When you hear the name New Orleans what is the first thing that comes to mind? If you are like most, we bet it would be Mardi Gras. Well, Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday, is a huge part of New Orleans history. This carnival celebration starts on Kings Day, the Epiphany, and finishes on the day before Ash Wednesday. New Orleans is so much more. This unique city on the Mississippi River in Louisiana has survived fires, floods, economic hardship, and hurricane Katrina coming back each time as a stronger and more vibrant city, proudly glorifying its place in American culture. New Orleans is accessible by car, cruise line, and air. If you are fortunate to have New Orleans as a port while on a cruise you dock on the Mississippi along the River Walk, a few blocks away from the famous French Quarter. From the airport, you travel a short distance to reach the downtown and Mississippi traveling through some of the hardest hit areas by Katrina, some of which show their ugly scars even today. As you approach the city your eyes are met by the monstrous “Super Dome”. This colossal indoor, domed stadium is the home of the New Orleans Saints football team. New Orleans has 72 distinct neighborhoods. Favorite area for exploration on foot or by trolley are the Garden District (along with Uptown, and Carrolton), French Quarter (The Vieux Carre), Arts District/Warehouse District, and Central Downtown Business District. Bring your best walking shoes, a camera, and thirst for soaking up the sights, sounds, food, drink, and culture of this amazingly unique city right here in our own backyard of the U.S.. First stop is the Garden District with its grand homes that are known by the names of the families that built those centuries ago. The architecture is one of the earliest expressions of the Greek revival. The streets bear the names of nine muses of Greek Mythology. Stroll along Magazine Street and the many side streets in this district with a self-guided walking tour map and immerse yourself in the history of these grand homes along with the stories behind the structures and families who live and lived there. Hotels and restaurants in this area are plentiful. Also be sure to walk around Uptown and Carrolton, the home of Tulane and Loyola Universities. The French Quarter with its famous Bourbon Street (Rue Bourbon) has French, Spanish and Creole style architecture that you would not see anywhere in the U.S.. This area of the city, that never sleeps, is what we say is unusually interesting. It is by every stretch of the word energetic, free spirited, deep into some of the best jazz you will hear anywhere in the world, traditional food, lots of alcohol, voodoo, ghost stories, a photographers playground, and yes, Mardi Gras. You will also find Jackson Square with its many street artists and musicians, St Louis Cathedral, and Café Du Monde, home of the famous pastry, the Beignet. There you can sit and enjoy this world famous treat along with a café au lait. Another great place for Beignets in the French Quarter is Café Beignet on Royal Street near the Monteleon Hotel. The French Quarter is safe, friendly, fun, and eye candy. While in the French Quarter be sure to walk over to the French Market and the River Walk for a bird’s eye view of the mighty Mississippi. The Arts and Warehouse district is a short distance from the French Quarter. This historic area is filled with art galleries, fine restaurants (there you will find Emeril Lagasse’s Nola), and museums (the National WWII Museum). This is a great cultural center of the city and worth a visit. When you are on vacation you might not think of taking a cemetery tour but in New Orleans this is a must. With a knowledgeable guide you will be amazed at the reasoning and history behind these centuries. Death in New Orleans is another excuse for a party to celebrate the departed person’s life. We have been to this great city many times and keep going back because there is always something new to experience and see. Needless to say we love New Orleans and we think that if you go with the desire for adventure you will come away a lover too. “Let the good times roll”.