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Things To Do In New Orleans During the Final Four

By Michelle Baran
updated September 29, 2021
Courtesy Michelle Baran

Heading to New Orleans for the NCAA Final Four men's basketball championships? Well, while you're in the Big Easy, there's plenty to see, do and eat in between games.

First and foremost, no trip to New Orleans is complete without a proper po’ boy. Opinions vary widely as to where to go for the best heaping submarine sandwiches, but if you're in the French Quarter, pop into Johnny's Po-Boys for an authentic po' boy experience.

For those who want to catch some good jazz while they're in town, head to the legendary Preservation Hall for live jazz nightly from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Not far from the quarter is Frenchmen Street, home to several bars, restaurants and music clubs where an eclectic mix of bands compete for crowds. For a bite to eat on Frenchman Street, head to The Three Muses, where innovative bar snacks and entrees are served with a big side of live music.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Jeremy Davenport plays at the Ritz-Carlton’s Davenport Lounge. Cozy up with a cocktail on one of the lounge's plush couches and enjoy Davenport's horn and vocal sounds.

Breakfast of champions? Well, you can't go wrong with beignets and a café au lait at the Café Du Monde. For something more substantial, opt for the jazz brunch at Commander's Palace, then take a stroll through Lafayette Cemetery across the street, and gawk at the amazing mansions in the surrounding Garden District. Take the St. Charles Line streetcar back to the French Quarter.

For an off-the-beaten track experience, head to the Backstreet Cultural Museum for a kitschy glimpse into New Orleans’ vibrant African American culture. Not far is the New Orleans African American Museum, which delves even deeper in the city's African American history.

Want to get out of the city? Take a Cajun Pride swamp tour for a boat ride through nearby bayous and for some live gator sightings.

To experience the Mississippi River, take a dinner and jazz cruise on the Steamboat Natchez.

Need a place to stay? Check out these affordable hotels in NOLA.

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Last week at Los Angeles International, Alaska Air moved to a fully renovated Terminal 6 The new airport is a big improvement over Terminal 3, and it's the first of several fresh designs in terminals being unveiled this year, including a new terminal in Atlanta in May and a new one in Las Vegas in June. At LAX, Alaska Air says the $270 million makeover of terminal 6 has led to a better terminal for fliers. The check-in time for fliers checking bags from 20 minutes to four minutes, thanks to a bunch of new self-serve kiosks. The terminal now offers more ways to pass through security, immigration, and customs. Best of all, international fliers no longer need to hop a shuttle bus to get to a gate. Once at the gate, half the seats have access to power outlets. A fancy and quiet lounge is available to any passenger for a $40 pass. The new terminal also makes it easier to connect to another flight due to a new passenger tunnel that connects it with Terminal 5, which is served by American Airlines and Delta. In related news, Atlanta and Las Vegas are getting new terminals this year. On May 16, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is due to open its doors to a $1.4 billion dollar terminal. Passengers flying internationally will soon go straight to Concourse F, which will have a separate entrance on the east side via Interstate 75, compared with the main domestic terminal, which remains reachable via I-85. The dedicated entrance to the international departures terminal means overseas fliers ought to be able to reach their gates faster. Tarmac wait times should disappear, too, thanks to a whole bunch of new gates opening up. The new terminal will also end the infamous baggage recheck process. Up until now, Atlanta-bound international passengers who were passing through to a connecting flight had to recheck their luggage after clearing customs and then grab it later after hopping the airport train to the far away main terminal. No more. Travelers may like the new Atlanta terminal on a few aesthetic counts: Glass walls will fill the central atrium with natural light, making it a brighter space than the main terminal. For what it's worth, planned artwork may include hundreds of brightly lit Swarovski crystals that hang from the ceiling and move in imitation of airplane contrails. On June 27, Las Vegas's McCarran airport is set to debut Terminal 3. The new wing, which cost more than $2 billion, will double the airport's capacity to process international arrivals. It's a big change for Nevada, which will have two hectic terminals after years of only have one with 90 percent of the visitors. To speed all passengers through, Las Vegas's new airport has laid out most services—from check-in to baggage claim—on the same level. Vegas-area officials are claiming the terminal will have the most advanced security in the country, with passengers often passing through metal detectors and also "an automatic target recognition system" which means full-body scanners that don't produce as detailed an image of the human anatomy but still reveal hidden weapons. About 1,5000 officers will also be trained to spot telltale shifty-eyed behavior in passengers waiting in line, to detect potentially threatening passengers for secondary screening. There will be other high-tech tricks. Above the tram stop at Terminal three will be a 33-foot-by-19-foot video wall displaying advertisements, the largest-known such wall in a US airport. All in all, an exciting year for airport terminals, and many other airport operators nationwide will be looking at these projects for examples of features to copy in their own projects. SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL READERS' CHOICE: The Best Airport To Get Stuck In Case Study: What Happens When One Airline Dominates an Airport 4 Most Controversial Blog Posts of 2012 (So Far)


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Americans will continue to travel this summer, despite the dire predictions of some overheated "experts" on cable TV news. After all, we've been through this before: In July 2008, America faced record high gas prices of $4.11 a gallon. Official surveys after-the-fact found that Americans still hit the road and took to the skies throughout that summer. This summer, it's reasonable to expect that Americans will once again be determined to take their hard-won vacations, despite their (totally understandable) grumbling about high gas prices. For more on economic studies that prove this point, see "Rising Gas Prices Don’t Actually Affect Americans’ Behavior" in the New York Times Magazine today. Nevermind the nattering nabobs of negativism—who today are citing unscientific predictions that everyone's going to stay in their backyards this summer and play with their Slip n' Slides. C'mon. Americans love their vacations, and they'll find creative ways to take them despite the rise in gas prices. All that will change this summer compared to some years ago is where Americans will go (namely, to destinations that are cheaper to reach) and how they will travel (more affordably, natch). Here's some fresh data to prove that summer travel will remain strong this year. It comes from booking engine Kayak. The most searched for US destination for summer 2012 travel is Las Vegas, while Los Angeles had the largest increase in search share year over year. Searches on Las Vegas are up 20 percent, compared with last year, while searches on L.A. are up up 22 percent. Travelers are turning their eyes south as well, with Caribbean resorts seeing a lot of interest despite the expected summer heat. The country receiving the most interest is the Dominican Republic. Kayak's seen a 15 percent spike in searches to the country's main hotspots of Punta Canta, Puerto Plata, and Santo Domingo. Further south, the Central American countries of Belize and Costa Rica continue to receive interest from American fliers. Searches for summer travel to Placencia, Belize are up 83 percent, while major Costa Rican resort towns are seeing spikes of interest of between 20 and 30 percent, says Kayak. Americans are looking west, too, with jumps in searches on Kahului, Hawaii (up 19 percent) and China—with Shanghai up 28 percent in search volume and Beijing up 16 percent. The gains are at the expense of interest in Europe's major cities, which all saw severe declines in interest. The company's data is from travelers' searches in January for trips this summer that include a Saturday overnight stay, with "summer" being defined as between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Back in the States, there are a lot of deals to be had. Hotspot Las Vegas has plenty of offers, such as a package for airfare-plus-three-nights-at-the-Mirage-right-on-the-Strip, from $402. (Totally affordable!) There's also plenty of interest in San Francisco (up 14 percent), with lots of hotel offers available. Is it just me, or do some cable news TV people need to take a vacation? SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Top Budget Travel Destinations for 2012 10 Most-Visited Caribbean Islands 25 Most Photographed Places on Earth


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