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text & photography by MARILYN LA JEUNESSE

Sometimes the best adventures can be found at home. Rather than fly out of the country for Spring Break this year, I spent an ample amount of time in The Big Easy, wandering the cobblestone streets and drinking perhaps one too many gin fizz cocktails. Traveling to the birthplace of jazz, there was no lack of music on my journey to the South. New Orleans is a true gem — from its hospitality to its architecture, everything about this city has soul.

The JW Marriott The JW Marriott in the French Quarter blends New Orleans history and luxury together perfectly. While the rooms are quite cozy, you’re going to want to spend most of your down time sitting in a statement chair in the stunning lobby or tipping back a cocktail at the opulent hotel bar.

With a stellar location, aptitude towards gorgeous interior design, and a seriously helpful concierge, the JW Marriott is definitely worth every penny.

Louis Armstrong Park I came to New Orleans without a plan, so all I really did was wander. Wandering is truly the best way to discover a city’s hidden gems.

I particularly fell in love with Louis Armstrong Park, a public area with a long history and dozens of gorgeous art sculptures. The park honors jazz in a beautiful way.

Bring a book (and maybe a small picnic) and enjoy the afternoon lazing around this gorgeous area.

The Gumbo Shop Alright, alright. I couldn’t go all the way to New Orleans without trying some of their world famous gumbo! Due to dietary restrictions, The Gumbo Shop was the only place we could find vegetarian gumbo.

Vegetarian muffulettas can be found nearby at The French Market!

Although a bit touristy, this restaurant definitely delivered on taste, atmosphere, and service. Sit down for a beer and enjoy their homemade gumbo before an evening walking the French Quarter. Don’t miss Jackson Square for the view (and maybe a beignet or two!).

The French Quarter You can’t visit New Orleans without stopping by to view the extraordinarily colorful architecture in the French Quarter.

We could learn a thing or two from the houses in this district, like you can never have too much color, wrought iron balconies are always in style, and window shutters are an absolute necessity.

Saint Louis Cemetery Tour To some, a cemetery tour may seem morose, but in New Orleans, it’s a definite must.

Cemeteries are a vital part of this city’s history, and taking an educational tour through one of the most famous ones is actually required (especially, if you want to see the tomb of the famed Voodoo queen).

On my tour through the Saint Louis Cemetery, I learned a whole lot about the history of Saint Louis (like that it was actually owned by the Spanish at some point!), and I was even able to see the future burial site of actor Nicolas Cage.

Bourbon O Bar Located inside the historic Bourbon Orleans Hotel, this bar offers smooth jazz and fantastic cocktails nightly.

Pick a drink, any drink, you can’t go wrong. We fell deeply in love with their Grasshopper, but their Gin Fizz was on point, too!

The Garden District Hop on a trolley and head over to the famous Garden District to view some amazing houses.

We stopped by Lafayette Cemetery, The Commanders Palace (which is said to be haunted), and even stopped by Sandra Bullock’s Louisiana abode.

Needless to say, this was not a wasted afternoon.