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.

History of Opera in New Orleans

New Orleans is often regarded as the home of the first US opera house. The world is familiar with the fact that New Orleans is a vibrant and colorful city with fun events taking place throughout the year.

From Mardi Gras to Oktoberfest to New Years, there is no end to the delightful events that take place in New Orleans at any given time of the year and draw people from around the country. What most people are surprised to learn is that the city has a deep connection with opera.

The first ever opera performance to be staged in New Orleans was Sylvain, in 1796. That was the year when Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice and Napoleon married Josephine.

New Orleans was still under Spanish rule back then but that did not stop the city from becoming the opera capital of North America.

Opera was the leading entertainment option in most parts around the world before movies existed. Opera blended music, storytelling, and dramatic performances to make one entertaining package. Not only did people enjoy watching opera performances but a huge number of artists, dancers, singers, costume, and stage designers made their living from it.

Opera has always been a part of New Orleans’ culture, and the audience consisted of people from all walks of life, whether rich or poor, high class or low.

Old opera theaters in NOLA

Not only was New Orleans the hub of opera in North America, it also boasted of some of the most famous theaters of the time.

Théâtre de la Rue Saint Pierre was where Sylvain was staged in 1796, and for the longest time, was the earliest opera house in the city. It opened in 1792 and was the first French speaking opera house in Louisiana but also catered to the Spanish speaking audience.

In 1808, the Théâtre St. Philippe opened and Une folie by Étienne Méhul was premiered here. For a long time, the most famous opera house in New Orleans was the Théâtre d’Orléans, from 1819 to 1859.

The French Opera House succeeded the Théâtre d’Orléans in 1859. It went on to become the most significant opera house in the history of New Orleans. American premieres of works by Bellini, Verdi, and Rossini always took place at the French Opera House, until it burned down in a fire in 1919 which is the same year The Great War of WWI ended.

With the French Opera House gone, the whole opera scene in New Orleans was disrupted. The French Opera House could not be rebuilt because of the lack of funds, and until 1943 opera was only performed in the city by touring companies.

New opera theaters

After an entire generation without any resident opera company, the city finally got the New Orleans Opera Association in 1943 and also found a resident company again.

There were a few popular opera houses that operated during this time, such as the Mahalia Jackson Theater for Performing Arts and the New Opera Theater that closed in 1990.

Those looking to experience opera in New Orleans today should look for performances at Mahalia Jackson Theater, Le Petit Theater, or the Marigny Opera House.

Halloween in New Orleans

If you always thought that Halloween is for little kids, then coming to New Orleans will change your perception. In the Crescent City, Halloween is not just a night where kids go trick-or-treating. It’s a night when adults also get to join in the fun in their crazy costumes with music festivals, parades, and street parties!

Scary and Fun!

In fact, after Mardi Gras, Halloween in New Orleans is most famous for the wild costumes and the crazy fun. Those who have experienced Halloween in New Orleans will vouch for the fact that it’s more fun for adults than for the kids!

New Orleans is known as a fun and colorful city where every event is celebrated with much show and pomp. Halloween is no different. It isn’t surprising to find people from nearby towns and cities heading to New Orleans to be a part of their outlandish Halloween celebrations.

Costuming

There is something about the people of New Orleans – they are always so clever in coming up with bizarre and eye catching costumes for any event. You might have seen zombies (or walkers from The Walking Dead) and vampires on many a Halloween night in your hometown. But when you come to New Orleans, be prepared to be wowed by crazier costumes.

Halloween celebrations in New Orleans have something for everyone, whether you are an adult, a child, or a whole family. In fact, you don’t even have to make your own costume to take part in the celebrations. There are several costume shops in the city where you will find any kind of costume that you want.

You know what you have to do once you are in costume, right? Yes, join any of the celebrations that take place in the city on Halloween night.  Make your way to Frenchmen St. on Halloween night to show off your costume and admire the creativity of others.

Most eateries, pubs, and bars stay open all through Halloween night, ready to welcome costumed guests. It doesn’t matter if you are new in the city and don’t have company. The moment you enter any bar or eatery, you will feel like a part of the crowd instantly.

A Deep History

Some of the other attractions in New Orleans on Halloween night are the haunted tours and the voodoo shops. There is an endless number of haunted attractions in New Orleans mostly in the French Quarter and the Garden District. Aside from haunted houses, New Orleans has world famous cemeteries, with their fair share of spooky stories.

Appearances of ghosts in the cemeteries have also been documented and captured on film. The voodoo shops are where you should be if you’re interested in learning spells and incantations. These shops host their own events on Halloween night where everyone is free to join.

If you’re a vampire, there are even shops catering specifically to you. If you’re simply a mere mortal who wants to have some fun, don’t forget to be part of the celebrations in these shops around the French Quarter.

Everyone can have Fun

There are various events put up by zoos and museums for the entire family on Halloween night. Kids can go trick-or-treating, enjoy some spooky stories, and also get up close with the animals.

So this Halloween, NOLA is where you should be to experience crazy fun like never before!

Fall Festivals in New Orleans

As September ends, it brings along cooler temps and higher energy. This is the time when locals celebrate the end of a long, hot summer, and more importantly the end of hurricane season. People from around the world flock to New Orleans year round to experience the variety of events and festivals taking place. But Autumn is really one of the best times of year to visit New Orleans!

Oktoberfest

New Orleans has had an influential German presence for over 90 years. To celebrate this, New Orleans hosts Oktoberfest every fall, presented by Deutsches Haus.

This annual German festival celebrates culture and cuisine for three weekends in October, with classic German food and beer. The event should be extra special this year as the Deutsches Haus celebrates its 90th anniversary! It also has a new home on the banks of Bayou St. John near New Orleans City Park, a prime location for a citywide favorite celebration.

Click here for event dates and times.

Carnaval Latino

This year marks the 29th annual Carnaval Latino celebration and parade presented by the Hispanic American Musicians and Artists Cultural Association. This is a day-long event, held on October 13th, 2018, celebrating Hispanic culture, cuisine, and music.

There is a pre parade event open to the public where you can enjoy some of the best in Latin food, drinks, music, and art. The Desfile de las Americas parade begins at Washington Square and is open to all fest goers. The festival concludes with a special edition of House of Blues’ Bamboleo.

New Orleans Film Festival

The New Orleans Film Society presents The New Orleans film festival, now in its 29th year. This much anticipated Autumn event will take place October 17th-25th. The festival is held at various locations across New Orleans and includes full-length feature films, short films, documentaries, animation, and music videos.

Tickets can be bought online and range from $9 dollars to $35, depending upon the event. Various famous faces attend the festival featuring new filmmakers including women and those of color. Inclusivity is one of the reasons why the New Orleans film festival is recognized around the country. Click here for more info.

Halloween Parade

If you like a good fright, then the annual Halloween parade by the Krewe of Boo should definitely be on your list. The parade passes through the French Quarter (Vieux Carre) and turns it into Boo Carre! Usually held on October 20th, this is the only parade that travels through the French Quarter with full sized floats. The parade is free and open to all, but if you want to ride on a float, you have to register in advance.

Beignet Festival

The beignet is a classic French treat, and New Orleans has a whole festival dedicated to it! This year, the event will take place on Saturday, October 6th at New Orleans City Park. At this free-to-enter festival, you get to try various kinds of beignet, from savory and innovative to sweet and traditional.

There will also be live music and awards for the best vendors and dishes. Food tickets are sold at the venue for $1 each, and the proceeds go to Tres Doux Foundation, an organization for children with disabilities.

Gentilly Fest

For a weekend of food, music, and family fun, head to Gentilly’s Pontchartrain Park and try the best in cuisine, music, art and jewelry, and fun activities like rock climbing, horseback riding, and storytelling. The festival is completely free and open to all, so if you’re in NOLA this fall (October 12th-14th), make sure to drop by for a grand ol’ time!