New Orleans is a city that fascinates. Its mystique is immortalized in literature and song, on stage and film. Whether you know it as the lively home of Mardi Gras or a city of wrought iron balconies shrouded in mist, New Orleans looms large in the imagination. The city has a complex and venerable history and a vibrant, exciting present. No matter how long you stay there, you’ll always find something to enchant, surprise or interest you. The tastes, the sounds, the colors, the motion…everything about the Crescent City enlivens the senses.
This September, the voices of Sweet Adelines from all over the world will join in the song of New Orleans as we hold our 73rd Convention and Competition there. If you want to take some time between competition, classes and performances to experience the city, New Orleans’ official website offers easily-accessible information on just about everything for just about everybody. To get you started, here are a few suggestions offered by members of New Orleans’ own Crescent City Sound Chorus!
Iconic New Orleans Food
“New Orleans is really considered one of the top three food destinations in the country and has been for many years,” said Crescent City Sound team leader Beth Sacco. She was born and raised in New Orleans and has worked in the wine business for over 30 years. Sacco said New Orleans is one of the birthplaces of the American Food Movement, which utilizes ingredients indigenous to specific locations. To learn more, she recommends the Netflix documentary Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table. New Orleans has nationally recognized white tablecloth restaurants that require reservations, from the “old guard” restaurants like Antoine’s to “new guard” restaurants like Compère Lapin. It also has casual dining, such as Mandina’s, Katie’s, Mr. B’s and Central Grocery. Sacco also notes that New Orleans has a large Vietnamese population, with fantastic casual Vietnamese restaurants all over town and the formal (and delicious) Café Minh on Canal Street. From po’boys to snowballs to beignets to chargrilled oysters, New Orleans cuisine offers a wide variety of iconic dishes. And not just at dinner: Some say brunch was invented in New Orleans. Check out this list of great places for a midmorning meal.
Healthy Eating and Fitness in New Orleans
Vegan or vegetarian, halal or kosher, on a restricted diet for health reasons, you can still enjoy great food in New Orleans! Gina Dixson, who participated in Young Women in Harmony once upon a time, is a local physician doing her residency in New Orleans. She recommends the following establishments within walking distance of the competition venue: The Daily Beet, Ms. Beasley’s Food Truck and the urban food collective Pythian Market, which features a variety of food vendors. Uptown, she recommends Bearcat Café and Max Well as well as 1000 Figs in the Bayou St. John neighborhood. For runners and cyclists, she recommends trails in Audubon and City Parks as well as the Mississippi River Trail, which runs along the levee. And cat lovers, take note: NOLA Tribe Yoga periodically offers kitten yoga. You heard me: Yoga with adoptable kittens.
New Orleans is considered the birthplace of jazz music, and you’ll find plenty of it in the city! For traditional New Orleans jazz, check out historic Preservation Hall or see who’s playing at the New Orleans Jazz Museum.You’ll hear all kinds of street musicians in New Orleans, but if you encounter an entire brass band that seems to be at the head of an impromptu parade, you’ve found a second line. Second lines come about for all kinds of reasons, from funerals (which is how they began) to weddings to the spontaneous eruption of a good time. For more about their history and the etiquette surrounding them, see this article. But jazz isn’t the only type of music you’ll find in New Orleans. Check out the wide variety of bands in the clubs on Frenchmen Street, or check The Advocate’s event calendar to find out what’s going on.
Crescent City Chorus member Pat Cochran is a licensed freelance New Orleans tour guide and long-time resident of the city. She said a city tour is a “must-do” for first time visitors. “Just walking through the Quarter can become almost a mystical experience with a guide telling you about not only history but architecture, the River and wonderful side stories about the many characters who have given New Orleans her beauty and mystery.” Bus and carriage tours are also available, and see this article for information on tour accessibility for New Orleans visitors with limited mobility. Besides city tours, you can find tours focused on a certain part of the city or a certain theme, such as cemetery, literary or ghost tours. (Keep in mind that you can only visit the famous St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 with a tour group.)
For a curated history of New Orleans, Crescent City Chorus members recommend visiting one of the city’s many museums. The Hotel Monteleone (home of the famous Carousel Bar that is actually a carousel!) created this list of seven must-see New Orleans museums. Whether you want to learn about the city’s part in World War II at The National World War II Museum or see the intricacy of Mardi Gras floats up close at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans has something to offer.
Books. Records. Antiques. The unique and unusual. All can be found in the many shops, markets and boutiques of New Orleans. Probably the most famous New Orleans shopping can be found on Magazine Street (for antiques and luxuries) or at the French Market (for just about everything else). Check out this extensive shopping guide for more!
Cajun Country and Culture
Romantic bayous, cypress knees, swamps of lazy alligators and hanging Spanish moss: This is Cajun country, and it’s just a short day trip from New Orleans. Crescent City Sound member Nanette Ledet is from the area, and she recommends the swamp tours that leave right from the hotels. If you don’t have time to venture outside the city but want to try Cajun food, she recommends Cochon, whose owners are from Lafayette or Bon Ton, whose owners are from Raceland (a town on Bayou Lafourche). For Cajun and zydeco music and dancing, she recommends Mulate’s (especially if you like spicy food!) or Rock ‘n’ Bowl, where, yes, you can also go bowling!