As New Orleanians, we wear our badge of “Summer Heat Bearer” proudly to out-of-towners. The oppressive humidity keeps us damp from the end of April until the beginning of October. Secretly, however, we all look forward to fall. The first breeze of cooler air straightens our backs and brings a smirk across our faces. We stared into the eyes of summer’s fire and emerged to the rewards of autumn.
We all know the city lives and dies by Saints season. When they win, shots are poured, paychecks are given on time, and the city is consumed with excited banter. When they lose, doors are shut, our uncles pass out after screaming at the TV, and Monday is rougher than it has to be.
But what if you don’t live and die by the Saints? What if you—gasp!—have never been to a game or don’t know who the wide receivers are? First, don’t openly admit that to people around here. Go buy yourself a black and gold outfit and politely eat the food and drink the beer if ever invited over for a game. You can quietly sit in the midst of the chaos, nod, and think to yourself, “Yes. You watch the TV. I’ll watch over the gumbo.”
If you need more stimulation than pigskin, here’s a quick list of how to spend your time this fall in and around New Orleans.
1) It’s festival season, again! New Orleans seems to never break from festivals anymore, and fall is no different. Sneak out of the house to catch music, food, and arts and culture at the following festivals. If your significant other is a dedicated football fan, there are plenty of bars littered about with TVs on. Drop him or her off, and then go play. Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival, October 12-14; Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival, August 30-September 3; Boudin, Bourbon, and Beer, November 9; Burlesque Festival, September 20-23; New Orleans Film Festival, October 11-25.
2) Balloons! Bayou Road Balloon Festival will be held November 9-11. It’s a full-on festival, reminiscent of the beautiful pictures taken in the Southwest. You’ll find food and beer (of course) as well as a full line-up of music, featuring Noisewater and Dustin Cole. Or you can choose the Ascension Hot Air Balloon Festival, September 21. That one even boasts a BBQ competition.
3) In Lafayette, at the Noel Acadien au Village, jockey about other families and yuletide-lovers as NFL and NCAA teams do the same before the playoffs. Over half a million lights make Acadian houses sparkle at night as you travel through time and learn about Acadian life. The festival runs December 1-23, from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., weather permitting. The village offers Zydeco music, food, and lots of history regarding how this area of the country was settled—all wrapped up in contemporary capitalism.
4) We are the Sportsman’s Paradise, after all, so take advantage of it! In an area known for its affinity for seafood, we should take it upon ourselves to go directly to the source as much as possible. Go scope for cobia down in Venice in September or for delicious flounder near the marshes at Cocodrie. If you need more information, go to wlf.louisiana.gov. There’s nothing like bringing home dinner to entertain friends and family.
5) Halloween! What more can we say? There are costumes. There is revelry. You can spend an entire month going to haunted houses, eating candy at work, and working on your outfit. Talk is moved ever so slightly away from football and towards parties, trick-or-treating, costumes, or fall recipes. Without fail, the temperature usually drops for the first time at night the weekend of Halloween. If your costume is skimpy, you better get a good liquor blanket on. Try hitting up Frenchmen or Voodoo Fest or the new local favorite, the Krewe of Boo parade.
6) Fall to your knees and praise that it’s not summertime anymore. We love watermelon and pool parties, but there’s only so much sweat we can produce. Even if the first hint of cooler weather rolls in around Halloween, it’s time to say thank you to the weather gods for getting us through yet another New Orleans summer. Pull out your jeans in all hopes of sporting your autumn-fashion style, but don’t pack those shorts up just yet.
7) Sure you can start baking cinnamon rolls and pumpkin cookies now that it’s safe to turn on your oven after summer, but do yourself a favor and get behind the grill. Do yourself a bigger favor and grill with charcoal, not propane. Grilling is meant to be a tactile sport, so get dirty, pick up the charcoal, and cook delicious food. This fall, focus on less-talked-about foods, like jerk chicken. Thyme, ginger, Scotch bonnets, and citrus all go into this marinade. It’s sweet, but also hot, aromatic, and smoky, with crunchy skin enveloping moist meat. Pair it with roasted vegetables and a nice Dark and Stormy cocktail, and your evening is set.