appy 300th birthday, New Orleans! What an incredible time to be living in or visiting the city of New Orleans. Special shout out to the nearly 1,500 visitors who will descend on NOLA and Tulane next month as a part of the International Association for College Admission Counseling's annual conference
. We're so excited to welcome y'all soon!
There's a lot to love about this town. In honor of her 300th birthday, the team here in the Office of Admission came up with 30 reasons to love New Orleans. From great dining to incredible architecture to our wacky vernacular, this list is perfect for those new to NOLA and want to learn why we've been such a special spot for 300 years.
Here goes nothin'!
Royal Street in all her glory. Some of the best architecture in the city can be spotted here. (source)Royal Street:
One of the crown jewel streets of NOLA, nothing beats an afternoon stroll on Royal. From musicians to street performers to some of the world’s best antique shops and galleries, Royal Street is old New Orleans at its best. It's frequently shut down to traffic too. It's a part of my Two Days in NOLA blog
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (source
: In a city that, quite literally, is the birthplace of jazz music, the opportunities to immerse yourself in the jazz culture of New Orleans are endless. From the Hogan Jazz archives at Tulane to the clubs of Frenchman to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, jazz fills the air of this city from lake to river, Uptown to Downtown. (Now might be a good time to mention that we don’t use North, East, South or West here in New Orleans)
Sunset at the Fly in Audubon Park (source
)Audubon Park, Zoo and the Fly
: Tulane’s “front yard” offers something for everyone. Audubon Park is home to one of America’s best zoos, as well as jogging trails, a golf course, a number of lagoons and The Fly, a very popular hangout spot along the Mississippi River. It’s one of the best spots to catch a classic New Orleans sunset.
The Marigny is all about color (source
)The Bywater and Marigny Neighborhoods
: New Orleans is a city of unique and distinctive neighborhoods and perhaps two of our most unique are the Bywater and Marigny. Colorful shotgun houses and tropical plants line the streets of these two quirky and offbeat neighborhoods. Be sure to grab a bike a get a little lost. You’re sure to stumble upon a great coffee shop or cocktail bar mixed in these two great parts of town.
Bayou St. John at Sunset (flickr)Bayou St John:
Home to the yearly Bayou Boogaloo fest, Bayou St. John is a tranquil oasis in the middle of Mid-City. I highly recommend grabbing a stand up paddle board or a kayak and cruising around the bayou for a relaxed summer afternoon that will make you feel worlds away from the hustle and bustle of NOLA. If you're hungry, head over to Parkway Bakery for a po'boy or for a healthier option, 1000 Figs.
The Lafitte Greenway as it stretches from downtown NOLA out towards Lake Ponchartrain (source
: Brand new to NOLA is this incredible 2.6 mile network of trails and parks that run from the French Quarter all the way to City Park. The Greenway is dotted with community gardens, playing fields, Fitlots
, as well as some excellent places to stop and grab food. It’s the perfect way to see many of NOLA's coolest neighborhoods, all by foot or bike.
Crescent Park is so cool! We call this the rusty rainbow. It's a great way to access the park. (source
: Another somewhat new addition to the city, Crescent Park gives visitors a chance to meander the 3 mile linear park that connects the French Quarter all the way to the Bywater, all along the bank of the Mississippi River. Grab a bike for a sunset ride and be sure to stop for dinner at Pizza Delicious.
City Park was founded in 1854 making it one of the oldest urban parks in the USA (source
: The sixth largest urban park in America is right here in NOLA. Nearly twice the size of Central Park, it will take you days to discover all that the 1,300 acres of City Park have to offer. Be sure to visit the Great Lawn, the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden as post up underneath one of the park’s famous mature live oaks. City Park has the largest collection of them anywhere in the world.
The Train Garden is so cute (flickr
: Nestled in the middle of City Park’s vast live oak forest is the Botanical Gardens, an intricate maze of succulent gardens, Zen and rose gardens and one of the best kept secrets in NOLA: the train garden. Coming with kids? Be sure to check out Storyville next door.
There is so much amazing Vietnamese food here in NOLA, like this incredible bun from Magasin (my personal favorite Vietnamese restaurant in town)Vietnamese Culture
: Did you know one of the largest Vietnamese populations in the USA is right here in NOLA? Vietnamese culture can be seen all over NOLA. From our incredible Vietnamese restaurants to the Tet festival which takes place each year in Ile de l’Est. You can read all about the Vietnamese cultural influence on NOLA, as well as check out a list of the best restaurants around town, here
Very few things are more uniquely New Orleans than our famed Mardi Gras Indians (source
)Mardi Gras Indians
: When slaves in Louisiana escaped captivity, many found refuge in the Native American populations in the south. Their cultures and traditions merged and soon Mardi Gras Indians were born. Many Mardi Gras Indians spend an entire year sewing their ornate and colorful suits. Be sure to check them out at Super Sunday to pay respect to the intricate suits they have painstakingly and proudly worked on all year.
A second line parade in the French Quarter (source
)Second Line Parades
: In a city famed for parades, second line parades are the ones that everyone gets to be a part of. Second line parades trace their origins back to the parades that directly followed a funeral. The somber musical procession that would follow the funeral service would quickly break out into a second line parade filled with lively music and dancing. You can catch second line parades all over town from weddings, parties and, really, any celebration.
Here I am getting gored by a NOLA bull at my favorite festival of the yearFestivals
: If there is one thing NOLA does right, it’s our festivals. Here in town, we have more festivals that we do days of the school year. Check out a few of the festival calendars or read my review of my top 10
. My number one, San Fermin Nueva Orleans
, happens to be coming up next month. For those coming to I-ACAC, you'll be arriving right as Essence Festival
wraps up (it's one of the largest black arts and music festivals in the world) and right as San Fremin kicks off!
The food. All of the foods. (source
Just last week, Trip Advisor ranked us the #5 best food city in the world and #1 in the US. The food in NOLA is really worth the visit alone. From jambalaya, crawfish, incredible seafood, Cajun and Creole cooking, NOLA truly is known around the world as one of the best places to forget about any diet you may be on. Check out my previous blog about my top 10 restaurants
in town and Owen’s guest blog about the best places to grab a bite near Tulane’s campus.
Frenchman Street is alive with music every night of the week. Some of the best bands can be seen right on the sidewalk! (source
: You’ll hear people refer to Frenchman as the local’s answer to Bourbon Street. That’s partly true, but visitors and locals alike flock to the five blocks of Frenchman that provide some of the best live music venues in the city. Whether you’re looking for blues, reggae, jazz, funk, or rock, there is something for everyone on Frenchman. Here's a pretty good run-down
of the best spots on Frenchman. I recommend DBA, Three Muses and Snug Harbor.
Not a normal cemetery. But normal for us! (source
: We call them cities of the dead, and if you’ve ever visited a New Orleans cemetery, you know why. Beautiful and ornate tombs and mausoleums rise like monuments from the grass. You’ll need a guide to visit them these days, but don’t miss Lafayette Cemetery and St. Louis Cemetery #1, the oldest in the city.
The splendor of the cypress swamps of Jean Lafitte (source
Jean Lafitte Nature Preserve
: For a quick escape around 30 minutes from the city (and a free option instead of a swamp tour) head to the Jean Lafitte nature preserve for a boardwalked hike through our gorgeous cypress swamps. Spot gators and other Louisiana wildlife while taking note of why Louisiana is referred to as the “sportsman’s paradise.”
The National WWII Museum. Prepare to spend a lot of time here, history buffs! (source
: Some might be surprised to know that the number one most popular attraction in New Orleans is actually a museum. And if you’ve ever visited the National World War II museum, you know why. Built in NOLA as we’re home to the Higgins Boat shipyard (which Eisenhower credited with winning the Battle of Normandy,) expect to spend at least a half day at this museum if you visit. Not far from the WWII Museum are the Contemporary Arts Center and galleries of Julia Street. In City Park, you'll find the always-special New Orleans Museum of Art .
Live Oaks and incredible mansions: two staples of the Garden District (source
) The Garden District
: Just a bit further downtown from Tulane is one of New Orleans’ most famous neighborhoods: the Garden District. Gorgeous homes flank massive live oaks in this very walkable part of town. I recommend Coliseium Street between 1st and 8th streets; best seen on foot. You'll see everything from the Benjamin Button house, celeb homes (like John Goodman, Sandra Bullock, Beyonce and Anne Rice) to the world-famous Commander's Palace restaurant.
$1.25 will get you (leisurely!) all around town. (source
: The only moving national historic landmark, our network of streetcars will lazily clank and clatter you through some of New Orleans’ most iconic neighborhoods. Don’t expect a bullet train (or A/C) but do expect to feel the magic of a truly distinctive New Orleans experience. Here's a solid list of great stops
to get off at and explore.
The many varieties of NOLA snoballs (source
) Sno Balls
: A classic New Orleans summertime treat. Snowball stands can be found in every single neighborhood in NOLA. Everyone here’s got their favorite flavor. Mine happens to be coconut cream.
Big Freedia, the Queen of New Orleans bounce (source
: Jazz isn’t the only musical art form invented in NOLA. Bounce music calls NOLA home and with iconic stars like Big Freedia as the Queen of Bounce herself, it’s not hard to see why this art form will quickly get you shaking your booty.
Shopping on Magazine Street really can't be beat, especially with how local everything is! (source
) Magazine Street
: The best shopping street in NOLA, hands down. Magazine Street is almost eight miles of restaurants and shopping, most of which is local. You can walk the entire thing in a long morning, popping into shops along the way. My favorite stretch is close to downtown between Louisiana down to Coliseum Square (stop in Vegas for great men's shopping and grab a doughnut at District!) You can read my previous blog about Uptown Magazine Street here
Best way to get around town these days! (source
) Blue Bikes
: In the last few years, an expansive network of bike lanes and shared lanes have crisscrossed the city of New Orleans. Couple that with a very flat city and you’ve got a great opportunity to see this entire town via bike. Just beware the potholes which we are famous for here. Grab a blue bike at one of the 70 stations around town and cruise this city in the best mode of transportation for taking in all NOLA has to offer.
We're not normal here and we are OK with that. (source
) The People
: Sure sure I am biased here. But you’ll get what I am saying once you visit. People here ask you how your day is going and actually want to know the answer. People make eye contact on the streets and smile. Everyone is your baby or you momma or your honey. Wherever you’re from (even if this friendliness may be jarring for you) join right in with the conversation here in NOLA. Smile, ask people how they are (and how their momma and dem are doing). Oh, and if you are looking for something to talk about, just talk about NOLA. NOLA was number 1 on Travel and Leisure’s list of “people most proud of their city,” so if you’re looking for a conversation starter, go with that. Or with the Saints. Or food. Or… well, you get the idea. We have this famous saying here in town that "the longer you live in NOLA, the more unfit you become to live anywhere else."
Getting married under the Tree of Life (source
) Live Oak Trees
: I remember my first visit to NOLA many years ago and wondering if there had just been a parade the day before I arrived based on how many colorful beads I saw dangling from the live oak trees. Turns out, it’s like that year round. New Orleans is home to thousands of massive (and massively old) live oaks trees that seem to be immune to famine, flood, disease and a constant onslaught of plastic beads. If trees are your thing, be sure to check out the Tree of Life in Audubon The Singing Oak in City Park which is adorned with wind chimes.
Oak Alley. She's a beaut. (source
: Some of the most beautiful places in Louisiana also happen to be home to some of the greatest atrocities in our country’s history. Visit places like Oak Alley, Laura Plantation, and Whitney Plantation for their beauty, but stay for the incredibly moving exhibits on American slavery and its impact on those who lived it.
When you are in New Orleans, you know
you're in New Orleans. (source
) The Architecture
: Tennessee Williams once said “In America, there is New York, San Francisco and New Orleans. Everything else is just Cleveland.” A large part of why NOLA is one of America’s most iconic and distinctive cities is because of our architecture. From Creole cottages to Garden District mansions to the wrought iron balconies that make the French Quarter magical, there is an endless feast for the architectural eye here in New Orleans. And it’s new and old, too. You’ll notice a tremendous amount of new construction going up in bustling neighborhoods like the Warehouse District and the Central Business District. But, we ain’t 300 years old for nothing: New Orleans has more buildings on the National Register of Historic Places than any city in the US.
Get used to it! (source
) The Language
: Get ready to start saying y’all, y’all. It’s just going to become a part of your vernacular. Along with lagniappe, neutral ground, y’at… tell you what, just read my previous blog post all about NOLA Lingo
Just be prepared to see music. Everywhere. (source
) The Music
: It's everywhere and every kind. From incredible local acts to big name shows, NOLA has it all. Some of our favorite music venues in the city are Maple Leaf (Rebirth Brass Band on Tuesdays), Le Bon Temps (Big Sam on Thursdays), and the iconic Tipitinas
. If the big-name stuff is more your genre, here's who is coming to NOLA in the next six months alone
: Beyonce/Jay Z, Sam Smith, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, Foster the People, Ed Sheerin, The Eagles, Imagine Dragons, J. Cole, Journey, Drake/Migos, Fall Out Boy, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban and Elton John.
Tulane + NOLAThe Universities
: We saved the best for last. New Orleans is home to a broad range of incredible schools and colleges. From two of the country’s best HBCUs at Xavier and Dillard, to large public schools like the University of New Orleans, to Uptown mainstays Loyola and Tulane, the network of schools in town is impressive. This year, the Princeton Review named New Orleans the best college city in America. Tulane’s been a part of New Orleans for a large part of the city’s 300 history. Founded in 1834 as the Medical College of Louisiana, we’ve been through thick and thin with our hometown and we’ll continue to share an incredible bond for another 300 years to come.