- iReporters share their favorite New Orleans activities
- Learn how to make jambalaya at the New Orleans School of Cooking
- Dive into history at the National World War II museum
- Escape the city with a bayou stroll in the Barataria Preserve
We asked readers to weigh in on New Orleans' best dishes, and boy, did you deliver. We received delicious descriptions of beignets and bacon sundaes, shrimp po' boys and alligator sausage cheesecake. But a person can only eat so much.
Fortunately, you also offered some great ideas for the between-meal hours. When you've had your fill of eating and drinking yourself silly, check out these activities:
Escape to nature
Less than 30 minutes from the city, the Barataria Preserve outside Marrero offers a snapshot of South Louisiana wildlife. Part of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, the 23,000-acre wilderness area is a favorite spot for John Zoeckler, of Diamond Bar, California.
Zoeckler and his wife like to walk out into the bayou at the preserve. "The boardwalk makes a safe, more or less hazard-free walk out of what might have otherwise been a muddy and dangerous trek. We have seen alligators, snakes, spiders, lizards, frogs, and occasionally, other tourists there," Zoeckler wrote on iReport.com.
"It can be hot and thick with insect life, but it's well worth these inconveniences. Take bug repellant, a hat, water and a camera when you go," he said.
The park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but closed on Mardi Gras, so save it for a post-revelry stroll.
Teach a man to -- cook jambalaya
OK, so some educational activities do involve eating. A few hours at the New Orleans School of Cooking will serve you well when you get home and are "jonesing for some jambalaya," said Edward Slonaker of Corpus Christi, Texas.
"I did the gumbo, jambalaya, bread pudding class. You learn the basics of making a roux, the differences between 'Cajun' and 'Creole' cooking, even the secrets to making a good praline! And, they give you all the recipes of the dishes they make," Slonaker wrote. Plus, you eat what's prepared in front of you.
Colleen Levitt, of Royal Oak, Michigan, also enjoyed a cooking demonstration and "got a history lesson to boot," she wrote.
Demonstration classes are held most days starting at 10 a.m. for $29 per person, with afternoon classes at 2 p.m. for $24 per person.
A festive river ride
Prairieville, Louisiana, resident Marissa Turner went to college in New Orleans and lives 90 minutes away. "I've done just about everything there is to do in NOLA," she said.
"The most enjoyable thing we've ever done was the Christmas Eve cruise on the Steamboat Natchez. Of course, the food and 'good cheer' was wonderful, but hearing Christmas carols done by a Dixieland jazz band while watching the fog roll over the river and the city was amazing," she said.
The Steamboat Natchez offers live jazz on all of its Mississippi River outings, which include dinner cruises ($70 for adults), evening jazz cruises ($42 for adults), lunch cruises ($37 for adults) and two-hour daytime cruises ($26 for adults).
Wild things beyond Bourbon Street
The city's Audubon Zoo also provides a nice change of scenery.
"Set away from all the noise of the French Quarter, this park has got some beautiful, tranquil exhibits of exotic animals," Slonaker said.
The "Louisiana Swamp" exhibit is also a must, he said. The zoo is fun, educational, and "you'll walk off all the great food you've been devouring in the French Quarter."
Admission is $17.50 for adults and $12 for children. The zoo is closed on Mardi Gras.
A historical treasure
Founded by historian and author Stephen Ambrose, the National World War II Museum in New Orleans looks at the American experience of the war.
"This museum is full of history and kept the interest of my two high school children," wrote one iReporter, using the handle usafsmsgt.
"From the Higgins boat, to the planes, to the story of rations and chocolate, this is a wonderful place to go and it is still expanding."
The museum is open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets to the museum are $22 for adults. Museum admission is free for World War II veterans and discounts are offered to members of the military with identification.
Don't forget the music
Just as satisfying your appetite is a cinch in this city, filling your ears with world-class music is just as easy.
"Preservation Hall affords you intimate access to lifelong musicians; stay for one 45-minute set or all three," wrote Alycon Pierce of Falls Church, Virginia.
Preservation Hall is a Crescent City institution, established in 1961 to preserve New Orleans jazz as rock and modern jazz grew in popularity. Live music brings the hall to life nightly from 8 p.m. until 11 p.m. It's an all-ages experience; admission is $15. The French Quarter hall is closed for Mardi Gras (Saturday to Fat Tuesday) and set to reopen on Wednesday.
For a "very intimate and authentic New Orleans venue," Anthony DiFatta, of Jackson, Mississippi, recommends Tipitina's on Napoleon Avenue.
Judy Pfau Hull of Rochester, New York, suggests venturing out of the Quarter to The Marigny for live music. The district along the neighborhood's Frenchmen Street is home to some of the city's best venues.
Illinois resident Dianne Vehlow has visited the Blue Nile on Frenchmen Street twice. "The Blue Nile is the kind of neighborhood place where customers walk in with an enormous pizza and not only enjoy it themselves, but share it with the band. This actually happened the first time I was there."