agreed to here in 1803. It was at one time the Louisiana Supreme Court however, today the Cabildo houses the Louisiana State Museum with collections on the history of both New Orleans and Louisiana. The building is classified on the National Register of Historic Places.
Covering more than 1,300 acres, New Orleans City Park contains several attractions including the New Orleans Botanical Garden and the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden. Families will enjoy the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, Storyland and soon the City Splash Water Park. The New Orleans Museum of Art is one of the finest of its kind in the South. The Museum highlights an excellent collection of French and American art as well as African and Japanese pieces.
The Garden District is a wealthy residential area with gorgeous mansions and lush gardens. It is the quintessential image most tourists have of the Deep South. First Street, Camp Street and Prytania Street are the best places to view the elegant 19th Century houses with extensive grounds.
While in New Orleans a cruise on the paddle steamer Steamboat Natchez is a wonderful way to experience the Mississippi River and a unique way to see and learn about this amazing city. Harbour cruises take approximately two hours and normally offer a Creole lunch option. The dinner cruise features a live jazz band with a buffet style dinner.
New Orleans is synonymous with Mardi Gras with celebrations spanning a two week period and finishing with the finale on shrove Tuesday. Celebrations include parades and all kinds of entertainment and festivities that increase in intensity as the event draws closer to its finish. Bourbon Street is one of the main areas where people congregate however, the entire French Quarter normally comes alive and is crowded. Onlookers crowd the many balconies and sidewalks to watch the parades and catch strings of beaded necklaces tossed from the outrageously decorated floats. To get a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes for this huge event, visitors can take a Mardi Gras World tour to see the working studios. The Blaine Kern Studios is one of the leading producers of floats in the world and is highly involved in the Mardi Gras Parade in New Orleans each year. The experience will allow you to see sculptured props, floats as well as outrageous costumes.
The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas sits along the waterfront in downtown New Orleans, within walking distance from the French Quarter. The Aquarium focuses on species found in North, Central and South America. The museum has a collection of over 3,600 animals spread over 250 species. The Great Maya Reef is a 30 foot long tunnel, designed to look like a sunken Mayan City with fish swimming among the ruins. There is also the Amazon Rainforest, which offers a look at exotic fish, colourful birds and even South American snakes. The most popular exhibit to visit are the penguins and sea otters as well as the wildlife encounter programs.
Located in the Uptown New Orleans area you will find Audubon Park, established on the grounds of what was once the site of the 1884 World Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition. One of its many highlights is the Audubon Zoo, home to a great selection of domestic and exotic animals including giraffes, jaguars, leopards, orangutans, elephants, rhinos, lemurs and alligators including the rare white alligator. Hop on the Swamp Train (tram), which will take you past the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit, Sea Lions and Reptile Encounter areas.
Established in 2014, Crescent Park is located near the Marigny and Bywater neighbourhoods. Crescent Park runs 1.4 miles along the river and is spread across 20 acres. The park’s main attraction is the Piety Street Bridge with its arch that spans the railroad tracks and allows access to the waterfront.