New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz music, specifically Louis Armstrong Park’s Congo Square, a historic meeting place for slaves to make music in the 1800s. The park is a great place to begin your exploration of New Orleans’ jazz culture. Sit in on a drum circle in Congo Square, admire the beautiful jazz-inspired public art and monuments (especially the sculpture of Louis Armstrong himself), check out the jazz exhibit in Perseverance Hall, see a show at the Mahalia Jackson Center for the Performing Arts or just stroll along the grassy knolls and lagoons.
Another great way to experience jazz in New Orleans is by taking in a live performance. There are numerous venues throughout the city offering free live jazz shows (often there is a one drink minimum). Take a walk down Frenchmen Street around 8pm — although you may want to go earlier to secure a seat –and you’ll come across numerous jazz venues like the Spotted Cat, the Three Muses and Blue Nile. On Bourbon Street, amongst the craziness of flying beads and vodka-filled solo cups, you can seek refuge at the sophisticated Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse in the Sonesta Hotel (300 Bourbon Street) each night at 8pm, which is when the jazz performances start. The venue is also known for their craft cocktails and tasty bar bites.
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