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Louisiana is a state in the south of the United States. Louisiana is the 31st most extensive and the 25th most populous of the 50 United States. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties. The largest parish by population is East Baton Rouge Parish, and the largest by land area is Cameron Parish.
Louisiana is bordered to the west by Texas; to the north by Arkansas; to the east by the state of Mississippi; and to the south by the Gulf of Mexico. The surface of the state may properly be divided into two parts, the uplands of the north, and the alluvial along the coast. The alluvial region includes low swamp lands, coastal marshlands and beaches, and barrier islands that cover about 52,000 km2. This area lies principally along the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River, which traverses the state from north to south for a distance of about 1,000 kilometres and empties into the Gulf of Mexico; the Red River; the Ouachita River and its branches; and other minor streams (some of which are called bayous). The higher and contiguous hill lands of the north and northwestern part of the state have an area of more than 65,000 km2. They consist of prairie and woodlands. The elevations above sea level range from 3 metres at the coast and swamp lands to 15-18 metres at the prairie and alluvial lands. In the uplands and hills, the elevations rise to Driskill Mountain, the highest point in the state at only 163 metres above sea level.
When most people think New Orleans they think Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras basically is the celebration prior to the fasting season of Lent. Although it refers to the events of the Carnival celebrations, Mardi Gras itself typically culminates on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday), referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday. Popular festival events are wearing masks and costumes, dancing and parades. The parades are organized by the Krewes and they travel on large floats tossing beads to the crowds. No one knows the exact year this festival started but by 1743 it was in full swing. Mardi Gras is celebrated mainly in South and North America and other famous ones include those in Rio de Janeiro, Barranquilla, Port of Spain, Quebec City and Mazatlán.
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, started in 1970, is an annual festival that celebrates every kind of music associated with New Orleans or Louisiana. This includes music like jazz, blues, R&B, gospel, cajun music, zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, folk, Latin, rock, rap, country music and bluegrass. The festival is held during the day from 11:00am to 7:00pm on the Fair Grounds Race Course, a horse racing track, on two consecutive weekends. These are the last weekend of April, from Friday through Sunday and the first Weekend in May, Thursday through Sunday.
There are other jazz festivals during the year like the French Quarter Festival in April and the Satchmo Summerfest in August.
Louisiana has a humid subtropical climate, perhaps the most "classic" example of a humid subtropical climate of all the Southcentral states, with long, hot, humid summers and short, mild winters. Precipitation is frequent throughout the year, although the summer is slightly wetter than the rest of the year. Southern Louisiana receives far more copious rainfall, especially during the winter months. Summers in Louisiana are hot and humid, with high temperatures from mid-June to mid-September averaging 32 °C or more and overnight lows averaging above 22 °C. In the summer, the extreme maximum temperature is much warmer in the north than in the south, with temperatures near the Gulf of Mexico occasionally reaching 38 °C, although temperatures above 35 °C are commonplace. In northern Louisiana, the temperatures can reach above 40 °C in the summer although this is not common.
Temperatures are generally mildly warm in the winter in the southern part of the state, with highs around New Orleans, Baton Rouge, the rest of south Louisiana, and the Gulf of Mexico averaging 19 °C, while the northern part of the state is mildly cool in the winter with highs 15 °C. The overnight lows in the winter average well above freezing throughout the state, with 8 °C the average near the Gulf and an average low of 3 °C in the winter in the northern part of the state. Louisiana does have its share of cold fronts, which frequently drop the temperatures below -8 °C in the northern part of the state, but almost never do so in the southern part of the state. Snow is not very common near the Gulf of Mexico, although those in the northern parts of the state can expect one to three snowfalls per year, with the frequency increasing northwards. Louisiana's highest recorded temperature is 46 °C in Plain Dealing on August 10, 1936 while the coldest recorded temperature is -27 °C at Minden on February 13, 1899.
Louisiana is often affected by tropical cyclones and is very vulnerable to strikes by major hurricanes, particularly the lowlands around and in the New Orleans area. The best example of course is hurricane Katrina in 2005, which caused massive devastation and lots of people died or became homeless and lost all their belongings. The area is also prone to frequent thunderstorms, especially in the summer. The entire state averages over 60 days of thunderstorms a year, more than any other state except Florida. Louisiana averages 27 tornadoes annually, some in part in 2010. The entire state is vulnerable to a tornado strike, with the extreme southern portion of the state slightly less so than the rest of the state.
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is a large international airport serving an average around 10 million passengers a year. It is also the second lowest airport in the world only sitting at 4.5 feet (1.5 metres) above sea level. It is possible to get direct flights to most major USA cities, especially the ones in the south. There are a few international flights, mainly to Central America and Mexico. The main destinations include Mexico City, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Houston, New York City, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, Memphis, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Cincinnati, Denver, Kansas City, Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Orlando, Nashville, St. Louis, Tampa, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Charlotte.
To/from the airport
Several trains travel between Louisiana and other states in the country. These include:
Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.
For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.
Louisiana has a number of National Scenic Byways which offer a great way to explore the state crossing beautiful landscapes. Mostly, there are lots of national parks, state parks or monuments along the way and it's generally a better alternative than the faster but boring Interstate Highways.
There are dozens of hotel and motel chains, ranging from budget to top end. Allthough they are not the most charming accommodations, they usually have a very decent midrange service with good rooms and are generally good value. At least you know what to expect and in some cases they are either the only or the best option in the area. Some of them include:
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