New Orleans is one of America’s most famous and loved cities. It is steeped in culture and diversity, thanks to its European heritage, and is well known as a Mecca for a range of different things. Cuisine and music are just two of these, with it being the birthplace of Jazz and the ideal city in which to sample some authentic creole culinary delights. Visitors and locals alike have their excitement piqued when the annual Mardi Gras celebrations roll round in February. Vociferous festivals and parades bring the city alive with a host of colour, music and food.
New Orleans can be visited as part of our Lower Mississippi river cruises. You will get the chance to travel in a traditional paddle steamer, operated by the American Queen Steamboat Company. And when you reach ‘America's Favourite City’, here are some interesting things you can do with your free time.
Frequent The French Quarter
The historic French Quarter, New Orleans’s oldest neighbourhood, has enough to keep you busy for a few days and so you may want to think about adding a stay onto the end of your river cruise. At its heart is the stunning Jackson Square which features three of the most famous buildings in the city. The 18th century St Louis Cathedral is flanked by the Cabildo, a former town hall where the papers were signed when America purchased Louisiana from the French, and the Presbytère. The latter houses the Louisiana State Museum which has exhibits on Mardi Gras and the rebuilding of communities following Hurricane Katrina.
Once you have finished exploring the square, take the two minute walk to Bourbon Street (behind the three buildings) to refuel in one of the many bars and restaurants. Here, you will have plenty of opportunities to sample an authentic Sazerac cocktail (cognac or rye whiskey, absinthe, Peychaud's Bitters, and a sugar cube) and eat some beignets (deep fried choux pastry with a fruit filling).
Get Close To Nature
New Orleans offers many chances to take a walk on the wild side, with nature having a dominant presence across many areas of the city. The best way to experience this for free is in the 1300-acre City Park. This area was all but decimated by Katrina in 2005 but many people say that it is now back to its beautiful best. Take a stroll amongst the mature oak trees, including two which date back 600 and 900 years respectively. Also found in City Park are the Botanical Gardens. There are flowers in bloom every month of the year and admission is only $4 at the time of writing. The garden is however closed on Mondays.
Another great place in which to get up close and personal with nature is the Audubon Nature Institute. This area comprises Audubon Zoo, the Aquarium of the Americas and Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium; all found on the banks of the Mississippi. The zoo is not only home to animals such as elephants, bears and white tigers; there are also life-size dinosaurs on the prowl and a water park in which to cool off.
Go Back In Time In A Streetcar Named Charles
Streetcars, or trams to us Brits, offer a nostalgic window to New Orleans’s past. In fact, the cars which run on the St. Charles line are the oldest, continually operating streetcars in the world. That’s not even the best part, though. For just $1.25 you can explore the city in comfortable, quaint and charming surroundings. That’s all it costs for an adult to ride the rail; the best way to see much of New Orleans in a short space of time.
There are two other lines, the Waterfront and Canal Street lines, and all three take you in different directions past historical monuments, antebellum mansions and bustling markets. Locals use these restored transport routes to get to and from work each day, but they can also be the most accommodating of tour guides in what is a fascinating city.
If you would like to see the sights of New Orleans, Fred.\ offers a variety of Mississippi river cruises that can take you there. To make the most of your time in this part of the world, why not add a few nights in the city to the beginning or end of your trip?