Opportunities for revelry and merrymaking are plentiful all year round in New Orleans. The colourful parades of Carnival and Mardi Gras at the end of February to the following December holiday season bookend an extended season of exotic festivals that last almost the whole year. With the city’s rich reputation for culture, food and music, it comes as no surprise, then, that the city on the Mississippi Delta is a favourite tourist destination for foreigners looking for an authentic taste of the Deep South. Read on for a list of some fascinating events that should become a fixture on the itinerary of any such traveller in 2020. Before you get carried away into a world of dulcet jazz tones and the fragrant spices of Cajun cuisine, however, wait right there! Don’t get caught out on your arrival – organise your ESTA visa before touching down.
Bastille Day Fête
This weekend-long celebration takes place in the middle of July to honour of the city’s French heritage. The locals here are extremely proud of their French roots, and so celebrate the national day of France by holding block parties in neighbourhoods all over the city. Many of these parties stage local musicians and bands, serve home-cooked Cajun delights, and generally exhibit the rich tapestry that makes up the culture of the city.
Running of the Bulls
New Orleans’ decades as a Spanish colony have left an indelible mark on the culture of the city. To confirm this for yourself, take a stroll through the old French Quarter to see many examples of Spanish (yes, it is not French!) colonial architecture. An annual “Running of the Bulls,” similar to the event held in Pamplona, Spain, is held to acknowledge the city’s Iberian influence. Pleasing the more ethically-minded of you, however, is the fact that no real bulls are actually used in the event. Instead, their role is taken by members of the Big Easy Rollergirls roller derby team. They can still pack a menacing punch, though, so do forget to run like your life depended on it!
Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival
Taking place at the end of March, this festival is purported to exhibit the greatest collection of Cajun and zydeco performers anywhere in the state of Louisiana. With an overwhelming array of arts and crafts, musicians playing traditional songs and singing in French, and local foods, such as gumbo and corn maque choux, the authentic experience of the rich and unique Cajun culture in the flesh is unforgettable.
Tales of the Cocktail
Legend has it that the cocktail was first invented in the Big Easy. This story has been fully embraced by the inhabitants of the city, who now hold an annual festival to celebrate the drinks that form part of the tradition here. If you go, be sure to treat your palate to the gustatory delights of two of the region’s best-loved beverages – Sazerac and the delicious hurricane cocktail. The only difficulty will be finding your way back to the hotel through the windy streets of the French Quarter after!
White Linen Night
In sweltering pre-air conditioning nights of New Orleans of yesteryear, it used to be commonplace for locals to escape the heat by adorning themselves with clothes made entirely from white linen. Although fashions in the city have moved on somewhat these days, the memory the attire of their grandparents lives in the memories of the city’s inhabitants. Once a year on a weekend at the beginning of August, people deck themselves out in their brilliant whites and gather together in the Warehouse District to catch up with a few old friends over a drink or two in the balmy afternoon and early evening. A week later, on Dirty Linen Night, the same people in the same linens get together to do in all again in aid of saving washing powder for the rest of the year.
If it is music, culture and incredible food that you are looking for from your trip to the United States in 2020, New Orleans is somewhere that you could quickly find yourself falling in love with (or in!). When it comes to festival fun, the scene in New Orleans is evergreen – turn up on any given weekend, and you are bound to find yourself in the midst of some celebration or other. In order to get there in the first place, however, make sure that you consult an ESTA guide to avoid any unnecessary complications at the airport!