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Wilson’s Blog

Did you know that a gopher could eat gumbo for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? And, snack? Actual fact -- Ditch ate gumbo for two days. He called himself, “Gumbo GoBro.” I took my Gumbo GoBro to other places in New Orleans. (Ditch kept asking, “Why is it called NEW Orleans? Is there an Old Orleans?” We found out the city is named for a place in France.)

First stop we went in not-Old-but-New-Orleans was Preservation Hall. It’s been around since 1961. Ditch hoped the Hall was filled with gumbo. Nope, it was filled with jazz music! So much jazz music started in New Orleans over 75 years ago. The music was amazing and jazzy…! The band loved when Ditch danced his new dance, The Gumbo! Everyone clapped and danced with my fur-face GoBro. It made me think of our Mommy in our gopher village where she dances her special dance, The Kaplotski!

After the jazz and dancing, Ditch was hungry. Yup – more gumbo! And we also ate another famous New Orleans food – jambalaya. What a name – jambalaya! It has everything in it -- lots of rice, and celery, peppers, onions, and ham, chicken, sausage, and even seafood like crawfish and shrimp. Ditch ate and ate until his belly cried: “Please stop, I’m very, very full!” He stopped. Later, we went to a place called Mardi Gras World. It’s where they make floats and costumes for the big parade and party in New Orleans they have every year. It’s called Mardi Gras, and usually goes on for three days! New Orleans has had Mardi Gras parties and parades since the 1700s -- over 250 years ago! And, yes Ditch, they serve gumbo.

Tomorrow I have big surprise for Ditch – we are taking a cooking class with a New Orleans chef. Soon Ditch can cook his own Gopher-style gumbo! It could taste good, or like a disaster. Whichever it is, I bet Ditch will eat it all!

Apple Pie Picks

New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park

New Orleans is the birthplace of Jazz music. Jazz is a mixture of many musical styles, including blues, gospel and ragtime. In 1994, Congress approved a new National Park in New Orleans all about American Jazz music. The park is located in the center of The French Quarter area of New Orleans. The main visitor center offers lots of ways to learn about the history and culture of New Orleans jazz through Ranger-led demonstrations, talks, videos and even live music performances. Stop by Perseverance Hall in Louis Armstrong Park and listen to the weekly kid's music workshop. The Performance Hall at the Old U.S. Mint is where you can hear the “Music at the Mint” concerts of world class jazz. Don’t forget to go to The National Park website and become a Jazz Junior Ranger!

The Jazz Walk of Fame

Also located within the National Park is the Jazz Walk of Fame. The Jazz Walk of Fame is a musical adventure. Hop on a ferry at Canal Street, and take a short ride down the Mississippi River to the Jazz Walk of Fame at Historic Algiers Point. The Walk of Fame is made up of 16 lampposts, each assigned to an important jazz musician. Each lamppost gives the personal history of each musician. Take this self-guided walking tour through the 16 lampposts to learn about great jazz musicians such as: Louis Armstrong, Buddy Bolden, the Boswell Sisters, Papa Jack Laine, Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Prima. The walk takes about one hour to complete if you are following the free audio tour, which you can download at the National Park website.

Life on the Mississippi River

Take a trip back to the 1800s on a ride down the Mississippi River aboard the Steamboat Natchez. This authentic steam powered stern wheeler is one of only five true remaining steamboats in the United States. Visit the beautiful engine room and enjoy the music from the Natchez’s 32-note steam calliope, a keyboard instrument like an organ, but with the notes produced by steam. The Natchez is also home to an authentic copper and steel steam whistle and a copper bell made from melting 250 silver dollars. On board, the captain and crew make you feel like you have gone back in time. The captain yells his orders to the crew through an old fashioned megaphone while the wheel turns in the waters of the Mississippi. The Natchez docks at the Toulouse Street Wharf where you can board her for narrated harbor cruises down the Mississippi River. Enjoy a ride through history!

Mardi Gras

Every year in New Orleans, the biggest carnival in The United States, Mardi Gras, is celebrated. People come from all over the world to gather and watch parades with floats, dance, listen to music and dress up for masked balls. It is a big party with a lot of history. Learn about and enjoy the carnival all year long at The Presbytere & Mardi Gras Museum. Once home to the local priests, The Presbytere is now part of the Louisiana State Museum with a Mardi Gras museum on the second floor. On your visit you can do everything Mardi Gras style! Try on Mardi Gras headdresses and masks, dance on top of a parade float and pretend to throw purple, yellow and green Mardi Gras beads to a crowd. The different exhibits highlight every part of Mardi Gras: the history, parades, souvenirs, and costumes. The most dazzling part of the museum is the Crown Jewels Vault, home to a huge collection of crowns, scepters, necklaces and other jewelry from past Mardi Gras festivals. The Making of Mardi Gras exhibit gives you a peek into the world of everyone who helps make Mardi Gras a great carnival from the bead makers to the float designers.

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Local Chow

French doughnuts

New Orleans is famous for their French doughnuts or “fritters” called Beignets. Beignets are a sweet doughnut, shaped in a square without a hole. They are like a small fluffy pillow of dough. Beignets are smaller than doughnuts, usually about two inches by two inches. After they are fried in oil, they are sprinkled with lots of sugar or sometimes icing. Because of their small size, it is typical to order three at a time. The recipe for beignets came to New Orleans from France in the 1700s and became an immediate part of the culture. Although beignets can be enjoyed all over New Orleans, the original Cafe du Monde coffee stand in the French Market is a great historical spot to check out. This Cafe opened in 1862, and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! If you didn’t already think New Orleans folks love their beignets, then get this--beignets were made the official state doughnut of Louisiana in 1986!

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Digging History


New Orleans is founded by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville.


New Orleans becomes the capital of Louisiana.


King Louis XV of France gives New Orleans to King Charles III of Spain.


More than 800 buildings in New Orleans burn to the ground.


New Orleans returns to French rule.


The United States buys the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon of France for fifteen million dollars.


New Orleans becomes an official city.


Louisiana officially becomes a state.

The first steamboat, The New Orleans, arrives at New Orleans.


General Andrew Jackson defeats the British at the Battle of New Orleans.


Tulane University is founded.


The U.S. Mint begins operation in New Orleans.


The Sauve’s Crevasse, a major flood from the Mississippi River, leaves 12,000 people homeless.


Nine thousand people in New Orleans die from the yellow fever epidemic.

City Park is founded.


The first Mardi Gras parade is held in New Orleans.


Louisiana secedes from the Union.


The Cafe du Monde, famous for its beignets, opens at the upper end of Market Street.


Louisiana is re-admitted to the Union.


The first electric streetcar travels down St. Charles Avenue.


The first city library, the Fisk Free and Public library, opens.


Louis Armstrong, “the father of jazz,” is born in New Orleans.


The U.S. Mint stops its operation in New Orleans.


Vitascope Hall, said to be the first movie house in America, opens.


The Greater New Orleans Bridge opens.


Preservation Hall opens as a location for Jazz concerts.


The New Orleans Superdome, home to the New Orleans Saints opens..


Louisiana World Exposition (World's Fair) is hosted in New Orleans.


Beignets become the official state doughnut of Louisiana..


Hurricane Katrina causes major flooding all over the city of New Orleans.

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