The swath of destruction left in the wake Hurricane Katrina can be measured in a variety of ways - number of people displaced, homes ruined, lives lost, dollars of damage done - the list continues. New Orleans, after it all, is some mix of the cultural hot spot it was in earlier days and a new post-tragedy urban center in recovery. Find between Mardi Gras festivities and memories of that natural disaster the music of a bright future. As museums and hotels, restaurants and boarded up shops again open doors, New Orleans, the "Crescent City", is slowly returning to life, and now is the good time to experience the tenacious energy of "The Big Easy" in transition and show this Southern gem your sense of solidarity.
By and large all the important museums, like the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art are back in business. Sadly, the city's aquarium took a heavy beating during Katrina, but there's an abundance of wildlife on display at the Audubon Zoo. Learn more about the wild party also known as Mardi Gras (kicking off in New Orleans every February) at the Presbytere, then explore cultural heritage at the Louisiana Museum of African American History or the American Italian Museum. Enjoy a tour through the Calbido, the building where the Louisiana Purchase deal was signed and sealed in 1803 (doubling the size of the United States), then catch a breather at some sidewalk caf‚ in anticipation of a night out on the town.
A city noted in the past for eye-catching architecture, New Orleans is the place to see shotgun houses, Creole cottages and townhouses, and raised center-hall villas. The French Quarter - Vieux Carre - escaped Katrina largely intact, an area world-famous for the colorful mix of historic buildings and splendid architecture, and some private homes are even open on occasion for public tours.
With the sun sinks low over the city, the lights come on, and locals head for lively bars and clubs. Catch some jazz, New Orleans style, and make sure to leave time to soak up the color, tuck into cuisine and treat your ears to the bright trumpet riffs of some energetic live performance. Linger on for several evenings to do the Crescent City justice.
As New Orleans gets back on its feet, show your support and don't wait too long to get reacquainted with this wonderful city - as the running state slogan goes: "Come fall in love with Louisiana all over again".
New Orleans is 81 miles southeast of Baton Rouge and 110 miles from Grand Isle.