A Little History, a Whole Lot of Spooky: Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar

So, what if Halloween is still months away, the dead (or the undead) still need a watering hole! Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar is one of the oldest bars in the US. And it is also the one with the most mysterious history.

We understand that paranormal is to New Orleans what Louis Armstrong is to jazz. We totally do. But a history filled with pirates, hidden treasure, and ghosts has to be the coolest one of all.

This bar was evidently used by the Lafitte brothers for their illegal smuggling operations. The place was used as a New Orleans base of operations for brothers-in-crime Pierre and Jean Lafitte.

According to several rumors, Jean Lafitte hid his part of profits – gold – in the fireplace located inside the bar.

Situated in the center of the Vieux Carre, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar has been a landmark for nearly 300 years. In addition to tourists and locals who go there to quench their thirst, the bar also sees quite a bit of the paranormal-loving crowd.

Hotspot for paranormal activity!?

People have reported sightings of Jean Lafitte wearing period clothing in this 1700’s Spanish Colonial building. Before disappearing into thin air (and scaring the Bejeezus out of the visitors), Lafitte apparently likes to make full eye contact.

Also, Lafitte is not the only ghost roaming the grounds of the bar. People have also seen an unknown female apparition who likes to approach the visitors and whisper their names into their ears.

That’s not all. Several paranormal investigators have said that there is a third demonic entity in the bar. The bar staff as well as the visitors have reported seeing glowing red eyes floating in the darkest corners, and sometimes over their heads!

Invisible hands have been known to grab at visitors’ cocktails and body parts. Many people have heard disembodied voices that, for some reason, command them to come near the piano. According to most visitors, it is hard to not feel or see or hear the multiple apparitions that seem to reside in the bar.

Spiritual mediums also like to visit the bar; they say that Lafitte’s bar attracts so many ghosts because spirits like to hang out at places where they used to hang out when they were still alive!

Visiting Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar

Want to go back in time when pirates ruled the Crescent City? This bar is still the same as it was back then, i.e., no significant changes have been made ever since its construction almost 300 years ago.

Whether you are hunting for ghosts, want to see a neat old building, or just need a good drink, we recommend checking this place out!

Give their Hurricane a try, it is so deceptively powerful. Or, you could book a walking ghost tour, which is guided by a tour guide named Bloody Mary. For more information about the bar, you can check out their official website.

The Enriching History and Culture of Jackson Square

Since its inception in 1721, Jackson Square in the French Quarter of New Orleans has been nationally recognized for its pivotal role in the story of NOLA.

Read on as we take you through the past life of Jackson Square that has stood as the Crescent City’s center for nearly 300 years.

Early Development

A few years after New Orleans was founded in 1718, a landscape architect from France, Louis H. Pilie, sketched a layout to organize the city into a formal colony. His design was inspired by Place des Vosges, which is one of the oldest squares in Paris built in the 17th century.

Thanks to its central location, and strategic position on the banks of the Mississippi River, the public square quickly became the focal point for local commerce and shipping. It continues to be the heart of everyday life in the French Quarter, even today.

Purchase Site for Louisiana

As Spaniards used to call it back then, “Plaza de Armas” or Place d’Armes was run by the French, the Spanish, and the French again under the colonial administration until 1803. That was the year of the Louisiana Purchase which occurred right at the public square in New Orleans!

As France made the territory deal with Louisiana, the US acquired nearly 827,000 sq. miles of territory that ran from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. This is still considered the largest territorial achievement in the history of America and perhaps the best real estate deal in the history of the world.

The Grisly Public Executions

Place d’Armes gained a scandalous reputation as a public executions site throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries. After the country’s largest slave revolt in 1811 – also known as the German Coast Uprising – three slaves were lynched at the square. That’s not all. Heads of some of the executed slaves were put on a display over the city’s gates as well.

Major General Andrew Jackson

Place d’Armes was renamed Jackson Square sometime in the first half of the 19th century to honor Major General Andrew Jackson.

A hero of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans, Jackson led a force of 4,500 soldiers and secured a victory over the British, thus thwarting British efforts to invade the newly bought territory by the Port City. This win not only made Jackson a hero but also helped him become the seventh president of the United States in 1829.

A Melting Pot of Cultures

Jackson Square started to welcome artists, caricaturists, painters, musicians, portraitists, magicians, jugglers, and fortune tellers in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

The trend hasn’t slowed down a bit in the 21st century as evidenced by its portrayal in popular television shows and movies, including T.V. series like Memphis Beat and K-Ville, and films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Angel Heart.

Whether you are a local or a traveler passing through, Jackson Square awaits you with its glorious history, colorful culture, charming horse-drawn carriage rides, and yes, world-famous beignets!

New Orleans Festivals You Can’t Miss

When there is music at every corner and you’re wolfing down some of the best cuisine in the country, you know it’s celebration time in New Orleans! Looking for an excuse to go outside and paint the town red? We’ve got you covered.

If you are visiting New Orleans in the Spring, chances are you will be in town for at least one festival. We celebrate everything from tacos, to crawfish, to beer and wine. And there is no better time to do so than in springtime when the weather is just so irresistibly beautiful, you have to be outside.

You can find a full list of upcoming festivals and events here. If you want to experience the best of the fests, plan your trip for one of the following upcoming 2019 New Orleans festivals.

French Quarter Festival

Date: April 11th – April 14th

Second only to Mardi Gras, French Quarter Fest has to be the biggest free show in New Orleans. With six stages and numerous venues around the French Quarter, it is the largest showcase of Louisiana music in the world!

In addition to listening to the music that makes New Orleans so special, you can also sample the best of New Orleans’ food and drinks from restaurant vendors from all over the city.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Date: April 26th – May 5th

This two-weekend festival is considered one of the world-renowned events in New Orleans. This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Jazz Fest and epic performers like Katy Perry, The Rolling Stones, Santana, and Diana Ross are set to play.

And how can we not talk about the food? From Mango Freeze and Crawfish Monica to cochon de lait po-boys, you’ll be able to enjoy food from some truly incredible food vendors.

Essence Festival 2019

Date: July 4th – July 7th

This city has been known to serve one of the biggest events ever showcasing the crème de la crème of jazz, pop, hip-hop, R&B, blues, and so much more.

In the early ‘90s, when the Essence magazine started a 3-day festival to entertain thousands of people with the best of African-American culture and music, they didn’t stop there.

The powerful magazine also put together a series of seminars to empower women and men of African-American heritage.

This year, they are going all out since Essence festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary and musical acts include Frankie Beverly, Missy Elliott, Mary J. Blige, Pharrell Williams, Anthony Hamilton, and so many more. The event will be emceed by The Real co-host and comedian Loni Love.

Satchmo Summer Fest 2019

Date: August 2nd – August 4th

Did you know that Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong was born in New Orleans? The legendary singer, trumpeter, and composer was born here on August 4th, 1901 and the city honors his memory every year.

In a 3-day festival, thousands of jazz lovers come together to celebrate this legendary man who changed the face of jazz forever.

The event will be showcased in the New Orleans Jazz Museum and will feature some of the city’s most extraordinary bands, both traditional and contemporary jazz.

At $5, festivalgoers can get the daily admission ticket while entry for children is absolutely free. That pass will allow you to come and go throughout the day, as you please.

At this Summer Fest, you will be able to get access to your favorite local jazz artists, and also enjoy some really mouth-watering delicacies. Abita Brewing is among the food lineups for this year and they will be serving the Official Beer at the fest.

You’ll also get to indulge in some of the favorite dishes of Louis Armstrong himself along with food from local vendors, including The Praline Connection, Plum Street Snowballs, Muriel’s Jackson Square, and The Rib Room.

Crawfish Season is Here!

What (and WHEN) Exactly Is The New Orleans Crawfish Season?

All you might know about the crawfish is that it resembles a mini-lobster. Or you might also know it as crayfish or mudbugs.

However, let’s just stick to calling it crawfish in this wonderful city of New Orleans, shall we?

So what is it about the crawfish that has people from all over the World clambering to get down to New Orleans for a bite?

You see, it’s all about the flavor.

The crawfish boil is a popular, seasonal, food-centric party. It is an event as much as it is a way of cooking, and it’s popular for good reason!

The crawfish is boiled and soaked in a variety of spices – cayenne pepper, celery and mustard seeds, along with other herbs, vegetables, and other proteins, including smoked sausage, shrimp, and crabs.

While the heat and spices can definitely get to you, making you sweat as you reach for a swig of your beer, it won’t stop you from tearing into the next crawfish. They’re addictive.

A Big Industry

Did you know that Louisiana supplies about 95% of the crawfish produced in the United States?

Rightfully so, since the state is all about the crawfish and the spices. A particularly delectable experience is sucking the head of the crawfish with the pooled juices that have you salivating for more – an experience many newcomers refuse to give in to.

But, why do people need to create travel plans to get to New Orleans during a few particular months for the crawfish?

While the city is most famous for the Mardi Gras celebration, it also has people flocking to it all during the Springtime for various festivals, awesome weather, and crawfish!

Now, deciding the exact dates for this delicious season really depends on a variety of unpredictable factors such as weather and water temperature.

Spring Time

However, Crawfish Season also means that it is spring time – March, April, and May are peak months for New Orleans when the harvested crawfish reaches its zenith in quality and price.

Now, if you can’t make it to a New Orleans crawfish boil during these months, it’s not a problem. Crawfish season can last from November all the way up to August – but you will find the crawfish to be small and expensive in the early months.

Fun AND Delicious

A crawfish boil is largely a social event, a particularly messy one, as people gather together in their backyards and sometimes at bars and restaurants.

Picture all of your friends and neighbors, plus a bunch of strangers (aka soon-to-be-friends), cold beer in hand, a roll of paper towels, and newspaper covered tables, piled high with boiled crawfish, corn, potatoes, mushrooms, sausage and more.

That is what springtime in New Orleans is all about! (Food, of course!) So, we recommend that you tie your hair into a ponytail and stick to dark colored clothing as you dig into the lip smacking experience!

It’s King Cake Time!

The History of The King Cake

 

Of all the traditions celebrated here in New Orleans, the Mardi Gras King Cake is absolutely one of the tastiest!

The term Mardi Gras literally means “Fat Tuesday,” signifying a period of great feasting before the ritual fasting of Lent begins. And the most exciting part of that rich, scrumptious feast is the King Cake!

It makes sense to have a grand cake for the biggest celebratory event of the year. This frosted seasonal cake is enjoyed by the Mardi Gras followers (and most New Orleanians) between January 6 (King’s Day or Twelfth Night) and Fat Tuesday.

King Cakes, which are equal parts delicious and festive, are actually rooted in ancient tradition and royalty.

 

Multi-Cultural History

 

As the name indicates, King Cake got its name from the kings of the biblical past. Remember the Three Magi in the Bible, who came bearing gifts for baby Jesus on the Twelfth Night? That’s where the name comes from.

King Cake is first served on January 6th, which is also known as King’s Day, or the Epiphany.

The cake also serves as a delicious homage to honor the three kings and their jeweled crowns. That’s why it is sometimes also referred to as three kings’ cake. The official colors of the King Cake, as designed by the Krewe of Rex in 1872, are gold for power, green for faith, and purple for justice.

King cake is quite a popular festive treat during the Christmas season in French culture. In France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Quebec it is known as Galette or Galette des Rois or Gateau des Rois.

While in Spain and Latin America, it is known as Roscón or Rosca de Reyes. And in Portugal, people know it as Bolo Rei. The Bulgarians call it Banitsa while in Greece and Cyprus, it is called Vasilopita.

The King Cake is a special feature of the Carnival season in New Orleans.

 

The Scandal in France

 

As bizarre as it may sound, the story of this cake turned quite political during the French Revolution. Actually, it’s not that bizarre if you know that any kind of association with kings or royalty was greatly frowned upon during that period.

In 1794, the mayor of Paris actually insisted that the holiday should be discontinued and the King Cake should be banned. Fortunately, the tasty tradition prevailed. But he did manage to honor the lower class revolutionaries by renaming the cake Galette de l’Egalité or Equality Cake.

 

King Cake’s Arrival in New Orleans

 

Ultimately the noble King Cake braved the revolution and finally journeyed across the ocean to the New World colonies. Many believe that the French-Canadian explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville was responsible for bringing the cake to Louisiana.

As the story goes, he set up camp along the Mississippi River on March 2, 1699, after leading an expedition on behalf of the French crown. The place where he set the camp was just 60 miles south of what we now call the New Orleans.

By sheer coincidence, it turns out the next day was Mardi Gras. And that’s how the King Cake became such a significant part of the Mardi Gras celebrations!

Jingle, Jangle, Jingle, Here Comes Mr. Bingle!

Mr. Bingle in New Orleans

New Orleans is known as one of the most vibrant cities in the US (and the food is amazing!), and not without reason. Come spring or summer or fall, the city is always in celebratory spirit.

With Halloween and Thanksgiving gone, it’s now time for Yuletide. And trust New Orleans to bring something extra to the celebration – in the form of Mr. Bingle!

There’s an interesting story behind the adorable Mr. Bingle, the snowman assistant to Santa Claus. In 1948, when the people of New Orleans flocked to Canal Street for their Christmas shopping, there was stiff competition among all the stores there.

Make a Sparkling Mark

The famous departmental store in the French Quarters called Maison Blanche wanted to do something different to stand out from the rest.

That’s when the window display manager at the store imagined the cute little Christmas character called Mr. Bingle, a snowman who had an ice-cream cone hat, holly-leaf wings and Christmas decorations for eyes.

That wasn’t all. The store even hired a local puppeteer to bring alive Mr. Bingle through marionette shows in the front window of Maison Blanche for everyone on Canal Street to see.

The rest is history. Mr. Bingle not only became immediately popular but remained a New Orleans Christmas icon even after Maison Blanche shut shop in 1998.

When Mr. Bingle was first created, the store found it difficult to name the character. So it held a Name The Mascot contest for shoppers but it wasn’t a success. The president of Maison Blanche, Lewis Schwartz Jr., then named the character Mr. Bingle.

This adorable character became so popular in New Orleans that people offered to buy the props used in the marionette shows for huge sums. This prompted the store to start manufacturing Mr. Bingle plush dolls that went on to sell like hotcakes from 1949.

That same year, Maison Blanche also made a supersized figure of Mr. Bingle, installed in front of the store on Canal Street. It was 1949 and the installation took a long time. It became a popular attraction as people gathered to watch the installation of Mr. Bingle.

A Massive Mr. Bingle

Made by a company in Chicago, the 50 feet tall Mr. Bingle figure was shipped to New Orleans by railroad. At the time, it was the biggest such figure ever displayed by any retail store.

The Mr. Bingle theme song is still remembered by many in New Orleans. Before every Christmas, Maison Blanche celebrated the arrival of Santa Claus with Mr. Bingle as his assistant.

Lots of Fun

This event was insanely popular with the crowd, with thousands flocking to see the arrival of Santa. Though this tradition ended with the closing of Maison Blache, Mr. Bingle lives on.

Even until this day, Mr. Bingle appeals to both children and grownups in New Orleans. Not only are there installations around Christmas but Mr. Bingle plush toys are also available.

Like many things in New Orleans, it’s heartening to find that Mr. Bingle is one of those things that refuse to fade away with time.