Krewes, which are social organizations, roll through the streets during Carnival Season, throwing everything from beads and cups to coconuts, shoes and plungers (all of them called throws) to revelers below.
Mardi Gras Parades
Mardi Gras Krewes were segregated until 1991, so African-Americans started their own traditions by creating tribes that chant and parade through the streets three times a year. An homage to the Native Americans who protected runaway slaves, Indians hand sew their suits each year, using hundreds of thousands of beads, feathers and sequins.
Mardi Gras Indians
Second lines are moving parties, where a brass band provides the soundtrack to colorful, jumping and strutting merriment makers. The name comes from the handkerchief waving revelers who form the second line, while the band and the umbrella wielding hosts from the Club, funeral or wedding party form the main line.
In the aftermath of Katrina, when an aid group inspected a building they spray painted an X on it. The top quadrant was filled with the date, the right with any potential hazards (animals, gas leaks, ect), the bottom was the number of living and dead in the house, and the left quadrant contained the code for their agency.
Cajuns are descendants of the Acadian French from Nova Scotia who resettled in the swamps and countrysides around Louisiana. Older members of the community still speak Louisiana French.
Considered by many to be America’s music, Jazz started in New Orleans’ African-American communities in the early 20th century and quickly spread around the world. Famous local pioneers include Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong.
Robson Hatsukami Morgan
This quick, loud, high energy take on hip-hop with heavy bass started in New Orleans in the 1980’s. Characterized by chants and call-outs combined with sampled beats, you’ll hear bounce blaring from cars, boils, parades and clubs. See if you can catch a Big Freedia show while you are in town.
New Orleanians will take any excuse to dress up in costume and most spend the majority of the Mardi Gras season in various getups, whether they are part of a parade or just a spectator. In fact, many locals have entire closets dedicated to their many costumes and wigs.
Running from Epiphany (January 6th) through Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), Carnival is a time of excess for Catholics before the sacrifices of Lent, which starts the next day on Ash Wednesday. It is also the only acceptable time to eat king cake.
After the Civil War, African-American communities started to pool their resources to help cover medical and funeral costs of their neighbors when times were tough. But that isn’t all they did. They may be most famous for hosting parades and second lines on Sunday afternoons in the fall and spring.
Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs
Hurricane Katrina was traumatic for all who lived through it, many of whom lost loved ones and homes to the storm. Like all tramas people process the storm differently. Some will want to talk about it with you and others will want to avoid the subject so be mindful when broaching the subject.
Creoles are city based descendants of native born Louisianians, often of mixed race, who are of French, Spanish and/or West African decent. This group grew with the influx of white people, free people of color and enslaved people who came to the city after fleeing the Haitian Revolution.
A combination of West African Vodun, Haitian Vodou, and French and Spanish Roman Catholic, Voodoo is a distinctly New Orleanian religion. It wasn't uncommon for practitioners, including the famed Marie Laveau, to be practicing Catholics as well.
Zydeco music, that evolved from it's close cousin Cajun music, is accordion and fiddle based music that has voculs, often in English and Louisiana French. Listen to the Lost Bayou Ramblers for a taste of the genre.
Lost Bayou Ramblers
Sundays during football season are a religious experience in Saints country. You will often hear people yell Who Dat during games or even in passing on the street. Who Dat is actually a question and an abbreviation for “Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?" a chant you hear every time the boys score.
Pronounced LAN-yap, it means a little something extra. You might get a little lagniappe when you make a purchase at a store or at a restaurant. A popular lagniappe is a thirteenth free donut when you order a dozen.
District Donuts Sliders Brew
This large, French bread sandwich is filled with your choice of meat, with roast beef and fried shrimp being popular. A dressed po-boy will come with lettuce, tomato, pickles and mayo. Parkway is a beloved favorite and Killer PoBoys serves up innovative takes, but don’t pass up a chance to try one from a gas station or a corner store.
This one-pot, rice and meat or seafood dish is Louisiana’s version of paella. While jambalaya is rarely on restaurant menus because the best versions come from home kitchens, you can get a great version at Lil' Dizzy's if you don't mind leaving the Quarter or you can swing by Coop's Place if you do.
On Monday morning you put your beans and leftover meat from your Sunday dinner on to simmer so that dinner will be ready when you finish your laundry at the end of the day. While the best red beans are made by someones momma, most fried chicken places (like Willie Mae's and McHardy's) serve great versions as a side.
Red Beans & Rice
Willie Mae's Scotch House
While others call them crayfish or crawdads, here they are crawfish that are combined with potatoes, corn and spices and boiled at a boil with friends and family. Crawfish season is (roughly) between January and July, so if you are in town during that time, pick up some crawfish and head to the closest park to enjoy.
This large, round sandwich was invented by Salvatore Lupo, the owner of Central Grocery in the early 1900's. They still prepare muffalettas the the same way with meat, cheese and their homemade olive salad. And while Central Grocery invented it, Cochon Butcher makes one of the best versions in the city.
Hot squares of fluffy fried dough that are hidden under a mound of powdered sugar. They pair perfectly with café au lait, especially when you dunk the sweet treat in your drink. Try them at Café Du Monde in the French Quarter or head to their City Park location to skip the wait.
Don’t call it a snow cone, this cold treat is finer, fluffier, and comes in more flavors than it’s coarser cousin. Try one at Hansen's Sno-Bliz. May we suggest satsuma if you are looking for something fruity or honey lavendar if you want something creamier.
Pronounced PRAW-leen, this sweet treat is made of sugar, butter, milk and pecans. Loretta of Loretta's Authentic Pralines has been whipping up her version since she opened her first shop in the 1980's, using a recipe her family can trace back five generations.
Loretta's Authentic Pralines
Gumbo is meat or seafood stew that is thickened with okra and has Native American, West African, French and German influences. The best gumbo is made in a home kitchen, but if you can't manage to get yourself invited to dinner, try Mr. B's for a fancy option and Parkway or any neighborhood spot for a more casual option.
Parkway Bakery & Tavern
Food is such a big part of the culture in New Orleans that the basis for many of the city's most popular dishes, onions, bell peppers and celery, are looked uppon with religious reference. The holy trinity can be found in gumbo, jambalaya, and étouffée among other dishes.
Like much of Vietnam, New Orleans is sub-tropical, Catholic and nearly surrounded by water. So when the Vietnam War ended many Vietnamese fled to New Orleans, brining their food and traditions with them. Every local has their favorite place to get pho or banh mi in the city, but you can't go wrong with Lilly's Cafe.
A Cajun take on the French boudin, these pork and rice balls are breaded, deep-fried, and dipped in Creole mustard. Order some up at Cochon Butcher.
This dish that you've probably never heard of is a beef noodle stew with green onions and a hard boiled egg. While no one is quite sure where it came from, everyone agrees that Ms. Linda does it best. She serves it up on Thursdays at Ogden After Hours and at many festivals, but if you can’t track her down, try the yakamein at Manchu.
Ms. Linda Green
What was originally used to extend supplied of coffee by mixing it with the beans when the Union Navy blocked the port during the Civil War has now become a coffee house staple, especially in café au lait. Order a one at any of French Truck's locations or opt for their New Orleans Iced Coffee if you want to cool off.
This large, ovular, pastry, covered in icing and colorful sugar can be found everywhere during Carnival Season. If your piece of cake has the plastic baby inside, you have to buy the next king cake. If you are in town during Carnival Season, head to the King Cake Hub to have a variety of options from the best king cake makers in the state.
Because there are no open container laws in New Orleans, people wander the streets and parks drinking out of go-cups. When you are ready to leave a bar or a friend's house but you aren't finished your drink, ask for a go-cup so that you can take it with you.
Because New Orleans is below sea level and residents were tired of caskets popping out of the ground during storms, families started to build beautiful, marble mausoleums that would naturally cremate remains in the hot New Orleans sun. You have to be a part of a tour to enter St. Louis No. 1, but you can wander by yourself in Lafayette No. 1.
This building type, commonly found in the French Quarter, is characterized by side gabled roofs with four openings on their symmetrical facades that are raised a foot or two off the ground. These 1.5 story homes don't have hallways, with each room opening into the next, creating a two room by two room square.
Camelbacks are a variation on a traditional shotgun house where a second story has been added. The building type gets its name because the addition looks like the hump of a camel.
Because Louisiana used to be ruled by French and Spanish Roman Catholics, the state is broken up into Parishes rather than counties. New Olreans is in Orleans Parish, which is bordered by Jefferson, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard Parishes.
In New Orleans we don’t have medians, we have neutral grounds. The grassy area in the middle of the road got its name from the original neutral ground on Canal St. The street was the dividing line between the French-Creole and American sections of town, which was very necessary because the two groups did not get along.
Shotguns are long, narrow houses where one room opens into the next in a line with no hallways in between. A traditional shotgun has one window and one door on its front and houses one family. Shotgun doubles are more common, with four openings on the front and two separate homes inside that share a central wall.
Tiny House Talk
The French Quarter is filled with galleries and balconies, but there is a difference. A gallery tends to be the width of the sidewalk and has supports that go all the way down to the ground. Balconies meanwhile are slimmer and are only supported by the wall of the building it is attached to.