Laissez les bon temps roulez!
The Big Easy is perfect this time of year.
Courtesy New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau/Photo by Chris Granger
The first part of the year is a great time to head to New Orleans. Cool temperatures mean the humidity is low and wild Bourbon Street doesn’t yet smell like hot stale booze. Since Mardi Gras falls on Feb. 28 this year, the city will be busy this entire month — and the two weeks and weekends leading up to it mean huge parties, parades and tons of people. It doesn’t mean you can’t go then, just be aware. (And make reservations.)
Here are some tips for what to see, do, eat and drink in New Orleans.
1. If you’re driving, or if you rent a car, tune your radio to 90.7 WWOZ the minute you arrive. It’s a listener-supported radio station that plays excellent jazz, blues, Latin, Cajun, and funk that will put you in the Big Easy mood.
2. A city tour by bike is another immediately immersive experience. Go with the “Creole tour” at Confederacy of Cruisers (named after “Confederacy of Dunces,” set in the Crescent City) to learn about how the culture and history of the city unfolded. The tour guide’s storytelling is the best part. If you can, request Keith.
3. New Orleans is perfect for lots of things — day drinking in public chief among them. Buy an Abita beer in a convenience store near Lafayette Square, have the clerk open it for you, use a paper sack as a koozie, and have your fortune read or peruse the local art while you imbibe. If you’re hungry, grab a muffuletta at Central Grocery or beignets at Café du Monde.
4. At Broussard’s in the French Quarter, seek out Master Bartender Paul Gustings — or one of his underlings — and have a Ramos Gin Fizz as he explains to you his pre-prohibition shaker/juicer. Make the 3-minute walk to Galatoire’s for dinner, where I recommend Oysters Rockefeller, the iceberg wedge salad, redfish topped with crabmeat Yvonne, bread pudding and an 1840 Sazerac. (To make your own Sazerac at home, click here.)
5. At night, head to Frenchman Street. There is live music in most bars and clubs and often brass bands playing on the street. Definitely visit the club D.B.A. — especially if the Jazz Vipers are playing.
6. Be sure to visit the massive and impressive National World War II Museum. I spent four hours there and did not see everything. TripAdvisor ranks it as the No. 4 museum in the country, and No. 11 in the world. Start with the 4D film “Beyond All Boundaries,” which is narrated by Tom Hanks.
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