When a trip to New Orleans comes to mind, often it is associated with the French Quarter, revelry in the streets, parades and beads. And though Mardi Gras is without a doubt the preeminent event in the city, museums, activities and attractions await to be explored year round. With New Year’s Day falling on a Friday, consider taking off to New Orleans for a long weekend full of fun, festivity and freedom.
The Audubon Zoo features areas for various species, including the World of Primates, the Louisiana Swamp, the Jaguar Jungle, the African Savanna and the Audubon Aviary. On Dec. 31, Audubon Zoo celebrates Zoo Year’s Eve, complete with a countdown to noon, and provides a great way for the whole family to ring in the New Year together. www.auduboninstitute.org
Another family destination to celebrate the New Year, the Louisiana Children’s Museum celebrates New Year’s Eve Kids’ Countdown to Noon on Dec. 31. For a $10-per-family-member pass, visitors gain access to the event’s confetti toss and balloon release, along with the sounds of the Red Hot Brass Band. Come for the countdown, and stay to explore the museum’s various educational and playful exhibits. www.lcm.org
Explore the history and culture indigenous to New Orleans at the Backstreet Cultural Museum. View collections of Mardi Gras costumes and regalia, and exhibits that showcase the New Orleans parade culture, jazz funerals and social aid and pleasure clubs. www.backstreetmuseum.org
The House of Blues in New Orleans teems with live music and raucous fun. On New Year’s Eve, hometown heroes Better Than Ezra will entertain crowds with hits from the past and present. Upgrade a visit to the House of Blues by booking a space in the Foundation Room and enjoy specialty VIP treatment and touches of traditional southern hospitality. www.houseofblues.com/neworleans
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar is named for the sailor, diplomat, entrepreneur and hero of the Battle of New Orleans. The bar is a favorite of both visitors and locals, and it is steeped in history: The building is alleged to be the oldest structure to house a working bar in the country. Enjoy classic cocktails along with specialties, like the hurricane, in this casual establishment. www.lafittesblacksmithshop.com
Bars, restaurants and clubs line Bourbon Street, located in the heart of New Orleans’s French Quarter. New Year’s Eve is guaranteed to be boisterous in the Quarter and will be ideal for visiting a few of clubs, enjoying live music and imbibing in tasty sips.
A long weekend is the perfect way to unwind and recharge those batteries for 2016. Though New Orleans offers a vibrant nightlife, there are ample ways to enjoy the more peaceful side of the city.