Now is the Time to Fall in Love With New Orleans all Over Again
Photo by Pat Garin
In 1718, the Sieurs d’Iberville and de Bienville founded a port city near the juncture of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The city was named La Nouvelle Orleans after Philippe, Duc d’Orleans, and centered around the Place d’Armes (Jackson Square). The area was then confined to what is now known as the French Quarter (Vieux Carre).
New Orleans & Company (Convention and Visitors Bureau)
The society who first inhabited the area was French in origin. However, in 1762, Louis XIV gave Louisiana to his Spanish cousin, King Charles III. Before the end of a short Spanish reign, the French Quarter suffered significant structural damage due to a fire that destroyed the city. Much of the original French architecture was replaced by Spanish styles. Soon thereafter, Louisiana was ceded back to France and was finally sold by Napoleon Bonaparte to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.
Since its infancy and through the ownership of three different nations, New Orleans has evolved into one of the most unique cities in the world. A mix of European, African, Caribbean and American influences, the Big Easy has its own atmosphere. Everything from the music to the architecture to the food is a delight to the senses.
When most people think of New Orleans, the first thing that comes to mind is the world famous French Quarter, known to the natives as the Vieux Carré (the old square). An amalgamation of stunning French and Spanish architecture, the Quarter is a natural gathering place for residents and visitors alike. And with a wide variety of restaurants, shops and entertainment, anyone who doesn’t enjoy a trip to the Vieux Carré simply isn’t trying.
Just to the west of the French Quarter is the Garden District. Along with a beautiful and historic collection of mansion homes, the Garden District is also home to the campus of Tulane University.
Of course, no discussion about New Orleans would be complete without mentioning Mardi Gras. Perhaps the world’s largest free party, Mardi Gras is a celebration that lasts for weeks and takes place all over New Orleans – from the French Quarter to the Garden District to Uptown. More than 30 parades “roll” through different areas of the city on nearly a daily basis throughout the season. The young and the young-at-heart alike enjoy the beautiful floats and costumes, the beads, doubloons and trinkets and the wide spectrum of music that make up the revelry that culminates with “Fat Tuesday.”
And if you’re not done celebrating when Mardi Gras ends, simply wait a few weeks and begin the party anew with the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival – known as JazzFest. A two-week celebration featuring the world’s finest musicians, JazzFest highlights the city’s musical roots, showcasing jazz, blues and Zydeco in addition to classical and popular music.
Speaking of music, the Big Easy is widely recognized as the birthplace of jazz, though the city’s influence can be felt in the blues, soul, funk and even good old-fashioned rock and roll. A wide variety of national and international musical acts regularly pass through New Orleans, though the city’s local musicians often steal the show.
Of course, New Orleans is famous for its food, as many of the nation’s finest chefs call the Crescent City home. Creole dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya and crawfish etouffé complement po-boys, red beans & rice and other traditional New Orleans fare.
The historic and cultural experience that attracts more than 10 million people to New Orleans each year is as rich, charming and welcoming as ever. There are more than 30,000 hotel rooms here, and our famed restaurants and music clubs are humming. It’s no surprise that Travel + Leisure regularly votes New Orleans as one of the “World’s Best Cities.”
On the local scene, New Orleans is second-to-none in the hearts of its residents. The streetcars travel historic St. Charles Avenue, as well as up Canal Street to City Park, the country’s largest municipal park, and are the nation’s only mobile National Historic Landmark. Nowhere else can you eat beignets at Café du Monde, enjoy some of the best shopping, dining and entertainment in the world and visit world class attractions, all in the same day.
Those world-class attractions include something for everyone – from Swamp Tours to the Audubon Zoological Garden, one of the top five zoos in the country, to Mardi Gras World – a museum to the history of the festive event. Take a river cruise on a stately paddlewheel steamer, visit one of the stately plantation homes or swing by the Aquarium of the Americas located near the newly-renovated RiverWalk outlet shopping area.
Another can’t miss attraction in the Crescent City is The National World War II Museum. The 16,000-square-foot gallery is divided into four, state-of-the-art, interactive exhibits on World War II that intermix oral histories from veterans worldwide, artifacts, documents and photographs with hands-on activities and never-before seen film footage.
The New Orleans sports scene features a pair of major league franchises in the NBA’s Pelicans and the NFL’s Saints, plus the New Orleans Baby Cakes, the triple A affiliate of the Miami Marlins, and a plethora of collegiate activities, including two annual college football bowl games.
The city plays host to more major sporting events than perhaps any other city in the world with 10 Super Bowls, five NCAA Men’s Final Fours and two men’s regional finals, as well as three women’s Final Fours. The Superdome was the site of the 2012 Men’s Final Four, while the 2013 Women’s Final Four took place in the New Orleans Sports Arena (now the Smoothie King Center). The city has also hosted three NBA All-Star games in recent years as well as Wrestlemania in April of 2014.
Don’t forget the unmatched saltwater and freshwater fishing and outdoor pursuits that have earned the state the nickname “Sportsman’s Paradise.”
The cultural riches, sensual indulgences and unparalleled service that define the New Orleans experience continue to flourish, as they have for centuries. New Orleans is open, fully prepared and eager to welcome all of our visitors again.
Here are some tips for what to see, do and eat while here in the Crescent City:
New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz and a mecca for gospel, R&B and ultimately, the rock and pop we love today. We aren’t exaggerating when we say that a wholly original spirit of creativity and musical magic is alive on the streets and in the clubs of New Orleans. Here you can experience unbelievable live musical performances in venues from swank lounges to tiny honky tonks to mega concerts in places like the New Orleans Arena.
Where To Go:
Known as the “locals’ version of Bourbon,” Frenchmen is an entertainment district located within walking distance just east of the French Quarter and offers an amazing variety of venue styles and music ranging from traditional jazz to blues to reggae to rock all week long. Many clubs along the strip don’t even charge a cover. But in true New Orleans fashion, do give a cheer after a great trombone solo and throw a few bucks in the tip jar to show your appreciation. Must visit clubs: The Spotted Cat, Snug Harbor, Maison, Three Muses and The Blue Nile.
Family recipes that date back hundreds of years, bread pudding beckoning from a bed of decadent caramel sauce, grilled Redfish topped with jumbo lump crabmeat-if one thing’s for sure, it’s that food in New Orleans- from gumbo to grits-is a serious affair. In New Orleans, food is an art form and chefs are rock stars. And with more than 1,300 restaurants to choose from, everyone is sure to find meals to make their taste buds sing.
The city’s Creole, Cajun and French signature dishes are just the tip of the menu. While exploring New Orleans’ culinary wonders, don’t forget to explore the offerings of other cuisines including Vietnamese, Latin, Mediterranean and Italian fare which infuse traditional preparation with an amazing array of South Louisiana spices, produce and seafood.
Order Like a Local:
A po boy sandwich is New Orleans’ version of a submarine sandwich. It consists of meat or seafood, usually fried, served on a baguette of French bread. If you would like lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and pickle on your sandwich, order like a local and ask for it “dressed.”
New Orleans is a city abundant in culture, cuisine and history, and with so much to do, where should you even start? If you’re having trouble deciding, let one of the city’s professional tour guides create an adventure tailored to your interests.
Whether your goal is to sail through swamplands via high-speed airboat or taste-test every classic cocktail, there’s a tour to suit your style. History buffs can explore iconic battlegrounds, the city’s European origins, and historic jazz landmarks while hearing stories and lore from professional historians. Looking to delve into the world of the supernatural or the occult? Take a nighttime tour of a cavernous haunted mansion, or learn about voodoo practices as you walk through maze-like cemeteries. Get ready to sit back and relax in a mule-drawn carriage, hop on a paddlewheel riverboat or set out on foot-there’s a lot to discover.
Two New Tours to Try:
Grayline’s Pirate Tour: Delve into the world of Jean Lafitte, New Orleans’ most famous pirate. Explore the streets of New Orleans to discover the places that aided in his “family business” and learn how he helped win the Battle of New Orleans in 1812. www.graylineneworleans.com
KAYAK-ITI-YAT: Urban kayaking on the beautiful Bayou St. John. kayakitiyat.com
Although legendary for its nightlife, New Orleans is also the perfect destination for creating unforgettable family memories. Spend time exploring the Audubon Institute Attractions which include the Audubon Zoo, Aquarium of the Americas and the truly unique Insectarium. Take the family on a ride on the city’s historic St. Charles Avenue Streetcar (only $1.25 per ride!) and cruise along the city’s most elegant thoroughfare. Or, simply spend the day strolling the French Quarter where street performers include magicians, living statues, clowns, face painters and more. And don’t forget to pay a visit to the French Market, America’s oldest public market, for affordable souvenirs and the chance to sample many regional delicacies.
With state-of-the-art sporting facilities, unparalleled hospitality and our world-famous “party scene,” it’s no wonder The Bleacher Report named New Orleans the “Best NFL City to Party In.” For more ideas on what to do, see and eat during your stay visit, www.neworleanscvb.com.
Laissez les bons temps rouler! (Let the good times roll!)
New Orleans Notables
Over the years, a wide variety of people have called New Orleans home – musicians, artists, athletes, politicians, chefs and more. Here is a list of just a few of New Orleans’ most famous sons and daughters:
Louis Armstrong, legendary jazz musician
Nicholas Cage, actor
Truman Capote, reknowned author
James Carville, political consultant
Will Clark, former Major League Baseball star
Harry Connick, Jr., Grammy-winning musician and actor
Ellen DeGeneres, actress, comedienne & talk-show host
Fats Domino, rock’n’roll pioneer
Pete Fountain, famed clarinetist
John Goodman, actor
Al Hirt, musician
Mahalia Jackson, gospel singer
Dr. John, musician
Lenny Kravitz, musician
Emeril Lagasse, world famous chef and TV personality
Lil’ Wayne, rapper
Eli Manning, NFL quarterback
Peyton Manning, NFL quarterback
Branford Marsalis, jazz saxaphonist, “The Tonight Show”
Wynton Marsalis, jazz and classical trumpeter
Master P, rapper, businessman, mogul
Jelly Roll Morton, pianist and jazz pioneer
Aaron Neville, Grammy-award winning singer
Mel Ott, Major League Baseball Hall-of-Famer who hit more than 500 home runs
Paul Prudhomme, world-class chef
Trent Reznor, lead singer “Nine Inch Nails”
Anne Rice, famed author of the Vampire Chronicles
Trombone Shorty, musician
Jay Thomas, actor
Sara Walker, first black female millionaire in U.S.
Edward Douglas White, Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court
Tennessee Williams, author and playwright
Andrew Young, former U.N. ambassador, mayor of Atlanta