When players don their vests, squeeze the handle of their glowing pistol, and enter Laser Tag of Metairie’s neon-lit arena for the first time, one thing is clear: this place does not take laser tag lightly. Capable of hosting up to 44 players at once, the multi-level, futuristic battlefield sets combatants loose among ramps, tight corners, and shadowy corridors ideal for ambushing adversaries or learning to knit in the dark. Each game lasts seven minutes, and the arena’s officials keep a quick pace, making sure when one battle ends, another will soon begin.
The clatter of skee-ball machines drifts from the center’s arcade, mingling with strings of notes from Guitar Hero and sounds from other games. Each machine is equipped with a swipe-card system that tracks players’ credits electronically so they no longer have to measure their self-worth by how many tokens are in their pockets. In addition, guests can test their steering skills in the Spin Zone, a bumper-car area with one quite literal twist: there are two zones on the track that will send cars into a tailspin if drivers attempt to pass over them or park on them to exchange insurance information.
Now in its 24th season, the College Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships unite 24 of the nation's top ballers for an energized evening of nothing-but-net shots and rim-rattling jams. Rather than volunteering to rotate shifts as the players' bench, fans can post up in general-admission seats and marvel at the aerial antics of four separate competitions, including men's and women's 3-point shooting battles and a soaring slam-dunk finale. This year's dunk contest will feature underdog James Justice from Martin Methodist College, whose ability to simultaneously bend rims and the rules of gravity convinced online voters to elect him as the event's inaugural Dark-Horse Dunker. ESPN cameras will rove Fogelman Arena's sidelines, broadcasting each groan from motion sick balls and eye-popping play to a national audience.
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."
Perched in the bustling Warehouse District near the Mississippi, The Sugar Mill beckons myriad acts and entertainment to its sprawling event center. Corporate conventions, elegant weddings, and music festivals can each take over the space, which boasts a 22,000 square-foot main floor and a 15,000 square-foot outdoor courtyard where local squirrels can toast to the lucky couple or boogie along to live music.
Founder of the New Orleans Burlesque Festival, Rick Delaup, directs the spotlight toward a scintillating trio of former "Queen of Burlesque" titleholders as they strut their stuff in an eye-popping stage show that packs aural oomph with a live jazz band. Vanquishing her feathery foes and prevailing as victor in 2009, Perle Noire evokes a gymnastic Josephine Baker as she blends high kicks, splits, and flips into her energized, yet elegant act. Dancer and pin-up model Coco Lectric from Austin, Texas earns applause with classically trained maneuvers that won her honors in 2010, while 2011 winner Ginger Valentine teaches the audience how to whistle with her steamy stock of beguiling strip-tease tricks. A superstar cast of performers joins the champions on stage for added flair, including sultry chanteuse and burlesque "scene queen" Athena and lively duo Nathan Kepner and Morgan Tsu-Raun, who thrill tawdry inner-children with circus tricks and bravura juggling.
From the Foo Fighters to Wu-Tang Clan, Death Cab for Cutie to Dr. John—The Howlin’ Wolf’s storied stage has hosted them all. The music hotspot plays host to a variety of bands most nights a week, filling its calendar with jazz, rock, and blues. Should audiences prefer to dance to the sounds of laughter, live comedy can be found at the venue-within-a-venue, The Den.