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New Orleans, Louisiana, was settled by the French, then blended with countless other European, West African, Native American and West Indies cultures to create a truly unique city. The blend of cultures and languages gives the city amazing food, architecture, music and a one of a kind Mardi Gras. New Orleans is also considered the birth place of jazz!
The city was founded in 1718 by the French Mississippi Company and it grew quickly. The Spanish took control in 1763 until the French took it back in 1801. Many buildings in the French Quarter (Vieux Carré) date from the Spanish period. Napoleon sold the city to the USA in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
During the war of 1812 the famous battle of New Orleans happened between the British and the Americans, which was actually fought after the war was over. As the 19th century progressed the city grew and was spared most of the horrors of the US Civil War because the Union retook the city early in the war.
New Orleans grew during the early 20th century but after the 1950s the economy began to slow down. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina slammed into the city causing the greatest civil engineering disaster in USA history. After the flood walls and levees failed over 80% of the city flooded and over 1,500 people died in the state of Louisiana. This city has slowly started to rebuild itself and is open to tourism again. The most famous events of Mardi Gras and The Jazz and Heritage Festival have never been canceled or relocated.
New Orleans sits on a strip of land between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River, about 100 miles (160 kilometres) from where the Mississippi drains into the Gulf of Mexico, at a point where the Mississippi River bends.
Instead of using compass directions to navigate, most people in New Orleans use the geography of the region to give directions. Lakeside means heading towards Lake Pontchartrain, Riverside means heading towards the Mississippi River. Downtown is with the direction of the river flow, and uptown is heading up river.
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The French Quarter is the oldest part of New Orleans, and many of the buildings date back to the early 1800s, after a number of devastating fires in the late 1700s. Bounded by the Mississippi River, Canal Street, Rampart Street and Esplanade Avenue, the French quarter makes up about 90 blocks, and is an excellent place to walk. Along the river is the Moon Walk, a nice stroll along the riverfront. Across the Riverfront streetcar tracks, is the French Market, a market with arts and crafts shops. Jackson Square is the heart of the French Quarter, anchored by the massive St. Louis Cathedral and Cabildo, sight of the ratification of the Louisiana Purchase. Royal Street and Bourbon Street provide a number of restaurants, bars and clubs to fill any desire, while the various other streets in the quarter provide a quieter refuge with an opportunity to look at the mix of French and Spanish colonial buildings.
Along the stretch between St. Charles Street and Magazine Street, from Jackson to Louisiana Avenue is the Garden District, an area of historic homes originally settled by Americans after the Louisiana purchase. Walking through its tree lined avenues, you will see Greek Revival, Italianate and Victorian mansions. Magazine Street has a number of shops, cafes, restaurants and bars in a relaxed atmosphere, providing a break from the somewhat hectic pace of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. Tulane University and Layola University are located in this area.
Uptown from the French Quarter across Canal Street, the Central Business District (CBD) has a number of hotels and is the home to Harrah's Casino, the Riverwalk, the Convention Center and the cruise ship port. The Warehouse District, located within the CBD, is an area undergoing a revitalization, with a number of art galleries interspersed with restaurants. The CBD is also home to the Superdome and New Orleans Arena, home to the NFL football New Orleans Saints and NBA basketball Hornets.
Downriver from the French Quarter across Esplande Avenue, Marigny is home to many artists and other hip, young urbanites, and is the heart of New Orleans' gay and lesbian community. A number of bars provide the opportunity to see young, alternative bands, providing a counterpoint to the blues, country and classic rock of the bars along Bourbon Street.
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The French Quarter, also known as Vieux Carré in French, is the most popular tourist sight in New Orleans. This area of the city is centered around the original settlement of the city founded in 1718. Bourbon Street, the center for Mardi Gras, runs the length of the quarter and home to amazing buildings, several bars and restaurants. However there is much more to explore in the French Quarter other than bars, jazz clubs and voodoo.
In the Central Business District:
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Due to the high water table and frequent rains, burying bodies in the ground is not advisable in New Orleans, as they tend to float up to the surface. This is a lesson that early residents of the city found, and so they started burying their dead in crypts above the ground. Today, these above ground cities of the dead are one of the most indelible images of the city.
However, some of the cemeteries are in bad areas of town, and the above ground crypts make it hard to see any potential threats to your safety. Therefore, for many of the cemeteries you will be advised not to travel into without a guide. Luckily, many companies provide tours of the cemeteries. There are a few cemeteries in nicer parts of town that you can visit on your own, independently, however you always travel at your own risk and should keep your wits about you.
Those where visitors should travel with a guide include St. Louis Number 1 and St. Louis Number 2. St. Louis Number 1 is the oldest cemetery in town and has some of the most elaborate crypts. The cemetery is famous for being featured in the movie Easy Rider, as well as being the place where Anne Rice's vampire Louis, from the Vampire Chronicles, is buried. For those more independently minded, St. Louis Number 3 (near City Park) and Lafayette cemetery (in the Garden District) are relatively safe, though be careful when travelling through, and if possible travel in a group.
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.
New Orleans has festivals and events year round. A calendar of events can be found at the New Orleans tourism website.
Located in the southern part of the USA, New Orleans is never really cold. Winter sees temperatures in the 60 °F to 70 °F, climbing throughout the spring until summer, where highs are in the 90 °F to 100 °F range, before falling throughout autumn and into winter. Rain can occur any time during the year, but the summer months (June to September) are the wettest. As witnessed by Hurricane Katrina, the city does get hit by hurricanes. The hurricane season runs from June until November.
|Avg Max||16 °C||17.8 °C||22 °C||25.8 °C||29.1 °C||31.8 °C||32.6 °C||32.3 °C||30.3 °C||26.3 °C||21.7 °C||17.9 °C|
|Avg Min||5.4 °C||6.9 °C||10.9 °C||14.7 °C||18.4 °C||21.6 °C||22.8 °C||22.7 °C||20.8 °C||14.8 °C||10.6 °C||7.1 °C|
|Rainfall||128.3 mm||152.7 mm||124.5 mm||114.3 mm||115.8 mm||148.3 mm||155.4 mm||156.7 mm||140 mm||77.5 mm||112.3 mm||146 mm|
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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
Amtrak provides service into New Orleans, with the station being at 1001 Loyola Ave, near the Superdome in the Central Business District. Trains run from New Orleans to Chicago (City of New Orleans service), New York (Crescent service) and Los Angeles (Sunset service). The station includes a checked baggage service.
Major highways into New Orleans include the I-10, I-55, US 90 and US 61.
Intercity buses arrive at the train station, 1001 Loyola Avenue, near the Superdome in the Central Business District. Greyhound buses serve the city.
The cruise ship terminal is located in the Central Business District, at the end of the Riverwalk mall, at the foot of Julia Street, on the Mississippi River.
Driving in the city can be hard, especially in the French Quarter where streets are narrow, parking is limited and pedestrians are plentiful and often drunk. Cabs are frequent and inexpensive, and many sights are within walking distance, so the need for a car for a tourist is limited.
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.
The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA, or often just RTA) operates streetcars and buses within New Orleans. There are three streetcar routes, one along St. Charles from Canal Street to Carrollton Avenue, one along Canal Street to City Park and the cemeteries, and one along the River from the French Market to Riverview. RTA routes and schedules can be found on their website. Rides cost $1.25, with a transfer costing an additional $0.25. Unlimited one day and three day passes are available for $5 and $12 respectively.
Jefferson Transit also runs some routes that could be of use to travellers in the area, specifically the bus to the airport. Check out the Jefferson Transit website for details on fares, routes and schedules.
New Orleans is an excellent city for walking, mostly flat and well-laid out in a grid. The French Quarter, Central Business District, Garden District and Faubourg Marigny are all safe to walk, though caution should always be exercised, especially at night. Most hotels provide maps of these areas.
The entire city can easily explored by bicycle, hills are non existent and many different styles of neighborhood architecture can be seen without trouble. The cities two major parks, Audubon Park and City Park, along with the hurrican ravaged lower ninth ward are good destinations for those looking for an adventurous ride. Bicycle Michaels and Confederacy of Cruisers both rent bikes. Confederacy of Cruisers also offers guided bicycle tours of the city.
For a city on water, it is not surprising that seafood is one of the key dishes in New Orleans. As a port city, many different cultures have come through and put their stamp on the food in the area, so Creole cooking is a hybrid of many cultures, with spices, ingredients and flavours from around the world.
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A favourite breakfast for those in New Orleans is the beignet, a deep fried pastry covered with powered sugar. Cafe du Monde, on Decatur Street at the end of the French Market by Jackson Square is famous for its beignets, usually served with a cafe au lait made with their signature coffee and chicory blend.
For lunch, a po'boy sandwich can feed a hungry stomach. In 1929, New Orleans’ streetcar drivers went on strike. Sympathetic to their cause, restauranteurs Clovis and Benjamin Martin created an inexpensive sandwich to serve the striking workers. They put roast beef and gravy on a piece of French bread, and served them out the back of the restaurant to the streetcar drivers. When one of them would approach the back door, the kitchen workers would call for a sandwich by saying, "here comes another poor boy!". Soon enough, the sandwiches gained the nickname po’ boys. Many places serve po'boys, but Johnny's Po' Boys at 511 Saint Louis St in the French Quarter gets good reviews.
Another sandwich option is the Muffuletta, a mixed-meat sandwich served on a massive loaf of bread. In 1906 the Central Grocery's Sicilian owner started serving the sandwiches with capicola, salami, mortadella, emmenthal, and provolone on a muffuletta bread, which gave the sandwich its name. The Central Grocery is at 923 Decatur St., about a block from Jackson Square. The full sandwich is massive, so unless you have a big appetite or are sharing, think about getting a half.
Traditional Cajun cuisine can be found in many of the restaurants in New Orleans. The Acme Oyster House, known for its raw and chargrilled Louisiana oysters, also offers gumbo, jambalaya, and red beans and rice. The restaurant was established in 1910, and has been at its present location, 744 Iberville Street in the French Quarter, since 1924.
In the 1830s, Antoine Amadie Peychaud, a New Orleans pharmacist started dispensing a combination of cognac and bitters in an egg cup, known in French as a "coquetier". It is a corruption of that word that gave the world the name cocktail. Many recipes were developed based on that first cocktail, including one at The Sazerac Coffee House, and today these original cocktails are known as Sazeracs. Though the Sazerac bar is still closed post-Katrina, the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone on Royal Street is a nice place for a good cocktail. The bar not only looks like a merry-go-round, it also rotates slowly, doing a full cycle in about 15 minutes.
Pat O’Briens on St. Peter Street is home to the Hurricane. Invented in the 1940s as a way to get rid of surplus rum, the Hurricane has become one of New Orleans' most famous drinks. In an attempt to sell some of those massive stocks of excess rum on hand, Pat O’Brien started experimenting with potential drinks to drive sales. They eventually came across a successful recipe of rum, lime juice and passion fruit syrup that was served over ice in a glass shaped like a hurricane lamp. The shape of the glass ended up giving the drink its name. The drink contains 4 ounces of alcohol, so take it easy! The drink is $7, and for an additional $3, you can keep the souvenir glass.
Created specifically to compete with the Hurricane on the strength scale, the Hand Grenade comes with 5 ounces of alcohol, making it the “most powerful drink” in New Orleans, as the Hurricane only has 4 ounces of alcohol. The 5 ounces of booze is mixed with a secret mix, and is served at the Tropical Isle on Bourbon Street. The drink is very sweet, and not to everyone's taste.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, at 941 Bourbon Street, is in a building that is believed to be the oldest in the Mississippi value. Jean Lafitte was a pirate during French and Spanish rule. Lafitte opened up a “blacksmith shop” in the French Quarter to trade in plundered and illegal goods, including alcohol. The building is still standing in the French Quarter, one of the few buildings dating back before the fires in late 1700s. Today it is a bar, and fitting with the old building, has little electric light inside, making it a magical place for a drink at night.
The Frenchmen Hotel is as close to the action of New Orleans as you can be! Just walking distance from the French Quarter, unwind in the private courtyard, pool and spa after a busy day in the Big Easy.
More budget options with travellers ratings:
|AAE Bourbon House Hostel||1660 Annunciation Street Amtrack GreyHound Location||Hostel||78|
|Creole Inn||2471 Dauphine Street||Guesthouse||80|
|India House Backpackers Hostel||124 South Lopez St||Hostel||81|
|Joe & Flo's Candlelight Hostel - New Orleans||1129 N. Robertson Street||HOSTEL||-|
|New Orleans Hostel - Marquette House||2249 Carondelet Street LA 70130||Hostel||71|
|St. Vincent's Guesthouse||1507 Magazine St||Guesthouse||72|
|Super 8 - New Orleans||6322 Chef Menteur Highway I-10 Exit 240 B||Hotel||-|
|Motel 6 New Orleans||12330 I-10 Service Road I-10 at Bullard Avenue, Exit #245 New Orleans,||HOTEL||-|
|Days Inn New Orleans Airport||1021 Airline Drive||Hotel||-|
|Empress Hotel||1317 Ursuline Ave New Orleans, LA 70116||Hotel||78|
|IH Apartments||3820 Banks Street||APARTMENT||79|
|The Burgundy B&B||2513 Burgundy St.||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Flo & Joe GuestHouse||8531 S. Claiborne Avenue||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Casa Veechia New Orleans||3303 Louisiana Ave Parkway||GUESTHOUSE||-|
Still suffering from a drop in population post-Katrina, there are a number of possibilities for workers in New Orleans, especially in the service industry and construction work.
There are a number of universities within New Orleans:
Internet cafes can be found throughout the city, especially in the French Quarter and Central Business District. Rates are usually between $2 to $4 per hour. A number of restaurants and cafes offer Wifi.
See also International Telephone Calls
The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.
The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.
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