To explore New Orleans is to discover a city dripping in history and heritage, with a different story to be told at each street corner. Still in the midst of a recovery brought on by the devastating Hurricane Katrina during 2005, New Orleans offers the intrepid traveller a unique raft of things to see and do.
Mardi Gras Parade
'The Crescent City' is internationally-known for its annual Mardi Gras Festival, which takes place over the extended weekend of February 13 – 17. At the heart of this outlandish, colourful and noisy celebration are the Mardi Gras parades themselves – a lavish explosion of floats and people that wind their way through the city streets almost non-stop. The parades officially start far sooner, on January 31, continuing right through to Mardi Gras Day itself, and the processions often back right onto one another, so the occasion seemingly never ends. Wherever you are in the city, you'll be able to dive right into the spirit of things, whether in the riotous French Quarter or the more sedate, oak-lined St. Charles Avenue – wear a costume if you are feeling a little more adventurous!
The French Quarter forms the beating heart of New Orleans – it's also among the oldest parts of the Louisiana city. Established by the French in 1718, the Quarter is a National Historic Landmark and some of the street names remain listed in the Gallic language. The French Quarter (or, Vieux Carre to give it its original name) is also home to Bourbon Street – the city's vibrant, nightlife hotspot packed full of pulsating bars, street performers and a myriad of the weird and wonderful.
Jackson Square is also found in the French Quarter, replete with the eponymous statue of the U.S. President and an old courthouse that now plays home to the Louisiana State Museum. Pay attention to the unique 18th century architecture and visit one of the Square's mish-mash of street entertainers – from artists to fortune-tellers.
The National World War II Museum
Though the official website recommends taking three hours to a half-day exploring the National World War II Museum, the reality is that you'll need a fair bit longer if you really want to see everything it has to offer. An enormous collection of historic texts, genuine artefacts found nowhere else and four-dimensional, audio-visual recreations of battles gone by make up the rich tapestry of the museum, as well as spoken recantations of both soldiers' and civilians' experiences of wartime America. A genuinely intriguing historical experience to immerse yourself in.
New Orleans is known as 'The Big Easy' and that's exactly what it is – a big, exciting city, easy enough to lose yourself among its great culture and heritage.