The 100th NADA Convention and Expo will take place in New Orleans this year, and while there’s certainly enough going on there to keep you occupied, you might want to consider taking a day or two to explore The Big Easy, a city with a unique blend of history, mystery music, food and attractions.
Its Place in History
New Orleans was founded by the French, ceded to Spain and after the founding of the United States, grew to encompass the histories and attitudes of a diverse population through the decades. A key port city, New Orleans has been pivotal in many battles on American soil, and the mixing of cultures has given the city a unique blend of art, language, music, architecture and more. While there are areas favored by tourists, the entire city can provide a trip through history.
Touring New OrleansYou can drive around the city, of course, but there are several options available that allow you to take guided tours or leave the driving to someone else. Let the locals show off the town they love and give you an insider’s view on what makes NOLA special.
- New Orleans has a streetcar system that goes through downtown, The Garden District, the Central Business District and other areas. Take a self-guided tour and get on and off at your pleasure (an all-day pass will only set you back $3).
- There are several history tours available, including walking and bus tours and carriage rides, to show off the city’s architecture, markets and Creole roots.
- The food of New Orleans and the region has been copied around the United States and across the globe; don’t miss the opportunity to sample the real thing. Several culinary tours are available for any taste.
- If your curiosity leans more to the macabre, New Orleans is the right place for you. Known as “America’s Most Haunted City,” there are several guided tours that go through cemeteries and ghostly “hot spots” across the city.
Music of the Crescent City
It’s impossible to think of New Orleans without thinking of music, so keep your eyes and ears open. You may be lucky enough to come across a New Orleans Marching Band (and feel free to join in the “Second Line” of dancers following the band and bring that story home to family and friends).
New Orleans is known as “the birthplace of jazz,” but the area also boasts world-class zydeco, blues, Cajun, R&B and rock musicians. In fact, there are more than 80 music clubs in the city along with other performance spaces, so do a little research and you’ll find something that’ll make your impromptu vacation sing.
By the way, if you’d like a great overview of the history of music in the area, check out the New Orleans episode of the HBO series Sonic Highways, directed by the Foo Fighter’s Dave Grohl. Much of the focus of the show is on New Orleans’s Preservation Hall, a world-famous musical venue in the French Quarter (think of it as “The Grand Ol’ Opry” of jazz). The language can be a bit salty, but the music and stories are sweet and Grohl does a great job of bringing the history, both distant and recent, to life.
Food as an Art Form
Some of the basics of New Orleans cooking have made their way into restaurants and palates across the globe, including gumbo, crawfish etouffee, red beans and rice, jambalaya, po-boys and oysters Rockefeller. While these dishes and more have been exported, there’s a lot to be said for finding the cooks who perfected them in the first place, or who grew up surrounded by the culture. There’s plenty of information online about the restaurants and eateries in the Crescent City that will fit any taste and all budgets.
Several celebrity chefs make their New Orleans their home, including Emeril Lagasse, Susan Spicer, Tory McPhail, John Best and Donald Link, but don’t be afraid to try places that might not have been “discovered” yet; you might get a dish prepared by the Next Great Chef.
Take a Look Around
It can be easy to go to a convention, take part in exposition and never explore the city that’s hosting it. New Orleans is a place unlike any other, though, and it would be a shame to visit without taking advantage of the food, music, art, culture and entertainment that can’t be found nowhere else in America or the world.
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