New Orleans is known for its European-style architecture, mouth-watering Creole cuisine and all-around mysticism. And as its backbone is music: Jazz, blues, rock 'n' roll and Zydeco tunes ooze from every city crevice. But for many, the main reason to visit is Mardi Gras, an over-the-top party with Carnaval traits, such as masks, music and an all-around wild time. Even if you don't make it to Mardi Gras, you'll still find a party year-round, with revelers pouring out of Bourbon Street clubs until the wee hours of the morning.
Despite past environmental disasters — namely the BP Oil Spill, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Isaac — New Orleans continues to thrive. Over the past several years, major efforts have been made to restore the distinct districts. Today, the Crescent City looks almost as good as new. So start your visit in the French Quarter, where colonial heritage still survives. From here, you can explore the major architectural sites before enjoying a hearty plate of jambalaya and a rowdy evening out.