Combine all of life’s best ingredients (food, music, art and pure joy), put them on a slow simmer and you have New Orleans — our Destination of the Year for 2018. New Orleans is always worth a visit, but next year there are two special reasons to go: The Crescent City will be turning 300 and we’ll be celebrating our 25th year offering programs there.
In 1851, a reporter from the The Daily Picayune wrote, “Everyone in this good city enjoys the full right to pursue his or her own inclinations in all reasonable — and unreasonable — ways.”
More than 150 years later, that observation still rings true. Here are our five favorite inclinations to pursue with us in New Orleans in 2018 …
Ellis Marsalis, patriarch of the famous clan of musicians, said, “In New Orleans, culture doesn't come down from on high, it bubbles up from the streets." In fact, the whole city seems to rest on a musical scale. There’s jazz — from Dixieland to contemporary — brass bands, classical, Cajun and Zydeco, rhythm and blues, gospel and everything in between. Outside of the world-famous jazz clubs, the music scene has no bounds, as you’ll find spontaneous jam sessions in every nook and cranny of the city. Of course, you can’t get more New Orleans than the French Quarter Music Festival — a showcase for hundreds of local musicians on 14 stages throughout the historic Vieux Carré.
Gumbo. Crawfish etouffee. Po boys. Jambalaya. Red beans and rice. Muffulettas. Beignets. Bananas Foster. The menu of signature New Orleans dishes rivals those of the world’s top culinary capitals. To get real insight into food as a way of life in New Orleans, we recommend a class with us at the New Orleans School of Cooking. Other can’t-miss experiences include the casual patio of Café du Monde and white tablecloth dining at Commander’s Palace — always save room for the bread pudding!
“Mardi Gras” (Fat Tuesday) merges religious and secular traditions in an unrivaled expression of joie de vivre that ends Carnival season. The one-and-only New Orleans Mardi Gras is a must-see experience at the heart of the Crescent City’s vibrant culture, where families watch parades on the same corner for years and the collective soul of the city rises to reaffirm its tremendous appetite for living life to the fullest. And no one does Mardi Gras better than Road Scholar. We have a privileged vantage point of the parade right in front of our hotel.
We love the pure fun of the French Quarter, but it’s the Garden District that evokes the slower, grander age that is New Orleans’ real charm. The St. Charles Avenue Streetcar with its mahogany seats and brass fittings trundles by historic mansions accentuated with lush, fragrant gardens. In the center of it all is Lafayette Cemetery and its ornate, Gothic marble tombs shaded by magnolia trees. Join our architecture historian to learn how history and culture are reflected in the use of Greek Revival, Italianate, Georgian and other architectural styles seen throughout the district.
Don’t just settle for the food, fun and easy grace of the Crescent City. Venture outside New Orleans to experience the surrounding areas. As the Cajuns like to say, go “down the bayou” to the low swamplands and coastal marsh of the Mississippi River as it fans its way south to the Caribbean. Follow the river northwest out of the city and venture into plantation country to learn about the complex history of the antebellum South.
See our complete collection of learning adventures in New Orleans that show you the authentic character inside and outside the Crescent City. Let the good times roll with Road Scholar in 2018!
JoAnn Bell, Senior Vice President of Program Development, develops and manages more than 5,500 learning adventures in 150 countries and 50 states.