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Welcome to New Orleans, Laid-Back Town of a Thousand Mysteries

New Orleans does casual and sophisticated equally well. There's no better evidence of that than it's biggest annual party, Mardi Gras (which is also one of the biggest parties in the entire country). From the regal dinner ceremonies to the mysterious history surrounding group floats, there's more than a touch of old-world class to the whole shebang. At the same time, thousands of folks are hooting and hollering in the streets, having a grand hold time and hoping to catch some beads. The secret's long been out: New Orleans knows how to throw a party. It's no wonder that so many people flock here just to get a glimpse at the week-long celebration that locals get to enjoy year in and year out. And it's not just on Mardi Gras that the city's hopping either. On any given night, stroll down to Bourbon Street and check out the hordes of people on their own unofficial pub crawl. With a whole bunch of spooky old wooden bars serving absinthe from a mysterious bottom shelf and the prevalence of voodoo priestesses and fortune tellers of dubious origin, this isn't your typical drinking street. Flights to New Orleans are a lot less money then they were a few years ago, in part due to the massive rebuilding effort that's been underway since the city dealt with the blow of Hurricane Katrina. But folks from Nawlins are an oddly relaxed and optimistic bunch. There's always a big change brewing, but no need to get fussy about it. Just relax, watch the slights of the square from your porch, where you're sipping a tall one, and be happy. If you're visiting New Orleans, you'll find that the attitude might rub off on you. Heck, it might do you so good that you never want to leave.

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