- Travel Planner, Cammie Decker talks about her experience with New Orleans
- New Orleans is famous for its jambalaya, seasonal crawfish and spicy Cajun cuisines.
- The city is also rich in history. You can visit old plantations and stay there
As a Louisiana native, I watched in shock and disbelief as New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. That tragedy hit close to home, as I was born 50 miles from there.
I hadn’t been back to the Big Easy since then and was eager to see how far the city has come along in its efforts to rebuild. So I took a trip in mid-May and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.
Despite suffering devastating losses, the people of New Orleans are reclaiming their beloved city.
My flight from Virginia Beach to New Orleans on American Airlines was short and easy. Our transfer was waiting for us at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, resulting in a seamless process and travel experience.
What started off as a homecoming of sorts turned into my witness of the New Orleans Renaissance. Those efforts were lead by local natives, many of whom work as tour guides. Although they were forced to evacuate in Katrina’s aftermath, they were determined to return to their city, roll up their sleeves and get back to work on rebuilding it. The guides are loyal to their city and don’t ever want to leave it again.
Most people think of New Orleans and the first things that come to mind are Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street and more adult-themed adventures. But the reborn New Orleans is a more family friendly place. I saw tourists of all ages, from babies being pushed in strollers to retirees, enjoying the many wonders the city has to offer.
That’s not to say that adults can’t still enjoy the traditional New Orleans experience. We stayed the first few nights at The Roosevelt hotel, located near Canal Street in the French Quarter. Its easy walking distance to downtown made it possible for me to visit the famed Pat O’Brien’s, which is a very popular spot during Mardi Gras.
Speaking of which, another fantastic attraction I got to see was Mardi Gras World. Preparations for the Mardi Gras parade take place year-round, and this unique attraction offers a behind-the-scenes look at them. A warehouse on site stores the floats and you can see the machine that makes the many characters that ride on them out of Styrofoam.
Because of its history and heritage, New Orleans has different influences than much of the United States. The Creole culture manifests itself in many ways, but mostly when it comes to food.
New Orleans is famous for its jambalaya, seasonal crawfish and spicy Cajun cuisines. Mint juleps are a popular cocktail and fried gator tail always makes for a nice appetizer. Many people may be pleasantly surprised to learn that it tastes just like chicken!
Music is obviously a huge part of the local culture in New Orleans. The city has long been known for its rich jazz tradition, which continues to this very day.
My group was guided by a local jazz ensemble as we walked through town and was eventually joined by a high school marching band. We basically got a private concert all the way to the waterfront, complete with dancing.
The city is also rich in history. You can visit old plantations and stay there. Old historic records are available for review, so you can see how the city got started, what kinds of crops were grown and how people lived in those days. There’s no shortage of Civil War memorabilia for anyone hoping to make that connection.
Old mansions and stunning oak trees are key features of the city’s Garden District. Many tourists also really enjoy seeing the above ground cemeteries throughout New Orleans.
Another memorable New Orleans experience is a cruise on the Creole Queen. There’s the Mississippi River Dinner Jazz Cruise, Historical River Cruise and Jean Lafitte Louisiana Swamp Tours, all of which can be booked as excursions.
The time I spent in New Orleans last May showed the city’s resiliency and tremendous success in triumphing over adversity. While its landscape may have changed in some areas, the sights and sounds of a city actively proving itself as a premiere destination have remained the same.