Where to Escape Super Bowl Crowds in New Orleans
As legions of football fans and revelers descend upon New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the rowdy, beer-fueled spirit of the masses. We won't judge. In fact, we'll help you escape the inevitable madness. Surely, New Orleans is more than a big, sports-fueled party -- there's ample culture, history and nature to soak up in the midst of the mayhem. Check out our 5 favorite picks for where to escape the Super Bowl crowds in New Orleans.
At the heart of New Orleans' French Quarter, Jackson Square may be one of America's most atmospheric public greens; a motley assortment of creative types -- artists, musicians, street performers like jugglers and magicians, and even a smattering of tarot card readers -- fill the square. While the square's vibe is enough to lure in weary travelers hoping to kick back and watch the colorful goings-on, its surroundings are also a noteworthy attraction.
The breathtaking St. Louis Cathedral rises from the front of the square, and is flanked by the Pontalba Buildings, block-long 4-story matching apartment buildings, noted for being the longest continuously inhabited apartment buildings in the United States -- though some scholars will argue that when built, they were row houses, not apartment buildings. Today, the buildings' ground floors house colorful shops and restaurants. Also rising along the square, the Cabildo and Presbytère buildings provide additional architectural attractions, while in the square sits a commemorative statue of General Andrew Jackson, after whom the square is named. After unwinding in the square, head across Decatur Street to Cafe du Monde, the iconic cafe known for its cafe au laits and beignets.
America's finest and most extensive collection of Southern art can be found in New Orleans' Ogden Museum, which features art by Southern artists like Alexander Drysdale, on theme’s related to the region’s history and culture. Founded nearly 40 years ago by Roger Ogden, a local real estate developer, the museum now houses a collection of more than 1,200 works on permanent display, as well as a rotating series of exhibitions and works that hail from the 15 Southern states and Washington, DC, spanning the 18th to 21st centuries.
Nearly as noteworthy as the Ogden's collection is the museum building itself; an enormous central atrium allows natural light to filter into the galleries, setting a lovely and mellow mood, while the building's rooftop patio offers views of the surrounding Central Business District neighborhood. Plan your visit on a Thursday evening, if possible, to enjoy the Ogden After Hours program, a weekly event that features live performances by Southern musicians, followed by an interview conducted by a Southern music historian.
For a more genteel alternative to pre-gaming the Super Bowl at a sports bar, make your way to New Orleans' highly civilized Garden District, a neighborhood composed of some of the United States' best-preserved historic Southern mansions. Meander through the area, which is marked by St. Charles Avenue to the north, First Street to the east, Magazine Street to the south and Toledano Street to the west, and discover a world of porticos and pillars, wrought-iron trimmings and oak tree-lined streets.
The 19th-century mansions are delightful examples of Greek Revival and Gothic architecture, and visitors strolling through the neighborhood will also be rewarded with sightings of landmarks such as the Anshe Sfard synagogue and the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, one of New Orleans' most famed necropolises. If you've worked up an appetite wandering around, grab a bite at the Commander's Palace; located across from the cemetery, it's one of New Orleans' most legendary restaurants noted for its haute Creole cuisine.
If it's creepy and crawly, with spindly legs or wings, chances are you'll see it at this 23,000-square-foot ode to insects. Critters great and small make their home at the insectarium, which is the largest freestanding museum in the United States devoted to the world's 900,000-plus species of bugs and their relatives. Visitors can see live insects, like worker ants, mounted specimens and, of course, pass through the Butterfly Garden, where they can interact with free-flying butterflies in a Japanese garden.
Interactive exhibits will delight adults and children, including Life Underground, which "shrinks" humans to insect size with a series of oversized exhibits and giant animatronic bugs. Meanwhile, the Louisiana Swamp recreates this habitat for insects like beetles, water scorpions and spiders. Don't leave without checking out the "Hall of Fame," which honors the world's biggest and fastest critters.
Out in the swamplands surrounding New Orleans, you'll be far from the fray of Super Bowl fanatics. Yep, that’s right: A swamp tour could be just the ticket to get outta Dodge … and into nature. A number of tour companies offer forays into nearby swamps, some even offering transportation from New Orleans out to their boat docks. On a guided tour, you're likely to see egrets, herons, bald eagles, frogs, feral hogs (if you're lucky) and, of course, alligators.
Colorful guides -- and yes, swamp tour guides are nearly always a well-informed hoot -- tend to bring raw chicken to toss to the 'gators, allowing you close-up views of their chompers. Look into outfitters like Pearl River Eco Tours, which features smaller boats, allowing you to delve deep into one of the wildest swamps in Louisiana -- the 250-square-mile Honey Island Swamp's bayous and sloughs. Pearl River also offers transportation from downtown New Orleans for an additional fee.