Tulane’s “bead tree” is covered in colorful Mardi Gras beads year-round and is located near the university’s Gibson Quad. // © 2015 Samantha Davis-Friedman
Feature image (above): During a college visit to Tulane University, guests can take a stroll down New Orleans’ famed Bourbon Street. // © 2015 Samantha Davis-Friedman
Known as the birthplace of jazz, the backdrop for Mardi Gras and the place to get your fix of Creole and Cajun cuisine, New Orleans is one of the world's most extraordinary cities to visit. Thanks to its French, Spanish and Caribbean roots, New Orleans is full of diverse neighborhoods as well as unique cultural history — and part of that history is Tulane University.
Founded in 1834, Tulane University was originally established as the Medical College of Louisiana. However, it became a private university in 1884 when it was renamed in honor of a wealthy merchant named Paul Tulane who donated more than $1 million to the institution.
A native of Princeton, N.J., Tulane initially offered his money to Princeton University. But when his generosity was refused by Princeton, his next choice was the city where he had made his fortune. After Tulane passed away, a statue was constructed in his honor and depicts the benefactor facing the direction of New Orleans and his beloved Tulane University and with his back turned on Princeton University — at least that’s how Tulane students tell it.
The Mardi Gras Tree
Tulane’s 110-acre campus in uptown New Orleans is located so close to the heart of the city and the historic French Quarter that no classes are held on the Monday and Tuesday of Mardi Gras week.
Several years ago, a group of students returning to campus after celebrating Mardi Gras tossed strings of Mardi Gras beads onto an oak tree in the center of Gibson Quad. Since then, the "bead tree" has become part of a yearly tradition on campus, with students competing for the most (and highest) bead throws. The tree stays laden all year with thousands of colorful beads, continuing the Mardi Gras spirit before and after the rambunctious celebrations.
Each spring, Tulane hosts Crawfest, a music and food festival, which is free to all Tulane students and faculty (tickets are $10 each for the public; children under 12 are free). One of the largest student-run music festivals in the U.S., Crawfest serves up more than 20,000 pounds of crawfish to about 10,000 hungry people. Attendees can also enjoy 25 local food and art vendors.
The Louisiana critters known as “mudbugs” may be the main draw, but they aren’t the only attraction. Performers on the festival’s two stages have included bands such as The Wailers, Earphunk, Hot 8 Brass Band and Khris Royal & Dark Matter.
The 10th Annual Crawfest will be held on April 16, 2016.
AROUND NEW ORLEANS
New Orleans’ famous cuisine helps illustrate the city’s history and culture. As such, there may be no better way to see the city than on a food tour.
Destination Kitchen offers a three-hour walking tour of the French Quarter that includes fascinating information about the city’s history, both culinary and otherwise. Learn about the creation of many of the city’s best-known specialties, such as pralines, gumbo, po’ boy sandwiches and muffuletta sandwiches.
Beginning at the famous Cafe Du Monde to sample delicious beignets (fried squares of dough covered in powdered sugar), the tour continues to the historic French Market and then weaves its way through the picturesque streets of the French Quarter.
Tours are available in three-hour (half-day) or six-hour (full-day) options, but either way, agents should advise clients to wear good walking shoes and to bring their appetites.
French Quarter Phantoms
While it may seem creepy to tour a cemetery, most visitors find that it’s actually the opposite. Founded in 1789, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is New Orleans’ oldest active City of the Dead and is the final resting place of Marie Laveau, the notorious “voodoo queen,” as well as many other prominent New Orleans residents. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is also the location of the future (and quite unusual) tomb of Nicholas Cage.
The only way to see this cemetery is to be accompanied by an archdiocese-approved guide, which is also the best way to learn about the history of the cemetery’s 700 tombs containing the remains of more than 100,000 souls — and about the unique New Orleans burial customs that make this possible.
French Quarter Phantoms offers two-hour tours (with a total walking distance of about 1 mile), at 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday and at 10 a.m. on Sundays.
WHERE TO STAY
The upscale boutique Hotel Mazarin is located in the heart of the French Quarter, just a half-block away from the quaint galleries and shops on Royal Street and the lively nightlife and music on Bourbon Street. Hotel Mazarin also features Patrick’s Bar Vin, a wine bar, and the prohibition-inspired 21st Amendment at La Louisiane.
Hotel guests receive complimentary Wi-Fi access, bottled water and breakfast in the hotel’s charming private courtyard.