There's so many things to see and do in New Orleans. So, what to do first? I created my own list of things to help make any trip to New Orleans the most memorable.
1. Take a tour of the cemteries, or the Cites of the Dead. My favorite tour is the Save Our Cemeteries Tour.
2. Enjoy sugary beignets and coffee at the Cafe du Monde. On Decatur Street, across from the Jackson Square. For the non-coffee lovers, there's milk and soft drinks.
3. Try a Central Grocery muffalatta. At the Central Grocery on Decatur Street, this Italian sandwich has been enjoyed by Bob Hope and Henry Winkler.
4. Mardi Gras! Grab your copy of the Arthur Hardy's "Mardi Gras Guide" (Walgreens/bookstores/convenience stores) to see where the routes are, what the krewes will be throwing.
5. Tour Blaine Kern's "Mardi Gras World" to see how the floats are made.
6. Try a Randazzo's king cake. Usually more popular to try in February, some of the bakeries are open all year long and have seasonal cakes.
7. Walk along the Moonwalk and possibly take a ride aboard the Steamboat Natchez or Creole Queen.
8. St Joseph Day Altars (March 19). An Italian tradition in which they decorate their altars with food, lucky beans (put in your coinpurses - you'll always have money), and small round peas that are for good eyesight. You can find one at the Jackson Square on this day.
9. New Orleans Museum of Art and their Where Y'Art Fridays. On Fridays from 5-9pm, the Museum stays open later and has an array of live performances, open exhibits, and guest speakers. Plus, for 2011, NOMA turns 100 as well. Besides Fridays, the art museum has many art exhibits and a sculpture garden.
10. The Audubon Zoo. So many animals, a free parking spot, and a waterfall to cool down in those hot summers - what's not to love?
11. The Audubon Aquarium. Lots of animals, but a validated parking spot here. Come walk in the tunnel where fish and sharks swim above you, and play in the Amazonian tree house.
12. Take your picture outside the St. Louis Cathedral. For the best photo shot of all, go to the Moonwalk where the Civil War Cannon is and take your picture from there. You'll have the St. Louis Cathedral, Presbytere, and Cabildo all in the picture.
13. COOLinary New Orleans (July-September). Want to enjoy expensive restaurant meals without draining your wallet? During the COOLinary, some restaurants offer three course lunches under 20 dollars, and three course dinners for 34.00. The restaurants that participated last year were Bayona's, Antonie's, Dickie Brennan's, and many more. Check out http://nomcvb.com/restaurants/index.cfm or call 1-800-672-6124 for more details and who's participating this year.
14. The Tennessee Williams Literary Festival (mid-March). Williams will be celebrating his 100th birthday in this festival where you can take classes, tours of literary places, and see his plays acted by local universities. Plus, the yelling "Stella" competitions.
15. Jazz and Heritage Festival - Jazz Fest is late April-early May. The 2011 Fest will be extra special as singer Mahalia Jackson also turns 100, in which there will be jazz tributes and a birthday celebration presented by Irma Thomas.
16. Running of the Bulls (July). Twelve blocks of the French Quarter become filled with the all-female derby team, the Big Easy Rollergirls, dressed as bulls with horns(and soft foam bats) to chase and "gore" participants. Anyone can participate in the fun by showing up at the Three Legged Dog bar on Conti and Burgundy Streets. For 2011, it will be on July 9 and participants show up at 7am.
17. Christmas in the Oaks (City Park, Mid-City) and Miracle on Fulton Street (Fulton Street, edge of the French Quarter). Christmas in the Oaks has thousands of lights and gardens. Storyland, a magical place for the kids, is open. Meanwhile, Fulton has shops and a large Christmas tree.
18. Champion Square at the Super Dome!