The Big Easy. Crescent City. NOLA. There’s no shortage of nicknames for “N'Awlins” — but then again, there’s no shortage of anything in this iconic city. New Orleans may be the closest thing you can experience to a culture shock in North America (and we mean that in the best way possible). Its storied history is topped only by its flavorful cuisine and musical legacy. Its resilient people are renowned for their unique dialect, artistic souls and welcoming nature. Its world-famous festivals and vibrant nightlife fill the streets with people at all hours, making it a one-of-a-kind place to explore.
From French to Native American to Caribbean, a complex web of influences led to the city of New Orleans we know and love today, all still very visible in the makeup of the city — if you know where to look. Like any city, the best way to soak in New Orleans’s big personality is to hit the streets, so mix yourself a Sazerac (the official beverage of NOLA) and let’s dive in! Get a feel for the French Quarter with this block-by-block guide of Frenchman Street, admire the historic buildings and landmarks that line charming Jackson Square or ride along St. Charles Street in a historic streetcar. You can also virtually explore many of New Orleans’s cultural gems, from browsing works in the Museum of Art to spotting African penguins in the Audubon Aquarium and experiencing the National WWII Museum — an extraordinary museum that dramatically tells the story of the war that changed the world.
From cloud-like beignets to savory gumbo, you’ll find a wide variety of dishes worth sinking your teeth into. Creole, Cajun, French, Spanish — the list goes on and on. And while a fried oyster Po-Boy may not be the easiest recipe to replicate at home, several of the city’s most iconic dishes are less complicated to craft. The iconic Muffuleta sandwich, for example, is based on ease. After a large number of Sicilians immigrated to New Orleans in late 1800s, the area near the French Market became known as “Little Palermo.” Sicilian workers often stopped into the local deli for bread, olives, cold cuts, and cheese for lunch, which they could eat on the go. The trick for crafting this mouthwatering sandwich at home? Find a flavorful olive salad with plenty of juice to top your salami and ham. Watch the owner of Central Grocery put this famous sandwich together!
If you’re craving some NOLA cuisine, the New Orleans tourism website is chock full of recipes for many of the city’s classic dishes. Not up for starting from scratch? Not to worry! New Orleans’s own Café du Monde sells their famous coffee beans and beignet mix!
You can’t take a virtual tour of New Orleans without talking about the sound that put it on the map — jazz. New Orleans jazz is as much a style of music as it is a genre. Jazz was originally written for dancing, not listening, as modern jazz is enjoyed, and New Orleans has a soundtrack all its own. Swinging, stomping, infectious beats pour out of doorways and follow you down streets as you explore. Jazz musician Ellis Marsalis once said, “In other places culture comes down from on high. In New Orleans, it bubbles up from the streets.” Among the famous artists who called the Big Easy home was Louis Armstrong, one of jazz’s most influential figures. Dive into his incredible discography here.
Ready to break out your dancing shoes? Check out this “Feel Good NOLA Playlist” from New Orleans & Company or browse this Virtual Performance Calendar to stream local artists live and bring the sounds of New Orleans right into your home. Want to learn more? Bookworms may enjoy “New Orleans, Mon Amour” by Andrei Codrescu, a beautifully composed book of essays about all things New Orleans.
Road Scholar has been leading educational trips to New Orleans since 1997. We hope to see you there soon! Until then, you can browse our collection of learning adventures here.
About the AuthorJoAnn Bell, Senior Vice President, Program Development and Strategy, develops and manages more than 5,500 learning adventures in 150 countries and 50 states. JoAnn’s extensive travel industry experience informs her expert insight on everything from where to find the world’s most charming streets to must-see hidden gems across the globe.
Just so you know: I live in New Orleans, and that nobody ever calls it "N'Awlins" or "Noo Or--Leens". The NOLA acronym is fairly new but now widely used nowl We do have a sense of humor, so it's sometimes fondly called The Big Tomato.
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