There is plenty to do and see if you’re not lucky enough to be in New Orleans for its signature annual event: Mardi Gras, which is always held 47 days before Easter. Instead, you can check out some one-of-a-kind museums, explore the eclectic French Quarter or catch the endless stream of Jazz music and festivals.
The Backstreet Cultural Museum. Located at 1116 St. Claude Ave., this is the place to see unusual memorabilia related to New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, jazz funerals and other regional customs. No where will you find a larger collection those ornately designed, hand-made Indian costumesworn during Mardi Gras and costing nearly $10,000 each. This historic gem also includes a mammoth collection of photos and video archive of past Mardi Gras, jazz funerals and everything New Orleans.
The French Quarter. Also known as Vieux Carré (the “Quarter”) to the locals, New Orleans’ oldest neighborhood is also the city’s cultural hub. Bourbon Street, once a haunt of writers and artists, now is a place to explore eclectic shops and galleries, elegant hotels and restaurants, and of course, the music clubs. In fact, if you are in town in the spring you can catch the French Quarter Festival, Louisiana's largest free music festival with more than a dozen stages offering three days of traditional and contemporary jazz, Latin, R&B, Cajun, zydeco, funk, swing, and everything in between.
New Orleans Jazz Fest. New Orleans is considered the birthplace of Jazz and every year that fact is celebrated with The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. What the locals call “Jazz Fest” and “Life Magazine” has called “the country’s very best music festival,’’ Jazz Fest takes place during a two week period usually in late April/early May at the New Orleans Fair Grounds Race Course, 1751 Gentilly Blvd. This is huge – drawing only the biggest name acts on twelve stages of live jazz, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, blues, R&B, rock, funk, African, Latin, Caribbean, and even folk.
Voodoo Museum. Located at 724 Dumaine St., this is one of the most unique small museums in the country and a must stop when you’re in the French Quarter. This is everything voodoo, from the history and folklore of rituals, zombies and gris-gris, to past Voodoo Queens. The Museum’s Voodoo-Cemetery Walking Tour is an exceptional experience and an opportunity to visit Congo Square, St. Expedité, as well as a chance to meet a local Voodoo priestess. If you’re in New Orleans during Halloween and need more voodoo, the Voodoo Music Experience is a festival of music, food, crafts and voodoo culture. The weekend-long festival takes place on several stages at the 1,300-acre City Park (the 6th-largest urban public park in the United States) located at Lelong and Esplanade Ave.