It’s no secret that New Orleans has its fair share of good times and any season is a good choice for sipping a Sazerac while a jazz band plays in the background. But when the rest of the U.S. is blanketed in snow, temperatures rarely fall below 40 degrees Fahrenheit on the bayou, making it an excellent winter escape. So if you’re ready to laissez les bons temps roulez, here are three great ways to kick off 2016 in the Big Easy.
New Year’s Eve
You can find a festive way to ring in 2016 in any city, but partying is what NOLA does best and you can be sure to find a unique twist on New Year’s Eve down south. In lieu of a ball drop at midnight, you’ll see a massive fleur de lis on Jax Brewery mark the countdown into a new year. Watch the fireworks over the Mississippi River before dancing the night away to authentic zydeco in Jackson Square, one of the popular bars on Bourbon Street, or a famous club like House of Blues or Tipitina’s.
A Weekend in January
January is the only month of the year you won’t find an official festival in New Orleans, but don’t think that means there’s any dearth of things to do. A simple long weekend will fill up more quickly than you can imagine. Exploring the famed French Quarter can take an entire day with its huge number of nineteenth-century houses-turned-museums. If you get tired of period furniture, stop into the New Orleans School of Cooking for a lesson in the city’s trademark Cajun and Creole cuisine. Or, pay homage to a different era of American history with an afternoon jaunt to one of the many nearby plantations. New Orleans is also filled with beautiful, historic cemeteries, and there’s many a tour ready to cater to your macabre side.
However you fill your days, you’ll have plenty of world-class dining and live music to round out your nights. Upscale restaurants like Upperline, Muriel’s, Jacques-Imo’s, and R’evolution are ready to dish out traditional Cajun and Creole plates like jambalaya and etouffee, while the bars down Bourbon Street make perfect spots to kick back and order a Hurricane or a Sazerac in its birthplace. Meanwhile, jazz clubs like The Funky Pirate and Crescent City Brewhouse pump out live tunes on a nightly basis.
While there’s plenty to do outside festival time, that doesn’t put spending Mardi Gras in the city that celebrates it best any further down your bucket list. The pre-Lenten festival’s exact dates vary from year to year, but in 2016 will fall on February 9, and parades will start in January. The two weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday itself will be filled with nearly 70 parades throughout the city as thousands of masked krewes pull their themed floats in procession and toss purple, gold, and green baubles into the crowd.
If you want the best view, do as the locals do. Pick a spot in one of the residential neighborhoods like Uptown or Mid City, set up a folding chair, and sit back to enjoy the day – many parades run back to back, and you can view several from one spot. When you’re done, pick up a traditional king cake at a nearby bakery.