Traveling to New Orleans for 2024 IPF? As you make plans, be sure to leave time to experience the city’s stunning architecture, delicious and varied cuisine, and unique culture that have led to New Orleans being described as America’s “most European” city.
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival kicks off on April 25 (the final day of IPF Week). The city’s largest music festival celebrates Louisiana art and culture and offers an eclectic variety of music, food, and entertainment that few festivals can match. Best-selling artists will be joined by more than 500 musicians playing across dozens of genres from jazz to reggae to blues. While music dominates the headlines each year, the true value of Jazz Fest lies in its cultural variety. There are 15 stages and multiple tents across the fairgrounds `offering different musical genres, local foods, and fun activities.
Jazz Fest is also a great place to find a wide sampling of southern Louisiana food. Some of the best restaurants are a bit of a drive from the city, but many set up booths at Jazz Fest, offering some of the best foods all in one place. While you’re enjoying the musical acts, enjoy freshly cooked gumbo, jambalaya, pasta, po’ boys, and more. Check out a sampling of last year’s food.
French Quarter Attractions
With a rich history spanning over 300 years, New Orleans has lots to see and do. Start with the iconic French Quarter, the city’s oldest neighborhood. Visit Jackson Square, where local artists showcase their work alongside street performers entertaining cheerful crowds. Not too far away is St. Louis Cathedral, America’s oldest continuously operating cathedral, and right across the street is the New Orleans staple Cafe du Monde ,serving its famous beignets and chicory coffee.
Make your way across the levee to Woldenberg Park for a beautiful view of the Mississippi River and catch a glimpse of the vessel traffic that fuels the city’s economy. And if you want to get out on the river the Steamboat Natchez offers daily river cruises serving lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch.
At the other end of Woldenberg Park, you’ll find the newly renovated Audobon Aquarium. Consistently rated as one of the top aquariums in the U.S., its exhibits showcase the vast biodiversity of our oceans and waterways, with a special focus on local marine ecosystems and their fauna. The Audobon Insectarium is in the same building where, if you’re lucky, you might catch a newly transformed butterfly emerging from its cocoon! Elsewhere in the French Quarter, you can listen to live jazz music at Preservation Hall. Don’t let the building’s shabby exterior fool you; Preservation Hall is dedicated to preserving classical New Orleans jazz experiences with performances from the globally renowned Preservation Hall Jazz band in a historic venue with wooden seats and no air conditioning. Their shows capture the true essence of the jazz music scene and a key point for generations of New Orleans cultural pride.
Explore Beyond Downtown
Outside the French Quarter and downtown areas, New Orleans still has a lot to offer. Nearby is Uptown, where you could spend an entire day walking down Magazine Street, featuring dozens of restaurants, grand mansions, the St. Charles Streetcar, stores, and artists. Head to Mid-City to visit the New Orlean Museum of Art, which permanently houses over 50,000 pieces of art from around the world. The museum is inside New Orleans’ scenic City Park, which hosts an amusement park, another Cafe du Monde location, and 1,300 acres of outdoor space to experience nature. Take a short hike through Couturie Forest to reach the highest point in New Orleans, a whopping 27 feet above sea level!
If you’d rather stay close to downtown, the nearby Bywater and Marigny neighborhoods also have much to offer. Frenchmen Street is the place to be for live music in New Orleans, hosting several music clubs in addition to local restaurants and art markets. The nearby Crescent Park runs along 1.4 miles of the Mississippi River, providing great views. On the park’s eastern side, you can get a full view of downtown across the river and, if you arrive at dusk, you’ll witness the most beautiful sunset the city has to offer.
Southern, Asian, and Global Cuisine
New Orleans has a unique restaurant scene you won’t find anywhere else. Classic New Orleans staples like jambalaya, gumbo, and crawfish etouffee can be found all over. Many talented chefs have made a name for themselves perfecting these dishes and own restaurants that are cultural icons. Arnaud’s, Brennan’s, and Commander’s Palace are highly regarded, but the city is home to dozens of other less famous restaurants serving authentic, delicious local food. Whenever the Network’s staff visits New Orleans, Jacques-Imo’s is always a top dinner pick. There, upscale New Orleans food meets a laidback, casual atmosphere. Pay them a visit and the owner, Jacques, might be around to ask you how you like the food.
Aside from its more classical dishes, New Orleans is also famous for its po’ boy sandwiches served on fresh French bread. As with the city’s more “refined” cuisine, you’ll find dozens of places serving po’ boys around the city, with some of the best at Parkway Bakery & Taven and Shortstop. If you haven’t tried one before, be sure to order your first one fully dressed even if you’re not usually a fan of lettuce, tomato, mayo, and pickles.
Home to an incredibly diverse mix of restaurants serving food from all over the world. New Orleans also has a thriving Vietnamese community and home to some amazing Vietnamese food. Restaurants like Mint Modern Vietnamese, Pho Orchid, and Pho Nola serve vermicelli bowls, spring rolls, and other quintessential Vietnamese dishes. The must-try dish, though, is bánh mì, the Vietnamese equivalent of the po’ boy. They’re made on the same delicious French Bread, but usually include grilled pork and pickled carrots. The coalescence of New Orleans and Vietnamese culture around French bread has created a great city for sandwich lovers.
Outside those staple culinary genres, lots of other great restaurants don’t fall neatly into another category. Cafe Abyssinia on Magazine Street serves traditional Ethiopian food like injera and lamb tibs, a must try if you’ve never had it. The reservation only Yo Nashi offers a traditional Japanese omakase multi-course tasting menu that combines New Orleans seafood with traditional Japanese preparation styles. And if you’re just in the mood for some great Italian food, visit Impastato’s in Metairie to enjoy four courses of pasta and other Italian classics complemented by local seafood.
Tasty Treats for Tourists
New Orleans has a variety of dessert options that are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. Of course, you need to have some beignets, but there are also lots of other baked goods to try. Angelo Brocato has served classic Italian pastries and ice cream for over 100 years. Crêpes à la Cart is great for a quick snack, or you can get some of the city’s most unique ice cream flavors at one of Creole Creamery’s three locations.
Have a Few Drinks
Of course, New Orleans is famous for its party atmosphere. The famous Bourbon Street isn’t for the faint of heart. If you do make your way out there, be sure to stop by Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, one of the oldest bars in the United States. If the hustle and bustle of Bourbon Street is a bit much for you, the nearby Erin Rose is a common refuge for locals. The city’s downtown hotels also offer some great bars, with The Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel offering high quality craft cocktails and The Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone featuring a central, revolving circular bar that spins patrons at a rate of one spin every fifteen minutes.