The first time I went to Preservation Hall, it was purely by chance. That's the beauty of traveling when you're young and stupid--you stumble upon things that the whole world has always known about, and in the ignorance and self confidence of youth, you think you discovered them.
My friend Katy and I were in New Orleans on vacation. We spent a lot of time in the French Quarter, wandering the narrow side streets, poking our heads into bricked courtyards and voodoo shops, listening to the swirls of music and laughter, the sharp brassy sound of a trumpet as we passed an open doorway. We vowed to decorate our apartments back in Duluth with plastic beads and feathered masks.
One night we saw a line of people waiting to get into a small, nondescript place, an old wooden storefront that looked like it hadn't been painted since it was built 300 years ago. A wooden sign swinging from a wrought-iron bracket identified it as Preservation Hall. So we joined the line.
The place is tiny and crowded. There are a few chairs in front; everyone else stands. We learned, through the course of the evening, that eventually those in front leave, and the people behind them get to sit down, and everyone else moves up. We waited it out, craned our necks, shuffled forward from time to time, and eventually scored seats.