If you’ve been to New Orleans before, or if you’re enjoying your first visit to the city, or even if you’re just doing some pre-trip research, you’ve almost certainly seen the now iconic blue dog somewhere around the city. The dog has his origins in a series of paintings by local artist George Rodrigue who began painting the dog in 1984 when he created the painting Watchdog, modeled after his own deceased dog, Tiffany, for a book on Cajun ghost stories. The original blue dog was thus a pictoral representation of the Cajun myth of the loup-garou, the local take on the werewolf. The legend of the loup-garou has it that a human-like creature with the head of a dog or wolf prowls the swamps around New Orleans. Some variants on the legend include the additional detail that the loup-garou prowls most actively in the weeks between Mardi Gras and Easter, when it seeks out Catholics who have broken the rules of lent. Since 1984, Rodrigue has painted hundreds of works featuring the blue dog in all kinds of different situations illustrating our Louisiana heritage and lifestyle and the canine has since become a modern staple of New Orleans culture. You can find more information on Rodrigue, including his New Orleans galleries, here.
Riding the street car along St Charles Avenue is not only a wonderful way to view the beautiful historic homes that line the avenue, nor is it simply a pleasant trip taken on one of the nation’s only moving historic landmarks. A ride along St Charles Avenue is, in fact, a ride through history. The homes along St Charles Avenue are some of the most elaborate in the entire state of Louisiana. You can see the Wedding Cake mansion, named for its many intricate layers of decorate plaster on the facade; the Van Benthuysen-Elms Mansion, built in 1869 for the Confederate officer of the same name; the replica of Gone With the Wind‘s Tara, pictured to the right; and the elegant Columns Hotel, just to name a few. Not only are these homes stunning representations of historic architecture in the South, but they represent an important aspect of history in New Orleans, namely the clash between Creoles and Americans in antebellum Louisiana. Although we find these homes beautiful today, when they were first built the Creoles were appalled and extremely critical. To the Creoles, these ostentatious displays of wealth were proof that the Americans had no class, and to put a garden in front of the house for viewing by the public was every bit as bad as bathing in one’s front yard! As new homes were built between Uptown and the French Quarter the creoles named the area the Garden District, but it was not complementary, although today many consider the Garden District to be one of the most charming parts of the city.
You can see these beautiful homes for yourself and learn more about their history on our New Orleans City and Estate Tour and our New Orleans City and Katrina Tour. Reservation requests can be made on our website or by calling 1-888-223-2093.
Anyone who has been to a Mardi Gras parade knows that a lot of work goes into making those incredible floats. But did you know you can go and see how the floats are made for yourself? Mardi Gras World is a wonderful family friendly activity where visitors are given a sneak peak behind the scenes. You can also learn all about the rich history of Carnival as you check out the float den where artists work year-round building floats and props. Tours also include a display of Mardi Gras costumes and a free slice of King Cake–it’s a great way to experience the magic of Mardi Gras year round. Learn more here.
One of the most wonderful treasures in New Orleans is our fantastic World War II Museum. Established in 2000 as the National D-Day Museum, the facility originally showcased the building of the Higgins Boats which made possible the amphibious landing on the French beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. The Higgins Boats were built and tested in New Orleans, and proved to be integral to the success of the Allied Forces as the landing in France on D-Day marked a turning point in the war. Originally founded by historian and author Stephen Ambrose, the museum’s goal is to tell the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world. This includes educating visitors on why the war was fought, how it was won, and what impact the war continues to have today.
In 2003, the U.S. Congress officially designated the museum as America’s National World War II Museum. Since opening on the 56th anniversary of D-Day, the museum has expanded to more than twice its original size, and currently hosts permanent exhibits on D-Day at Normandy, the Home Front, and the Pacific, as well as numberous visiting exhibits and a 4-D theater featuring the exclusive Tom Hanks production, Beyond All Boundaries. Visitors to the museum can also watch staff and volunteers restore artifacts at the John E Kushner Restoration Pavilion, and travel to the third floor viewing platform of the new Boeing Center’s Freedom Pavillion for a bird’s eye view of the planes displayed in the facility. The museum also includes the Stage Door Canteen, where music and entertainment of the Greatest Generation comes to life nearly every night, and Chef John Besh’s acclaimed restaurant, American Sector.
The National World War II Museum is open daily, and visitors are encouraged to reserve at least 2 1/2 – 3 hours for their visit. You can find more information here.
New Orleans is known for wonderful jazz music, and we have many icons of the genre to claim as our own, from Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton to newer artists like Harry Connick, Jr, and Wynton Marsalis. But one of our most beloved musicians here in the Crescent City is none other than Fats Domino, the New Orleans native who grew up in the Ninth Ward and went on to have more charting rock hits than any other artist in American history except Elvis Presley. The beloved New Orleans native will be celebrating his 85th birthday on Tuesday, February 26, but no public celebrations are planned. Instead, we recommend checking out some classics like this one before heading out to hear some great new music on Frenchmen Street!
New Orleans is a city that loves to eat, relax, and find any excuse to celebrate. Thanksgiving weekend is no exception, and even in a city proud of its European heritage, we can still show visitors a good time on this all-American day. The 141st horse racing season commences on Thanksgiving Day at the Fairgrounds, with a full day of racing on Thursday as well as plenty of races over the weekend for those who can't tear themselves away from the football. Speaking of football, the annual college match-up between Gambling State University and Southern University comes to town this weekend; the Bayou Classic will be played in New Orleans on Saturday with kickoff starting at 1:30pm. Pre-game events include a parade in the true spirit of New Orleans, complete with brass bands and floats, on Thursday and a Battle of the Bands on Friday evening. And, of course, there is plenty of good food to be found around the city, even on Turkey Day. Restaurants that will be keeping their doors open for the holiday include Bayona, The Rib Room, Muriel's Jackson Square, and Dickie Brennan's Steak House. Find details about all the goings on around town here.