New Orleans will serve as the inaugural port city in a three-year, six-port national celebration commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
The highlight of the weeklong OpSail 2012 and U.S. Navy celebrations, which kick off April 17, will be the spectacle of vintage tall ships from around the world docked alongside Navy warships on the east bank of the Mississippi River.
The Navy's amphibious warship USS Wasp, along with other large navy vessels, will welcome the U.S. Coast Guard Barque Eagle, one of three sail-training ships operated by the pre-World War II German Navy and taken by the U.S. after the war.
The tall ships that dock in New Orleans are among only a few old-style, wooden sailing vessels still surviving, including the three-masted Guayas of Ecuador, Indonesia's Dewaruci and the Gloria of Colombia.
The ships will be open to the public for tours. For details, visit www.opsail.org
. Festival fun
Springtime is festival time in New Orleans, and two of the biggest are the French Quarter Festival, which runs from April 12 to 15, and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which is held the last weekend of April and first weekend in May.
French Quarter Fest takes place throughout the historical Vieux Carre, and most events are free. Highlights include live music (local favorites Trombone Shorty Andrews and Kermit Ruffins are among the headliners), house tours and an event billed as "The World's Largest Jazz Brunch" in Jackson Square. For more on French Quarter Fest, visit www.fqfi.org/frenchquarterfest
Whereas local acts are in the spotlight at French Quarter Fest, national and international stars headline the Jazz Fest. Among the hundreds of performers appearing at the Fair Grounds racetrack this year are Bruce Springsteen, the Neville Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, Herbie Hancock and Cee Lo Green. For prices and schedules, visit www.nojazzfest.com
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