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Day tripping to the Big Easy

Established in the 1700s and made American in 1803, New Orleans has history and enough lore to satisfy anyone. Spend a day or two here and take home memories and photos you’ll never match.Food, festivals, culture, nature, history, nightlife and music are all through and part of the city. Indulge, from Emeril Lagasse and Susan Spicer’s cuisine to muffulettas and poboys.

Celebrate, from local Zydeco bands to top recording artists.

Savor glittery beads and bangles, street vendors crying their wares, rich smells of pastries and robust coffee.

For food, choices are limitless from fine dining to casual fare. Among the most famous restaurants include Brennan’s, Arnaud’s, Court of Two Sisters, Mother’s Restaurant, Cajun Cabin and Stella!When you travel the easy hour down Interstate 10 to New Orleans, consider this sampling of excitement and color that is the Big Easy.

Café du Monde: 800 Decatur St . For delectable beignets — a fried long-john donut affair avalanched in powdered sugar. Sip a New Orleans café au lait and watch people from nearly every country amble by as musicians serenade. A 10 on the picturesque scale.

Bourbon Street: Save it for evening. You’ll likely see a fellow, dressed like Uncle Sam, on stilts, walking as though that’s quite ordinary. Sample unusual cocktails, maybe at Galatoire’s at 209 Bourbon St., or Pat Obrien’s at 624.

French Quarter: New Orleans’ oldest, most recognizable neighborhood. By day, an historic place to shop, and take in the ambiance. By night, crowds get raucous and uninhibited. The locals call it the “alchemy of unusual combinations.”

Garden District: In spring you must see the Garden District. It was built by wealthy merchants after the Louisiana Purchase. They flaunted their wealth to the disgruntlement of the Creoles. There are mansions, churches, lawns and gardens — like stepping back in time. Ride the streetcar and don’t miss the Magazine Street shops.

Steamboat Natchez Riverboat Cruise: Experience the smells, sights and sounds from a unique perspective while cruising the Mississippi on an authentic steamboat.

Musee Conti Wax Museum: For half a century, it’s offered 200 life-size figures in historical settings. You’ll see New Orleans history, three entertaining centuries of it.

Above Ground Cemeteries/Haunted Tours: Cities of the Dead, like nowhere else. Tree lined avenues. Fantastic architecture. Ghost tours day and night. Will you find vampires and voodoo? New Orleans

Ghost Tours and Haunted History Tours can be contacted at (888) 644 6787.

There are always little secret gems to uncover for the adventurous soul. Try the Algiers Ferry at 1 Canal St. Board 6 a.m. to midnight, but avoid commuter hours. If you drive on board, it’s a buck; walk-ons are free. Especially on a beautiful day or a misty morning, you’ll enjoy views of the city usually only seen in movies. It’s about a 30-minute trip.

Want a Mardi Gras experience? Mardi Gras World is where they make the floats. Watch artists at work and receive a sample king cake at tour’s end. Finish your afternoon in Jackson Square at St. Peter and Decatur streets. Bring your camera to shoot the St. Louis Cathedral, artists, street players, mystics, fortunetellers, and the historic Baroness Pontalba apartment building, built c. 1850.

This summer, look for a couple of big festivals:

  • July 3-5: 15th annual Essence Music Festival
  • July 30-Aug. 2: Satchmo Summer Festival
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