Five Reasons is a regular feature, where I outline the reasons why a destination is hot right now. If you’d like to run Five Reasons in your publication or on your website, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today, just a day after the city’s football team the Saints defied the odds to win become Super Bowl champions, I’m taking a look at New Orleans. I lived in New Orleans for six years between 1994 and 2001, and it’s one of my favorite places to visit (see my other faves here). I try to go down at least once a year – this year my trip will be in June for a friend’s wedding. And honestly, I wish I was going sooner because the city is having a banner year.
Here are 5 reasons why you should plan a trip to New Orleans in 2010.
1. Momentum, y’all! Super Bowl celebrations are still going on right now. That will lead into Carnival and Fat Tuesday next week. That will lead into St. Patrick’s Day, which the locals do up with a parade where participants throw stew ingredients such as cabbage. That will lead into French Quarter Fest, one of the top smaller festivals in the city. And that will lead into Jazzfest, where Simon and Garfunkel, Van Morrison, Pearl Jam and Aretha Franklin join the hundreds of local acts who make living in New Orleans a musical experience. You get the idea: the party never stops.
2. Five years after Hurricane Katrina, the city is civically stronger than ever. No question, the city’s heart-breaking experience during Hurricane Katrina left some scars that may never heal. But it’s hard to think of another destination that was able to rebuild with such elan. In the past, the city had a bit of laissez faire attitude toward its politicians; corruption scandals were common among city departments. In the post-Katrina era, residents demand, rightfully, much more.
Overshadowed a bit by the Super Bowl was the news that Mitch Landrieu – son of a former mayor, brother of a sitting senator – was elected as mayor this past Saturday (Ray Nagin, who drew much criticism for his performance during Katrina, reached his term limits). Landrieu’s previous position was Lieutenant Governor where, among other things, he oversaw the state’s tourism efforts. It will be interesting to see if his experience in that realm affects the city’s visitor outreach.
3. So much of the city’s lifestyle can’t be experienced anyplace else. Forget Las Vegas. New Orleans is where you should go to indulge your sins. Gluttony? Hard to think of another US city with so much indigenous cuisine to sample. Sloth? Sleep all day, then spend all night seeking out small bars such as Donna’s and the Maple Leaf, where you can hear some of New Orleans’ best brass bands. Bourbon Street’s high spirits provide plenty of eye candy on the lust front, as does the sultry, jasmine-filled night air. And yes, there’s even a casino where avarice is served up every night (although I’d rather spend my time seeking out the perfect oyster po’boy or enjoying the one-of-kind architecture).
4. Even for those who won’t set foot on Bourbon Street, there’s plenty to do. The National World War II Musuem, which originally opened in 2000 as the D-Day Museum, has grown up in the past decade, with ongoing expansion plans that will quadruple the size of the original. Already open: Victory Theater, which features a star-studded 4-D documentary experience called Beyond Boundaries, as well as two restaurants by local celebrity chef John Besh, including a USO-style cantine. Children will love the Audubon Insectarium, North America’s largest museum dedicated to bugs, which opened in 2008. And yes, if you do enjoy alcoholic beverages, the Museum of the American Cocktail has opened inside the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, with exhibits on the history of mixed drinks. Bottoms up!
5. It remains a Hollywood darling. Imagine, a city so cool that Brad Pitt may choose IT over Angelina Jolie (although she did show up for the Super Bowl, so maybe there’s hope). More important than Brangelina: the HBO series Treme, starts airing in April. Created by David Simon, of The Wire fame, Treme already promises to be a huge hit – and what makes me happy is the amount of local knowledge that has gone into creating the series, set in the city three months post-Katrina. Bonus: local institution Kermit Ruffins not only did the music, he has a small role.
Read more about New Orleans here: Carnival time.