As your self-appointed Jazz Fest advisor I would like to suggest some great things to experience before, during and after weekend Two of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. I will keep this simple and highlight activities pertaining to the Bayou St. John neighborhood that hosts this festival. This Faubourg is my hood and named for the bayou that runs through it. This is a village that is packed with an abundance of places in which to dine and wine. Or if you simply want to enjoy coffee with the neighbors, there are four outstanding coffee venues nearby. And of course Mother Nature is showing off at every turn, from small yards springing back from a winter’s freeze to the fifth largest city park in the country aptly named City Park.
Speaking of the Bayou, consider kayaking this historic waterway. Kayak-iti-yat offers a “Bloody Marys On The Bayou” 2-hour tour during Jazz Fest, complete with a history of the Festival and the Bayou, ecological information and of course a Bloody Mary. A mere $45. For reservations (a must) and info on their other tours go to [email protected] or kayakitiyat.com. You may also call: 512-964-9499.
Jazz Fest brings out the art lover in most of us. Our senses are fine-tuned towards the creative arts during this two-week period. This festival celebrates not only music, but also the arts and crafts of our region. Just within the Fair Grounds there are photography exhibits, book signings, culinary demonstrations, cultural celebrations, arts and crafts, and of course the music. I don’t know about you, but Jazz Fest does not completely satisfy my artsy fartsy inner self — it makes me yearn for even more. And more can be had outside the festival.
If you are lucky enough to live here and perhaps took some vacation days around your Fest schedule you can play tourist in this great neighborhood. Yes, take a cue from our visitors: wander and explore.
City Park has a wealth of offerings. Just taking in the natural beauty can be enough in itself, but don’t limit the experience. Visit the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA). The hours: Tuesday - Thursday: 10 - 6. Friday: 10 - 9. Saturday and Sunday: 11 - 5. Closed Mondays. Admissions: Adults $10, College Students with ID $8, Kids (7 - 17) $6, and free to children 6 and under. Wednesdays are FREE for Louisiana residents! And while there, consider springing for the extra $5 to take in the museum’s “Photography and the American Civil War” exhibition (January 31 through May 4). It is Magnificent and moving.
Next enjoy an alliance of art and nature at the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Gardens adjacent to NOMA. This is free and open to the public Monday - Friday, 10 - 6, and Saturday and Sunday from 10 - 5.
While at City Park check out Morning Call just across the street from the sculpture gardens and indulge with some Café au Lait and beignets. Never had either? Well what are you waiting for?
Closer to the Fair Grounds on Esplanade Avenue are numerous eateries. The offerings range from Spanish to Mexican, French to Italian, and home again to a newly opened Creole Soul Café. My favorite joint, Liuzza’s By The Track at 1518 N. Lopez (one block off the avenue) is known to most Jazz Festers as a must for pre-festival Bloody Marys or as an after Fest gathering place. But make no mistake, this place offers up some seriously great food and should be considered required dining when not in to-go-drink mode. Call 504-218-7888 for hours, as there are certain changes during Jazz Fest. I should also mention a fabulous new café, The Pagoda, at N. Dorgenois (504-644-4178) just a stone’s throw in from Broad and Esplanade. Be sure to call for hours.
Well, time for me to cut out and go spruce up my front yard because I have company coming. A second week full of people from all over the world will be walking pass my home on their way to a great time at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. To all of you, locals and visitors alike, I want to thank you for your continued support, not only to our unique Jazz Festival but also for spending your time and money in our little village of Bayou St. John. Now go catch ya some music!