New Orleans homes open their doors
Ever see a picture of a French Quarter street and wish you could step past those iron gates or beyond the shuttered doors? Guess what: You can.
Every spring, some of the most stunning and history-laden homes in New Orleans open their doors for everyone from students of history and architecture to unabashed gawkers. You'll experience the grandeur of the past as you tour some 20 French Quarter, Garden District and Uptown New Orleans homes that are rarely open to the public during the New Orleans Spring Fiesta. Explore these exquisite homes with their enchanting courtyards and elegant gardens, guided by docents in period dress, all during the peak of azalea season.
The Spring Fiesta Association, a 70-year-old organization dedicated to preserving and sharing the cultural heritage of New Orleans, is itself housed in a beautiful 19th-century townhouse in the historic Vieux Carré. The festival includes a parade of horse-drawn carriages through the French Quarter. For more information, see New Orleans Spring Fiesta.
Celebrate the Canary Islanders
Want to double your enjoyment of the spring cultural season in Louisiana? You're in luck! Just downriver from New Orleans, the community of St. Bernard is home to some of the last remaining descendants of the Spanish colonials who, centuries ago, governed much of present-day Louisiana. The Isleños people, who came from the Spanish Canary Islands, first came to south Louisiana in the late 18th century, and their descendants continue to live and work in the area today.Each spring, they celebrate their heritage with the Los Islenos Society Festival, featuring favorite Spanish foods and music.
The Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Society has rebuilt the museum that houses the documented history and artifacts of the area’s settlement. The annual festival is held on the grounds of the museum.
Stroll down Oak Alley
Yet another rite of spring unfolds around the same time a short drive west of New Orleans, at historic Oak Alley Plantation. There, on the grounds of one of Louisiana's most-visited antebellum homes, the annual Oak Alley Spring Arts and Crafts Festival occurs. Enjoy a juried exhibit of works by artists and artisans from many states. Works ranging from mixed-media and two-dimensional art to Louisiana mud paintings, drawings and watercolors, to copper fountains, sculptured resin dolls and handmade flutes and pipes will be on display and for sale. Artists and craftsmen will also present demonstrations of their techniques. Naturally, you can also enjoy a tour of Oak Alley, a grand Greek Revival-style antebellum home widely known for the quarter-mile canopy of centuries-old live oak trees which leads from the road to the mansion.