51. The Court of Two Sisters’ century-old wisteria vine canopy and daily jazz brunch
52. Retracing 300 years of history on French Quarter walking tours
53. Watching the culinary magic unfold while dining at the kitchen table at Commander’s Palace
54. Picking up French accents, such as olive jars and anduze pots, at Antiques de Provence
55. Nottoway Plantation’s period-perfect, all-white ballroom
56. Watching the pros hand-roll Vieux Carré stogies at Cigar Factory New Orleans
57. Confederacy of Cruisers’ two-wheeled, three-sheets cocktail tour
58. Edible St. Joseph Day altars
59. GW Fins’ sizzling oysters and fresh-made biscuits
60. The Tennessee Williams Festival’s annual Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest in Jackson Square
61. Catching cabbages—and kisses—during the Irish Chanel St. Patrick’s Day Parade
62. The blue-ribbon fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House
63. The “Paris green” ironwork and copper-plated bathtub at Gallier House
64. Swinging back in time at the National WWII Museum’s Stage Door Canteen
65. Getting a whiff of springtime backyard crawfish boils
66. Posing for pictures with Fats Domino, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt and others at New Orleans Musical Legends Park
67. The mule-drawn Roman Chewing Candy cart distributing its trademark taffy along St. Charles Avenue as it has since 1915
68. Galatoire’s puffy soufflé potatoes and spirited Friday lunch crowd
69. The Napoleon-topped water fountain and business card-covered walls at the Old Absinthe House
70. Seeing fine-feathered Mardi Gras Indians strut through the streets on Super Sunday
71. Catching the Carnival spirit long after the parades have passed with a visit to Mardi Gras World
72. The Steamboat Natchez’s calliope piping out “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” during afternoon downpours
74. Aligning our chakras amid “Two Centuries of Louisiana History” at during Yoga at the Cabildo
75. Eyeing alligators—and getting eyed back—on an Airboat Adventures tour
For the first 50 things we love click here.
Dressed in all black with yellow-rimmed glasses, Terence Blanchard looks every bit the jazz great he is, speaking to an intimate crowd gathered at the Loews New Orleans hotel. The multiple Grammy-winning trumpeter and composer, who graduated from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts before touring with such legends as Lionel Hampton and Art Blakey, is perhaps best known for his many movie scores (from 1991’s “Jungle Fever” to 2016’s “The Comedian”). But it’s the National Opera Conference he’s returned to his hometown to address.
A jazz musician at an opera conference? An opera conference in the birthplace of jazz?
“New Orleans has had a tradition in the music world that people don’t really get,” says the 2018 USA Fellows awardee, who currently teaches at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. “Jazz is what people talk about, but opera has been a big part of this community for decades. My family didn’t listen to jazz; I was the one who brought that into the house. They listened to spiritual music and to opera. My father, mother, uncle and aunt—and a lot of our church members—were all fans of opera. And I thought they were the strangest people on earth.”
Even stranger was when the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis commissioned him to write an opera of his own in 2010. “At first I thought they were drunk,” Blanchard chuckles. “Jazz was my passion. But I kept thinking about life cycles and how things come back. When I look back on it, I never strayed far from opera because of my family; I heard that music all the time.”
What audience members will hear when the New Orleans Opera Association mounts Blanchard’s Champion: An Opera in Jazz March 9 and 11 at the Mahalia Jackson Theater is what the Huffington Post called “a unanimous winner” when it was performed at the SFJazz Center in 2016, prior to last year’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts staging. Based on the tragic, true-life story of boxer Emile Griffith and his legendary 1962 Madison Square Garden bout against Benny “The Kid” Paret, the plot line touches on everything from homosexuality to dementia.
“Most people in the sports world knew Griffith was gay,” Blanchard explains, “but he never put that out in public. At a press conference [before the fight], in an attempt to gain a psychological edge over Emile, Paret called him a very derogatory term and it upset Emile to no end.” So much so that Griffith pummeled his opponent with 17 punches in seven seconds, resulting in Paret’s subsequent coma and eventual death. Griffith would himself nearly die a few years later from a beating he received after leaving a gay bar.
“There was one line from his autobiography, ‘Nine…Ten…and Out!,’ that just floored me,” adds Blanchard. “He said, ‘I kill a man and the world forgives me. I love a man and the world wants to kill me.’ To me that was a very, very powerful line; being champion of the world and not being able to share that with someone you love.”
Not your conventional opera…or is it?
“Opera goes well beyond what people think it is,” says Blanchard, who is now at work on a new opera based on “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” by journalist Charles Blow. “Opera is about telling stories, it’s about life and things that are real. It’s about varied issues, societal issues, societal ills. To me, opera is great when you forget you are listening to opera.”
Other Voices, Other Rooms
Opera is nothing new to New Orleans. Since the late 1700s the city as laid claim to the first opera company in U.S. In 1859 architect James Gallier, Jr. erected the massive French Opera House on the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse streets, helping establish the city as “the Opera Capital of North America.” A mix of Greek Revival and Italianate influences, the ornate building held up to 2,600 patrons from all walks of life.
Destroyed by fire in 1919, the French Opera House was replaced by a hotel during the 1960s. Now a Four Points by Sheraton, you can still hear live opera on the site every second Wednesday of the month when Bon Operatit!, an ensemble of classical singers, performs for free in the hotel’s Puccini Bar. Also performing monthly at the Sheraton is Opera on Tap, an offshoot of the New Orleans Opera Association (which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year) that takes opera out of theaters and into area bars.
Named among Southern Living’s 2017 Southerners of the Year, mezzo-soprano Giovanni Joseph and daughter Aria Mason founded OperaCréole in 2011, breathing new life into the circa-1853 Marigny Opera House and providing an much-welcome vehicle for rarely staged works by early African-American composers. The Marigny Opera House is also home to the Marigny Opera Ballet.
There is a connection between pancakes and Mardi Gras. No, really. In commonwealth countries, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (which we call Fat Tuesday) is known as Shrove Tuesday or “Pancake Day.” Shrove is a form of shrive, which means to seek absolution. In short, the Christian practice of gorging and excess on Fat Tuesday is a last hurrah before Lent. Believe it or not, pancakes are considered decadent because they are made with extravagant ingredients—eggs, butter, milk, sugar—to be used up before the food austerity of the Lenten season.
New Orleans, lately a very serious breakfast town, with a substantial amount of breakfast restaurants and traditions, has a fine list of places for great stacks. Those looking for a basic pancake, will find loads of casual and fancy places.
Pull into the Trolley Stop Café, a 24/7 Uptown place that gilds the lily with a divinely sweet Bavarian cream-topped pancake. Or check out Coulis in the Garden District, where the oversized, single pancake is called “precious.” Ask why; there’s a cute story there.
On the more fancy side there’s the insanely delicious, butter-bomb pancakes at Carrollton Market that come with top-quality Vermont maple syrup and smoky slices of crisp Benton’s bacon. “For our batter we make a kind of loose emulsion, Hollandaise-style,” says chef Jason Goodenough, “with the eggs and melted butter, to mix with the milk before adding the dry ingredients. It makes an insane pancake.”
Canal Street Bistro plates up an incredible list of pancake options, both regular and gluten-free. Ask them to add some house granola to the basic batter for an incredible combination of tender pancake and crunchy bits. Do not miss the butter-drenched, souffléed German pancakes.
Basic pancake batter is also an easy flavor playground. Red Gravy uses browned butter to bolster its blend. There are also powdered sugar-dusted, cannoli-filled pancakes topped with cream. Satsuma has a daily pancake depending on whim and season; recently there was a tart-sweet ginger-cranberry version. The Ruby Slipper Café, known for its over-the-top pancakes like Cinnamon Swirl and Bacon Praline, also does a “Pancake of the Day,” which has in the past included Red Velvet. At Slim Goodies there are six different choices. Go for the earthy sweet potato or an egg-in-the-middle Todd Joy.
Diners with specialty diets can also find pancakes. In the French Market, Meals from the Heart griddles lofty vegan/gluten-free blueberry pancakes, while on Freret Street Bearcat cooks up superior banana-packed paleo pancakes to partner with its homemade bison sausage patties.
Partake in tradition. There are many ways to flip for pancakes on Shrove Tuesday—or any day.
In honor of the city’s tricentennial, each month during 2018 we are highlighting a few of our favorite things (25 things x 12 months = 300 things we love!).
1. Taking a spin on City Park’s century-old carousel
2. The cornstalk fence at 915 Royal Street—one of the city’s most photographed sites
3. Grown men wearing bibs while devouring barbecue shrimp at Pascal’s Manale
4. Serene St. Anthony’s Garden, the city’s oldest green space, tucked behind St. Louis Cathedral, the nation’s oldest active Catholic cathedral
5. The gilded Joan of Arc statue, (Decatur and Dumaine streets), glinting in the afternoon sun
6. Locals’ obsession with king cake
7. Listening to live opera at Four Points by Sheraton on the second Saturday of the month, where the nation’s first opera house once stood
8. The Vieux Carré’s Spanish street tiles
11. The 2000-year-old cypress-log table and indigo-stained bar at Restaurant R’evolution
12. Warming up with a flaming café brûlot (coffee, brandy and spices) at Antoine’s, were the drink originated during the 1890s
13. The nightly light shows on the exterior of the Superdome
14. Letting little hands take the reins on mule-led carriage rides
15. The boudin tamales at Meril
16. The scent of vetiver, a Creole ladies’ dressing table staple, wafting out of Hové
17. Time-traveling via a visit to the Historic New Orleans Collection’s Louisiana History Gallery
18. The French Quarter’s horse-head hitching posts and fish-mouth downspouts
19. The circa-1750 staircase at the Old Ursuline Convent
20. Louis Armstrong’s first cornet, on view at the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint
21. Sneaking peeks into cloistered French Quarter courtyards
22. The clickety clack of the St. Charles streetcar rumbling along the avenue
23. Catching an in-store performance while rummaging the racks at the Louisiana Music Factory
24. Spying a Civil War submarine while roaming the grounds at Houmas House Plantation
25. Imbibing in history with a Sazerac cocktail at the Sazerac Bar
New Orleans is always up for a party.
Come New Year's, Christmas garlands come down and Carnival season bunting goes up. Just six days into January, and we’re back in the streets, ready for Twelfth Night revelry. This year promises to be even more celebratory than usual, with the city commemorating its big 3-0-0 anniversary throughout 2018 and other local institutions joining in. Keep your party hats on and those noisemakers at the ready; the Big Easy has a bang-up, blowout year ahead.
300: New Orleans
Gold traditionally marks 50th celebrations and diamonds are synonymous with 75th, but what’s appropriate for a 300th anniversary? For New Orleans, the answer is obvious: a yearlong party. It started in November with fireworks at City Park. Early January brought more fireworks to kick off Carnival festivities, followed by a tricentennial Mass at St. Louis Cathedral, which unveiled a new Vatican-blessed statue of St. John Paul II, in honor of his visit 1987 visit to the city.
Visitors will also find a number of anniversary-related exhibits around town. At the Odgen Museum, “Solidary & Solitary” spotlights African-American artists from the 1940s through today, while “The Church and the Crescent” explores 300 years of Catholicism in the city at the Old Ursuline Convent. Foodies get their fill with “The Women Who Made the Food of New Orleans” at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Those bells ringing in the French Quarter? That’s artist Zarouhie Abdalian’s sound-based installation, “Recitations (…pour le triomphe de la liberté et de l’égalité…),” which can be heard daily at 3 pm through early June.
Elsewhere around the city you’ll spot black-and-gold markers at such iconic sites as the Old U.S. Mint, the Fair Grounds Race Course and the Hermann-Grima House. They’re part of local public television station WYES-TV’s Tricentennial Moments project, which encourages visitors to learn more of the city’s 300-year backstory via short videos accessed by scanning the plaques’ QR codes on their smartphones.
Additional highlights from the coming year include: The Historic New Orleans Collection’s New Orleans, the Founding Era exhibit opening in February, the “Up From the Streets” concert in March, April’s arrival of the Tall Ships and gathering of international dignitaries at historic Gallier Hall, new murals and illuminated NOLA300 installations at various locations around the city and, yes … even more fireworks from City Park to the riverfront. For a full schedule of events, visit 2018nola.com.
Also included in the NOLA300 celebration lineup is the Jan. 25-28 staging of Tabasco: A Burlesque Opera at Le Petit Theatre, which also serves as a salute to the famed Louisiana-based hot sauce company’s 150th anniversary. The rarely produced comedic work, which dates to 1894 and was recently resurrected by local conductor Paul Mauffray in 2012, recounts the tale of an Ottoman ruler bored with bland food and his desperate chef’s efforts to spice things up. Produced by the New Orleans Opera Association, in conjunction with its own 75th anniversary, the rollicking revival is backed by a full orchestra.
Hot sauce fans should also schedule a tour of the Tabasco factory and its 170-acre Jungle Gardens and bird sanctuary. The two-hour Avery Island excursion makes a great day trip; to make it easy on visitors, Tabasco offers round-trip bus tours that include lunch at its 1868 restaurant.
100: Arnaud’s Restaurant
For a real taste of history, head to Arnaud’s, which pops the cork on a century of Creole fine dining this year. The legendary eatery, which has fed and feted numerous celebrities and U.S. presidents, touts a menu that has remained largely unchanged over the past 100 years, with such signature dishes as oysters Bienville and shrimp in remoulade sauce. But throughout 2018 the restaurant will roll out new items, such as Gulf Fish Gremobloise, in celebration of its next 100 years. Between courses, sneak upstairs to check out the Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum, which houses Carnival finery worn by the daughter of founder Arnaud Cazenave.
50: Where New Orleans
This year also sees Where New Orleans reach the half-century mark; 50 years of bringing the best of the Big Easy to our readers. To mark the occasion, we jumped in the wayback machine and plied through archival issues, which we’ll be highlighting each month during 2018. Like Arnaud’s, we’re also looking ahead, with an eye on the early 2019 opening of the new Louis Armstrong International Airport terminal, which will feature its own WhereTraveler store. To infinity and beyond!
Breakout local artist Brandan Odums makes a big statement in a big way with "Ephemera Eternal," his ongoing solo exhibit at StudioBE. Housed in a massive Bywater warehouse, the sprawling space serves as the perfect setting for Odums’ giant, graffiti-style murals.
The evocative collection explores African-American life, from the Civil Rights era to the Black Lives Matter movement, through powerful portraits of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and other pivotal players coupled with images of everyday individuals.
Odums is a graduate of the nearby New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, and his StudioBE is just steps from the school's 5 Press Gallery, which spotlights works by other up-and-coming students. Stop by after viewing Odums' exhibit then grab a bite at the adjacent Press Street Station.
Slideshow: Brandan Odums' "Ephemera Eternal"
(All Images @Shawn Fink)
The Crescent City pulls out all the stops come Christmastime. From the blazing bonfire along the Algiers riverfront at the beginning of December (designed to help guide the way for Papa Noël and his gator-pulled pirogue) to the dueling fireworks display over the Mississippi on New Year’s Eve, you’ll find bright spots and festive fun all over town all month long.
Where to begin? We wrapped a few of our favorite things just for you.
Celebration in the Oaks
This massive holiday lights spectacular transforms City Park into a winter wonderland with wow-worthy displays like the Dripping Snow Tree with its 42,000 LED lights. Traditionalists find what they’re after in the towering Poinsettia Tree, created from 500 live plants.
The Windsor Court, Harrah’s, the Roosevelt: Step into just about any hotel lobby, and you’re greeted by the scent of the season and giant gingerbread houses (you can literally walk right through the Ritz-Carlton’s). Hungry for more? Get thee to NOLA Christmas Fest.
Not a gingerbread fan? What about king cake? Locals will tell you king cake season doesn’t start until Jan. 6 (Twelfth Night), but Haydel’s skirts the rules with its similar-looking holiday season must-have. Each year the beloved bakery turns out more than 20,000 of the buttery pastry rounds loaded with praline filling and topped with caramel icing and pecans.
The Roosevelt’s block-long lobby decorations have been enchanting guests since the 1930s. What was once a riot of angel hair and flocked trees (under the Fairmont’s then-ownership) is now an elegant alley lined with lacquered birch branches accented with hand-blown ornaments, Fraser firs and thousands of white lights.
From the French Quarter to the Garden District, the riverfront to the lakefront, Uptown to down, the local passion for pageantry is on full display during the holidays. Nobody does it better than homeowners along stately St. Charles Avenue, whose jaw-dropping, decked-out digs slow traffic to a crawl. Instead, grab a seat on the streetcar, and take in the show for just $1.25.
Crab-shell St. Nicks. Check. Red pepper string lights. Check. Glittered crawfish, oyster shells and hot sauce bottles. Check, check and check. Christmas New Orleans style is on display year-round at this well-stocked holiday shop. Scope out the Mardi Gras section...’tis almost the season.
Move over, Manhattan. In recent years New Orleans has positioned itself as one to the nation's top New Years Eve destinations. Even The New York Times counts it among “Four Cities That Celebrate New Year’s Eve in a Big Way.” Just how big? The Big Easy’s year-end celebration has grown so popular that now New York comes to New Orleans, with Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest broadcasting live from Jackson Square.
From Bourbon Street to the riverfront, Preservation Hall to Audubon Zoo, you’ll find 2018 kickoff parties all over town all day long.
Louisiana Children's Museum and Audubon Zoo: Think New Year’s Eve is only for adults? Not in New Orleans. The small-fry big fun gets going early at the Louisiana Children’s Museum (9:30 am) and Audubon Zoo (10:30 am). Both cater to kids with a variety of games and activities before ringing in 2018 at noon.
Allstate Sugar Bowl Fan Fest and Parade: For 84 years the nation’s second-oldest college bowl game has played out here, and over the past decade the free fan fest preceding the annual Allstate Sugar Bowl has morphed into a giant NYE pre-party. Things get rolling at 2:30 pm with a parade along Decatur Street, followed by top-tier music acts (Imagine Dragons, Walk the Moon) in the JAX Brewery parking lot, beginning at 9 pm.
Jackson Square: The Crescent City Countdown Club’s annual NOLA New Year’s Eve celebration culminates at midnight with the dropping of the fleur-de-lis (hey, it’s New Orleans) from the top of JAX Brewery and fireworks over the Mississippi.
Woldenberg Park and Crescent Park: Searching for the perfect perch for viewing the big bang? Join the thousands of others who line the banks of the river along Woldenberg Park. Too crowded? Nearby Crescent Park also offers riverfront access, along with room to spread out.
You can’t get much closer to the fireworks action than in the middle of the Mississippi aboard the Steamboat Natchez or Creole Queen Paddlewheeler. Both offer New Years Eve cruises with dinner, dancing and plenty of bubbly.
Hotels and Special-Event Venues
Hyatt Regency Hotel: Billed as “the biggest and best New Years celebration anywhere,” the Hyatt’s Big Night New Orleans is part of Big Night America, the largest New Year’s Eve series in the nation. Numerous dance floors and party spaces, nine bands (including Big Sam's Funky Nation and Cowboy Mouth) and DJs, cool party favors…did we mention the all-night open bar?
Westin Canal Place Hotel: With sweeping views of the river and two floors of entertainment (the Bucktown All-Stars in the ballroom, DJs in the Plimsoll Club), the Westin’s year-end blowout ranks as one of the city’s best. The tony affair features incredible edibles, a premium open bar and separate VIP rooms for an extra-special experience.
Riverview Room: Located in the “Times Square of the South” (aka JAX Brewery), this spectacular space is a prime spot for viewing the fireworks and festivities, both indoors and out. A full buffet, open bar and live entertainment help seal the deal.
Marché: The riverfront’s newest NYE venue puts on one of the city’s most opulent parties, with gourmet food stations (crab beignets, beef tenderloin with black truffle sauce, fresh Gulf seafood), free-flowing champagne, live entertainment and killer views.
Stage Door Canteen: Swing back to the 1940s at the National WWII Museum. The retro-themed fun includes Big Band music by Victory Swing Orchestra, a five-course seated dinner with complimentary wine and beer and a midnight chocolate buffet.
Bourbon Vieux: Take in the fireworks and the revelry below from the largest balcony on Bourbon Street. The place to bead during Mardi Gras, this special-events space adds a bit of Carnival atmosphere to the evening.
Clubs and Theaters
House of Blues: The popular French Quarter club takes on a decidely Italian accent for Bella Notte: An Italian Night Extravaganza. The Yat Pat and DJ Jammin Jorge perform while guests are treated to champagne, a four-course, Italian-inspired meal and a commeorative photo with the band.
The Jazz Playhouse: This swanky venue tucked inside the Royal Sonesta Hotel blows out 2017 with an open bar, a top-notch buffet and a noisey send-off by the Brass-A-Holics.
Joy Theater: It’s been a big, breakout year for Tank and the Bangas, the hard-to-peg New Orleans group that won the 2017 NPR Tiny Desk Contest. Celebrate with them as they ring in 2018 with up-and-coming indie rockers Sweet Crude and others.
The Orpheum Theater: Last year New Year's Eve performance by The Revivalists, named by Rolling Stone as one of 2016’s “10 Bands You Need to Know,” proved so popular that this year the party spreads out over three full days.
Preservation Hall: Hot jazz and cool cocktails are the draw of Hall Lang Syne, the venerable venue’s annual “narrowly elegant affair.”
Mahalia Jackson Theater: Funny lady Amy Schumer leaves 2017 laughing. Catch the award-winning actress and comedian, when she joins forces with special guest Ani DeFranco.
The Big Easy becomes the Big Easel with the opening of Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp Nov. 18, 2017. The fourth iteration of the largest periodic international contemporary art exhibition in the U.S. continues through Feb. 25, 2018, spotlighting 73 artists from more than 25 countries working in a wide range of media at 17 different venues.
Aligning with New Orleans’ tricentennial celebration, P.4 is reflective of the city’s varied cultural influences and features 38 commissioned original works, in addition to 60-plus satellite exhibit spaces.
While past Prospects have been scattered throughout the city, P.4 is more linear, with special emphasis on the Mississippi riverfront. Crescent Park, which runs along the river from the French Quarter to the Bywater neighborhood, features sculpture by Atlanta’s Radcliffe Bailey and others, a video by Miami filmmaker Jillian Mayer and a mural by Runo Lagomarsino, who was recently featured in the Venice Biennale.
Manhattan-based artist Derrick Adams created a multimedia installation for the Riverfront streetcar; take it to the end of the line and you’ll find another by Nigerian-born abstract artist Odili Donald Odita at the Algiers ferry landing. Take the ferry across the river and you’ll discover a new work by Kara Walker (of “Sugar Sphinx” fame) in collaboration with jazz pianist Jason Moran, along with a river-themed installation by fellow New Yorker Mark Dion.
Highlights include collages created by Louis Armstrong at New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint, London-based filmmaker John Akomfrah’s feature-length documentary on jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the late Barkley L. Hendricks’ post-modern portraits of people of color at the New Orleans Museum of Art.
For a full lineup of artists, venues and related events visit the Prospect New Orleans website.
GALLERY: PROSPECT.4 NEW ORLEANS
Christmas may be all about children ... but won’t somebody please think of the adults?! These big-kid events celebrate the season outside the traditional holiday box.
The Fleur de Tease burlesque troupe puts a sexy spin on the classic ballet Dec. 2 and 3 at One Eyed Jacks, incorporating aerialists, magicians and scantily clad performers to help flesh things out.
Running of the Santas
Thousands of studly St. Nicks, risqué reindeer and inebriated elves take to the streets of the Central Business District Dec. 9 for “the world’s naughtiest pub crawl.” The nog gets flowing at 3 pm at Manning’s, where the booze-fueled run kicks off at 6 pm. The post-party includes a costume contest and live music.
Very Bad Santa Crawl & Krewe of Kringle Parade
A Drag Queen Christmas
You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, but what about Latrice and Eureka and Sasha and Chi Chi? Contestants from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” hit the Civic Theater with full-on holiday fierceness Dec. 13.
Big Freedia’s Holiday Bounce Around the Block Party
New Orleans’ Queen of Bounce leads a booty-popping procession along St. Claude Avenue Dec. 16, with stops the Art Garage, AllWays Lounge, Siberia and more. Live performances at each venue.
Naked Sushi Christmas Party
Christmas comes early on Bourbon Street with the Penthouse Club’s annual holiday hoedown, featuring an open bar and nyotaimori (aka body sushi). Sharpen up your chopstick skills Dec. 21, from 8 to 11 pm.
Air Sex Championships Holiday Special
This isn’t your grandma’s pantomime. Think you’ve seen it all? Think again Dec. 22 at One Eyed Jacks.
Snow in New Orleans? Yes, and there’s ice-skating, too, and Santa sightings at just about every turn. The magic of the season is on full display this month with a variety of holiday events designed to bring out the inner child in even the scroogiest of Scrooges.
Restaurants citywide serve up special holiday offerings during December. Harking back to the 1800s French tradition of multicourse dinners following Christmas Eve midnight Mass, Reveillon menus are found at eateries all over town, from Antoine’s to Vacherie.
Celebration in the Oaks
This dazzling display draws thousands to scenic City Park each year with dozens of illuminated holiday vignettes spread over 25 acres. Highlights include the “Dripping Snow Tree,” a massive live oak covered with 42,000 twinkling lights.
St. Louis Cathedral and St. Augustine Church Concerts
Historic St. Louis Cathedral and St. Augustine Church offer free holiday concerts throughout the month. St. Augustine—Dec. 2: Robin Barnes; Dec. 9: Betty Winn and One A-Chord; Dec. 16: Don Vappie presents a Very Vappie Christmas. St. Louis—Dec. 4: Ellis Marsalis; Dec. 5: Javier Olondo presents a Celebration of Latino Christmas Traditions; Dec. 6: BeauSoleil Trio avec Michael Doucet; Dec. 7: Opera Creole; Dec. 10: The Boutté Family; Dec. 11: Wendell Brunious; Dec. 12: The Zion Harmonizers; Dec. 13: Panorama Jazz Band; Dec. 14: Christmas Organ Spectacular featuring Davide Mariano; Dec. 17: St. Louis Basilica Annual Christmas Concert.
A bit of liquid cheer? Check cocktail menus for toast-worthy Toddy Season creations. What started out a decade ago as a one-night, local affair is now a monthlong event, spanning coast to coast.
Hotel Monteleone Choral Concerts
The Monteleone’s marble lobby provides pitch-perfect acoustics for the joyful noise of local school choirs that perform Dec. 4-8 and 11-15.
Caroling in Jackson Square
For seven decades locals and visitors have joined together and joined voices during this candle-lit sing-along, whichtakes places Dec. 17 at 6:30 pm in Jackson Square.
Miracle on Fulton Street
Simulated snowfalls, caroling and Santa sightings take place throughout the month along the Fulton Street pedestrian corridor, adjacent to Harrah’s Hotel.
Cirque Dreams Holidaze
Gingerbread acrobats, tightrope-walking toy soldiers and singing ornaments: The ho-hum holiday pageant gets ramped way up in this high-energy extravaganza at the Saenger Theatre.
This state-of-the-art spectacle uses video-mapping technology to transform Lafayette Square’s circa-1853 Gallier Hall into a modern masterpiece. Free viewings take place Dec. 6-9 on the hour, from 6 to 10 pm. Additional interactive intallations line Lafayette Street.
Holiday Movies on the Mississippi
Grab a fleece throw and go-cups of cocoa then cuddle up in the New Orleans Convention Center Plaza for free screenings of “The Polar Express” Dec. 8 and “Elf” Dec. 15, starting at 6:30 pm.
Reindeer Run & Romp and Holiday Scavenger Hunt
Antler-adorned small fries have big fun dashing around the Shops at Canal Place and gathering holiday goodies along the way. The run kicks off Dec. 9 at 9 am.
Krewe of Jingle Parade
Mr. Bingle—a New Orleans holiday icon—returns to Canal Street, where he once graced Christmas window displays, Dec. 2. The procession begins at 1 pm and culminates with Santa’s arrival.
Partying with Papa Noël
A little one-on-one time with the Big Guy? You'll find him at the Royal Sonesta Dec. 10, 17 and 21-23 during its charming Teddy Bear Tea. Mr. and Mrs. Clause take to the Mississippi Dec. 23 for the Creole Queen’s Cajun Holiday Tea and the following evening for the Steamboat Natchez’s Christmas Eve Cruise. You’ll also find the jolly old elf downing holiday Hurricanes every Friday and Saturday throughout December when Santa Visits Pat O’Brien’s.
Algiers Bonfire & Concert
Hop the ferry at the foot of Canal Street Dec. 2 to take in this blaze of glory along the Mississippi River. Designed to help guide the way for Papa Noël, the family-friendly affair features live entertainment beginning at 5:30 pm, before the big burn at 8:30 pm.
Holiday Home Tours
’Tis the season to go a-wassailing. Pay a visit to decked-out Uptown homes Dec. 9-10 during the Preservation Resource Center’s annual holiday home tour. The Patio Planters provide peeks into festive French Quarter digs Dec. 17, while the historic Gallier and Hermann-Grima houses offer insight on Christmas past throughout the month.
Craving something offbeat? A little bugnog and fruit-fly cake Dec. 9 at the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium should hit the spot.
The Convention Center morphs into a winter wonderland Dec. 22-31. The syncopated light/music show outside hints at the festive fun and 70-plus decorated trees found within. Among the highlights is an indoor ice rink, ice slides, gingerbread displays and Carnival rides.
Great Russian Nutcracker
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a staging of Tchaikovsky’s holiday classic, and it doesn’t get much more classic than a performance by the Moscow Ballet Dec. 26 at the Saenger Theatre.
Orpheum Holiday Spectacular
The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra joins forces with the 610 Stompers dance troupe (“ordinary men with extraordinary moves”) Dec. 9-10 at the Orpheum Theater, backed by special guest local artists.
Preservation Hall's Creole Christmas
It doesn’t get much more joyful—or New Orleans-y—than this jazzed-up holiday hoedown at the venerable Hall. Matinee performances are held Dec. 17 and on Christmas Eve.
This group, known for its laser-light shows, has had fans rocking around the Christmas tree for more than two decades. This year’s production, an update of 1999’s “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve,” lights up the Smoothie King Center Dec. 20.
Home for the Holidays
Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Irma Thomas, Kermit Ruffins, John Boutté: The all-star lineup for this annual benefit concert for the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts is hard to beat. Slide on some dancing shoes and head to the House of Blues Dec. 22
Home for the Holidays With the Victory Belles
Christmas past is present at the National WWII Museum’s Stage Door Canteen, where the Victory Belles (think the Andrews Sisters morphed with the Rockettes) salute the season with a full month of performances.
Christmas Eve Bonfires
Missed the Algiers bonfire at the beginning of the month? Head Head 40 miles upriver Dec. 24 to St. James parish, and you’ll spot more than 100 additional pyres in all shapes and sizes lining the riverfront between Gramercy and Paulina. Gray Line offers rountrip transportation.
Irving Berlin’s 1950s musical comedy has established itself as one of the most popular holiday movies of all time. Catch the traveling Broadway production at the Saenger Theater Dec. 19-24.
For a full list of Yuletide activities, visit followyourjoy.com.
My mother and I are sitting on the porch of a friend-of-a-friend’s house in the Lower 9th Ward. We’re here because a different friend-of-a-friend asked me to throw together an act for the show he’s hosting. “We really want to have some locals,” he’d said.
I wonder if he’s disappointed; I can count the locals in attendance on one hand. I overhear pieces of conversations about Brooklyn and Portland. Flat vowels tumbling from Midwestern mouths: the accents of the new New Orleans.
My mom is gazing across the street, watching a pair of stylish twentysomethings lock their bikes to a 100-year-old fence. “I don’t think I’ve ever been down in this neighborhood before.”
“Ma,” I say, “What are you talking about? Grandma Vera’s house was right over there.”
My mom’s mother lived two streets over, on Charbonnet. The little blonde brick house is gone, swept away by a wall of water. My grandma died in another state, a world away from home. The last time I went to see where her home had been, the lot was a mess of foliage and rubble. Unrecognizable.
Walking back to the car after the show, I pay attention to the license plates on parked cars. Ohio. California. On a station wagon with Rhode Island plates is a single bumper sticker: “New Orleans. Proud To Call It Home.”
New Orleanians don’t generally stray far. According to the last census before Hurricane Katrina, 77 percent of New Orleanians were natives. We had the highest percentage of native-born residents of any major U.S. city. Our population is concentrated, and that concentration has allowed us to maintain the city’s unique cultural fabric.
But, with so many of its weavers and preservers scattered post-K, New Orleans’ cultural fabric is unraveling. No one’s crunched the numbers, but there are hints that New Orleans isn’t as New Orleanian as it used to be. Little demographic bread crumbs that lead from effect to cause.
You can see that something’s changing. More than the individual signs—the Whole Foods on Broad, the explosion of restaurants serving organic artisanal everything, the popping up of pop-up after pop-up—it’s in the atmosphere. When we met someone new, we used to ask what school they’d attended or who their relatives were. Now, the question is more likely to be “Where are you from?” And often, the answer is somewhere that is not here.
There’s a heavy sadness that sneaks up on me in this new New Orleans. The feeling when you look around, like my mom did on that porch, and realize you didn’t recognize your own home.
This anxiety about culture and communal identity—this fear of losing your home even when you are in it—isn’t new. In fact, it’s got a long history.
For the French who founded the city, the threat wasn’t newcomers; they were the newcomers. Instead, their fear was that they might lose their Frenchness. How long could they live in le sauvage—the wild—before they became sauvage too? A generation later, New Orleanians worried German settlers would erode their Frenchness. Then it was Haitian refugees and a new Spanish government. Next, Anglos and Protestants and the new American government threatened to be the end of la Nouvelle Orleans. White New Orleanians’ resistance to Radical Republicans during Reconstruction was not only rooted in racism, but also xenophobia; carpetbaggers were foreigners bringing the threat of change.
Today it’s easy to ignore those worries. After all, the city’s still here, isn’t it? Well, yes. But it’s English, not French or Spanish, you’ll hear outside the Cabildo. K&B, our homegrown drugstore chain, was bought out by a national brand. They’re growing up on the same corner in Gentilly that I did, but my children won’t know Zuppardo’s, the city’s first self-serve grocery; it didn’t survive the storm. That piece of history—and of my childhood—is gone forever. Or, to put it in more local terms, it ain’t dere no more.
I think those early New Orleanians were right to be afraid. Their fears became reality; the city’s still here, but their cities are gone.
Sometimes I look around and find myself in a New Orleans so new I feel foreign in it, and it’s almost too much to bear. But I find comfort in the earliest New Orleanians’ oldest fear: the fear of becoming sauvage. Before we were afraid of Americanization or gentrification, we feared this place. The earliest citizens of New Orleans worried that, cut off from the colonial body, they would become part of the swamps they’d settled. They weren’t wrong. Their children weren’t French; they were New Orleanian.
Many of the outsiders who moved here after the storm have settled by now. They’ve fallen in, bought homes, married. Their children will share the city with mine. And it’s sadly sweet to think, 10 or 20 years from now, when the next wave of outsiders comes to make New Orleans new again, those kids, all grown up, will worry about protecting and preserving their city’s culture.
Just like New Orleanians always have.
It may seem too obvious, but old-school sliced bread sandwiches are having a serious moment, especially if there’s an interesting twist or unique filling. Check out what’s between the “toast bread”—as locals say—and more than worth the carbs.
Killer PoBoys’ two locations, 'Big Killer' on Dauphine and 'Lil Killer' inside the Erin Rose bar on Conti, means two menus. At 'Big' there’s the "Roasted Cauliflower Sandwich" with romesco sauce, avocado, radish and crispy kale on whole-grain bread. At 'Lil' there’s a "Jameson Grilled Cheese" with aged English cheddar and Jameson Irish whiskey on whole-grain.
Aglio, a South Market neighborhood deli with house-cured meats, condiments and fresh veg, has a fine list of sandwiches, among which is the "Uncle B.B. Sammy"—a hot ham and cheese with garlic gremolata, lettuce and tomato on loaf slices of the shop’s signature black brioche.
Within walking distance of the New Orleans Museum of Art, petite 1000 Figs is well known for its falafel, fries and scorched Brussels sprouts. But the sleeper is a cozy chicken salad sandwich on fat slices from a Leo’s Bread loaf.
The buttery white bread at Turkey and the Wolf forms the foundation for "Leighann’s Fried Bologna." But the current star is a triple-decker "Collard Green Melt:" slow-cooked collards, Swiss cheese, pickled cherry, pepper dressing and coleslaw on rye.
New Orleans Cake Café, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary in the Marigny neighborhood, has legions of fans for its messy-good Reuben with thick slices of corned beef, homemade kraut and Russian dressing on house rye.
Oak Street’s specialty grocery store, Simone’s Market, offers Louisiana-made, -grown and -raised products, a prepared-food case and an easy menu of salads and sandwiches. Get the "Pimento Grilled Cheese with Bacon Jam" and house pickles on sourdough.
In addition to its gorgeous new décor, The Country Club features a lovely menu from chef Chris Barbato that includes his ramped-up BLT called the "BEAT"—bacon, sunny-side up egg, avocado and tomato on brioche pan bread.
Labor Day may have passed, but there are still two full weeks before autumn’s arrival to get out and play. You’ll find plenty of fun games around town, both outdoors and in, year-round.
Dave & Buster’s
With summer came the long-awaited opening of the local link in the popular Texas-based video arcade/sports bar chain. Strategically located near the Superdome, the sprawling good-times emporium features more than 165 video games, along with bowling, billiards and numerous HD TVs for sports watching.
A side of history with your golf game? This two-course miniature golf park, located within City Park, tests your swing skills and your knowledge of local lore at each hole. The Louisiana Course spotlights points of interest around the state, while the New Orleans course is more city-centric.
“Eat. Drink. Play.” That’s the motto at this adult fun house. Life-size Jenga, giant Connect Four boards, skee ball, air hockey, retro arcade games, fried PB&J sandwiches, 20-plus draft beers—what’s not to like?
This isn’t your grandpa’s bowling alley. Sleek and contemporary, this industrial-chic space offers 12 boutique lanes, along with craft cocktails and incredible edibles. Bowling not your game? Roll over to the adjacent game room for bocce ball, chess, darts, shuffleboard, Scrabble and more.
Rock ’n’ Bowl
Slip off your bowling shoes and hit the dance floor. Since the 1990s, this locally loved Mid-City must-do has coupled bowling with live music by some of the area’s top acts. Zydeco, blues, brass, Cajun, swamp pop, swing—you name it, you’ll hear it.
What do you get when you have three mystery-room venues in one city? Triple the fun. Mardi Gras and jazz are the overarching themes at Escape My Room, while Clue Carré offers its own Carnival-themed take, in addition to “Vampire Hunter,” “Voodoo” and “Haunted Swamp” rooms. To really ramp up the fear factor, check into the Mystere Mansion, housed in a former funeral home.