New Orleans, La. By Tom Stanley

This is a big one. New Orleans has worn many masks over its long history. It's been a major slave trading center in the days before the Civil War. It's been the birthplace of jazz music, giving rise to pioneers like Louie Armstrong, Duke Ellington and all the way back to Jelly Roll Morton. And most recently, it's been the victim of an iconic natural disaster in Hurricane Katrina, strong enough to bring a city to its knees and rattle the nation's collective sense of well-being. But this tragedy spurned droves of support and armies of volunteers to help bring ol' N'Orleans back to life. They're still at work, nearly four years later.

But the hard work is certainly warranted. This is just a gorgeous city, exploding with color and seeped in history. Its famed French Quarter district offers terrific examples of Spanish architecture, as the city was a colony of both France and Spain at different times. During the Civil War, this southern city surrendered to the Union about four years before the war ended, so it was spared from the destruction that many other southern cities experienced during the war. Though this point is somewhat counterbalanced by the damage done by Hurricane Katrina, there still remain plenty of old, classic structures and sites that we won't want to miss.

But let's speak to our demographic for a moment. If there's one thing that New Orleans is known for to people my age, it's for being one of the best places in the country to go out drinking. This place is simply overflowing with jazz clubs, dance clubs and all kinds of different watering holes. The most notable celebration down here is during Mardi Gras, when the beads (and in turn, the public nudity) come out to take over the streets.
We won't be here for that. But we're spending three days in town, with so much to see, and such high expectations for it all. I doubt we'll find any disappointment here.

-French Quarter (at right)

-Garden District

-National WWII Museum

-New Orleans Cocktail Tour

-Palm Court Jazz Cafe

-Bloody Mary's New Orleans Tour

-Steamboat Natchez (at left)

-Ogden Museum of Southern Art

-Hurricane Katrina Tour

-Preservation Hall

-Historic New Orleans Collection

-The Spotted Cat

All photos by Joe Jansen