Busy fall in the Big Easy

While there is hardly a dull moment in New Orleans, this fall is shaping up to be a busy time for the city known variously as the Crescent City, America’s Most Interesting City (according to welcome signs at the city limits) and, perhaps most famously, the Big Easy.

After a $13 million renovation, New Orleans’ historic Orpheum Theater has reopened in the city’s Central Business District, featuring a rebuilt acoustic shell, expanded lobby, larger seats, more bars and – importantly -- additional bathrooms.

The 1,500-seat Beaux-Arts style theater, which originally opened in 1918 for vaudeville performances, was built to include perfect sight lines and acoustics before the advent of amplifiers or modern lighting. The building was added to the National Register for Historic Places in 1982.

Orpheum Theater
Photo credit Cheryl Gerber
Though damaged extensively by Hurricane Katrina, Tipitina’s Foundation purchased the theater in 2014 and began renovations. Tipitina’s Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising the awareness of the New Orleans music legacy. For the first time since Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, will take the stage on Sept. 17.

New Orleans commemorated the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29 with a series of events, including wreath laying ceremonies, a conference, prayer services and a volunteer day, among other activities. A decade after the storm, New Orleans has shown continued resilience with new industries, hotels and restaurants. New areas like Freret Street and the Bywater have flourished in post-Katrina New Orleans, offering new cultural destinations in the city, according to the city’s convention and visitor’s bureau (CVB).

A number of other events are on the city’s near-term calendar including the Louisiana Seafood Festival. Running Sept. 4 through 6, the free festival celebrates the fresh and flavorful bounty of seafood in Louisiana, according to the CVB. This year’s festival will bring a weekend of seafood, live music, celebrity chef cooking demonstrations, family activities and more to the City Park Festival Grounds. As with this year’s festival, the 2016 and 2017 festivals will also be held over the Labor Day weekends.

“We Live to Eat” Restaurant Week runs throughout New Orleans Sept. 14 through 20 and features brunch, lunch and dinner specials at nearly 100 restaurants across the city. Those include historic Antoine’s and Commander’s Palace as well as newcomers like Angeline, Balise and Shaya.

St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square
Movie buffs will be interested in the Oscar-qualifying New Orleans Film Festival, which will return to New Orleans Oct. 9 through 16. The festival will feature highly-acclaimed independent films and will attract both locally and nationally renowned actors. Celebrating its 26th season in 2015, the festival is now a qualifier for the Academy Awards in the Documentary Short Subject category, making it one of only 23 qualifier festivals in the U.S.

The Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival will bring the best of the soulful genre to Lafayette Square in New Orleans Oct. 16 through 18 for a weekend of food, music and art. Admission to the 10th annual festival is free and will include performances by Marcia Ball, Little Freddie King, Ruthie Foster, Swamp Dogg and Mason Ruffner, among others.

Finally, Halloween in New Orleans is an experience unlike any other. New Orleans has long been regarded one of the most haunted destinations in the world. Locals reside alongside the dead, with the city’s famed above-ground cemeteries in nearly every neighborhood. Popularized by author Anne Rice, New Orleans’ vampire mysteries are celebrated each Halloween with the Vampire Lestat Ball.

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Photos by Carl Dombek unless otherwise noted
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