Scientific evidence shows that recent changes in temperature, warming oceans, glacial retreat, rising sea levels and extreme weather events are likely to be the result of human activity and are proceeding at an alarming rate. These impacts can be observed firsthand in New Orleans, where coastal storm surge has assaulted the city and its citizens. Yet, like its waters, New Orleans rises – with energy and pride restored. Affectionately nicknamed, “The City that Care Forgot,” you’ll meet those in New Orleans who care deeply about the city’s future. Visit the site of a notorious levee break during Hurricane Katrina and learn about efforts to protect against future flooding. Explore the bayou on a swamp boat in the heart of the delta. And find your rhythm on an exclusive walking tour with Kevin Ray Clark, a Grammy-nominated jazz musician through the French Quarter. A case study in resiliency, adaptation and heart, Chautauqua Institution invites you to explore the challenges and consequences of a changing climate on this five-day journey to “The Big Easy.”
- Visit the site of a catastrophic levee break that left New Orleans under water for weeks – and learn about the flood control mechanisms that helped the city emerge stronger and more resilient.
- Witness the jaw-dropping wildlife diversity of the bayou on a boat tour through cypress swamps.
- Learn the life cycle of the oysters in your etouffee alongside an oyster fisherman whose family has made its living for five generations in the brackish waters surrounding New Orleans before gathering for a Gulf-to-Table seafood lunch.
- Stroll through the French Quarter on an exclusive musical tour with a Grammy-nominated jazz musician (and former Chautauqua performer) Kevin Ray Clark – and enjoy front-row seats as he joins the band onstage.
- Toast your journey at a historic farm on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi – and learn about how the river has shaped the city and its inhabitants.
Sunday, Day 1: Ease into the Big Easy
Start your journey with a private welcome dinner at one of New Orleans’ oldest restaurants. Hear from Chautauqua’s Director of Climate Initiatives, Mark Wenzler, about the issues facing the planet and the Crescent City in particular, setting the stage for the next four days as we prepare to explore the balance between reversing climate change and strategies for adapting to the realities of its worst effects.
Hotel Eliza Jane
Meals: D, R
Monday, Day 2: Coastal Wetlands Restoration, Resilience and Climate Change
Start the day in Little Vietnam, with a visit to the Dong Phuong Bakery, crafting banh mi and baked goods for 40 years. Meet the owners and find out what attracted them to the delta. Join a local scientist and community organizer for a walk in the Bayou Sauvage Wildlife Refuge, the country’s second largest urban wildlife refuge. And try your hand at citizen science at the Coastal Education and Research Facility, where you will be able to measure water quality and salinity with the center’s director. Explore the expansive cypress swamps and rich wetland ecosystem that characterizes the region with a floating picnic through the tranquil cypress, tupelo, and oak-forested swamps. Traverse one of the largest estuaries in the United States as you return to your hotel for an evening to explore the city on your own.
Hotel Eliza Jane
Meals: B, L
Tuesday, Day 3: Living with Water
Spend the morning in City Park, a 1,300-acre urban oasis that has provided a natural refuge for New Orleans’ residents since 1854. You’ll join a local naturalist to explore the Park – including the world’s largest stand of mature live oaks – and hear how the failure of the federal levee system following Hurricane Katrina submerged much of this urban gem for weeks. Learn about the Park’s subsequent use of vegetation, soils, and natural processes to improve water quality, support economic development, and beautify the community. Continue to the London Avenue Canal, which was breached during Hurricane Katrina and observe the flood protection measures that have since been deployed to protect the city. Gather for lunch as a group at Dooky Chase’s – a beloved family-owned shop that has become a gathering place for musicians, civil rights leaders, and politicians, including Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Tonight, join celebrated jazz trumpeter, Grammy award winner, leader of the Dukes of Dixieland, and former Chautauqua guest, Kevin Ray Clark. Kevin will take you to two of the French Quarter’s premier music venues, where you will sip signature cocktails, chat with local musicians about the city’s world-renowned music scene and enjoy some of the best seats in the house as your host joins the band onstage.
Hotel Eliza Jane
Meals: L, Cocktails
Wednesday, Day 4: Of Farms and Fishes
Meet with Arthur Johnson, CEO of the Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED), a community-based organization that was launched after Katrina to help the Lower Ninth Ward recover and rebuild sustainably. Learn about the Center’s efforts to empower its residents to address their needs for food security, personal safety, and renewable energy. Then, meet with Don Robin, a legacy fisherman, whose family has been making its living from the waters surrounding New Orleans for five generations. Robin will share a firsthand account of the process of oyster harvesting and the growing environmental challenges faced by those who depend on these waters. After, enjoy a “Gulf-to Table” seafood lunch on one of the Robins’ family docks on the historic waterfront. Your journey continues at Docville Farm, an idyllic educational center on the banks of the Mississippi River. Ascend to Docville’s rooftop river observatory, where Blaise Pezold, the Farm’s Director of Environmental and Coastal Initiatives will explore how the River has shaped the people, the land, and the economy in the region – and how this relationship has evolved with a changing climate. Then enjoy a final celebratory dinner reception featuring food that is bayou born and internationally inspired in the historic barn.
Hotel Eliza Jane
Meals: L, D, R
Thursday, Day 5: Departure
Depart any time for individual flights home.
The activity level of this trip is Moderately Active. To participate in the full itinerary, travelers should be able to do the following:
- Walk leisurely without assistance two to three miles, at times over uneven terrain.
- Climb sets of stairs without handrails, without assistance.
- Climb in and out of a motorboat with assistance.
- Walk and stand for up to two hours at sites listening to a guide.
- Keep pace with an active group of travelers.
Travelers can always opt out of activities if they’re feeling tired or uneasy about the experience. Please let us know of any physical limitations beforehand so we can plan ahead.
- Accommodations and meals with drinks as outlined in the itinerary; non-alcoholic beverages provided at all meals and wine and beer included with dinners and receptions.
- Ground transportation within the itinerary unless otherwise indicated
- Sightseeing as specified in the itinerary
- Comprehensive educational program by professional on-site guides
- Entrance fees
- Gratuities to porters, guides, drivers, wait staff in restaurants during group meals, housekeeping at group hotels
- The assistance of an ATA tour manager
- Quietvox listening devices to facilitate audibility and social distancing while touring
- The assistance of an ATA professional travel team to assist with pre-trip questions, travel arrangements, including flights, extra hotel nights and other services
- Comprehensive pre-departure mailings and materials with information about the destination and what to expect on tour, including a suggested reading list.
- Emergency evacuation insurance
- Fully vetted program that meets COVID-19 health and safety protocols