6 ways to enjoy New Orleans in Winter

New Orleans has its own personality any time of the year, but the winter season in the Big Easy offers visitors a chance to experience attractions that aren’t offered during the peak summer months.

New Orleans is not only one of the largest cities in Louisiana, but is also the Gulf of Mexico’s busiest northern port since the early 1700s. The city was founded by the French and was bought by the United States in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase.

With its roots in the French culture, New Orleans has a distinct Creole history and culture, and its mixed French, Haitian, Spanish, African American and Native American influences can be found on every street.  Even the devastating floods of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 couldn’t keep this unique and historic city down.

Besides the rousing French Quarter with its hundreds of bars, restaurants and live music venues, New Orleans offers special events in the winter and attractions that may be overlooked during warmer months.

Celebrate the holidays Creole style

From caroling in Jackson Square to Christmas parades to holiday historic home tours in the beautiful French Quarter and Garden District, New Orleans knows how to ring in the season with style. Santa can be found wandering along Canal Street, and eclectic and creative bonfires are lit along the levee of the Mississippi River each night.

Music is at the heart of New Orleans, and in December, visitors enjoy caroling in Jackson Square, gospel choirs in historic cathedrals and jazz and blues bands in throughout the city. The extravagant lights display in City Park isn’t to be missed either with hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights, making City Park one of the most spectacular holiday lights festivals in the country.

Eat your way warm

Winter brings rain and chilly temperatures, but the astonishingly diverse cuisine in New Orleans is the best way to warm up the body.

Famous for its Creole flavor, New Orleans’ restaurants serve up uniquely southern dishes like charbroiled oysters, po’boys, seafood of all variety, seafood nachos, steaks and more. Felix’s Oyster Bar is a local favorite and has locations on Bourbon Street and Iberville St.

The secret lives of bugs

The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium crawls and flutters with a close-up look at the lives of insects and butterflies. A stroll through the Japanese Butterfly Garden in the Butterflies in Flight exhibit offers free-flying butterflies of various species with a soothing tour of the world’s most colorful insects. Families can learn about the largest grouping of living organisms on earth through numerous displays, but a real treat is to stop by the café to sample cookies and salsas made with crickets and mealworms.

Life under the ocean

The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is one of the top aquariums in the nation and features more than 15,000 types of sea life and nearly 600 different species. In addition to fish and sea creatures of all kinds, the museum also includes displays on the Caribbean Reef, a new seahorse gallery, an Amazon rain forest tour and even a rare white alligator.

Dance with the green fairy

Absinthe is an alcoholic drink steeped in myth and controversy throughout history, but New Orleans various establishments serve up this typically green cocktail with a flourish. Once banned in the United States for being considered a hallucinogenic, it became legal again in America a few years ago.

The anise-flavored liquor’s key ingredient is wormwood, and the bartenders in New Orleans can create the “green fairy” swirling wings of the drink by pouring absinthe over a sugar cube, setting the sugar on fire and then dripping icy water to dissolve the cube.

The Old Absinthe House on Rue Bourbon is one of many bars that serve up this mythical drink.

Move to the music

Frenchmen Street in the Marigny neighborhood at the edge of the French Quarter hosts three blocks of entertainment with venues and bars that offer the dulcet sounds of blues and jazz. Nearly every establishment in this area of the Quarter features singers, jazz bands, soloists and more every night of the week.

Some of New Orleans’ most famous music clubs include The Maison, The Spotted Cat, Snug Harbor, Vaso and Three Muses. On New Year’s Eve, Frenchmen Street will host local music acts like The Soul Rebels and George Porter Jr. & The Runnin’ Pardners. This year is also The Maison’s 9th annual New Year’s Eve concert and will feature two live music acts in New Orleans.

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