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Big Weekend in the Big Easy
2016 LASN In & Around



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The largest city and metropolitan area in Louisiana, New Orleans was founded in 1718 by the French Mississippi Company. Louisiana went from French control, to Spanish control, back to the French for a brief period of time before the United States acquired it through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. During the Civil War, the Confederacy held New Orleans for only a short time before the United States took it for keeps. The entire city is brimming with history, from its establishment in the 1700s to the War of 1812 to the Civil War to the jazz era: in fact, there are 20 National Register Historic Districts within its boundaries. The Big Easy is host to the ASLA Expo this year for the first time since 2003. Bourbon Street, in the heart of the French Quarter, is home to the city's famed jazz clubs.
Photo: New Orleans Online and Cosmo Condina




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The best way to get around New Orleans is by streetcar: they can take you almost anywhere you want to go for $1.25 one way or $3 for a day pass. The St. Charles line received historic landmark designation as it is the oldest continuously operating streetcar in America.
Photo: New Orleans Online




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Longue Vue House and Gardens was originally constructed in 1924. In 1934, landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman worked on the garden designs. The owners decided that the placement of the home did not allow them to properly enjoy the gardens, and so they moved the original structure and built a new one in its place. With the new positioning of the home, each side faces a different garden. Though Hurricane Katrina damaged or destroyed a significant amount of the plants in August 2005, the gardens reopened after a year and are based on the original Shipman designs.
Photo: New Orleans Online and Jean-Paul Gisclair


Welcome back to New Orleans! The last time the ASLA Expo was held here, in 2003, it was a different world. Eighty percent of the city flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and in August this year, a thousand-year storm dropped two feet of water in two days, causing statewide flooding and more than $8.7 billion and counting in damages. Federal disaster relief funding came in late August.

Fortunately for ASLA visitors, New Orleans was spared from the flooding this time around, and October is historically the driest month for the city, meaning plenty of sunshine for you to get out and see the history and beauty the city has to offer. Let the good times roll!

Good Music and Good Food
New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz music - which you may have guessed upon your arrival at Louis Armstrong New Orleans Airport. In addition to Louis Armstrong, jazz legends from the city include Buddy Bolden, Sidney Bechet, Louis "Papa" Tio and family, and Papa Jack Laine.

While Bourbon Street in the French Quarter has a reputation for its 13 blocks of clubs and music, Frenchmen Street, at the edge of the Quarter, is home to some of the city's most popular live music venues. Here, admission and drinks are cheaper - sometimes even free. Check out The Apple Barrel, Snug Harbor, The Spotted Cat or The Maison for live music seven nights a week. All streetcar lines go to the French Quarter. www.bourbonstreet.com, www.frenchquarter.com, www.frenchmenstreetlive.com

Additionally, every Thursday evening in the spring and fall, there are free Jazz in the Park concerts at Louis Armstrong Park. On October 20, you can listen to Mystic and Mike "Soulman" Baptiste from 4 - 8 p.m. Louis Armstrong Park is not far from the French Quarter, on Rampart Street.

Want a musical experience without the live band? The National Park Service offers self-guided Jazz History Walking Tours. Guides are available from the Visitors Center in the French Quarter, or online at NPS.gov. The audio is available as an mp3 download, or by calling 504-613-4062 and entering the extension for each historic site. www.nps.gov/jazz/planyourvisit/things2do.htm

While you're out enjoying the music, you'll likely be dining as well. New Orleans has a cuisine all its own, a mix of Creole, French, Spanish, Italian, African, Native American, Cajun, Chinese and Cuban flavors. If you're on the run and need a quick bite, try a po' boy sandwich: beef or fried seafood on French bread, sometimes dressed with condiments. Oysters, crawfish and other seafood, sometimes in savory gumbo or jambalaya, are also common in the port city. To satisfy your sweet tooth, try a praline candy or beignets - fried pastries doused in powdered sugar.



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New Orleans is home to America's official World War II Museum, as declared by an act of Congress. Just a few blocks away from the convention center, the museum is home to several World War II relics, including this Douglas C-47 Skytrain. The exhibits focus on the American experience of World War II, including how service members overcame challenges on multiple fronts to achieve victory. A temporary exhibit, Tom Lea: LIFE and World War II, features original works from LIFE magazine war correspondent and artist Tom Lea.
Photo: New Orleans CVB and Richard Nowitz




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The Old U.S. Mint has the distinction of being the only one in America to have served as both a U.S. and a Confederate mint, and it was the only mint in the South to reopen following the Civil War. It was used as a federal prison during Prohibition, but now is home to the Louisiana Historical Center, with a mint and jazz museum that features a regular concert series called Music at the Mint. In October, listen to Armand St. Martin on the piano on Fridays at 2 p.m.
Photo: New Orleans Online and Alex Demyan




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The 1,300-acre City Park opened in 1854, and is one of the country's most expansive, most visited, and oldest urban parks. Here you can find the New Orleans Botanical Garden, a golf course, and "City Putt" mini and disc golf. While the azaleas won't be in bloom during the ASLA show, be on the lookout for butterflies and caterpillars feeding on salvia, milkweed and cosmos flowers. The New Orleans Museum of Art and some of its sculpture gardens are located within the park's boundaries. Fishing and boat rentals are available on Big Lake, near the art museum.
Photo: New Orleans CVB and Jay Combe


If you have more time, visit Antoine's Restaurant in the French Quarter. With an opening year of 1840, it's the oldest restaurant in New Orleans. It's open for lunch and dinner every day but Sunday, but offers a jazz brunch Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tours are also available. For a quicker bite, just around the corner, Antoine's Annex offers a selection of fresh baked pastries seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. www.antoines.com

A Walk in the Park
New Orleans is home to many parks, both new and old. Among the new is Crescent Park, which opened in February 2014. Landscape architect George Hargreaves of Hargreaves Associates worked with architects Michael Maltzan and David Adjaye, under architecture firm Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, to design the 1.4-mile, 20-acre urban park along the Mississippi River. The nearest streetcar stop is French Market Station on the Riverfront and Loyola-UPT lines. www.reinventingthecrescent.org




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Historians agree: jazz began in New Orleans. Ask anyone and they'll tell you it's the place to be to listen to live jazz. Bourbon Street's reputation precedes itself, with countless bars to grab a drink at and clubs to listen to the music. For a lighter crowd, try Frenchmen Street - the music is just as lively and the covers are often free. Both Bourbon Street and Frenchmen Street are located within the French Quarter, the historic city center that's as old as the city itself.
Photo: New Orleans Online and Cheryl Gerber


Carrying on down the riverfront, six miles west of the city center, the Audubon Nature Institute consists of Audubon Park, Audubon Zoo, Woldenberg Park, the Aquarium of the Americas, and Audubon Insectarium. Audubon Park, designed by John Charles Olmsted, includes a 1.8-mile paved trail. You can get there on the St. Charles streetcar line. Woldenberg Park, located just a mile away from the convention center along the Mississippi River, opened in the early 1990s and twines the landscape with public art. The Aquarium of the Americas is located within Woldenberg Park, and in 2015, debuted a 90-foot linear water feature consisting of dancing splash pad fountains. www.audubonnatureinstitute.org

City Park, one of the oldest parks in the country, is located near Lake Pontchartrain, about a 20-minute bus ride from the convention center. It is also accessible via streetcar, on the City Park line. In addition to being one of the oldest (it opened in 1854), the park is among the most expansive (1,300 acres) and most visited urban parks. The park offers fishing and boat rentals, as well as an 18-hole golf course, mini golf, and disc golf. Here you can find a botanical garden, sculpture gardens and the New Orleans Museum of Art. Charity-minded ASLA attendees can join the Race for the Cure at City Park on October 22, beginning at 7 a.m. www.neworleanscitypark.com

Museums and Historic Places
New Orleans has no shortage of history: in fact, the St. Charles Streetcar line is a historic landmark, as the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in America. To get a glimpse of the city's history, including that of the streetcar, check out the Laura C. Hudson Visitor Center in the French Quarter. Here also is the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Within the park are Chalmette National Cemetery and the site of the Battle of New Orleans, which is known for occurring, unbeknownst to the parties involved, after the treaty ending the War of 1812 had been signed (but not yet ratified by the United States government). Only four graves at the cemetery are those of soldiers in that war, and only one of those soldiers was at the Battle of New Orleans. www.nps.gov




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The Audubon Nature Institute is comprised of Audubon Park, Audubon Zoo, the Aquarium of the Americas, and the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. In addition to elephants such as the ones depicted at the fountain, the zoo is home to jaguars, monkeys, flamingos, alligators, bears and more. Audubon Park, which opened in 1898, is among the city's oldest and includes a 1.8 mile paved loop and a golf course. Woldenberg Riverfront Park, also part of the Audubon Institute, is located just upriver from the convention center and integrates nature with public art along the waterfront. The Aquarium, which is next to Woldenberg Park, has a new 90-foot linear water feature in front of it.
Photo: New Orleans CVB and Jeff Anding


Located just a half mile from the convention center, the National WWII Museum is America's official World War II Museum as designated by Congress. Admission for adults is $24 and includes vintage aircraft, tanks, and exhibits that tell the stories of the men and women who made the Allied victory possible. During the ASLA show, check out the temporary exhibit Tom Lea: LIFE and World War II, featuring original works from LIFE magazine war correspondent and artist Tom Lea. www.nationalww2museum.org

The Old U.S. Mint has the distinction of being the only one in America to have served as both a United States and Confederate States mint. It was also the only mint in the South to reopen after the Civil War. The building was used as a federal prison during Prohibition, and later was used by the Coast Guard. Today, it is home to a mint museum and the Louisiana Historical Center. Jazz exhibits include Louis Armstrong's first coronet and other relics. Get there from the French Market streetcar station on the Riverfront and Loyola-UPT lines. www.louisianastatemuseum.org

Longue Vue House and Gardens, located a few blocks away from City Park, is a National Historic Landmark open seven days a week. The historic estate features a museum and eight acres of gardens, including some designed by landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman. Longue Vue opened to the public in 1968 and was in continuous operation until the flooding that resulted from Hurricane Katrina submerged the property for two weeks, killing 60 percent of the total plant collection. Less than a year later, the entire garden was reopened to the public. www.longvue.com




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Among the damages suffered following Hurricane Katrina was the loss of nearly 100,000 trees. Several organizations have worked on the replanting efforts, and around 50,000 of those have been replaced in the last 11 years. While in New Orleans, consider a voluntourism experience: taking the time to give back to the community hosting you. The NOLA Tree Project has planted about 34,000 trees since Katrina, and welcomes groups of volunteers for a day of restoration.
Photo: New Orleans CVB and Chris Granger


Giving Back: Voluntourism
Since the last ASLA show, New Orleans was flooded by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. More recently, the state was hit with two feet of water in two days. Organizations throughout the region are always looking for and accepting volunteer assistance to help with recovery efforts. Giving back to the community hosting the show is a rewarding experience and a sure way to make your trip one-of-a-kind.

Grow Dat Youth Farm, located within City Park, teaches leadership, sustainable farming, wellness, and food justice to young leaders. There are free self-guided tours of the farm, with a suggested donation of $8 per person. Adult individual volunteers can drop in Tuesday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. During the fall, the Farm is also hosting a Dinner on the Farm series. On October 22, enjoy cochon and peche for $125, which includes cocktail hour, a farm tour, and meal with wine. www.growdatyouthfarm.org

The NOLA Tree Project, formerly Hike for KaTREEna, is on a mission to replant the 100,000 trees lost to Hurricane Katrina. So far, they have replanted about 34,000; the city overall has restored about 50,000 of the trees lost to Katrina. Contact them at www.nolatreeproject.org to set up a corporate team-building day of volunteering.

If you are unable to give time during your visit, consider donating to the Louisiana Region of the Red Cross or another charity you support. Donations of blood are also welcome. www.redcross.org/local/louisiana




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Louisiana has a cuisine all its own: jambalaya, gumbo, po boy sandwiches and beignets are all synonymous with New Orleans food. For a higher cuisine than a shrimp po boy, visit Antoine's, the oldest restaurant in New Orleans. They opened in 1840 and now offer free tours. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner six days a week, and for a jazz brunch on Sundays. If you're in a hurry and need a quick bite, stop by Antoine's Annex, located just around the corner, for pastries and other goodies seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Photo: New Orleans CVB and Joyce Bracey


Outside New Orleans
With so much to do within the city - this article has barely scratched the surface - it's easy to forget there's a world outside of New Orleans. But just outside the city, there are a multitude of new adventures waiting to be taken.

Along the Mississippi River to the west of New Orleans, River Road, a 70-mile stretch of highway, is home to dozens of plantation homes, many of which are open to the public. Destrehan Plantation is the oldest and closest to New Orleans - only about a 30-minute drive. The plantation is open seven days a week except major holidays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with tours leaving every 30 minutes. General admission is $20. www.destrehanplantation.org

About one hour outside of New Orleans, Whitney Plantation opened its doors in 2014 as the only plantation museum in Louisiana to focus on slavery. In 1946 the plantation house was described as "one of the most interesting in the entire South" by Charles E. Peterson, senior landscape architect of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day but Tuesday, and general admission is $22. Guided tours start every hour from 10 to 3. www.whitneyplantation.com

Louisiana is well known for its swampland, and there are different types of tours offered to safely explore the nature and ecology of the area. About 45 minutes outside of New Orleans, Dr. Wagner's Honey Island Swamp Tours offers covered and uncovered small boat tours daily for $23 per adult (reservations required, credit cards not accepted on site). For an additional cost, they will provide round-trip transportation to and from your hotel. Tours last two hours and are led by natives to South Louisiana. www.honeyislandswamp.com

Southern Seaplane, Inc. offers tours by air of Louisiana's swamps, bayous and surrounding coastline. Tours range from $125-$295 per adult for the New Orleans Bayou, Save Our Coast, and Cajun Heritage tours. Book in advance at www.southernseaplane.com.

New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours offers exactly what you would expect: kayak swamp tours. Guided tours for beginning and intermediate kayakers start at $59. Available tours include Honey Island Swamp, Manchac Mystic, and Bayou St. John city tour. Transportation to the tour launch locations is available for an extra $20 per person round-trip. www.neworleanskayakswamptours.com

New Orleans is a fascinating city with a wide variety of experiences. Between the music, parks, museums, and historical sites, the Big Easy has something for everyone to let the good times roll.


As seen in LASN magazine, October 2016.








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