If you do any reunion planning — or indeed, any party planning at all — then you know just how many French phrases have made their way into our social vocabulary. An appointment or meeting spot is a rendezvous. We ask people to RSVP (repondez s’il vous plait, or “please answer”). And a reunion might well be planned by the family doyenne (female leader).
But when you’re talking about reunions in New Orleans, you should add a bit more French to your list: Laissez les bons temps rouler, or “let the good times roll.” It’s a phrase that’s most closely linked with Mardi Gras (and one that will get you an odd look in Paris), but it’s perfectly fitted for family reunions in New Orleans. Not only do you get to go to one of the South’s most inherently multi-cultural cities, you get your pick of activities and venues. And you can even get some assistance in rolling out those good times. Here’s what you need to know:
What Can Groups Do In New Orleans?
What do you want to do? Sports? New Orleans is home to the NFL Saints, NBA Pelicans, New Orleans Baby Cakes baseball team, New Orleans Jesters (pro soccer team). Throughout the year, the city also hosts numerous events, including college football’s Bayou Classic, New Orleans Bowl and Sugar Bowl. And if golf’s your game, you’ll find a clutch of excellent courses open to the public.
If sports isn’t your game, New Orleans can provide you with plantations, gator farms and other activities, including the more usual pastimes of shopping and sightseeing. Or you can simply explore the city’s various districts and find your own adventures.
The French Quarter is an excellent example of everything the tourist looks for: food, history, art, and music. But why not step beyond its bounds and experience some of the city’s other neighborhoods? Algiers, for example, is just a short ferry ride from Canal Street, but it has a quiet and relaxed vibe. Along the riverfront, you’ll find plenty of room to walk, bike or have a group picnic. Afterwards, stroll through the streets and enjoy the renovated buildings and parks.
Treme, America’s oldest African-American neighborhood, offers visitors a chance to explore one of the city’s most important cultural heritages. Visit museums dedicated to black history and culture, dance along with a second-line parade, and revel in the place that invented jazz. (And there are lots more neighborhoods to discover.)
Finally, we can’t leave New Orleans’ attractions without mentioning the festivals — of which there are too many to list here. Whether your group is into food, music, history, holidays, art, literature or theater, you’ll likely find a festival to celebrate it. After all, this is a city that has an entire festival dedicated to a sandwich (the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival).
Speaking of food…
What Does New Orleans Have in the Way of Reunion Food?
While you can get both Cajun and Creole food in the Big Easy, the city is actually home to the more “citified” Creole cuisine. This style of cooking combines French, Italian, Spanish and Caribbean influences to create delicious layers of flavor. Look for regional dishes like gumbo (a Creole favorite), beignets (sugared fried doughnuts) and crawfish etouffee, or check out New Orleans “native” dishes like red beans and rice or muffaletta (a Sicilian-inspired super-sandwich).
And don’t worry about feeding a crowd in New Orleans. Southern hospitality is in full force here, and plenty of places can provide food and fun for a large group. A local favorite, the crawfish boil, can be booked from catering companies; you can even order a take-home souvenir book of recipes.
Where Can My Group Stay in New Orleans?
There’s no problem in finding the accommodations you need in New Orleans. If you’re looking for a daylong party and only need room to host a gathering, there are pavilions and greenspaces aplenty. If you’re coming in from out of town, a range of hotels and bed and breakfasts can meet your budgetary and size needs. And don’t forget that you can also camp or RV.
Since New Orleans has a wide variety of options, it’s good to know that you can count on the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau for some free help in choosing a venue. An online form will get you started.
How Can We Get to the Big Easy?
Given its coastal (and riverside) location, New Orleans is no stranger to hosting travelers. These days, though, most visitors come via expressway or airplane. The Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is your best choice for flying into the area. It offers nonstop service to 59 destinations and is served by 17 airlines, including American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and United.
Who Will Help Us Plan Our New Orleans Reunion?
The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau can help you with planning and publicizing your reunion. They can give you itinerary ideas, recommend attractions and set you up with plenty of free information. You can find them at NewOrleansFamilyReunions.com.
Doing something different for your next reunion doesn’t mean you’re doing things the hard way. When you visit New Orleans, you’re not going to be lining up for the same old food, games, and activities; you’re going to be experiencing one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the country.