Louis Armstrong Airport is truly undergoing a renaissance. In addition to a new, upcoming terminal and new restaurants on-site (planned vendors for the terminal expansion include Pizza Domenica, Mondo, Mopho, and Emeril’s Table), “MSY” is also adding new international flights to its roster. Keep reading to plan your dream international vacation — we’ve got the scoop on where to go and what to pack so you always feel at home.
British Airways offers direct flights from New Orleans to London. (Photo via Facebook)
Where to Go
London — British Airways announced its exciting new nonstop from New Orleans to London last year… and now flights are finally available starting March 27. The global culture and ancient history of this premiere city is just a direct flight away; there’s truly no reason not to take advantage of this amazing new offering from Louis Armstrong Airport!
Panama — Some call Panama the gateway to the Americas, but it’s also a destination in and of itself. Whether you choose to stay in Panama or use the direct flight on Copa Airlines to venture into other nearby Central and South American countries like Costa Rica or Colombia, your flight will be quick and easy — it’s only 3 1/2 hours long!
Frankfurt — Frankfurt is one of the largest, busiest airports in the world that offers easy access to other countries in Europe and Asia. You may choose the direct flight to Frankfurt as your connection to nearly anywhere else in the world, or you might decide to stay and explore Germany. Frankfurt is a truly European-style destination with historic landmarks, botanical gardens, museums, performing arts venues, and so much more; it’s also just a train ride away from Germany’s capital, Berlin.
Cancun — Your beach getaway just got a lot more exotic with direct flights available seasonally to Cancun. Revel in the surf and the sun on a flight that clocks in at under 2 hours!
Punta Cana — This gem of the Dominican Republic is another must-do beach destination available seasonally. You’ll be treated to incredible resorts, beautiful ocean views, and the laid-back style of the Caribbean.
Toronto — Spend your vacay on the shores of Lake Ontario with a flight to Toronto. This cosmopolitan city is a prominent location for films, music, and the performing arts. Get a view of it all from the city’s famous CN Tower.
What to Pack for an Overseas Flight
Of course, you’ll want to prepare for weather and desired activities (are you envisioning a fancy night out? A heart-pumping hike? Pack accordingly!) wherever you’re headed, but there are a few things you can bring with you to stay relaxed and feel at home on a long flight. You’ll arrive feeling refreshed, not frazzled.
- Noise-canceling headphones — Crying baby? What crying baby?
- USB battery pack — A backup battery means you can Netflix binge without worrying about draining your phone!
- Lightweight scarf, jacket, or blanket — Planes get chilly, after all.
- Travel pillow — Pick one up at the airport if you forget to bring your own. The last thing you want when you land is a sore neck!
- Address of where you’re staying — This sounds obvious, but have the address written down or committed to memory. Customs agents may ask when you land, and you’ll certainly want to direct your cab driver to the correct place.
- Care pack — Pack a quart-size, clear plastic zip bag with items like moisturizer, eye drops, Tylenol, Alka-Seltzer, chapstick, and Emergen-C. Sometimes, long flights are just plain uncomfortable, but these items can help!
Jefferson Parish must be on the nice list, because there are so many fun activities for us to enjoy this holiday season! Whether you live in Metairie, River Ridge, Kenner, or elsewhere in the Greater New Orleans region, we’ve got you covered with a veritable winter wonderland of holiday happenings.
Our present to you: all the holiday fun you can handle in Greater New Orleans!
Holiday Activities in Greater New Orleans
Music and Theater Events
Jefferson Performing Arts Society Presents: The Ultimate Christmas Show
This holiday variety show and Christmas pageant runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. from Dec. 2-11. If you’d like to catch it during the week, enjoy a special Thursday performance on Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $25; call (504) 885-2000 for more information.
Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts’ “Steel Poinsettias”
A comical riff on “Steel Magnolias,” this play has a Christmas-themed twist and just as much Southern sass. Catch it Dec. 2-3; Dec. 9-10; and Dec. 16-17 at various evening and matinee times. Tickets are $30; call (504) 461-9475 for more information.
The National World War II Museum’s “A Vintage Christmas”
Singing vintage tunes “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in perfect harmony, the vintage-chic Victory Belles conjure up an era gone by during their show, happening throughout the holiday season. You can even catch a show on Christmas Day! Buy tickets in advance to reserve your spot.
Jefferson Performing Arts Society Presents: “The Nutcracker”
An absolute holiday classic. Last year, JPAS’s performance of “The Nutcracker” was named the best ballet presentation of 2015 at the Big Easy Classical Arts award — you won’t want to miss it! Get your tickets online (from $40) for Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m. or Dec. 18 at 2 p.m.
Kenner Christmas Village
Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through the holiday season, find caroling, holiday characters, crafts, food vendors, and entertainment at Kenner Christmas Village, 405 Williams Blvd. Admire beautiful Christmas lights and animated scenery, and don’t even worry about bringing your wallet — admission is free! (Of course, food and drink are additional costs.)
Christmas in the Park
Lafreniere Park hosts this dazzling event throughout its lush grounds. Explore LED light displays plus amusements like the Children’s Carousel ride. Admission is $5 per vehicle, so plan to carpool and save some cash! Christmas in the Park runs every Sunday through Thursday from dusk until 9:45 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday until 11:45 p.m. throughout the holiday season.
Lights at the Lake
Save Our Lake hosts this annual event at the New Canal Lighthouse on Lake Pontchartrain. It’s free to attend, but you can also purchase $5 raffle tickets for your chance to win a variety of prizes, including a staycation, restaurant gift cards, City Park memberships, and more. Call (504) 836-2205 for details on event times.
For the Kids
Deanie’s Seafood Holiday Kid’s Sing-a-Long
The French Quarter location of Deanie’s Seafood will host a kid’s event on Dec. 10, 11, 17, and 18 at 9 a.m. This family-friendly event includes complimentary photos with Santa, a full breakfast buffet, face painting, arts and crafts, a commemorative crawfish, and more. Tickets are $42 per person, and children under 2 years are free.
Teddy Bear Tea at The National WWII Museum
On Dec. 3, 10, and 17, treat the kids to tasty food, sweet treats, and live music. They can bring their favorite teddy bear as a “plus one,” but all young guests will leave with a new teddy bear to commemorate the event. Holiday songs, a photo station, and Santa are all part of the fun.
Jefferson Parish harvests a hefty crop of fun things to do this fall. Take a look at all there is to do this October and November!
Shady trees, a paved walkway, and water features are all part of Lafreniere Park in Metairie. (Photo courtesy ExperienceJefferson.com)
Fun Fall Activities
Lafreniere Live! Fall Concert Series — This park is one of our favorites in the area, and on Thursday, Oct. 13 from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m., it’s also your spot for live music. Check out The Strays at this free concert taking place at Al Copeland Meadow Concert Stage inside the park. Vendors are on site for food and drinks!
Oktoberfest — Three straight weekends of German food, music, and beer with contests every single day (including Dachshund races!). It’s a whole lot of fun in Kenner’s charming Rivertown. Head there from 4 p.m. until 11 p.m. on Fridays and from 1 p.m. until 11 p.m. on Saturdays throughout October. Admission is $8, but kids ages 12 and under are free.
Junie B. Jones: The Musical — Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts takes on the beloved children’s book character Junie B. in this family-friendly play running Oct. 7-16. Tickets are $15.
Park-A-Boo — Lafreniere Park is at it again with fun programming Oct. 21-23 with their Park-A-Boo event. Costumes are encouraged at this safe Halloween event featuring trick or treating, activities, a boo house, and more for families with kids ages 13 and younger. Food booths will serve up kid-friendly favorites like pizza, hot dogs, and soft drinks. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for kids, and free for children under 2.
Bucktown Seafood Festival — Head to 1600 Lake Avenue for music and food all weekend during the 19th annual Bucktown Seafood Festival. Deanie’s seafood provides the grub, and you’ll hear music from bands like Contraflow and Category 6. There will also be rides and games for all ages plus a crafts fair, raffle prizes, and more.
Hocus Pocus at Muss Bertolino Park — The City of Kenner screens the Disney favorite on Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free, and costumes are encouraged! There are also games and photo opportunities starting at 5:30 p.m. prior to the screening.
Funny Girl — Jefferson Performing Arts Society in Metairie presents this classic musical theater performance Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. from Nov. 4-13. Tickets are available from $30.
1776 The Musical — Harness your patriotism just in time for elections at this Rivertown Theaters event running Nov. 4-20. Tickets from $36.
Oyster Festival — On Nov. 11-13, check out Oyster Fest at 3978 West Esplanade Ave. in Metairie. This local community fair features live music, crafts, games, kids’ activities, and a whole lot of oysters! Admission is free.
Pecan Festival — With Thanksgiving in mind, the Pecan Festival is overflowing with pecan dishes (including pie!). Admission is free and includes live music, games, and plenty of family fun.
Kenner Christmas Village — Ring in the holidays at this annual event lighting up Main Street USA in the Rivertown historic district starting on Nov. 27. Admission is free to this festive holiday village, studded in Christmas lights and animated scenery from 5:30 until 8:30 p.m. throughout the holiday season.
Ready to get moving? The Greater New Orleans area offers so many ways to stay fit and have fun while you’re at it. Whether you take advantage of an outdoor space like Lafreniere Park or go straight for a fitness class, we’ve compiled a list of free and cheap fitness activities to keep you healthy and happy.
Lafreniere Park in Metairie. (Photo via Lafreniere Park on Facebook)
Lafreniere Park — This 155-acre park features so many things to do, from a 2-mile jogging trail to an on-site, 20-acre lagoon ideal for birdwatching and immersing yourself in nature. The park features 2 distinct playgrounds, a carousel, and a splash pad for the kids, plus sports fields and a disc golf course. It’s the perfect place to stay active in the heart of Jefferson Parish!
City Park — City Park in New Orleans is one of the largest public parks in the country. Kids will love Storyland, the on-site amusement park, while adults can partake in healthy activities like canoeing, jogging, or golfing (mini golf, disc golf, and regular golf are all available for nominal fees). There’s also an on-site dog park – just remember to review dog park etiquette first!
Audubon Park — This park is free to enter, although you can pay a small fee for activities like tennis or horseback riding. A playground for kids makes it family-friendly, as does the Audubon Zoo on the premises.
Tammany Trace — A “hike and bike trail,” Tammany Trace touts a whopping 31 miles of gorgeous scenery. The trail used to be a railway, but now it’s perfect for a leisurely stroll, upbeat jog, or bicycle ride to get some fresh air.
Lafitte Greenway — Recently restored, the Lafitte Greenway is a pedestrian and cyclist path that winds through the heart of New Orleans. A gorgeous respite from the urban landscape of the city, Lafitte Greenway features 2.6 miles of trail connecting downtown New Orleans to City Park.
Romney Pilates Community Class — Head to Uptown New Orleans every Saturday at 8 a.m. for a $5 community class at Romney Pilates (5619 Magazine St.). The space is absolutely gorgeous, and is directly across the street from a Whole Foods, so you can get your grocery shopping done, too! Plan to arrive early as this class tends to fill up quickly.
Free Zumba in City Park — At the Peristyle in City Park, you can partake in a free zumba class every Saturday morning at 8 a.m. It’s a great way to get your heart rate up and enjoy nature. We won’t say anything if you go to the City Park Morning Call afterward… you deserve it!
Yoga at the Cabildo — Enjoy a most beautiful view of the French Quarter for $12 at the Yoga at the Cabildo class offered Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays from 8:30 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. Friends of the Cabildo members pay just $8 per class.
Salvation Studio Charity Spin — Donate to charity, and get a free workout! Every Friday at Salvation Studio, donate $5 or more to the weekly charity or cause of choice, and you’ll be enrolled in their spin class for free. Think of how good you’ll feel after you help the community and complete a heart-pumping workout!
New Orleans has so much to offer, you could never leave and still find something to do every single day of the week. But sometimes, you need a change of pace without spending very much.
Sure, we’d love to hop on a flight to some exotic island, but with our wallets in mind, we’ve created a list of “staycations” – places outside the city that feel like a whole new world but are just a short drive away. Whether you head to the shores of Dauphin Island or the stately guest rooms of Nottoway Plantation, bookmark this list for a weekend getaway or a quick day trip… you deserve it!
Road Trips from New Orleans
Day trips from New Orleans.
Celebrate a Noted Ceramicist
Take the hour-and-a-half drive to Biloxi and visit the Ohr-O’Keefe museum, a non-profit museum that highlights the work of ceramicist George E. Ohr. While the O’Keefe component may conjure up images of desert flowers, it isn’t named for Georgia O’Keefe: instead, the O’Keefe portion of the museum’s name comes from Annette O’Keefe, the late wife of the former Biloxi mayor whose donation dollars were instrumental in bringing the museum to life.
Photo courtesy Ohr O’Keefe Museum of Art on Facebook
Famed architect Frank Gehry designed the museum, which is a work of art in and of itself. Comprised of five separate buildings, the museum includes dedicated spaces for special exhibitions, African American art, and ceramics.
Where to Stay: If you decide to extend your stay beyond a day trip, there are a variety of hotels within the area. Many even give you the option to test your luck at an included casino!
What Else to Do in Biloxi: Go on a fishing charter, visit the outlet malls in nearby Gulfport, or simply hit the beaches. With that in mind…
Stay at a Gulf Coast Beach
The Gulf Coast is full of gorgeous beaches perfect for a getaway from New Orleans. Our recommendations? Bay St. Louis for its charming downtown, Dauphin Island near Mobile for a more rustic and nature-immersed feel, and Grand Isle to stay in state and experience a beautiful state park. All of these beaches are fewer than three hours away (Bay St. Louis is only an hour drive), but if you’re willing to drive even farther, we have two additional recommendations:
Destin, FL: The four-hour drive is worth every minute for sparkling blue waters and a charming town.
Photo courtesy The Pearl RB on Facebook
Rosemary Beach, FL: Just a bit farther from Destin, you’ll find Rosemary Beach, which has the same charming feel and beautiful waters. If you can spring for the Pearl Hotel, we say go for it – their high-style décor, incredible pool, and proximity to both downtown and the beach makes for a memorable vacation.
Holly Beach, LA: This coastal community in Cameron Parish is about a four-hour drive from New Orleans. You won’t get the same crystal-clear waters as Florida beaches, but the abundance of shells and serene, peaceful feel will keep you intrigued and in awe.
Experience the Past at Plantations
Plantations pepper the region just outside of New Orleans, serving as architectural reminders of the Antebellum South. While there are several to choose from, like Houma House, Oak Alley, and Destrehan Plantation, our top picks are as follows:
Laura Plantation: This plantation about an hour outside New Orleans is a little different than the vast and sprawling plantations elsewhere in the state. Because it was a Creole plantation where mixed cultures lived and work, Laura Plantation has a completely different architecture. You can also connect to the past more closely and realistically at Laura, where examples of slave homes and banana tree farms abound. If you crave the classic plantation style, Oak Alley Plantation is right next door.
Photo courtesy Nottoway Plantation on Facebook
Nottoway Plantation: Nottoway isn’t just a plantation – it’s a resort. Drive about an hour and a half outside New Orleans, and you’ll have access to beautiful architecture and elegant furnishings, plus vacation-worthy amenities like tennis courts, a spa, an on-site restaurant, and live entertainment. Stay in the main mansion or choose from guest houses and cottages, some of which even have a private pool.
Visit a Museum that Honors Two Louisiana Pastimes
At first glance, aviation and lumber seem like an odd combination to appear in the same museum. But the Wedell-Williams Aviation and Cypress Sawmill Museum in Patterson is actually a fitting combination. The dual focus is a nod to two components of Louisiana history: Jimmie Wedell and Harry P. Williams formed an air service together in Patterson during the golden age of aviation in the 1920s, and Patterson – about an hour and a half drive from New Orleans – was once home to the largest cypress sawmill in the world.
Top 5 Road Trip Tips
Even a short road trip benefits from a little bit of planning and a little bit of packing. Here are 5 tips to help make your next road trip even better:
1. Plan for high-traffic areas. Are you planning on leaving New Orleans at 5 p.m. on a Friday? Probably not a great idea if you can help it. Instead, try avoiding peak rush hour times if possible, and always remember to plan ahead for the next town — for example, even if you leave New Orleans a little early at 3, you’ll be hitting Biloxi just as traffic starts to peak.
2. Consider joining AAA or another roadside assistance group. Louisiana roads have a real knack for banging up cars, from rock chips to flat tires. Joining a roadside assistance group like AAA ensures you’ll get free help and free towing in the event of anything that brings your car to a halt. These programs are typically pretty affordable — usually about $100 annually — and also include great member discounts on hotels.
3. Have cash and change handy. Don’t forget about toll money! Carry small bills and plenty of quarters in your car so that you can easily pay tolls on the way to your destination and on the way back. Spare change is also helpful in case you can’t get cell phone service: believe it or not, pay phones still exist — but you’ll need coins to get them to work.
4. Have your documents in order. License? Check. Registration? Check. Proof of insurance? Check. If you’ve decided to rent a car, make sure to keep any documents and receipts with you in the front glove compartment.
5. Bring a spare key. This simple little hack can help you avoid a major headache.