Holiday Travels: Easter in New Orleans
Do you know what’s better than ham and hyacinths? Gin and jazz, beads and baubles, music and merriment. Which is why there’s no better place to spend Easter than in New Orleans.
I was hesitant to book a trip to the Big Easy over Easter weekend. I thought one of two things would be true–the city would be overrun with tourists, spring-break style or, possibly worse, the city would be a ghost town on Easter Sunday, restaurants and bars closed, streets empty. But yet again, New Orleans surprised me.
Why New Orleans is the Best Easter Travel Destination
Where Better to Brunch?
New Orleans is a town that knows how to do breakfast and, especially, brunch. From chicory coffee to shrimp and grits, New Orleans is the place I want to be every morning. And this is never more true than on Easter morning.
I had the distinct pleasure of spending my Easter brunch at Muriels. The horse-drawn carts lined the alley outside the window as the drivers waited for Mass to end in the Cathedral. Ladies in fabulous Easter garb filled the tables (and the bar, and the restroom) and a Jazz trio roamed the restaurant. I felt not only like I was in a different place, but in a different time as well. A better time. A more civilized time.
But don’t worry–if civilized is not your thing, Easter in New Orleans has something to offer you, too. I’ll get there in a bit.
Oh the Hats!
I wish someone had told me about the hats. I felt naked-headed all of Easter Sunday. From the be-feathered women at Muriels to the irreverent, Easter-basket-style monstrosities along Bourbon Street, darn near everyone in New Orleans displayed their best (or worst) Easter bonnet–even the animals (see the final photo in this post, for example). At the very least, I wished for some sort of rabbit-themed fascinator. Alas, I had to content myself with merely admiring–and snapping some photos of–other people’s over-the-top creations.
I Love a Parade
You’re lucky if your town has one good Easter parade; New Orleans has three. And they only get better as the day progresses.
Post brunch, check out the Historic French Quarter Parade. While it may be the most tame of the day’s festivities, it is also the most family-friendly. Lovely ladies in giant hats throw candy-filled Easter eggs to little girls dressed in frills. It is almost unbearably adorable.
Depending upon how you time it, you should have about an hour between parade number one and parade number two. I strongly suggest you spend that hour enjoying a favorite cocktail or two in preparation for the second parade of the day, the Chris Owens Easter Parade, which rolls through the Quarter from Canal, along Bourbon, down St. Philip, and out Decatur. You will leave noticeably cheered and covered in beads.
Remember how I promised you irreverence? Look no further than the joyful spectacle that is the Big Gay Easter Parade. No matter your sexual preference, you can’t help but feel gay–that is, extremely, unbelievably happy–as you take part in New Orleans’ final Easter celebration. Everyone was talking, everyone was smiling. The people in the parade were interacting with the onlookers, if only for a second of eye-contact-and-smile. This was, hands down, the best time I’ve ever had standing on a street corner.
Secular or Spiritual
But wait, you say–Easter is a religious holiday. Oh–right. I kinda forgot about that. But fear not! New Orleans has you covered there, too. Even as a visitor, you’re more than welcome at mass in the stunning St. Louis Cathedral. And, as an added bonus, the cathedral is conveniently located on Jackson Square, right near Muriels, two of the three parade routes and, if communion wine wasn’t quite enough, a good deal of watering holes.
And Then There’s the People
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–I love the people of New Orleans. And this Easter, I found even more reasons to love them. They decorated their houses. They decorated their dogs (er, rather, their baby mules). They decorated their grandparents. And they didn’t mind one little bit that all of the tourists like me snapped photos of all of these things. In fact, it felt downright encouraged.
New Orleans is not a city you visit; it is an experience in which you actively participate. This is especially true on a holiday, when that experience is kicked up a notch–or three. I feel extremely fortunate that I was able to experience Easter in New Orleans–and I’m confident I’ll return for Easters-yet-to-come. And next time, I’m taking one fabulous hat.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the New Orleans CVB for helping to arrange my Easter visit to their beautiful city. Stay tuned for many, many more New Orleans posts–not a few of which are about the second-best part of Nola–aside from the people: the food.