Tour operators that work with school groups can get a lot of bang for their buck at two of the United States’ fun and funkiest destinations: New Orleans and Portland, Oregon, especially if performance options are the order of the day.
In the Crescent City, festive street parades are an ingrained part of the local culture, taking their place alongside Mardi Gras, beignets and jazz music. During a visit to New Orleans, bands can experience what it’s like to take part in a traditional parade by marching through the streets of the French Quarter.
These experience can be coordinated with New Orleans & Company. The DMO’s Thu Tran says such programs often include routes that go past many of the quarter’s historical buildings—St. Louis Cathedral; the Presbytere and Cabildo, which house the Louisiana State Museums; and the Pontalba Apartments, which are the oldest apartment buildings in the U.S.
Another music-themed option is a one-hour private educational experience at one of the city’s most iconic entertainment venues, Preservation Hall. In addition to hearing about Preservation Hall’s mission to protect, preserve and perpetuate traditional New Orleans jazz, students take part in a Q&A session with members of the legendary house band then they get to perform on stage.
Out in the Pacific Northwest, Portland, known as the Rose City, lives up to its name thanks to its iconic June festival and its popular public gardens. But Oregon’s largest city also is home to a blossoming theater scene that is led by Portland Center Stage at The Armory.
Located in the heart of the fashionable Pearl District, The Armory includes two theaters, and its repertory company has been ranked among the top 20 regional theater companies in the country.
In addition to seeing a show and touring the facility, which was the first performing arts venue in the U.S. to receive a LEED Platinum environmental design rating, students can get a firsthand perspective on the world of theater through specialized programs. Workshops led by actors provide a more immersive experience, and backstage interview sessions with performers are available following most matinees.
According to Ashley Kingman, tourism manager for Travel Portland, another good stop for performance groups is the Portland Japanese Garden.
“With the addition of the Cultural Village last year, the Portland Japanese Garden has gained more opportunity to welcome students into its classrooms for performances, demonstrations and lectures pertaining to Japanese culture,” she says.
Top photo: Student musicians in New Orleans
Photo by Cheryl Gerber