It's famous for its annual Mardi Gras festival, but Jane Jurgens thinks New Orleans is worth a visit at any time of the year. Here's a round-up of what else is on offer.
New Orleans is famed for its live music — and it's not limited to the Mardi Gras season. Wandering around the city by day or night, you're sure to hear something that pleases. For a smorgasbord of sounds, head to Royal St — a popular spot for buskers where you'll hear everything from classic R&B to jazz and even calypso. Catch a brass band on Frenchmen St, or head to Jackson Square during the day to take in one of the best free shows around. However, you won't need to search hard to hear a tune — you'll find music around every corner in the French Quarter.
Take an affordable tour of the city on one of New Orleans' iconic streetcars — it's just US$1.25 a ride and 25c for a transfer or you can buy an all-day pass for just $3. Established in 1835, the New Orleans streetcars are one of the first passenger railroads in the US and one of the oldest continuously operating street railways in the world. There are several lines — the St Charles Avenue Line will take you on a journey through the history of New Orleans, the Canal St Line takes riders to historic cemeteries or the City Park, and the Riverfront Line takes a scenic route along the Mississippi.
Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Walt Whitman . . . The Big Easy has inspired many great writers over the years, which makes it the perfect location for a literary tour. A number of companies offer group tours but if you're keen to go at your own pace you can find some ideas just by reading books that were set here. Grab a bite at Williams' favourite restaurant Galatoire and try his personal favourite, the Trout Almondine and Shrimp Remoulade. Or go for a workout at the New Orleans Athletic Club, where both Faulkner and Williams were members. Top it off by spending the night at Hotel Monteleone; Truman Capote used to claim he was born in this French Quarter hotel. That may or may not be true but he — along with other distinguished names — definitely liked to come here for a cocktail at the Carousel Bar.
Get to know the creepiest and crawliest residents of the Crescent City at the Insectarium, in the Old New Orleans Customs House. Including the Audubon Butterfly Garden, it's the largest free-standing museum in the US, devoted to more than 900,000 known species of insects and their relatives. Kids and adults alike can have fun racing roaches, tasting some insect-based delicacies and exploring the inner workings of a Louisiana swamp.
Back in 1791, the French market originated as a Native American trading post on the Mississippi River — so there's plenty of history there. It evolved into a cultural and commercial hub for New Orleans as Spanish and French colonists arrived. Today, it's become one of the most popular destinations in the city, with a huge variety of food stands, restaurants and al fresco dining spaces — the perfect place to fuel your journeys around the city.
offers an impressive array of local produce, while the famous Cafe du Monde is a popular spot for visitors. Here you can try the iconic beignets — small, sweet fried dough fritters — and wash them down with a cafe au lait. And of course, there's always a musician playing nearby . . . this is New Orleans after all.
Get immersed in the Southern Gothic with a walk through the ornate headstones of the cemeteries of New Orleans. The city has dozens of cemeteries and you can make your own way through them, but for a truly spooky experience with lots of local folklore, try a guided tour. Most take you through St Louis Cemetery #1, which can only be visited with a licensed guide, and Lafayette Cemetery — a popular location for movies shot in the area. Try a tour with Save Our Cemeteries, a non-profit organisation that helps preserve the cemeteries, or take a night-time stroll with Bloody Mary's Tours.
Mardi Gras World Tour
Even if you're not visiting when the festivities are under way, you can still enjoy an authentic Mardi Gras experience at any time.
offers an up-close behind-the-scenes look at New Orleans' most famous celebration, where you'll find out exactly what it takes to put on an event of this scale every year. Discover the hard work that goes into a Mardi Gras float at Blaine Kern Studios, get your photo taken in a traditional costume and enjoy a slice of King Cake at the end — it's hard to get out of season, so savour every bite.
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