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Louisiana Bounces Back

Whether the disasters have been man ­made or natural, Louisiana has survived its fair share of famous ones (we’re looking at you, Hurricane Katrina). And the vibrant state — celebrated the world over for its gorgeous bayous, historic plantations and unique culinary traditions — continuously finds ways to bounce back, boasting more tourist-friendly attractions than ever.

louisiana after katrina

Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina

“As New Orleans approaches its 300th anniversary (in 2018), we are reminded that this city has endured all manner of tribulations in its rich history, including a British invasion, hurricanes and an oil spill, to name a few,” says Kristian Sonnier, vice president of communications at the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau (neworleanscub.com). “Yet, after each of these challenges, New Orleanians, manage to persevere and reinvent the Crescent City, resulting in a place inhab­ited by the most resilient people I’ve ever seen.”

“Resiliency” is a word often heard in Louisiana. August 2016 brought historic, unprecedented flooding to the state’s capital city of Baton Rouge, leaving tens of thousands of homes and businesses destroyed.

Yet, less than a year later, Baton Rouge has re-emerged with a robust schedule of outdoor festivals, sporting events and new food and drink destinations, sending a clear signal: open for visitors.

“We’re proud to see the progress that continues in Louisiana’s capital city, as businesses are expanding and the offerings available to groups are plentiful,” says Paul Arrigo, president and CEO of Visit Baton Rouge of the growth spurt the city has seen despite the disasters of 2016. “The burst of energy that this city has right now is not only part of our resilient culture, but our way of life.”

Given Louisiana’s Gulf Coast location and seafood-focused cuisine, it’s no surprise that the state’s top chefs have spearheaded many creative comeback initiatives.

“With the scarcities of fish following Ka­trina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010), it formed a newfound appreciation for utilizing every aspect of a fish,” says executive chef Michael Nelson of GW Fins. A high-end seafood restaurant in New Orleans’ French Quarter. “We challenge ourselves to think outside the box, using local varieties in ways that decrease waste and promote sustainability.”

Drum Throats with black lemon honey and sassafras chimichurri from Sac-a-Lait in New Orleans

Drum Throats with black lemon honey and sassafras chimichurri from Sac-a-Lait in New Orleans

He experimented with previously unused fish parts and created new dishes, like “fin wings” — the chicken wing of the sea — incorporating collars from all the fish we receive. You can find crispy fish-skin taco shells, tempura fried cheeks, fish-head cheese or a gelee made from scales on our daily menu.

Tourists are looking to Louisiana as a culinary hub and chefs are delivering with cutting-edge ideas.”

Tourism Tidbits

  • In 2016, visitors to New Orleans spent $7.4 billion, a 5.1 percent increase from the record set the year before. The city also hosted a record- breaking 10.5 million visitors, the most since 2004 and a 6.9 percent increase from 2015.
  • Baton Rouge is cel­ebrating its bicenten­nial throughout 2017, marking 200 years as an incorporated city.
  • New Orleans hosted three new festivals in March alone: the Jazz in the Park Treme Crab Festival, the Bourbon Festival and Top Taco. A fourth, the NOLA Mac N Cheese Fest, is set for Oct. 21.