My latest for Travel Weekly: As one of America’s most distinct cities, few places are more beloved by both travelers and the travel media than New Orleans. My wife and I recently visited the Crescent City and found it to be just as charming as ever, even with pandemic restrictions in place.
Of all we did on our visit, these experiences stood out:
Dr. Gumbo Food Tours. Just how many iconic foods did New Orleans invent? What’s the difference between Cajun and Creole? Is this really the Paris of the South? And is this really a better “original cuisine” city than New York? By the end of this fabulous tour, your brains will be just as satisfied as your palate. Over the course of the afternoon, we visited six locations while sampling much of what New Orleans is known for: gumbo, etouffee, jambalaya, red beans and rice, beignets, po’boys, muffulettas, hot sauces, bananas Foster and hurricanes (aka “gasoline with fruit in it”). Visit doctorgumbo.com to learn more.
New Orleans School of Cooking. In addition to eating good food, my wife and I also wanted to learn how to prepare some of these famous dishes. We found the New Orleans School of Cooking’s intimate, hands-on classes to be the perfect place to do so. Over the course of the evening, we learned more about the founding of Cajun and Creole cuisine while cooking southern crab salad, brown butter pork chops, red beans and rice and bananas Foster. It was all divine — an unforgettable experience that’s worth repeat visits to learn even more. The school offers both hands-on and demonstration classes, if indulging in the meal afterward is the only hands-on experience clients are interested in. See neworleansschoolofcooking.com for details about classes, prices and more.
Fritzel’s European Jazz Club. The oldest operating New Orleans jazz club and a French Quarter mainstay for over 50 years, Fritzel’s is — despite its Continental reference — home to traditional New Orleans jazz. The place is a mecca for jazz lovers and musicians alike, but all are welcome, even jazz newbies like myself. The night we visited, the house band humbly took requests to play several pop classics in addition to the intricate songs and rhythms they masterly performed. A highly recommended stop while in the Quarter. To find out who’s performing, go to www.fritzelsjazz.net
FreeWheelin’ Bike Tours. In addition to treating our stomachs and ears, here we got to shed some calories on one of the best sightseeing tours we could have imagined. Over the course of an hour and a half, we zipped all around town with our friendly guide, Laura, for a better under- standing of what drives and divides this well-integrated melting pot. We even learned about “lagniappe” (something extra for free) while gawking at mansions, visiting cemeteries and learning different dialects while crossing back and forth from Canal Street. Not even monsoon rains kept us from enjoying this fascinating peek into New Orleans culture. Find out more at neworleansbiketour.com