If you have ever been to New Orleans, or even if you haven’t, there are two times of the year you may want to avoid—the dead of summer when the heat and humidity are through the roof, and during Mardi Gras. Otherwise, if all-nighters are your thing, get geared up to go now.
Sure, the yellow-and-purple parade krewes do hold something special for the city. The annual celebration is a main course for anyone who loves a good party.
But if you are possessing a quieter spirit, it’s probably best to arrive well before or after Fat Tuesday. The parades begin the first week of January, but the French Quarter remains relatively subdued leading up to February 28.
Consider a trip to Dooky Chase’s restaurant, where the upstairs lounge has hosted notable patrons including Martin Luther King Jr. and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Also, the shrimp clemenceau is said to knock diners’ socks off. No visit to New Orleans would be complete without a few beignets—the sugary, powdery doughnut-like dessert—and the iconic Café Du Monde off Decatur Street is the place to go.
Finding yourself in the French Quarter, both Royal Street and Jackson Square are good starting points for street entertainment. From pin-and-needle voodoo shows to three-piece musical performances, expect just about anything. Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton both grew up around the corner in the former Storyville neighborhood. And for those looking for lively bar music, New Orleans has no equal.
In the heart of Bourbon Street’s music scene, Preservation Hall fits the bill if you want jazz or blues.
Beginning in the late 1700s, French settlers began mixing it up with other cultural music-makers. They threw in an accordion, began rubbing the washboard and called it zydeco. For a true Cajun-Creole musical experience, find those instruments playing at clubs like the Spotted Cat.
For accommodations, consider the new Ace Hotel. It sits less than two miles away from the French Quarter and features a rooftop pool and bar overlooking the heart of The Big Easy. With a Martin guitar or turntable in each room, guest jam sessions are all but expected.