Must-do things in New Orleans for first-time visitors

First time in New Orleans? Hosting friends/family who have never been to New Orleans before? We’ve got you covered. The city is jam-packed with things to do, but there are a few classics you need to hit. These are the places everyone is going to ask you about when you get home. This list should keep you busy for a two or three-day weekend trip. And, please bring your appetite.

This is the Louisiana Welcome Center on I-10 near the Mississippi state line. There's free Community Coffee inside if you stop by. (photo by Carlie Kollath Wells, New in NOLA)

This is the Louisiana Welcome Center on I-10 near the Mississippi state line. There’s free Community Coffee inside if you stop by. (photo by Carlie Kollath Wells, New in NOLA)

BASIC ADVICE

Wear comfortable shoes. You are going to do a lot of walking and our sidewalks are uneven. Skip the fashion show and wear something you can walk several miles in. No one cares if you are wearing sneakers, slip-ons or flip-flops. Most places don’t have a dress code and won’t care what your footwear looks like.

In the summer, grab a hat if you are going to be outside. We have plenty of hat stores here if you want to buy one. Here’s more advice about picking a hat and where to get one in New Orleans.

Leave your big purse at home. Minimize what you are carrying around. Get a small, crossbody purse, small clutch or a wallet in your front pocket. Big purses are easy to grab on the street and you don’t want to juggle it in a crowded bar. Continue reading

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Where to recycle Mardi Gras beads in New Orleans

Hope you survived Mardi Gras. You probably have a house full of glitter and beads now. We sure do. Before you throw away your loot, consider your other options, such as DIY projects and recycling.

Looks for these purple and gold bead recycling bins around the metro area.  Arc of New Orleans will recycle your Mardi Gras beads and throws.  (photo by Carlie Kollath Wells/New in NOLA)

Looks for these purple and gold bead recycling bins around the metro area. Arc of New Orleans will recycle your Mardi Gras beads and throws. (photo by Carlie Kollath Wells/New in NOLA)

Mardi Gras beads are a good way to add some flair to your house. One of our favorite DIY bead projects – medallion magnets. See that idea plus 23 other creative things to do with Mardi Gras beads here.

Just want all your Mardi Gras stuff gone fast? Consider donating it to Arc of New Orleans. This nonprofit uses your beads to help employ people intellectual disabilities and delays in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes.

Look for the purple and gold Arc bins at these locations:

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Caroling in Jackson Square – what you need to know

We’re caroling in Jackson Square tonight (Dec. 21) with a thousand or so of our closest friends.  It’s a free, magical event in New Orleans. Open to everyone. And again, 100 percent free.

The event starts at 7. Gates open at 6:30 p.m.

French Quarter Festivals Inc. hosts Caroling in Jackson Square. (photo via FQF Inc.)

French Quarter Festivals Inc. hosts Caroling in Jackson Square. (photo via FQF Inc.)

Song sheets and lights are provided. Arrive early because this is a popular event and you want to get inside the gates. Christmas attire is encouraged. Think sweaters, Santa hats, bells, etc.

You stand while you carol so wear comfortable shoes. Don’t bring chairs unless you physically need one.

If it is raining, the event will be moved inside the cathedral. Seats/pews are available on a first come, first serve basis.

Plenty of places to park:
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Advice for tailgating in Champions Square

Who dat!! That, my New in NOLA friends, is a phrase you should get used to in New Orleans. It is the rallying cry for Saints fans. Here’s the song to get you in the mood:

One of the best places to hear the cheer – and watch the Saints game – is inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. However, the majority of Saints fans don’t have gameday tickets so we find other options. Your next best bet for home games – free tailgating at Champions Square next to the Superdome. (Here are sports bar suggestions from Eater if you want to go that route)

Champions Square is an event space connected to the Superdome. It’s free to get in, there’s entertainment before the game and the game is shown on a big screen in the square.

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Good places to picnic in New Orleans

Lazy summer/fall days call for a picnic with friends, especially at dusk when things cool off a little bit. Plus, this is a budget-friendly form of entertainment.

You can go all out for a picnic, but a poboy or a bucket of chicken are easy options for quick meal with a gorgeous view. (photo by Carlie Kollath Wells, NewinNOLA.com)

You can go all out for a picnic, but poboys and chips are good options for quick meal with a gorgeous view. (photo by Carlie Kollath Wells, NewinNOLA.com)

We keep a blanket in our trunk so we’re ready to go at a moment’s notice. And no need for a fancy spread if you are picnicking on a whim. A bucket of Popeye’s or a poboy is equally as festive as a basket full of homemade goodies, in our opinion.

GoNOLA offered up suggestions for picnic destinations in New Orleans. Here are some of our favorite places to picnic in the city. Have another suggestion? Tell us in the comments.

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#newinNOLA tip – praline is pronounced “prawleen”

Happy National Praline Day! Have you tried one of these delicious sugary treats yet? There are plenty of storebought options in the French Quarter, especially near the French Market. If you ask nicely, most will give you a sample.

#newinNOLA tip – we say “prawleen” not “prayleen” in New Orleans.

More praline tips:

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Meetup group for new people in New Orleans

Our friend, Satyajit Dixit, has started a Meetup group that’s perfect for meeting other newbies. Meetup is an online community that helps people “meetup” in real life. Some groups are general interest, while others are grouped around specific interests.

Meet Sat (he’s the guy in the middle). He organizes the “Exploring New Orleans” Meetup group.

Satyajit "Sat" Dixit, pictured in the middle, organizes a wonderful New Orleans Meetup group. (image via Meetup)

Satyajit “Sat” Dixit, pictured in the middle, organizes a wonderful New Orleans Meetup group. (image via Meetup)

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Creole Tomato Festival in New Orleans – schedule, tips

The Creole Tomato Festival kicks off today (June 7) at the French Market and goes through Sunday night. This is the perfect time to get free samples of the famous creole tomato.

The entrance to the French Market has been transformed for the Creole Tomato Festival. (photo by Carlie Kollath Wells/New in NOLA)

The entrance to the French Market has been transformed for the Creole Tomato Festival. (photo by Carlie Kollath Wells/New in NOLA)

The festival has food vendors, cooking demonstrations and a tomato eating contest. We’re heading out Sunday so we can see the contest at 1. Interesting demo Saturday – creole tomato cupcakes at 4 p.m.

The French Market said each cooking demo has  2-oz samples for the first 100 people. The tomato sample station is at Dumaine Street. The fest also has cute tomato-shaped paper fans it’s giving away at the festival. The people in tomato costumes (photo opp!) have the fans and will give you one if you ask.

Remember, bring cash if you want to buy anything. Plus, if you spend $30 this weekend, you get a free bag of creole tomatoes. Via FrenchMarket.org:

creole tomato offer

What you need to know about the fest:

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New Orleans Oyster Festival 2014 (schedule, tips, map)

The 2014 New Orleans Oyster Festival is this weekend (May 31 and June 1). The food is the same both days, but the music is different.

Want to see the oyster shucking contest? That’s Saturday at noon. Interested in the oyster eating contest? That’s Sunday at 11:45 a.m.

We’re tagging along with a Meetup group going Sunday at 11 a.m. Join us 🙂

The Oyster Fest serves up all sorts of bivalve goodness. Here are some of eats in 2013. (photos by Carlie Kollath Wells/New in NOLA)

The Oyster Fest serves up all sorts of bivalve goodness. Here are some of eats in 2013. (photos by Carlie Kollath Wells/New in NOLA)

The fest is at Woldenberg Park, which is next to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (map). We like this festival because it is free admission and there’s parking around the French Quarter. When we take a car, we usually park in the garage above Saks Fifth Avenue. Tip – if you get in before 9 a.m. at most garages, parking is $10 for the entire day.

You can also take a bus or streetcar and not fool with parking at all. It takes a little longer than driving, but it’s cheaper than parking and you don’t have to worry about a designated driver.

We went to the fest last year and had a really good time. See our pix.

Tips we learned about the New Orleans Oyster Festival:

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red beans

Mondays mean red beans in New Orleans

New Orleans restaurants are fairly predictable during Lent – they have red beans and rice on Mondays and a seafood special on Fridays.

photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/The Southfacin' Cook

photo by Patsy R. Brumfield/The Southfacin’ Cook

The Monday special is a long-standing practice. Mondays traditionally were laundry day in New Orleans and red beans and rice was an easy dish to put on the stove and leave. The dish is a standard offering every Monday in New Orleans restaurants.

During Lent, Catholic believers often give up meat (beef, pork, chicken, lamb, duck, etc.) on Fridays. Seafood is OK though, so restaurants offer tasty seafood dishes on Fridays. FYI – Lent starts Ash Wednesday (the day after Mardi Gras) and ends on Easter.

Want to try your hand at red beans while you knock out your laundry this weekend? Check out this recipe from our food columnist, Patsy R. Brumfield.

Since there are so many different recipes for the classic dish, here are a few more to peruse:

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