5 Reasons to visit New Orleans right now

by Chris on February 8, 2010

5 reasons why you should visit New Orleans in 2010

A Carnival costume - in Saints colors! New Orleans

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 chris@caroundtheworld.com.

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.

Jackson Square, New Orleans

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.

Mitch Landrieu, newly elected mayor of New Orleans

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.

Gumbo at Coop's, New Orleans

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).

Louisiana Pavillion, World War II Museum, New Orleans

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!

Treme HBO series starts in April! New Orleans

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 previous 5 Reasons columns: St. Kitts; Naples, Fla.; Tampa/St. Petersburg; Grenada

Read more about New Orleans here: Carnival time.

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

JoAnna February 8, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Just last week I booked my first trip to New Orleans. My husband and I will be taking the train from L.A. to NOLA and we are stoked! I can’t wait to sample the food!

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Chris February 8, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Wow – by train! That sounds fascinating. You will love New Orleans. The culture is unique in the US. And it’s hard not to have a good time!

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Gray February 21, 2010 at 8:41 pm

You said it! Those are all great reasons to visit New Orleans. New Orleans has it all–and a helluva personality to boot. I loved my trip there.

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Dawn February 26, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Hey Chris,
Check out Longue Vue House & Gardens when you’re there in June. The Garden Conservancy (my client) helped them rehabilitate the gardens after Katrina and I hear it’s wonderful. Wish I could say I’ve seen it for myself!

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Drea April 15, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Booked our 2 day trip to New Orleans last week- It will be our first time and I sooo can’t wait!!! I have dreamed of visiting for YEARS and it’s finally going to happen, yay! :)

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Chris April 16, 2010 at 10:44 am

Drea – Enjoy! If you want any specific tips, give me a shout. I lived there for six years and go back every year for a week or so.

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B April 20, 2010 at 2:36 pm

NO is on my travel list for sure. I don’t think I’ll be able to make it there this year but next year for sure!

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Argentina Travel May 10, 2010 at 10:32 am

hey I can’t miss New Orleans because of this same five reasons…

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On A Junket June 24, 2010 at 10:12 pm

I remember going to New Orleans when I was a wee lad, with my hands safely tucked into my father’s hands as we snaked around the nude merry makers of Mardi Gras (yes, my dad picks the best/worst days for a family trip)…But now that I’m much bigger I visit the city at least once a year…I haven’t been there since BP f’d things up…Not sure if I will be going this year..and it saddens me…How’s the city taking it?

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Chris June 25, 2010 at 9:47 am

Mike – I was down there at the beginning of June. In general, people are angry. They feel that it’s Katrina all over again, as far as the rest of the world ignoring the problem and not finding real solutions to help the people most affected. There’s much worry about the oil drilling moratorium, as it will throw more people out of work. For the most part, people seemed angriest at the state officials who didn’t require the oil companies to have back-up and emergency plans. And people are sad that the seafood industry is threatened. So that’s the general mood that I saw.

I definitely feel people shouldn’t let the spill affect their plans to visit. New Orleans needs visitors!

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Monica at In Wanderment July 1, 2010 at 1:23 pm

As a Louisianian and former New Orleans resident, I wholeheartedly agree with Chris that New Orleans, and the state in general, need tourists to visit. Before the moratorium Louisiana had already experienced a billion dollar budget deficit. The oil spill is only compounding our woes.

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Kirsty August 11, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Couldn’t agree more Chris! New Orleans is a magical place. I went there recently and one of the most amazing things for me was the food. I’ve blogged about it too if you’d like a read :) I will definitely be going back!
http://thetravelater.blogspot.com/2010/08/top-5-essential-food-experiences-of-new.html

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May August 12, 2010 at 11:48 am

I just got back from NOLA, after years of wanting to go, and I doubt I’d go again.
While the places, foods, sights might be wonderful – the author neglected to mention the people – for a reason. The people who should have made our stay wonderful- were lazy, rude, inconsiderate, ill-tempered and ill-mannered. I’m accustomed to the SLOOOOOW service from visiting Texas and other southern states (I’m in the north, where it’s too cold to go that slow LOL) but at least there you get the gentile hospitality that the south is known for. In NOLA we saw none of that.
The two-day trip mentioned above – you’ll probably have a great time… hit all the sights, in and out before you have to deal with too many people… we were there for 10, and it was 7 days too long, due almost entirely to the people.

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Chris August 16, 2010 at 1:30 pm

May – Wow. I don’t think I’ve met people anywhere as friendly and as open as New Orleanians. I’m surprised that you had such a bad experience.

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Maj August 18, 2010 at 11:50 am

Chris and Monica, you are right–NOLA needs visitors now more than ever, but the seafood scare is pushing people away.

Check out this video by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. It features a few NOLA chefs talking about all the processes in place to ensure the seafood included in their authentic New Orleans dishes is safe.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4b8IZLl0LAg

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Emily August 25, 2010 at 5:10 pm

I’m so happy to read this–I’m going to New Orleans for the first time in November and can’t wait. I’ve lived in Texas my whole life, so it’s a mystery to me how I haven’t made it there yet. I’m not a big party animal, but it sounds like there is still plenty to do. I didn’t know they had a WWII museum there. I’ll have to check it out!

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Chris August 26, 2010 at 10:42 am

Emily – You are going to love NOLA! I lived there for six years and go back at least once a year….once the place gets in your blood, it will stay there. The city is about so much more than partying. You’ll love the WWII musuem, as well as the food. I have some other posts on here about NOLA, so you might want to do a search and check them out.

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