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!