By Jeanenne Tornatore
Sure, you could easily fill your trip to the Super Bowl with sporting events and activities all surrounding the Superdome, but the game happens to be in New Orleans. NOLA. The Big Easy. And a visit to this eccentric and historic town just wouldn’t be complete without experiencing at least one of the many things that make it such a unique destination. So, make your reservations, then make plans for these five must-do’s and while you may come home with a national championship, you’ll definitely come back with an new appreciation for this bayou city.
The National WWII Museum. This amazing museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world like you’ve never seen before. From Final Mission: The USS Tang Experience where visitors are placed aboard the submarine and participate in its final war patrol on October 25, 1944, to the 4D panoramic film Beyond all Boundaries, executive produced and narrated by Tom Hanks, you’ll experience and learn about WWII like you never have before. And for return visitors the new Freedom Pavilion has just opened and offers so much more to see.
Cajun dancing and jazz clubs. While two very different forms of entertainment, either of these is a great way to spend an evening or two. For jazz, get a traditional experience at Fritzel’s, Vaughan’s or Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse. And while Cajun dancing historically gets its influence from the Lafayette area, you’ll find it hopping most nights at Mulate’s and Michaul’s, both where you can grab a nice meal then work off your dinner on the dance floor.
The Audubon Nature Institute. With a zoo, IMAX theater, aquarium, and even an insectarium, families looking to fill a few hours or a full day, will find plenty to choose from at this nature lover’s paradise. And there are great hands-on experiences for kids abound, including the Underground Gallery, where visitors “shrink” to the size of a bug and encounter surprises at every turn.
Tours, Tours, Tours. In New Orleans, if you want to see it, there’s likely a tour for it. And in many cases, great ones run by locals who take pride in knowing the history of their great city. Whether it’s a tour about the history of the cocktail and the buildings where they were created, an original New Orleans movie tour, or a free tour of the French Quarter by the Friends of the Cabildo, these are some of the best ways to get know and appreciate the stories and culture of this vibrant community.
Be a “Voluntourist.” Truly experiencing a destination is just as much about giving back as it is about taking it all in. Taking a few hours or even a day participating in a volunteer activity may not sound like the most fun way to spend your time, but it will certainly be the most rewarding. Check out www.neworleansonline.com for a list of local organizations and opportunities and have a good time doing some good.
Jeanenne Tornatore is a senior editor for Orbitz.com.