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).
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.
Ranked as the fourth-best U.S. city to visit by Condé Nast Traveler magazine, as one of the Top 10 most romantic destinations by National Geographic Traveler/Yahoo! Travel poll, one of 10 "Cities that Rock" by Esquire Magazine and two international travel industry entities, Orbitz and Travel + Leisure named New Orleans as a top destination for travelers in the New Year (2007). Orbitz described New Orleans as an "in" location for experience seeking vacationers, while Travel + included the city in its "Where to Go Next" feature.
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 28,000 hotel rooms here, and our famed restaurants and music clubs are humming. It's no surprise that the New York Times has named New Orleans the "Comeback of the Year"
On the local scene, New Orleans is second-to-none in the hearts of its residents. The streetcars recently returned to historic St. Charles Avenue and are the nation's only mobile National Historic Landmark, while City Park is the country's largest municipal park. 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 Six Flags New Orleans amusement park to the Audubon Zoological Garden, one of the top five zoos in the country. 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 famous RiverWalk shopping area.
One of the newest attractions in the Crescent City is The National D-Day 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 trio of major league franchises in the NBA's Hornets, NFL's Saints, the VooDoo of the Arena Football League, plus the New Orleans Zephyrs', the triple A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, 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 nine Super Bowls (including three on the Tulane campus), four NCAA Men's Final Fours and two men's regional finals, as well as two women's Final Fours. The Superdome was the site of the 2003 Men's Final Four, while the 2004 Women's Final Four took place in the New Orleans Sports Arena. The Superdome will once again be cast in the national spotlight this January when the next NCAA football national champion will be crowed on its playing field in January 2008, and New Orleans Arena will host the NBA All-Star game in February 2008.
Don't forget the unmatched saltwater and freshwater fishing and outdoor pursuits that have earned the state the nickname "Sportsman's Paradise."
Despite the fury of Mother Nature, the most celebrated and historic core of the city - including the Faubourg Marigny, French Quarter, Central Business District, Warehouse and Arts District, Magazine Street, Garden District, Audubon Park and Zoo and St. Charles Avenue - not only remains intact, both physically and spiritually, but is thriving. 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.
Population: 1.2 million (metro area)
Area: 4,860 sq. miles
Fall: Avg. High - 79; Avg. Low - 60
Winter: Avg. High - 63; Avg. Low - 44
Spring: Avg. High - 78; Avg. Low - 59
Hotel Rooms: 33,500
Limos & Buses: 200
Flights: 137 daily
St. Charles Streetcar: $1.25
Annual Visitors: 7.1 million
Visitor Spending: $4.8 billion
Total Parade Viewers: 750-850,000
Overall Spending: $200 million
Public Libraries: 65
Universities (4-year): 8
Community Colleges: 2
Medical Schools: 2
Law Schools: 2
Theological Seminaries: 2
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
Truman Capote, reknowned author
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
Bryant Gumbel, television personality/talk show host
Al Hirt, musician
Mahalia Jackson, gospel singer
Lenny Kravitz, musician
Emeril Lagasse, world famous chef and TV personality
Branford Marsalis, jazz saxaphonist, "The Tonight Show"
Wynton Marsalis, jazz and classical trumpeter
Jelly Roll Morton, pianist and jazz pioneer
Aaron Neville, Grammy-award winning singer
Mel Ott, Major League Baseball player 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
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