Microsoft Envision: New Orleans City Guide
The winds of change are blowing excitedly as we anticipate the inaugural launch of Microsoft’s Envision hosted for the first time in New Orleans.
And if you’re planning to attend, what a time to visit such a vibrant atmospheric city! The hometown of jazz, this bustling-at-the-seams melting pot of a city exudes indulgence. Even the celebrations and customs are as much about its history as it is hedonism. This is the place of the Mardi Gras! The place to eat fantastic Creole cuisine, drink, and immerse yourself in a euphoric culture.
Envision provides an opportunity to explore the latest solutions and hear from some of the most forward-thinking minds in business and technology. It promises to be a jam-packed line-up, featuring prominent industry visionaries and experts who will share the latest ideas, trends and innovations. We hope you will find time to explore your surroundings and thought it might be nice to share some fun facts, top attractions to visit plus a few local tips we’ve unearthed on how to get the most out of your time visiting New Orleans.
Dubbed “The Big Easy” New Orleans is located along the Mississippi River, the largest city in Louisiana. Viewed as the cultural heartbeat, the gem of the South; it has its own unique blend of French, African and American cultures. The city’s very facade is a unique architectural splendor par excellence, steeped and rooted in deep history. April sees the start of the summer festival season where the average temperature reaches a high of 25˚C (that’s about 77°F) during the day and drops to around 16°C (about 61°F) in the evenings. Time zone: (CST) Central Standard Time, UTC/GMT -6 hours.
- New Orleans is the supreme birthplace of ‘jazz’ which means “energetic or vigorous.” It’s also the birthplace of Louis Armstrong the Great Satchmo! Jazz subsequently spawned the rise of blues and rock ‘n’ roll.
- Betty Guillaud, a gossip columnist from the Times-Picayune, coined the phrase ‘The Big Easy” apparently to compare life in NYC known as “The Big Apple” to life in New Orleans which she nicknamed ‘The Big Easy.”
- Mardi Gras begins on the Feast of the Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night.
- Poker is attributed to being invented in New Orleans, the first commercial game was reported by British Actor Joseph Crowell in 1829.
- In 1803 the United States paid France $15 million for the Louisiana Territory in a deal known as The Louisiana Purchase, 828,000 square miles of land which almost doubled the size of the United States.
- A popular sweet treat, and ‘must try’ in New Orleans is Beignets made from deep-fried choux pastry sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.
- In World War II, New Orleans contributed and helped secure the Allied victory over Fascism. This legacy is why America’s National World War II Museum is located in the city.
- There are 20 historic National Registered Districts in New Orleans, more than any other city in the United States.
- The Louisiana Dix (French for ten) was the preferred currency amongst traders back in the day. English linguists called them ‘Dixies’ and coined the term Dixieland.
- New Orleans is often referred to as America’s Most Haunted City. Spooky!
The Tennessee Williams Literary Festival
Dedicated to the ghost of Pulitzer prize-winning American playwright Tennessee Williams, this annual five-day literary festival celebrates its 30th Anniversary and takes place from March 30 – April 3. The festival features several events related to the long illustrious career of the writer, American literature, poetry, opera, drama, film, photography, culture, art, history and even cooking. Highlights include writing workshops, literary readings, stage performances, a book fair, writing contests and music. The signature Stella and Stanley Shouting Contest closes the festival.
Known as The Vieux Carré or French Quarter, this is the oldest town center. The buildings are aged between 100 and nearly 300 years old, with arcades, wrought iron balconies, red-tiled roofs and charming fountain decked courtyards. The district contains an abundance of jazz spots, popular restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, galleries and old quaint hotels. Bourbon Street is the known for its hot jazz clubs, restaurants, and is the location of the famous Preservation Hall, and the Old Absinthe House.
New Orleans City Park covers more than 1,300 acres and features a Botanical Garden, 18-hole golf course, tennis complex, boating on the Big Lake, Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, and the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden.
St Louis Cathedral
Built in 1794, St Louis Cathedral is the landmark structure in New Orleans and is known for being the United States’ oldest cathedral still in continuous use. Pope John Paul II visited the cathedral back in 1987.
National WWII Museum
The National WWII Museum tells the story of soldiers through artifacts, film, photographs, diaries and oral histories. Exhibits include D-Day at Normandy, and Home Front and the Pacific. The film Beyond All Boundaries, produced by Tom Hanks, is shown in its 4 D Theater. The museum also features traveling exhibitions to complement its permanent collection.
One of those experiences you shouldn’t miss, the Steamboat Natchez offers cruises on the Mississippi River and is a unique way to see and learn about the city. Guests can choose from Jazz Dinner Cruises to Jazz Harbor Cruises typically lasting around two hours. The dinner cruise features a live jazz band, and a buffet-style dinner with Creole cuisine.
New Orleans Museum of Art
New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), is New Orleans’ oldest fine arts institution and hosts an impressive collection of almost 40000 objects of French and American art.
USEFUL LOCAL KNOWLEDGE
- The locals in New Orleans are extremely welcoming and you are always greeted with a smile and sometimes a friendly chat. However, it’s important to note that not everyone speaks French.
- Traditional favourite dishes are po-boys, gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish étouffée, pronounced /ay’too’fay/. Zoning laws allow restaurants to be set up in residential houses, so don’t be alarmed if you find yourself eating dinner in someone’s cozy little home. The cost of eating out can vary depending on where you go, expect to pay in the region of $10 – $30.
- The Garden District, situated in uptown New Orleans offers fantastic shopping, with lots of small quirky shops for all budgets mixed in with great little eateries, art galleries, and antique shops.
- The city has an incredibly flat terrain, with only two man-made hills to speak of. If you feel the need to ask a local for directions be sure to use the correct vernacular ‘Uptown, Downtown, River, Lake.’
- Favourite mode of transport is Streetcars, they overrun the city, fares will set you back between $1.25 – $9 and must be paid with exact change when you board. Uber is just a tap away plus local taxis services and other forms of transport such as buses are readily available.
- The best places to go and sit down and really savor jazz, are; Preservation Hall, situated in the French Quarter, ($10 entry fee), Fritzel’s European Jazz Pub on Bourbon St., (has a one-drink minimum $10) and Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro, ($15+ entry fee) which hosts legends like Ellis Marsalis.
- Generally, across the city the average pint of beer costs between $2 – $4, a glass of wine will set you back $3 – $5. Cocktail prices vary between $4 – $10.
- The crime rate is moderate, be sensible if you’re hanging out late at night in the bars.
- Best place for a novel souvenir is Blue Frog Chocolates, uptown on Magazine Street. These are delectable homemade chocolates formed in New Orleans shapes, they also sell other local treats and cute gifts.
- If you overindulge and you fancy lending a helping hand, Brad Pitt’s ‘Make It Right Foundation’ is aiding the rebuild of the Lower Ninth Ward (East of the French Quarter – severely hit by Hurricane Katrina). The goal is to construct 150 hurricane-resistant affordable homes. More than a million people have donated their time, elbow grease, and money to the cause.