NEW ORLEANS - A brass band strolled through a riverside warehouse holding huge, colorful parade floats as New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and other city officials Tuesday kicked off the city's official countdown to Mardi Gras.
"Everybody knows that this is what we live for," Landrieu said during the event at Mardi Gras World, where many of the floats used in the yearly Carnival season processions are stored. Officials took part in the ceremonial slicing of a King Cake, a traditional seasonal treat. It all took place amid tables laden with beads and trinkets that float riders toss to parade watchers.
"Nobody handles the business of joy better than the city of New Orleans," said Landrieu.
Carnival is celebrated along the Gulf Coast with parties, balls and parades culminating on Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, a final day of celebration before the solemnity of Ash Wednesday and Lent. Mardi Gras falls on Feb. 17 this year.
DEARBORN, Mich. - Henry Ford Museum is offering visitors a close-up look under the hoods of cars in its automotive collection.
"Engines Exposed" starts Saturday and runs through March 15 at the museum in Dearborn.
For the first time in five years, more than 40 vehicles in the "Driving America" exhibit will have their hoods open, including the 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air, the 1948 Tucker 48 Sedan, the 1936 Lincoln Zephyr and the 1916 Woods Dual Hybrid Coupe.
The museum also is offering visitors the chance to hear more about the vehicles in the collection through special presentations in its Douglas Drive-in Theater. And there are hands-on events for young auto enthusiasts.
MELBOURNE, Fla. - Visitors to an annual Florida festival will learn how to spot the state's many bird species.
Florida Today reports that the upcoming Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival will include experts on the state's numerous birds.
Florida is among the top locations in the nation for birdwatchers because it draws many species migrating away from cooler climates in the winter.
Since 1997, visitors have gathered at the festival that celebrates more than 330 bird species including the Florida Scrub-Jay, Crested Caracara and Peregrine Falcon.
More than 5,000 birdwatchers are expected to enjoy birdwatching from Jan. 21-26 in sites including the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Canaveral National Seashore and St. Johns National Wildlife Refuge.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - An exhibit at the Tennessee State Library and Archives takes a close look at the state's role in the War of 1812.
Officials say the free exhibit, named "Answering the Call: Tennesseans in the War of 1812," opened recently at the State Library and Archives in Nashville.
The war featured a key victory by Major Gen. Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans, which helped propel him to the presidency. According to the secretary of state's office, nearly one-third of the Tennessee's counties are named for men who were connected to the war.
The state's nickname, "Volunteer State," had its roots in the thousands of Tennesseans who participated in the war.
The Tennessee State Library and Archives is open Tuesday through Saturday. The exhibit will remain open until mid-April.
PHILADELPHIA) - The Rodin Museum in Philadelphia has temporarily shut its doors to create a new installation of the artist's work.
When it reopens Feb. 7, visitors will be able to see about three dozen pieces that haven't been publicly displayed in years.
The new installation will spotlight Auguste Rodin's work in portraiture, including busts of author Victor Hugo, composer Gustav Mahler and newspaper mogul Joseph Pulitzer.
Philadelphia has one of the nation's largest collections of art by the French sculptor. The museum was founded by local movie theater magnate Jules Mastbaum and opened in 1929.
It closed for three years beginning in 2009 to undergo a massive renovation. The installation on view since then has focused on Rodin's masterpiece called "The Gates of Hell."
Asheville, N.C. - There will be something in Asheville soon for "Downton Abbey" fans. Biltmore House will host a new exhibition, "Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times," Feb. 5-May 25. The show will include more than 40 costumes from the PBS series "Downton Abbey."
Biltmore House was built in the 1890s for the Vanderbilt family. The Downton costumes will be displayed in groupings themed on events from the fictional show, with connections made to real life at the Vanderbilt estate during the same early 20th-century era.
An exhibit of costumes from "Downton Abbey" just closed at Winterthur, the former du Pont estate in Delaware, where it broke attendance records.