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Make the Weekend Last

Tourists and locals alike love to roam the streets of New Orleans and its surrounding areas—wedding guests are no exception. During the chaos of planning the big day, don’t forget to schedule activities for your wedding crew. We’ve got a few ideas for everyone invited, from your college girlfriends to your grandfather.

experience the swamps
A day aboard a pontoon boat with one of Cajun Encounters’ (cajunencounters.com, (866) 928-6877) tour guides will serve as a proper introduction to the flora, fauna and people of Louisiana’s swamps.

Visitors will learn stories of the swamps they won’t read in a brochure. Those set on seeing alligators will be pleased since the majority of the time is spent tossing marshmallows to giant reptiles who swim toward the pontoon boat. TV host Kelly Ripa once recommended the tour on the then-called “Live! With Regis and Kelly,” telling viewers it would be “the greatest experience of your life.”

Cajun Encounters also offers the option of city and cemetery tours. Think your guests will want both? Bundle your encounters for a discounted price.

hit the links
Boasting stretches of lush fairway surrounded by bayous and canals, Stonebridge Golf Club of New Orleans (1500 Stonebridge Drive, Gretna, 394-1300,
stonebridgegolfofno.com) offers a golfing experience unique to New Orleans. Located only minutes from downtown, all levels can take on the 27 holes, including some named after jazz greats, Louis Armstrong, Pete Fountain and Al Hirt. With the picturesque scenery of the Louisiana landscape, the course is perfectly tailored for a round in the swamps of the city.

Tee times can be booked online or by phone. If your guests have time for a quick golf lesson, individual, junior and group lessons are available.

get a tan
Picture this: Two days before your big day, a spray tan professional appears at a location of your choice with a tent, an array of lotions and slippers for cold feet. Upon entering the tent, your skin is greeted with a cool, transformative mist. In only five minutes, you become the precise hue of summer, but without the skin damage from the sun. Then you can relax with a bottle of your favorite chardonnay.

This is the routine for the team at Sip-N-Spray (908-2260, sip.n.spray@gmail.com). Co-owner Renee Lopardi says the most exciting part of getting a spray tan is that it makes you feel good. “Everyone feels better with a tan,” she says. “Look at it this way: It’s healthier than frying yourself in the sun for hours, and because the stuff we use is totally natural, there’s no risk as far as your skin is concerned.” For earth-conscious tanning fans, Sip-N-Spray is one of the few local spray-tanning businesses to offer organic spray on the go.

In addition to being health-conscious and earth friendly, these pigment perfectionists have made the art of spray tanning into a science. While providing you and your wedding party with five to seven days of just-off-the-beach color, their magical mist is also anti-aging and skin firming. You bring the wine.

They’ll bring the shine.

visit a plantation or two
The beautiful plantations of the South have a special place in the region’s landscape, so a quick trip to see a few historic plantations is a great choice for out-of-town guests. If you need help organizing your trip, Plantation Parade (plantationparade.com) can help you plan a visit to four historic plantations. First there’s San Francisco Plantation, which was built around 1856 and attracts more than 100,000 per year. The next stop is Laura Plantation, a Creole plantation that was built in 1805. The third plantation is Oak Alley Plantation, which was featured in the popular movie  “Interview with a Vampire,” starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. The fourth location, Houmas House Plantation and Gardens, has been called the “Crown Jewel of Louisiana’s River Road.”

All plantations are worth a visit, and your guests can visit as many as they want. If your crowd does have time for each, the Plantation Parade itinerary suggests an order of events. Enjoy dinner at Houmas House and an overnight stay at Oak Alley Plantation, before driving back to New Orleans for the trip home.

try a local brew
Well-known foodie Anthony Bourdain once said his go-to New Orleans cocktail is the ubiquitous Abita Amber—a smooth, malty, caramel-flavored lager native to Louisiana’s North Shore. Sure, you could stop in any bar, restaurant or grocery store across the city and fork out a few bucks, but why not swing by the brewery instead? The tour and tastings are complimentary.

The Abita Brewery (21084 LA 36, Abita Springs, (985) 893-3143, abita.com), located about 30 miles north of New Orleans, is like an oasis. The building seems to have been plucked from the French Quarter and tucked among stands of pine trees bordering the waters of Abita Springs. Given that most enjoy drinking craft brews and even more enjoy drinking them for free, the Abita Brewery tour is a guaranteed good time, a safe bet for wedding parties.

The tour begins and ends in the Tasting Room. The bar spans an impressive 24 feet and typically boasts anywhere between 12 to 15 draft beers. A few of these are select drafts, meaning that you’ll only find them on draft at the brewery or at Abita Brew Pub located in downtown Abita Springs. Tours do not run every day, so call ahead to verify times.

No one under 21 is permitted on the brewery tour. You’ll need closed-toed shoes for the walking portion. Groups of more than 25 are encouraged to make reservations. For designated drivers, the brewery provides Abita Root Beer made from Louisiana’s finest sugarcane.

plan a night out
The head honcho of Le Concierge (473-6425, leconciergenola.com), who chooses to remain anonymous, finds her newly officiated role as co-owner/party girl of the city’s newest party planning business as a no-brainer for a city that loves to party.

“This city is a lifestyle city,” she says. “It’s so unique that way. It allows for less inhibitions, so our work comes easy. Once we get to know the client well enough, anything is possible. Our team has enough combined knowledge to pull off some pretty amazing things.”

Though Le Concierge has only been in business since mid-September, she and her partner have already begun reinvigorating the city’s tenacious event planning industry one bachelorette party at a time. According to her new website, Le Concierge calls herself the “buddy you never had, but always wanted” because she and her team can make hotel reservations, recommend great bars or suggest a spot for dinner.

Past celebrations have featured high-class plates prepared by world class chefs, dance parties in uptown mansions, custom-tailored scavenger hunts spanning the city from St. Charles to St. Claude Avenues, and New Orleans-style snowballs infused with craft cocktails. “It’s an ideal gig,” she says. “The pursuit of pleasure is rarely a thankless job.”

groove to the music
Though the folk-art riddled House of Blues (225 Decatur St., 310-4999, houseofblues.com) is clearly more of a New Orleans music hangout than it is a church, the spot’s Sunday Gospel Brunch provides a spiritual experience with its healthy helping of gospel music and delicious food. The Sunday Gospel Brunch at House of Blues features unlimited mimosas, endless helpings of white chocolate bread pudding coated with bourbon sauce and never-ending plates of bacon.

The gospel brunch is a soulful way to enjoy Sunday morning in New Orleans, but keep in mind brunch at House of Blues is just the first course. Besides the occasional free comedy show in the garden, House of Blues often hosts one of Travel Channel’s favorite burlesque acts and local legends like Trombone Shorty. Its lineup is always an exciting reconciliation between mainstream and local talent.

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