Situated amid the willows, stone bridges, and mirror-calm waters of Louis Armstrong Park stands the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts. Named after a history-making gospel singer and civil-rights activist, the three-tiered auditorium was built in 1973 and hosted concerts, comedians, and other entertainment straight through 2005, when it was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina, a known enemy of the arts. In 2009, the theater reopened thanks to the dedicated work of Mayor Ray Nagin, the New Orleans City Council, and hundreds of workers and artists.
Every week, New Orleans's longest-running improv comedy troupe, Brown Improv Comedy, crafts one-of-a-kind hilarity based on the suggestions of theatergoers and bar patrons. The group runs with the suggested topic, creating skits and interactive games to tickle guffaws out of the audience. Having just celebrated their 18th year of performing, the team is well versed in turning out the funny and has outgrown the angst-ridden eye rolls of their 16th and 17th years of performing.
• For $30, you get an upper rear seat in sections 319, 329, or 314 (a $47.50 value before fees, or up to a $59.30 value online, including all Ticketmaster fees). • For $51, you get an upper sideline seat in sections 313–316, 303, or 332 (an $87.50 value before fees, or up to a $101.70 value online, including all Ticketmaster fees). • For $84, you get a far lower end zone seat in section 104 or 109 (a $147.50 value before fees, or up to a $168.20 value online, including all Ticketmaster fees).
At Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, home to horse racing since 1872, visitors wager on an extensive calendar of live races, or year-round simulcasts of other Louisiana tracks. Guidance from the program and tip sheet steer bets toward horses with impressive histories or names such as "Guaranteed Winner." Grandstand entry is free to all comers, letting customers sit outdoors beneath the warm sun and measure equine speed in relation to sips of beer ($3–$5) and bites of hot dogs ($4) from track concession stands. Alternatively, visitors can retire to the upscale clubhouse for more gourmet fare (most meals are around $9.95) while minding the strictly enforced dress code, which prohibits shorts, T-shirts, sandals, and evening gowns made out of Seabiscuit movie posters. Though not included with today’s Groupon, more than 600 new slot machines, ranging from penny slots to $1-per-game machines, entertain visitors while the thoroughbreds gear up for their next gallop.
In 1977, Professor Longhair didn't have long to live. As a human bridge connecting early 20th century blues, traditional Big Easy jazz, and Cuban funk, the now legendary musician changed the soundtrack to the city, paving the way for acts such as Dr. John and Allen Toussaint. Perhaps most notably, he penned the ubiquitous carnival anthem "Mardi Gras in New Orleans." But when it looked like his time was up, the NOLA community wasn't going to let him fade away. A group of fans, dubbed "The Fabulous Fo'teen," sought out a spot for the "Fess" to play at until his dying day. And that's exactly what he did at Tipitina's. They even named the place after one of his songs.
Proof that a former gambling parlor and cathouse can change its ways, Tipitina's century-old building has earned a reputation as one of New Orleans's finest music venues. Within its hallowed walls, many famous Crescent City acts have launched to stardom, from funk collectives such as The Neville Brothers and The Meters to rockers like Better than Ezra and the Radiators. All of these names grace the outdoor Walk of Fame, and the club also attracts national artists such as Wilco and Nine Inch Nails. However, the venue's immersion in the musical community goes beyond just shows—it also hosts music lessons for kids, weekly Cajun dance parties, and a retirement home for senior citizen horns. But as much as Tipitina's has expanded over time, it pays respect to the Longhair of its namesake every year with the appropriately punned "Fess Jazztival."