Auld Lang Syne NOLA-Style
Filling 2017 with reasons to travel to New Orleans
As 2016 comes to a close, many of us are looking back on the past year with mixed feelings. A torrent of celebrity deaths, a bitter election cycle, personal losses and natural disasters have all made this year feel like a marathon of fortitude. But there were good things too – marriages, graduations, births and the Chicago Cubs finally won the World Series again.
One of the best ways to spend what little time we each have on this Earth is to travel and learn from people who seem unlike ourselves at first, but who inevitably have more in common with us than we could have imagined.
New Orleans is one of the best-suited destinations for just such an adventure. The city is composed of neighborhoods that each have a distinct personality, architecture style and characters to meet. Some areas are well known – like the French Quarter and Marigny – while others are almost exclusively the domain of locals – such as Lakeview and New Orleans East.
2017 brings some new events to New Orleans as well. The NBA All-Star Game and its linked events will hit town Feb. 17-19, the same weekend as some major Mardi Gras season parades. The Top Taco NOLA Festival on March 23 launches an upscale taco tasting fiesta for one evening at Riverwalk’s Spanish Plaza.
The new year will also be filled with annual events and festivals that provide opportunities to travel through the city and talk to new people standing in line or seated at the table next to you. Here are a few of my favorites.
January: The Joan of Arc Parade occurs annually on Janu. 6, heralding the beginning of Carnival. From this point through Mardi Gras, King Cake can be consumed without guilt and most people you see around town will have some glitter on them from preparing their costumes or decorating their homes with Carnival tchotchkes.
February: Mardi Gras! Check out the parade schedule and plan to watch a parade Uptown or in Mid-City. Remember that locals throw beads to folks who are fully clothed. If anyone is asking you to lift your shirt, they are probably from out-of-town and have no idea what NOLA is really about.
March: The St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 11 is the perfect combination of Irish-American pride and New Orleans tradition. The floats are fewer than in a Mardi Gras parade but the throws are much more useful – cabbages, potatoes and the like are edible reminders of Irish culinary practices.
April/May: Music is the name of the game in the Spring with French Quarter Fest April 6-9, then the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival the last weekend of April and first weekend of May. Each bring local and international acts that create performances worthy of viral videos on the internet.
June/July: Did I say spring brought the music? Well the heat of summer brings it as well with Essence Fest June 29-July 2. Inspirational speakers, business leaders and musical talent converge to create this festival. 2017 brings Ms. Diana Ross, Mary J. Blige, Chaka Kahn, India.Arie, John Legend, Trombone Shorty and many more.
August: The dog days of summer can be beat this month with Coolinary New Orleans, which offers amazing deals on multi-course meals at some of the best restaurants in the city, and New Orleans Museum Month, which offers admission to the in-network museums and cultural centers to anyone with a membership to the participating organizations. When a family is traveling, it often makes more financial sense to purchase a membership rather than individual admission tickets. And memberships support important cultural institutions.
September: NOLA on Tap, exact date TBD, is always a great day of beer, live music and pet-friendly festivities for a great cause – raising money for the Louisiana SPCA.
October: All things Halloween are spookier and more fun in a city famous for its ghosts and vampires. Krewe of Boo, haunted houses and Halloween itself are singular experiences in NOLA.
No matter what time of year you choose to visit New Orleans, a trip to NOLA in 2017 is bound to make it a good year.