New Orleans has many major attractions, from the world-renowned French Quarter and Bourbon Street's notorious nightlife to St. Charles Avenue (home of Tulane and Loyola Universities, the historic Pontchartrain Hotel, and many 19th-century mansions), to Magazine Street, with its many boutique stores and antique shops.
According to current travel guides, New Orleans is one of the top ten most visited cities in the United States; 10.1 million visitors came to New Orleans in 2004, and the city was on pace to break that level of visitation in 2005. Prior to Katrina, there were 265 hotels with 38,338 rooms in the Greater New Orleans Area. In May 2007, there were over 140 hotels and motels in operation with over 31,000 rooms.
A 2009 Travel + Leisure poll of "America's Favorite Cities" ranked New Orleans first in ten categories, the most first-place rankings of the 30 cities included. According to the poll, New Orleans is the best U.S. city as a spring break destination and for "wild weekends", stylish boutique hotels, cocktail hours, singles/bar scenes, live music/concerts and bands, antique and vintage shops, cafés/coffee bars, neighborhood restaurants, and people watching. The city also ranked second for gay friendliness (behind San Francisco, California), friendliness (behind Charleston, South Carolina), bed and bath hotels and inns, and ethnic food. However the city was voted last in terms of active residents and near the bottom in cleanliness, safety, and as a family destination.
The French Quarter (known locally as "the Quarter" or Vieux Carré), which dates from the French and Spanish eras and is bounded by the Mississippi River, Rampart Street, Canal Street, and Esplanade Avenue, contains many popular hotels, bars, and nightclubs. Notable tourist attractions in the Quarter include Bourbon Street, Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, the French Market (including Café du Monde, famous for café au lait and beignets) and Preservation Hall. To tour the port, one can ride the Natchez, an authentic steamboat with a calliope, which cruises the Mississippi the length of the city twice daily. Unlike most other places in The United States, and the world, New Orleans has become widely known for its element of elegant decay. The city's many beautiful cemeteries and their distinct above-ground tombs are often attractions in themselves, the oldest and most famous of which, Saint Louis Cemetery, greatly resembles Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
Also located in the French Quarter is the old New Orleans Mint, a former branch of the United States Mint, which now operates as a museum, and The Historic New Orleans Collection, a museum and research center housing art and artifacts relating to the history of New Orleans and the Gulf South. The National World War II Museum, opened in the Warehouse District in 2000 as the "National D-Day Museum", is dedicated to providing information and materials related to the Invasion of Normandy. Nearby, Confederate Memorial Hall, the oldest continually operating museum in Louisiana (although under renovation since Katrina), contains the second-largest collection of Confederate memorabilia in the world. Art museums in the city include the Contemporary Arts Center, the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) in City Park, and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
New Orleans also boasts a decidedly natural side. It is home to the Audubon Nature Institute (which consists of Audubon Park, the Audubon Zoo, the Aquarium of the Americas, and the Audubon Insectarium), as well as gardens that include Longue Vue House and Gardens and the New Orleans Botanical Garden. City Park, one of the country's most expansive and visited urban parks, has one of the largest (if not the largest) stands of oak trees in the world.
There are also various points of interest in the surrounding areas. Many wetlands are in close proximity to the city, including Honey Island Swamp. Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery, located just south of the city, is the site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans.
In 2009, New Orleans ranked No. 7 on Newsmax magazine's list of the "Top 25 Most Uniquely American Cities and Towns," a piece written by current CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg. In determining his ranking, Greenberg cited the city's rebuilding effort post-Katrina as well as its mission to become eco-friendly.
The New Orleans area is home to numerous celebrations, the most popular of which is Carnival, often referred to as Mardi Gras. Carnival officially begins on the Feast of the Epiphany, also known as the "Twelfth Night". Mardi Gras (French for "Fat Tuesday"), the final and grandest day of festivities, is the last Tuesday before the Catholic liturgical season of Lent, which commences on Ash Wednesday.
The largest of the city's many music festivals is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Commonly referred to simply as "Jazz Fest", it is one of the largest music festivals in the nation, featuring crowds of people from all over the world, coming to experience music, food, arts, and crafts. Despite the name, it features not only jazz but a large variety of music, including both native Louisiana music and international artists. Along with Jazz Fest, New Orleans' Voodoo Experience ("Voodoo Fest") and the Essence Music Festival are both large music festivals featuring local and international artists.
In 2002, Louisiana began offering tax incentives for film and television production. This led to a substantial increase in the number of films shot in the New Orleans area and brought the nickname "Hollywood South." Films which have been filmed or produced in and around New Orleans include: Ray, Runaway Jury, The Pelican Brief, Glory Road, All the King's Men, Déjà Vu, Last Holiday, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and numerous others. In 2006, work began on the Louisiana Film & Television studio complex, based in the Tremé neighborhood. Louisiana began to offer similar tax incentives for music and theater productions in 2007, leading many to begin referring to New Orleans as "Broadway South."
The first theatre in New Orleans was the French-language Theatre de la Rue Saint Pierre, which opened in 1792. The first opera in New Orleans was given there in 1796. In the nineteenth century the city was the home of two of America's most important venues for the performance of French opera, the Théâtre d'Orléans and later the French Opera House. Today, opera is performed by the New Orleans Opera.
New Orleans has always been a significant center for music, showcasing its intertwined European, Latin American, and African cultures. New Orleans' unique musical heritage was born in its pre-American and early American days from a unique blending of European instruments with African rhythms. As the only North American city to allow slaves to gather in public and play their native music (largely in Congo Square, now located within Louis Armstrong Park), New Orleans gave birth to an indigenous music: jazz. Soon, brass bands formed, gaining popular attraction that still holds today. The city's music was later significantly influenced by Acadiana, home of Cajun and Zydeco music, and Delta blues.
New Orleans' unique musical culture is further evident in its funerals. A spin on the tradition of military brass band funerals, traditional New Orleans funerals feature sad music (mostly dirges and hymns) on the way to the cemetery and happier music (hot jazz) on the way back. Such traditional musical funerals still take place when a local musician, a member of a club, krewe, or benevolent society, or a noted dignitary has passed. Until the 1990s, most locals preferred to call these "funerals with music", but visitors to the city have long dubbed them "jazz funerals".
Much later in its musical development, New Orleans was home to a distinctive brand of rhythm and blues that contributed greatly to the growth of rock and roll. An example of the New Orleans' sound in the 1960s is the #1 US hit "Chapel of Love" by the Dixie Cups, a song which knocked The Beatles out of the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100. New Orleans became a hotbed for funk music in the 1960s and 1970s, and by the late 1980s, it had developed its own localized variant of hip hop, called bounce music. While never commercially successful outside of the Deep South, it remained immensely popular in the poorer neighborhoods of the city throughout the 1990s.
A cousin of bounce, New Orleans hip hop has seen commercial success locally and internationally, producing Lil Wayne, Master P, Birdman, Juvenile, Cash Money Records, and No Limit Records. Additionally, the wave of popularity of cowpunk, a fast form of southern rock, originated with the help of several local bands, such as The Radiators, Better Than Ezra, Cowboy Mouth, and Dash Rip Rock. Throughout the 1990s, many sludge metal bands started in the area. New Orleans' heavy metal bands like Eyehategod, Soilent Green, Crowbar, and Down have incorporated styles such as hardcore punk, doom metal, and southern rock to create an original and heady brew of swampy and aggravated metal that has largely avoided standardization.
New Orleans is the southern terminus of the famed Highway 61.
Historically, the major newspaper in the area was The Times-Picayune. The paper made headlines of its own in 2012 when owner Advance Publications cut its print schedule to three days each week, instead focusing its efforts on its website, NOLA.com. That action briefly the made New Orleans the largest city in the country without a daily newspaper, until the Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate began a New Orleans edition in September 2012. In June 2013, the Times-Picayune resumed daily printing with a condensed newsstand tabloid edition, nicknamed TP Street, which is published on the three days each week that its namesake broadsheet edition is not printed. (The Picayune has not returned to daily delivery.) With the resumption of daily print editions from the Times-Picayune and the launch of the New Orleans edition of The Advocate, now The New Orleans Advocate, the city now has two daily newspapers for the first time in more than three decades.
In addition to the daily newspapers, weekly publications include The Louisiana Weekly and Gambit Weekly. Also in wide circulation is the Clarion Herald, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Greater New Orleans is the 54th largest Designated Market Area (DMA) in the U.S., serving 566,960 homes. Major television network affiliates serving the area include:
Two radio stations that were influential in promoting New Orleans-based bands and singers were 50,000-watt WNOE-AM (1060) and 10,000-watt WTIX (690 AM). These two stations competed head-to-head from the late 1950s to the late 1970s.
WWOZ, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station, broadcasts, 24 hours per day, modern and traditional jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, brass band, gospel, cajun, zydeco, Caribbean, Latin, Brazilian, African, bluegrass, and Irish at 90.7 FM and at www.wwoz.org.
WTUL, a local college radio station (Tulane University), broadcasts a wide array of programming, including 20th century classical, reggae, jazz, showtunes, indie rock, electronic music, soul/funk, goth, punk, hip hop, New Orleans music, opera, folk, hardcore, Americana, country, blues, Latin, cheese, techno, local, world, ska, swing and big band, kids shows, and even news programming from DemocracyNow. WTUL is listener supported and non-commercial. The disc jockeys are volunteers, many of them college students.
Louisiana's film and television tax credits have spurred some growth in the television industry, although to a lesser degree than in the film industry. Many films and advertisements have in part or whole been filmed in the city, as have television programs such as ' in 2000, ' in 2009 and 2010 and Bad Girls Club: New Orleans in 2011.
New Orleans is world-famous for its food. The indigenous cuisine is distinctive and influential. From centuries of amalgamation of the local Creole, haute Creole, and New Orleans French cuisines, New Orleans food has developed. Local ingredients, French, Spanish, Italian, African, Native American, Cajun, Chinese, and a hint of Cuban traditions combine to produce a truly unique and easily recognizable Louisiana flavor.
New Orleans is known for specialties like beignets (locally pronounced like "ben-yays"), square-shaped fried pastries that could be called "French doughnuts" (served with café au lait made with a blend of coffee and chicory rather than only coffee); and Po' boy and Italian Muffuletta sandwiches; Gulf oysters on the half-shell, fried oysters, boiled crawfish, and other seafood; étouffée, jambalaya, gumbo, and other Creole dishes; and the Monday favorite of red beans and rice. (Louis Armstrong often signed his letters, "Red beans and ricely yours".) Another New Orleans specialty is the praline, a candy made with brown sugar, granulated sugar, cream, butter, and pecans. The city also has notable street food including the Asian inspired beef Yaka mein.
New Orleans has developed a distinctive local dialect of American English over the years that is neither Cajun nor the stereotypical Southern accent, so often misportrayed by film and television actors. It does, like earlier Southern Englishes, feature frequent deletion of the post-vocalic "r". This dialect is quite similar to New York City area accents such as "Brooklynese", to people unfamiliar with either. There are many theories regarding how it came to be, but it likely resulted from New Orleans' geographic isolation by water and the fact that the city was a major immigration port throughout the 19th century. As a result, many of the ethnic groups who reside in Brooklyn also reside in New Orleans, such as the Irish, Italians (especially Sicilians), and Germans, among others, as well as a very sizable Jewish community.
One of the strongest varieties of the New Orleans accent is sometimes identified as the Yat dialect, from the greeting "Where y'at?" This distinctive accent is dying out generation by generation in the city itself, but remains very strong in the surrounding parishes.
Less visibly, various ethnic groups throughout the area have retained their distinctive language traditions to this day. Although rare, languages still spoken are the Kreyol Lwiziyen by the Creoles; an archaic Louisiana-Canarian Spanish dialect spoken by the Isleño people and older members of the population; and Cajun.
New Orleans' professional sports teams include the 2009 Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints (NFL), the New Orleans Pelicans (NBA), the New Orleans Zephyrs (PCL), and returning for the 2011 season, the New Orleans VooDoo (AFL). It is also home to the Big Easy Rollergirls, an all-female flat track roller derby team, and the New Orleans Blaze, a women's football team. A local group of investors began conducting a study in 2007 to see if the city could support a Major League Soccer team.
The Louisiana Superdome is the home of the Saints, the Sugar Bowl, and other prominent events. It has hosted the Super Bowl a record seven times (1978, 1981, 1986, 1990, 1997, 2002, and 2013). The New Orleans Arena is the home of the Pelicans, VooDoo, and many events that are not large enough to need the Superdome. New Orleans is also home to the Fair Grounds Race Course, the nation's third-oldest thoroughbred track. The city's Lakefront Arena has also been home to sporting events.
Each year New Orleans plays host to the Sugar Bowl, the New Orleans Bowl and the Zurich Classic, a golf tournament on the PGA Tour. In addition, it has often hosted major sporting events that have no permanent home, such as the Super Bowl, ArenaBowl, NBA All-Star Game, BCS National Championship Game, and the NCAA Final Four. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon and the Crescent City Classic are two road running events held annually in the city.
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