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Scott Satchfield / Eyewitness News
Email: ssatchfield@wwltv.com | Twitter: @satchfield

NEW ORLEANS -- Across the French Quarter on Thursday, visitors were out and about in large numbers.

'Just walking around you feel the vibe, you know, the holiday vibe,' said Bobby Cors, an Atlanta resident.

Ohio resident Michelle Banks said, 'Just to see all the lights and hear all the music and everything. It's a different experience than where I'm from.'

Tourism officials say the holiday season has become another standout period for the city, and it comes as the city gears up for even bigger celebrations in the days and weeks ahead.

'We think we're seeing a crescendo,' said Mark Romig, CEO of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation. 'We've seen a lot of activity with the restaurants and hotels and attractions and shopping. Now we're moving into the sports period.'

Teams began arriving for next week's Sugar Bowl on Thursday, with the Florida Gators touching down first in the morning.

And before that big game the French Quarter is expected to be packed for New Year's Eve celebrations.

Preparations are already underway, and crowds are building.

'I'm looking around Jackson Square here, and I haven't seen this many people in the square in a number of weeks, so, very good, yes,' said carriage tour guide Carlo Gambino.

Romig said, 'You'll have a good crowd coming in for the weekend. Our occupancies are creeping up, so we should have a solid occupancy in the hotels for the weekend.'

Some we talked with said they're here after hearing good things from others about spending the holidays in New Orleans.

'So, I kind of broke down some days to do it and jumped in the car and made a little road trip and decided to come out and see it for myself,' said Brandon Watson, a Dallas resident. 'So, I'm really excited. It's really beautiful. It's everything I thought it was gonna be.'

All this as the city braces for a much larger surge of visitors in just a few weeks for Mardi Gras and the Super Bowl.

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