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New Orleans Events

In addition to its many cultural and historic landmarks, New Orleans hosts a number of outstanding festivals and events that may coincide with your visit. The city already provides many fun places to go and fun things to do, but many visitors attend just for the events. If you plan your vacation carefully, you might experience the very best this city has to offer.

Traditionally labeled the “City that Care Forgot,” New Orleans is a destination that pursues its fun with an enthusiasm rarely found elsewhere. In part this is probably why there are so many parades. At one time or another nearly everyone—from the small, old-time funeral bands to the largest convention group—marches down Canal Street, and others watch with unjaded pleasure.

New Orleans Loves Pro Sports

Sugar Bowl activities kick off New Orleans' events season with a series of major contests in basketball, sailing, soccer, tennis and track; the grand finale is the Allstate Sugar Bowl football game played in early January in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Mardi Gras is the Ultimate Travel Event

The event synonymous with the city—and into which it pours its whole soul—is Mardi Gras . This Catholic holiday originated as a final farewell to food and drink before the fasting of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday. (The actual date can fall anywhere from early February to early March.) Carnival season in New Orleans starts on Twelfth Night, January 6, with a series of glittering private balls and costume parties. The celebration reaches its peak during the 2 weeks leading up to Shrove Tuesday, better known by the French as Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”), when carnival krewes stage more than 60 parades across the city.

The weekend before Mardi Gras features two of the largest and most elaborate parades, the Krewe of Endymion on Saturday night and Bacchus on Sunday night. Tourists who save a viewing spot in the French Quarter will miss all the beads—most routes have moved uptown to the wider streets of St. Charles Avenue and Canal. After the Proteus, Orpheus and Zeus parades on Lundi Gras (“Fat Monday”), the city hosts a big bash at Spanish Plaza complete with entertainment, fireworks and the riverboat arrival of Rex, the King of Carnival. A mask is required for admission.

On Mardi Gras Day, more than a dozen family parades take place in Covington, Metairie, the West Bank and Uptown, including two of the biggest: Zulu, famous for its coconut souvenirs, and Rex, which introduced the first Mardi Gras king and the traditional colors of green, purple and gold. From here, the party moves to the streets and clubs of the French Quarter. So long as there's no threat to safety, almost anything goes on this maddest, most intoxicating of all Tuesdays. The fun stops promptly at midnight when mounted police officers and cleaning crews begin their march down Bourbon Street.

Just how this citywide party manages to evade commercialism and still thrive can be traced to the fact that New Orleanians stage it for their own enjoyment and out of their own pockets. Some say that even if not one tourist dime from Mardi Gras clinked into the city's strongbox, the celebration would continue unchanged. It is this genuineness that helps to make Mardi Gras one of the nation's great attractions.

The Spring Fiesta Seasons

Spring Fiesta and Historic Home Tours , in early March, features ladies in antebellum gowns as well as 2 weekends of pageants, plays, art shows and concerts. Of interest are the tours, which include visits to French Quarter homes and patios, Garden District mansions and plantation homes.

Late March is when the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival is held. Numerous activities celebrate the life of writer Tennessee Williams, including lectures, panel discussions, plays and even a Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest.

In April the French Quarter Festival brings the more boisterous segment back to the city. Music and games are naturally part of the merrymaking, but the big draw is the many food booths set up by local restaurants in Jackson Square.

Non-Stop Music Festivals

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival , with concerts, food and craft booths, is held for 2 long weekends in late April and early May. Internationally known musicians perform on numerous stages at the Fair Grounds Race Course from 11-7; additional performances are given citywide. An array of musical styles can be heard, including blues, Cajun, folk, gospel, R&B and zydeco. Tickets can be purchased from Ticketmaster.

During the Holiday Season

Celebration in the Oaks transforms City Park into a festive holiday wonderland from the Friday after Thanksgiving through December. Amusement rides, music and dance performances, and walking tours are some of the activities. Christmas New Orleans Style , in December, offers 19th-century house tours as well as concerts at the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis King of France and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa events.

During the holiday season the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl is played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. On New Year's Eve Jackson Square is the place to be when a huge, glittering fleur-de-lis begins to descend the pole atop Jackson Brewery 10 seconds before midnight.

See all the AAA recommended events for this destination.

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New Orleans, LA

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Travel Information

City Population

343,829

Elevation

11 ft.

Sales Tax

Louisiana's statewide sales tax is 5 percent; an additional 5 percent is levied in the New Orleans metro area, and Orleans Parish has a .5 percent tax on food and beverages. The city has a 14 percent lodging tax, plus an occupancy tax of $1-$3 per night. The state's car rental tax is 3 percent.

Emergency

911

Police (non-emergency)

(504) 821-2222

Fire (non-emergency)

(504) 658-4700

Time and Temperature

(318) 324-8808

Hospitals

Ochsner Medical Center, (504) 842-3000; Touro Infirmary, (504) 897-7011; Tulane Medical Center, (504) 988-5263; University Medical Center New Orleans, (504) 702-3000.

Visitor Information

1221 Elmwood Park Blvd. Suite 411 New Orleans, LA 70123. Phone:(504)731-7083 or (877)572-7474

Air Travel

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is about 21 miles west of downtown New Orleans in Kenner and is served by nearly all major domestic and foreign carriers.

Rental Cars

New Orleans is served by several major car rental agencies. Arrangements should be made before you leave on your trip. Your local AAA club can provide this service or additional information. Hertz, (504) 568-1645 or (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members.

Rail Service

Amtrak uses the Union Passenger Terminal at 1001 Loyola Ave. Daily service is offered. Phone (800) 872-7245 for further information.

Buses

The Greyhound Lines Inc. bus terminal is at 1001 Loyola Ave.; phone (504) 525-6075 or (800) 231-2222 for schedule and fares.

Taxis

Cabs are plentiful in the main business and tourist areas. Average fare is $3.50 initially and $2.40 for each additional mile and $1 for each additional person. The largest companies are Carriage/Yellow/Checker, (504) 207-7777; Metry, (504) 835-4242; and United, (504) 522-9771. Information about taxi service also can be obtained from the Taxicab & For Hire Bureau at (504) 658-7176.

Public Transportation

Transportation by bus, streetcar and ferry is available in New Orleans.

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