“I fell in love with New Year’s Eve a decade ago, when a few girlfriends and I spontaneously went to a place called the Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. I’ve never been a big New Year’s person—I always find that it’s sort of hit-or-miss. This celebration was looking the same, especially since all the restaurants around were full. But then I got a random phone call that someone had canceled their reservation and to come by right away.
We had fun drinking wine and enjoying Creole-inspired hors d’oeuvres, but what I’ll never forget is what happened right after we left. Some guy was handing out these massive bunches of silver balloons, big enough that it almost felt like they could lift us. We tied them to the handlebars of our bicycles and found ourselves, at two in the morning, riding down a street in the Garden District—past grand historic mansions with ornate iron railings and extraordinary gardens—with these giant bunches of balloons bobbing in the wind. It was a completely unplanned experience that felt like a scene in a movie: a moment of bliss that I wish everyone could have.
And that’s what New Orleans is all about, which is why I ended up buying a home there—you can not have a plan and end up doing something really interesting and fun. I’ve had nights where a wedding party took over the bar I was at during a rainstorm and we all ended up dancing, soaking wet and among strangers, into the night together. Or where a random man started playing the piano at a lounge and another lady started singing and it wound up being some of the best music I’ve ever heard. I mean, look—I don’t know a lot of cities where I would rather be out on my bike on New Year’s Eve than at a fabulous party.” —As told to Scott Bay
Jennifer Coolidge stars in season 2 of The White Lotus, airing October 30 on HBO.
This article appeared in the November 2022 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine here.