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New Orleans

St. Louis Cathedral St. Louis Cathedral Photo by Prayitno via Flickr

When you think of New Orleans, Louisiana, it conjures up images of Mardi Gras, jazz clubs, French Creole culture and the 2005 tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. The Mississippi River is an integral part of the city and no visit is complete without a cruise on a steamboat or riverboat. Try to see the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, one of the (if not The) longest bridges in the world. You may wish to go by the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, better known for sheltering people during the hurricane than for the many prestigious sporting events it hosts. While in New Orleans try some of the local specialties like red beans, gumbo, jambalaya and muffaletta sandwiches. On Bourbon Street try the traditional Hurricane cocktail.

French Quarter

French QuarterAny visit to New Orleans should begin in the French Quarter, the legendary historic quarter where Bourbon Street is located. The street, established in 1721, buzzes with bars, restaurants, strip clubs, cabaret venues and jazz joints. You could say the street has loose morals! Lots of alcohol and wild partying takes place in the establishments here and the party spills out into the street. Upper Bourbon Street is where the action happens and the lower part of the street is more subdued. This is the place to be during Mardi Gras but if you can't be then visit Mardi Gras World to see the props, costumes and preparations for the festival. Popular attractions along the street include Pat O'Brian's bar, Spirits on Bourbon, The Cat's Meow and Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo. Famous restaurants on Bourbon Street include Galatoire's and The Old Absinthe House, Canal Street is another legendary street in the French Quarter. 

New Orleans Museums and Parks

With over 40,000 works of art the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) has come a long way since it opened in 1911. The art covers many genres and era and has been gathered from around the world. The museum is located at 1 Collins Diboll Circle, City Park. The National WWII Museum will educate and enthrall with original artifacts and interactive displays.

Botanical GardenGet away from the urban jungle and crowds of tourists to enjoy some of the natural beauty of New Orleans. The New Orleans Botanical Gardens has more than 2,000 plants spread over 12 acres of ground. The Botanical Gardens is within the City Park (1 Palm Drive) which covers 1,300 acres and is one of the oldest urban parks in the country, established in 1854. People come to see the 800 year old oak trees, a sculpture garden, use the sports facilities, tennis courts and ride the 100 year old wooden carousel in the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park.

New Orleans Churches and Cemeteries

The iconic St. Louis Cathedral's three steeples loom over Jackson Square and the Cabildo where the Louisiana Purchase was signed in 1803. The Church of the Immaculate Conception has a high ceilinged nave; beautiful stained glass windows; murals and cast iron decorative pews. The church's prize piece is the pipe organ from the 1884 World Cotton Centennial.

We've all seen movies set in New Orleans featuring the city's unique blend of cultural traditions about death. Well why not explore this aspect of the city and visit a few cemeteries. The Lake Lawn Metairie Cemetery offers "unique" burials – above ground entombment, private mausoleums, community mausoleums, elevated lawn crypt gardens and more. The three Saint Louis Cemeteries all have above ground vaults from the 18th and 19th century. St. Louis Cemetery #1 is the most famous and oldest of the three and each is home to pirates, musicians and politicians.

Big Easy Family Fun

Audubon ZooThe Audubon establishments include the Audubon Zoo which has a water park; Audubon Aquarium of the Americas where there are interactive displays, backstage passes and exotic birds; Entergy IMAX Theatre and a Butterfly Garden and Insectariums for kids that love creepy-crawlies! You can buy individual tickets or a combo ticket for all the Audubon attractions.

When the Sun Goes Down in New Orleans

If you want something unusual try Rock n' Bowl, a live music venue on South Carrolton Avenue which just happens to be a bowling alley as well. Listen to live jazz in Snug Harbor a popular restaurant and bar venue on Frenchmen Street. Real jazz aficionados should head for Preservation Hall where jazz has been playing since 1961 in this 263 year old building. Napoleon House at 500 Chartres Street in the French Quarter is an intimate restaurant housed within a historical building said to have been built for Napoleon. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop on Bourbon Street is housed in one of the oldest buildings in the city. Lafitte's is also said to be the longest continuously open bar in the US. You can indulge in gambling in New Orleans at several casinos including the Boomtown Casino and Harrah's New Orleans.