Experience the Big Easy with its amazing blend of Cajun influences

New Orleans

Known affectionately as ‘the Big Easy’, New Orleans holidays take you to a Louisiana city located on the southern end of the mighty Mississippi River, right beside the Gulf of Mexico. Often referred to as a ‘melting pot’, the wonderful city of New Orleans is a unique fusion of a great many cultures, drawing influences from French, African and American traditions to name but a few.

New Orleans Mardi Gras

Given its eclectic cultural origins, it’s fair to say that there is no place quite like New Orleans, and it has a one of a kind festival atmosphere that lasts all year ‘round. The most well-known celebration in New Orleans has got to be the world famous Mardi Gras carnival and parade. Celebrated during the run up to Easter, Mardi Gras is an explosion of colour, flamboyancy and fun! Of course, outside of Mardi Gras season, there is always time for a party in New Orleans.
While New York City is often referred to as ‘the city that never sleeps’, Bourbon Street certainly gives it a run for its money! Fabled for its many bars and clubs which never close, Bourbon Street is party central and THE place to be at night time on your holiday to New Orleans. During the day though, it takes on a totally different visage, and is a place to go see world class live music performances and eat out at authentic local eateries.

‘The Big Easy’. Cue sax. Mardi Gras. Raucous partying. The US’s ‘most unique city’ where even funerals are musical extravaganzas. Sold to the US by Napoleon in 1803, New Orleans is known for its French and Spanish creole architecture. It’s a feast for the eyes, there is so much to see and discover on a New Orleans holiday. From shotgun houses – narrow dwellings with rooms one behind the other and doors at either end – to Creole townhouses with large courtyards and balconies with intricate ironwork.

Things to do in New Orleans

The marvellous French Quarter is designated as a National Historic Landmark. St Charles Avenue is famed for its mansions varying from Greek Revival to American Colonial. The city is also noted for its European-style Catholic cemeteries. New Orleans is a feast for the palate too. World-famous for its food, the indigenous cuisine derives from the amalgamation of local Creole, haute Creole and New Orleans French cuisines. Local ingredients, French, Spanish, Italian, African, Native American, Cajun, Chinese, and Cuban traditions combine to produce the unique Louisiana flavour. Then there’s the music. Unbeatable. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is one of the largest festivals in the US. And the nightlife, any night, is second-to-none. Believe us, it doesn’t end at dawn.

Much like the city itself, the food which is associated with New Orleans is a truly unique dining experience. Fusing the flavours of France, Mexico, Africa and the southern United States, there’s nothing quite like the city’s tangy and spicy blend of authentic dishes.

For the ultimate experience in Louisiana cuisine, be sure to try out a hearty serving of the city’s signature dish, gumbo; half way between a stew and a chunky soup, gumbo is hard to describe, with the locals insisting that it deserves a food group unto itself! Served in a bowl or on a plate, every restaurant has their own take on this wonderful dish. It can be based around seafood or more traditional meats like sausage or chicken, but it always comes served with a curious blend of special Cajun herbs and spices which will delight your tongue and tantalise the taste buds.

Fans of really big sandwiches will fall in love with New Orleans’ fabled bread-based snacks. The Po-Boy is arguably the most famous of these; a baguette style sandwich overstuffed with more meats than you can shake a stick at. Not far behind is the Muffeletta; served on square or round bread and stacked super high with more toppings than a person could care to count – the very definition of a ‘big eat’.

For breakfast, don’t miss out on a heaped serving of crawfish and grits – there really is nothing quite like this unique Louisiana dish!

If there’s one thing that New Orleans does even better than its parties and food, it has got to be its music, but where to begin? There is scarcely a bar or café in this amazing musical city that doesn’t have at least one resident jazz musician or blues band of exceptional quality. They say that nothing helps you digest a good meal like some great music, and New Orleans has been proving that theory since the early 19th Century!

Outside of the world renowned jazz and blues scene, there’s a lot of variety in the music of New Orleans A thriving rock ‘n’ roll and heavy metal scene has been in place since the late 1980s and it gets bigger every year, with some of the world’s most famous bands travelling from far and wide to play at the massive Mercedes-Benz Superdome Stadium, which boasts a capacity of well over 70,000 (the stadium’s record attendance was upward of 75,000 for the 2014 Wrestlemania event which saw the city taken over by wrestling fans). Similarly, the mid-1990s saw a new wave of hip-hop artists emerging, with the likes of Lil’ Wayne and Soulja Slim leading the charge.

The marvellous French Quarter of New Orleans is designated as a National Historic Landmark. St Charles Avenue is famed for its beautiful mansion-esque buildings which vary from Greek Revival to American Colonial in terms of style and architecture. The city is also noted for its European-style Catholic cemeteries (take a walking tour – if you dare!). These ever so slightly creepy constructs went a long way to influence one of the area’s most famous authors, Anne Rice, who wrote horror sensation The Vampire Chronicles, which would later be adapted to the hit film Interview with the Vampire starring Hollywood superstars Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Kirsten Dunst. To this day, many fans of the series travel to the Ann Rice Mansion in order to get a glimpse into the mind of their favourite writer and take the New Orleans Vampire Tour.

For those who want to see some of Louisiana’s natural splendour, be sure to check out Grand Isle and Avery Island, both of which are home to all sorts of wildlife, including a great many species of beautiful migratory birds including the iconic white egret. To see Louisiana’s famous toothy and scaly residents, hop onto one of the region’s airboat adventure tours and see yourself some alligators! For more fishy fun, check out the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas which is home to all sorts of tropical fish, sea turtles, sharks, penguins and even a super rare white alligator!

Of course, no trip to Louisiana would be complete without checking out the mighty Mississippi River in all of its majesty. While there are many ways to check out this amazing natural feature, nothing beats a good old fashioned boat trip. And there are none quite so authentic as the Steamboat Natchez Jazz Dinner Cruise which combines pretty much everything that makes New Orleans the amazing experience it is; from a live performance of smooth jazz to an all you can eat buffet complete with the finest of the fine Louisiana cuisine.