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

2015 New Orleans Mardi Gras parade schedule (and parade suggestions)

Happy Carnival season! One of the biggest misconceptions we’ve run into with new residents about this time of year is that Mardi Gras is a single day. Technically, it’s true – “Mardi Gras” is Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. However, Carnival season – which ends with Mardi Gras – is several weeks. That means multiple days of parades, king cakes and Mardi Gras festivities. This year, we are getting a good three weeks of parades.

Things kicked off last week with the very lewd (and creative) Krewe du Vieux in the French Quarter. Check out our Instagram page for photos or swing on over to LA to NOLA for more pix from that night. Here’s a relatively tamed snippet from it:

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Must-do free thing in New Orleans: Exhibit Be

Exhibit Be calls itself one of the largest street art installations in the American South. It’s part of the citywide Prospect 3 art event, and it closes today (Jan. 19) for good. Best part – Exhibit Be is totally free.

It’s open from 11 a.m to 4 p.m. today.

For Exhibit Be, several talented street artists covered an empty apartment complex in Algiers with art. The art is meant to spark a discussion about urban blight and affordable housing, among other things. Read more about Exhibit Be.

Exhibit Be closes today (Jan. 19) for good. Here's the schedule. (image via Exhibit Be)

Exhibit Be closes today (Jan. 19) for good. Here’s the schedule. (image via Exhibit Be)

Today, Exhibit Be is going out with a bang. There’s a full lineup of musicians, with Erykah Badu headlining. Also on today’s list:

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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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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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