The birthplace of the country’s first horticultural society has hosted this preeminent flower show since 1829. Today’s version features more than 500 free educational programs for beginners and experts, breathtaking display gardens, floral exhibitions, and gardening demonstrations—all centered around a different theme each year (for 2014 it’s “Articulture: Where Art Meets Horticulture”). There’s even a Family Lounge with kid-friendly activities.
Got a question? Raise a green-thumbed hand and ask one of the accomplished horticulturists or landscape and floral designers who are in attendance. More than 150 vendors from all over the world offer an array of plants and seeds, cut flowers, and other horticultural items. To beat the crowds, visit on a weekday afternoon. And bring a jacket: the exhibit halls are kept cool for the benefit of the plants. March 1–9, 2014.
The Mardi Gras season actually begins on the Feast of the Epiphany (12th day after Christmas) with galas and parades that culminate on the Tuesday (a.k.a. Shrove or Fat Tuesday, the latter being the English translation of the French “mardi gras”) prior to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. The celebration dates from the early 1800s, when commoners began imitating elite society’s balls by parading in the streets wearing masks and costumes. Nowadays, social clubs, called krewes, stage more than 60 parades along various New Orleans streets, including some in the famed French Quarter.
Masked and costumed krewe members aboard elaborate floats toss plastic beads and fake coins, known as “doubloons,” to spectators shouting, “Hey, Mister! Throw me somethin’, mister!” Although the popular image of Mardi Gras, particularly on Fat Tuesday and the preceding weekend, is of a public drinking fest, there’s family fun to be had, too. Locals even bring stepladders with little platforms to parades so their children can sit and watch above the curbside crowds. Tuesday, March 4, 2014, with many of the big-deal parades also taking place during the preceding week.