Founded in 1718 by the French explorer Bienville, 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 special 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. 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 Carre simply isn't trying.
Just to the west of the French Quarter is the historic 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 city-wide celebration that lasts for weeks. 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 enjoy the floats and costumes, the beads, doubloons and trinkets and the wide spectrum of music that make up the revelry that culminates with "Fat Tuesday."
If you're not done celebrating when Mardi Gras comes to a close, simply wait a few weeks and begin the party anew with the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival - or 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.
The city is perhaps most 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 etouffe complement po-boys, red beans & rice and other traditional New Orleans fare. And after a fantastic meal at one of the hundreds of the city's fantastic restaurants, stop off for beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde for a special treat found only in New Orleans.
Ranked as the second-best travel destination in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler's magazine, New Orleans is second-to-none in the hearts of its residents. The streetcars that still run along historic St. Charles Avenue are the nation's only mobile National Historic Landmark, while City Park is the country's largest municipal park.
If tourist destinations fit the bill then head straight to the Audubon Zoological Garden, one of the top five zoos in the country, before swinging by the Aquarium of the Americas located near the famous RiverWalk shopping area. Then head out for a river cruise on a stately paddlewheel steamer, visit some of Louisiana's reptilian natives on a Swamp Tour or enjoy a slice of history at any of the several plantation homes near the city.
One of the newest attractions in the Crescent City is the The National D-Day Museum. The museum features interactive exhibits on World War II that intermix oral histories from veterans, artifacts, documents and photographs with hands-on activities and film footage that takes visitors through the weeks and days leading up to the foggy morning of June 6 when the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy.
For the thrill seeker, the new Six Flags New Orleans amusement park provides fans with several new adrenalin-rush rides, as well as family entertainment and concerts from various artists of all genre.
Another interesting aspect of New Orleans is the sports scene that features a pair of major league franchises, as well as a plethora of collegiate activities, not to mention the unmatched saltwater and freshwater fishing and outdoor pursuits that earned the state the nickname "Sportsman's Paradise."
Over the years, New Orleans has played host to nine Super Bowls (including three on the Tulane campus). The city has hosted four NCAA Men's Final Fours and two NCAA Women's Final Fours, including the 2004 Women's Final Four, hosted by Tulane in the New Orleans Sports Arena.
The Louisiana Superdome, the home of the Tulane Green Wave and New Orleans Saints football teams, is also the site of the annual Sugar Bowl game, the New Orleans Bowl and the Bayou Classic.
New Orleans is home to the New Orleans Zephyrs, the triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros, as well as the NBA's Hornets, who completed their first NBA season in the city in 2003.
From the French Quarter to the Superdome, Six Flags New Orleans to the National D-Day Museum, Mardi Gras to Jazzfest, there's always something going on in the Crescent City. With so much going for it, it is no wonder that residents say, "New Orleans, Proud to Call it Home!"