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6 Ways to Celebrate New Orleans' 300th Anniversary

Ring in the occasion with larger-than-life parties, world-class jazz performances and memorable meals.

U.S. News & World Report

6 Ways to Celebrate New Orleans' 300th Anniversary

Potted plants in balcony of building at French Quarter, New Orleans

Whether you’re looking to attend an over-the-top block party or delight in staples like po'boys, shrimp gumbo and Sazerac-infused cocktails, there are plenty of ways to commemorate the occasion. (Getty Images)

The Big Easy is marking its tricentennial this year, and you can expect this party-centric city to throw an over-the-top fete to commemorate the 300 years since its founding in 1718. Most visitors know the can't-miss sights and must-do experiences, such as grabbing sugar-dusted beignets and sipping a café au lait at bustling Café du Monde and enjoying jazz at the intimate Preservation Hall. But if you've already hit the Crescent City's main attractions, here are some lesser-known ways to let the good times roll and experience the city like a local.

Raise a Sazerac or Ramos Gin Fizz to Toast the Occasion

If you've already sampled a rum-based Hurricane on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, and you're craving a more upscale experience, slip into the elegant Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel for a Sazerac. The Roosevelt's Sazerac Bar bills itself as the home of the potent cocktail, which also is poured at local haunts around the city. Here, bartenders concoct it with Sazerac Rye Whiskey, Peychaud's Bitters and a sugar cube, then pour the concoction into a glass coated with absinthe-like Herbsaint. Another homemade cocktail to try is the Ramos Gin Fizz, infused with ingredients such as orange blossom water, cream, lemon and lime juice and simple syrup. The secret is shaking it until a meringue-like froth appears at the top.

Kayak the Bayou St. John

Few tourists know that the Bayou St. John runs through residential neighborhoods and is easily reached from the French Quarter or Central Business District by bus. You may not see an alligator, but you'll glide by herons and tranquil residential areas and work up an appetite for your next Creole or Cajun meal. Afterward, fill up with a belly-busting fried oyster or shrimp dish and roast beef po'boy at a local favorite: the no-frills Parkway Bakery & Tavern. The hefty sandwich on a sliced loaf of French bread originated when it was handed out to striking streetcar workers and was dubbed a po'boy. Go early or late in the afternoon for lunch to avoid long lines.

Visit a Voodoo Queen

Bloody Mary, a mystical voodoo practitioner with a larger-than-life personality, gives personal readings at her Bloody Mary's Haunted Museum in the French Quarter. She can help you explore your life and issues using cards, animal bones or a psychic vision. You can buy voodoo aids at her shop in a historic house on North Rampart Street or tour the upper floor. She and her staff lead ghost tours, too. Voodoo paraphernalia and readings also are offered at Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo in the French Quarter, which has been named for New Orleans' legendary 19th-century voodoo queen.

Listen to Intimate Jazz and Blues Sets

You'll hear traditional New Orleans jazz on Bourbon Street (Preservation Hall, which has added more shows, is a must). But locals are more likely to stroll over to Frenchmen Street in the neighboring Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. The Spotted Cat Music Club and Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro are just two places to hear world-class acts, playing various styles of jazz and other musical genres.

Sample Culinary Staples at Off-the-Tourist-Track Restaurants

Ordering oysters Bienville with white wine sauce at Arnaud's Restaurant, watching a waiter flame bananas Foster tableside at Brennan's and spooning up Creole gumbo at Commander's Palace's festive weekend jazz brunches are must-do experiences for foodies. But don't miss sitting down at the city's newer, more eclectic restaurants. Maypop's Mekong Delta-meets-the-Mississippi cuisine is an up-and-coming hot spot in the Warehouse District. Dig into wok-fried egg noodles with jumbo shrimp and turmeric curry, complemented by a field pea salad. Not far away, on a quiet block of Magazine Street, lively Pêche Seafood Grill serves fresh oysters and locally caught fish. For a meal to remember, get the whole grilled fish of the day to share.

Attend the Tricentennial Version of Mardi Gras

Yes, it's touristy, but it it's a tradition worth experiencing at least once. Many outsiders don't know that the Krewe of Rex, founded in 1872, is the oldest and most prestigious parading Mardi Gras organization. It plans to honor the tricentennial in an elaborate float procession starting at 10 a.m. on Feb. 13. Floats illustrate people, places and events that shaped the Crescent City, including the Mississippi River, indigenous Native Americans, pirate Jean Lafitte, "A Streetcar Named Desire" and the 19th-century Battle of New Orleans. On Feb. 6, the new Krewe du Kanaval, a joint venture of Preservation Hall and Arcade Fire, an indie rock band, will honor the cultural connection between New Orleans and Haiti with a parade in the French Quarter that ends with a block party at Congo Square in Louis Armstrong Park.

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Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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