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Mardi Gras in New Orleans's storied French Quarter (Photograph by Philip Scalia/Alamy)

Caroline’s New Orleans

New Orleans native Caroline Gerdes may have recently moved to Washington, D.C., but she loves her hometown. So much so that she recently spent a year–with the help of a Young Explorers grant from the National Geographic Society–of her life working on an oral history project about the Ninth Ward, where her father grew up, to document the community’s rich history and culture–especially the edible aspects. Here are some of Caroline’s favorite things about the city she’s proud to call home.

Follow Caroline’s adventures on her personal blog and on Twitter @CarolineCeleste

New Orleans is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is to eat! In the morning, it’s beignets and coffee; at lunch we do po’ boys, and at dinner the red beans are on me!

Spring is the best time to visit my city because you can take part in the French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest.

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The po’ boy, a Louisiana classic (Photograph by Caroline Gerdes)

You can see my city best from the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway gives a panoramic view or Algiers Point.

Locals know to skip Bourbon Street and check out Frenchmen Street instead.

The French Market or Fleurty Girl are the best places to buy authentic, local souvenirs.

In the past (and present), notable people like Fats Domino, Ellen DeGeneres, and James Carville (to name a few!) have called my city home.

My city’s best museum is New Orleans Museum of Art because it is home to an acclaimed sculpture garden and is City Park adjacent. I also recommend the the National WWII Museum. Did you know New Orleans has a special connection to D-Day? The amphibious Higgins boats used at Normandy were built right here in New Orleans.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s to watch for the “Katrina potholes.”

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is the Audubon Zoo.

My city really knows how to celebrate everything because celebrating is what we do best. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

You can tell if someone is from my city if they wear a fleur-de-lis like a badge of honor.

For a fancy night out, I have dinner at Stella!, August, or Galatoire’s, followed by drinks at Carousel Bar or a show at the newly renovated Saenger Theater.

Just outside my city, you can visit Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Reserve or Honey Island swamp to alligator-watch.

My city is known for being a party town, but really alcohol is just a part of our culture. In New Orleans, we take a European approach to enjoying food and drinks, taking time to savor the moment.

The best outdoor market in my city is the French Market.

Café Beignet is my favorite place to grab breakfast. If you’re craving beignets long after the sun’s gone down, head to Café du Monde in the French Quarter for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read Gambit.

My city’s biggest sports event is any given Saints football game. Watch one at Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar or live in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I go for a walk in the French Quarter or on Magazine Street.

To escape the crowds, I do Mardi Gras Uptown and avoid the French Quarter.

The City Park Peristyle is my favorite building in town because it is romantic and in the heart of City Park. But St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square is an iconic sight.

The most random thing about my city is drive-thru daiquiris.

Frenchmen Street is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out…In New Orleans, you can dance anywhere!

Second lines could only happen in my city.

In the spring you should eat crawfish bread at Jazz Fest.

In the summer you should eat sno-balls on the Lake Pontchartrain lakefront.

In the fall you should eat jambalaya at a tailgate party.

In the winter you should eat King Cake before a parade.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Audubon Zoo, and getting a balloon animal in Jackson Square.

The best book about my city is A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole, or 1 Dead in Attic,  by Chris Rose

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind isDo You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because New Orleans’s tapestry of food, culture, and rhythm gives it a spirit unlike any other American city. You will leave happy, full, and inspired.

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