Student Group Travel To New Orleans

45Jambalaya, Cajun hospitality and great music! This is what will greet every student group upon arrival in New Orleans or N’awlins (as the locals lovingly refer to their city). Being ranked #1 in ten categories in Travel & Leisure Magazine’s 2009 “America’s Favorite Cities” survey, the people of New Orleans really mean what they say…”Les Bon Temps Rouler!” (Let the Good Times Roll!). Perfectly melding French, African, Spanish, and American cultures, the result is a fun city brimming with educational museums, exciting attractions, Cajun/Creole food, incredible music, unique historical sites and, of course, Mardi Gras.

Food

The food, no matter where you go within the city, will certainly stir your taste buds. From scrumptious shrimp and oyster Po-Boy sandwiches, Jambalaya and Crab Chowder, to melt-in-your-mouth Cajun pulled pork, Muffuletta sandwiches, and seafood Gumbo, the Cajun/Creole flavors will surely please your palate. Make sure you don’t forget dessert either! The delectable flavors of New Orleans desserts will meet and exceed your sugar cravings. Try a local favorite, Mississippi Mud Pie, a gooey chocolate filling on top of a crumbly chocolate crust served with vanilla ice cream; or try what New Orleans is famous for, Bananas Foster, created at Brennan’s Restaurant. Bread Pudding is another favorite and comes in many different flavors including white chocolate, dark chocolate, banana rum sauce and more.

Favorite restaurants include Café du Monde, a New Orleans signature French café. Make sure to stop by the original location at 800 Decatur Street and watch as fresh beignets and French doughnuts are made. The only thing better than watching them being made though is eating them! Another restaurant, touted as the “Total Cajun Experience” is Michaul’s Cajun Restaurant, featuring mouthwatering Cajun/Creole food and live Cajun music performed nightly. For a more formal setting, your group will enjoy Copeland’s of New Orleans, where one will experience southern cuisine with an eclectic Cajun flair. In addition, student group favorites include Bubba Gump Shrimp, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, Hard Rock Café, the Steamboat Natchez Dinner Cruise and the Creole Queen Dinner Jazz Cruise.

Attractions/Museums

The French Quarter’s most notable streets, Bourbon and Royal, offer student groups a unique architectural view of 18th century New Orleans. Extending 13 blocks from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue, Bourbon Street is mainly known for its party atmosphere and site of the Mardi Gras Parade. With many unique shops, restaurants and clubs, Bourbon Street is a “can’t miss” part of your tour. On Royal Street, iron-laced balconies and outdoor patios adorn the street giving student groups a sense of 18th century architectural design, where more shops and restaurants are located.

One of New Orleans’ most famous landmarks in the French Quarter isJackson Square. Called “Place d’ Armes” until the early 19th century, it was renamed for the Battle of New Orleans hero Andrew Jackson. Jackson Square is surrounded by historic buildings like the St. Louis Cathedral, many Louisiana State Museums and the Upper Pontalba Apartments, the oldest apartment buildings in the country. Your student group can have their picture taken in front of the bronze statue of Andrew Jackson and his horse. Or, to get a great picture of the entire square, take your group to Washington Artillery Park, which overlooks the entire square.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis King of France (the St. Louis Cathedral) is the oldest t Catholic cathedral in continual use in the country. The original structure, built in the early 18th century, was unfortunately destroyed in a fire in 1788. Rebuilt in 1794 and again in the 19th century, the church is now one of the most popular landmarks in New Orleans. Your student group can attend a Mass, explore the church or enjoy free classical concerts that occur frequently in the cathedral.

A visit to New Orleans would not be complete without a visit to Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World, where your group can peek behind the curtain and see Mardi Gras in the making. From concept to completion, the artists of Mardi Gras create and build the parade floats for the annual Mardi Gras celebration in both New Orleans and Universal Studios Florida®. This is truly a world of wonder, creativity and pageantry.

New Orleans offers over 40 museums including historical, art, Mardi Gras, family/children’s, nature and religious museums. Some of the more popular museums include:

Old U.S. Mint Museum – Built in 1835, the Old U.S. Mint is the only building in America to have served both as a United States and a Confederate Mint. President Andrew Jackson advocated the Mint’s establishment in order to help finance development of the nation’s western frontier.

Louisiana’s Civil War Museum – Louisiana’s Civil War Museum is one of the largest repositories of Confederacy-related artifacts and memorabilia in the United States, in addition to being the oldest continuously operating museum in Louisiana.

The National World War II Museum – This museum is a must-see for history lovers and patriots. Designated by the U.S. Congress as the country’s official World War II Museum, powerful images and extraordinary artifacts bring to life the American Spirit of courage, teamwork and sacrifice of the young men and women who won the war and changed the world.

New Orleans Museum of Art – The neo-classical, Beaux Arts-style New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) houses a $200 million collection spanning 4,000 years of art history in 46 galleries.

Ogden Museum of Southern Art – This museum is home to the most comprehensive collection of southern art in the world. Showcasing art encompassing 15 southern states and the District of Columbia, the museum celebrates the art, history and culture of the American south. Named an affiliate of The Smithsonian Institution in 2001, it was the first museum in Louisiana to receive this prestigious designation.

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas – Located next to the Mississippi River, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas houses 15,000 sea life creatures, representing nearly 600 species.

Audubon Insectarium – If it walks, crawls or flies, your group will have a good chance to see it on display at the Audubon Insectarium.

Audubon Zoo – The Audubon Zoo is a living outdoor/indoor museum filled with some of the rarest and most beautiful creatures of nature. The Audubon Zoo has 58 acres of animals in their natural habitats. The Zoo consistently ranks among the country’s best.

Known as a popular destination for ghost hunters, New Orleans is also famous for its ghost tours, where many above-ground tombs abound. Due to the area’s high water table, settlers were unable to bury their loved-one’s caskets, so most of the tombs in the city are located above ground. There are many ghost tours you and your student group can tour. Explore one of the 40 cemeteries including the St. Louis Cemetery. Many famous New Orleanians reside in the St. Louis Cemetery including sugar-industry pioneer Etienne Bore, Homer Plessy (of Civil Rights case Plessy v. Ferguson) and Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. A ghost tour of St. Louis Cemetery will provide your group with a hauntingly good time.

Of special note, a Cajun Pride Swamp Boat Tour is always a highlight for student groups. Experiencing the famous Manchac swamp is a highlight of student group itineraries. The tour takes your group back to the early days of Louisiana swamp and bayou explorations. Your group will see swamp creatures like alligators, snakes, many types of birds as well as the Cajun town of Frenier. This unique journey is one that your student group will always remember.

Music

New Orleans is known by many as the birthplace of Jazz and is an ideal destination to enrich your student performance groups’ appreciation for jazz as well as many other types of music. It seems that when you walk through the streets of New Orleans, you constantly hear music. There are many musicians who perform throughout the French Quarter as well as other areas including parks, etc. For example, New Orleans Jazz Historical Park gives groups a chance to learn about the rich music history of New Orleans jazz. There are many free concerts and music workshops offered throughout the year, of which your performance ensembles can be a part of.

The Jazz and Heritage Foundation and French Quarter Festivals, Inc. host many free concerts and festivals throughout the year including Satchmo SummerFest, which celebrates the life of New Orleans-born trumpeter Louis Armstrong, the Crescent City Blues & BBQ Fest, the Congo Square Rhythms Festival, the French Quarter Festival and the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival, among many others.

From April through June, Lafayette Square hosts free concerts from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. Many bands perform many different types of music during the 12-week festival period.

If you are a middle school or high school band, orchestra or choir, performance opportunities are numerous throughout New Orleans. Performance sites include Jackson Square, Riverwalk Marketplace, the Creole Queen Dinner Jazz Cruise, the Steamboat Natchez as well as many local cathedrals. Workshops can also be pre-arranged at Loyola University for band, choral and orchestra ensembles.

On a More Serious Note…

Understanding what New Orleans has been through from the tragic events of Hurricane Katrina can be an important part of your student group travel tour. A visit to the 8th or 9th ward will reveal the ongoing rebuilding efforts and will give your students a chance to volunteer, thus embracing the theme of service. There are many opportunities for student groups to assist in these efforts including volunteering at Second Harvest Food Bank, helping to rebuild schools or paint homes, plus more.

Overall, New Orleans is a fun city with an energy that continually buzzes. New Orleans should be at the top of the list when educators are selecting destinations for their student group trip. With the many exciting attractions, historical museums, delectable food, incredible music opportunities, and rebirth projects, New Orleans will entertain your student group like no other city. The magic in New Orleans runs deep. When you leave, the fun and excitement goes with you.

Steve is the Marketing directory for Kaleidoscope Adventures. Being in the tourism industry for 21 years, group travel is a passion of mine. My background is as an Independent Contractor in Tourism Sales and Marketing in Orlando, Florida. My goal is to greatly increase revenues within the companies I work with via sales and marketing efforts.