New Orleans is a city that wraps its arms around newcomers in an embrace of classic Louisiana cuisine, rousing night life, jazz, European and Afro-Caribbean influences, centuries-old architecture and a touch of voodoo.
The French Quarter, the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, captures the melting-pot atmosphere of a city smoldering in a mélange of French, Spanish, African, Sicilian and Irish influences. Its stunning architecture, decorative wrought- and cast-iron balconies, antique shops, artists and art galleries and the sense of history in every handmade brick add to the overall spell.
New Orleans was founded by the French in 1718 for its strategic position along the Mississippi River near the Gulf of Mexico. In 1762,
Louis XV gave Louisiana to his Spanish cousin, King Charles III. Although Spanish rule was brief — lasting only until 1801 — Spain left a lasting imprint, rebuilding much of the city after devastating fires in 1788 and 1794.
Spain ceded Louisiana back to France in 1801, but two years later Napoleon sold the territory to the U.S., effectively doubling the size of the U.S. This opened the floodgates to immigration from Germany, Ireland, Sicily and other European countries. Thousands of Haitians fleeing a revolution in 1804 also settled in New Orleans, infusing the culture with their Afro-Caribbean food, music, language and customs. All this gives New Orleans its foreign, beguiling flavor, unlike that of any other American city.
NEW ORLEANS TODAY
New Orleans is a city of about 393,000 people, nicknamed the Crescent City because it was built — 5 feet below sea level — on a graceful bend along the Mississippi River. The city’s architectural treasures create a backdrop for a pulsating music, arts, dining and entertainment scene packed with opportunities for visitors. Historic streetcars will carry you to restaurants serving classic Louisiana cuisine, on a tour of the mansions and live oaks of St. Charles Avenue or to a bistro for beignets, boudin balls or bread pudding.
More than ten years after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans a devastating blow, the city has rebuilt itself. While effects linger in the Lower Ninth Ward and parts of New Orleans East near Lake Pontchartrain, the city is rebounding. Today, there are almost 600 more restaurants than existed before Katrina in this food-obsessed city, and the music, night life and city pride have returned.
Newcomers making the transition to calling the Crescent City home should check out the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau website, www.neworleanscvb.com, to explore the city’s history, attractions, music scene and activities for the entire family.
WHERE TO BEGIN
Start with what you love. Whether your goal is to wander antebellum plantations or taste the foods that New Orleans is famous for, there’s a tour to suit you. History-lovers can explore battlegrounds, the city’s European origins and jazz landmarks while soaking up lore from local historians. Looking to delve into the world of the supernatural? Take a nighttime tour of a cavernous haunted mansion or learn about voodoo practices as you walk through maze-like cemeteries. There are excursions for the daring who want to spot alligators in the Louisiana bayous, or you can sit back and relax in a mule-drawn carriage, hop on a paddlewheel riverboat or set out on foot.