Festivals -- Louisiana boasts festivals for every season and seemingly any reason, celebrating everything from watermelon to oysters to petroleum. The Voodoo Music Festival (www.voodoomusicfest.com), held in City Park's Marconi Meadows Oct. 16-17, features acts such as The Beastie Boys, Kid Rock, Velvet Revolver, Cypress Hill and Sonic Youth. The granddaddy of them all, of course, is Jazz Fest, held annually the last weekend in April and first weekend in May. The French Quarter Festival is a growing free-admission precursor to Jazz Fest in mid-April. Other favorites are the Satchmo SummerFest (in honor of Louis Armstrong's birthday) in August, the Louisiana Swamp Fest in October, Essence Music Festival in July, and the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival in March, to name a few. Go to www.festivals-neworleans.com or watch the A&E section of Gambit Weekly for upcoming festivals.
Pro Sports -- Big-league action is always to be found in New Orleans. The New Orleans Saints look to ride their impressive array of talent all the way to the Super Bowl when they kick off the football season Sept. 12 at home in the Superdome against Seattle. The New Orleans Hornets are largely the same on the court as last season, led by star guard Baron Davis, though new coach Byron Scott gives fans hope. The New Orleans Shell Shockers play professional soccer during the summer at Tulane University. The fast-paced Arena Football League brought the New Orleans VooDoo to town last season, creating thousands of instant fans. The New Orleans Zephyrs, the Class AAA farm team for the Houston Astros, call Zephyr Stadium in Metairie home from April to September. Finally, the PGA Tour hits town for the Compaq Classic at English Turn Country Club the last weekend of April.
Parks -- A local college tradition is sunsets at "The Fly" (officially, Audubon Park's Butterfly section, a scenic riverfront park). Other spots to enjoy a picnic, some Frisbee, sports such as golf or tennis, biking, jogging and rollerblading are City Park in Mid-City; Lakefront Park on Lakeshore Drive; and Audubon Park itself, in Uptown New Orleans. Also check out the levee bike path, a 13-mile paved stretch that runs along the muddy Mississippi starting at the Fly.
Outdoors -- Despite the immediate urban landscape, there are plenty of outdoor options in the area, with the fall a peak time for enjoying (mosquito-free) nature. Kayak Bayou St. John (call Laid Back Tours at 488-8991) in the city, or head just out of town to places like the Tammany Trace, a 31-mile bike path on the Northshore. You can hike boardwalks or canoe through Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.
Movies -- For blockbusters and mainstream cinema -- plus stadium seating and great sound -- head into suburbia (Palace 12, 4486 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 887-1210; Palace 16, 1151 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey, 263-1618; Palace 20, 1200 Elmwood Park Blvd., Harahan, 734-2020). Independent, foreign and quirky releases find a home at Canal Place (333 Canal St., 581-5400). An old-school favorite from the days of neighborhood movie-houses is the Prytania Theatre (5339 Prytania St., 482-7112). There's also an IMAX at the Aquarium of the Americas (1 Canal St., 581-4629).
Major Concerts and Events -- Luckily, top-notch local music in the clubs is augmented by top-notch national touring acts that stop in town to play arena and large-venue shows. The New Orleans Arena (1501 Girod St., 587-3663) is home to acts such as Britney Spears and KISS when the Hornets aren't playing. The Kiefer UNO Lakefront Arena (6801 Franklin Ave., 288-7222) has hosted bands including Pearl Jam and Radiohead, plus comedians such as Dave Chappelle. Classical music courtesy of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra is onstage at the Orpheum Theater (129 University Place, 524-3285), a home to touring acts throughout the year, especially during Jazz Fest. The same holds true for multi-purpose venues Saenger Theatre (143 N. Rampart St., 524-2490) and the State Palace Theater (1108 Canal St., 522-4435).
Volunteering -- Lending your talents to a local nonprofit is a great way to make a difference. If you're motivated enough to leave the protected ivory tower of campus life and venture out into a city that desperately needs volunteers, the YES! (YMCA Educational Services, 2525 Canal St., 566-7323) program is always seeking tutors for its adult literacy program. The Boys and Girls Club of New Orleans (3037 N. Rampart St., 945-6012) provides positive role models for at-risk youth, and you can teach reading and writing skills. And, if you're missing the furry friend you left at home, the Louisiana Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (1319 Japonica St., 944-7445) always welcomes kind-hearted folks to provide love and attention to the dogs and cats they have available for adoption.
- Audubon Institute
- Attending the Louisiana Swamp Fest is one fun way to celebrate the Bayou State's cultural heritage.