New Orleans, the Paris of the Americas
In its long and colorful history, New Orleans has been host to many cultures and many nationalities. The flags of France, Spain, the Confederate States of America and the United States have all flown over the city and helped form its identity. New Orleans lies about 107 miles from the Gulf of Mexico on a crescent shaped bend in the Mississippi River. The French explorer La Salle first claimed the region in 1682 and named it for King Louis XIV. In 1718, the French brothers Iberville and Bienville founded the city naming it Nouvelle Orleans, after the Duke of Orleans. Since its inception, New Orleans has been a major seaport for the southern United States. New Orleans is filled with the flavor of an old European capital. The French Quarter, with its quiet courtyards, lacy cast iron balconies and narrow streets, draws millions of visitors each year. In contrast to the very urban qualities of the French Quarter, St. Charles Avenue is banked by the palatial and stately town homes of the millionaire plantation owners of the Old South. The Creole cottages, usually two rooms wide and two or more rooms deep, dot the neighborhoods of New Orleans and speak to the Caribbean influence in the city. New Orleanians are fiercely protective of all that is old about the city. The Uptown area is the city's largest historic district, with almost 11,000 buildings, 82 percent of which were built before 1935.
Food, Glorious Food
Food is so much a part of the New Orleans culture that almost very conversation begins or ends with the casual mention of new restaurant or new menu item at an old favorite place. Good food, whether presented in an elegant old line establishment or in one of the new more experimental eateries, is an art form in New Orleans. The influences of African, Italian, French, Irish, Sicilian, Creole and Caribbean cuisine all meld into what has become the flavor of New Orleans. Because of its close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans is a seafood paradise. In fact, any food that anyone could ever want at anytime is available somewhere in New Orleans.
The French Quarter, also known as the Vieux Carre, is a historic area of old New Orleans that sits on the banks of the Mississippi River. It is home to excellent restaurants, unique shopping, plush hotels, antique shops and more atmosphere than you will find anywhere else. Bourbon Street, one of the most famous landmarks in the world, is located in the heart of the busy French Quarter. For centuries it has been a welcome stop for many a world traveler and continues to be home to a never ending party. And while the French Quarter is a fascinating place to simply sit and stare, learning a bit about its history, quirks and secrets make it that much more interesting. Some of the many guided tours available in the French Quarter include: walking tours, carriage tours, riverboat tours, host tours and music tours.
6500 Magazine St. Open Tuesday–Sunday, 10-5. Closed Monday. Fee for admission. 800-774-7394.
Historic six-block marketplace on the banks of the Mississippi River includes stalls for trading, flea markets and food vendors. Decatur St. at Ursuline.
Hot beignets with clouds of powdered sugar and café au lait are a breakfast or late night must. Open 24 hours. Decatur St. at St.Ann.
A 1300-acre park running from the Mid-City area to the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Year-round fun at City Park includes the New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans Botanical Garden, Storyland Fairy Tale Theme Park, golf range, tennis courts and more. In addition, park goers can picnic under the ancient oaks in City Park's picnic areas.
New Orleans Botanical Garden
Offering over 12 acres of natural beauty, the botanical garden features a large collection of plants arranged to appeal to garden enthusiasts and casual observers alike. The grounds feature the Conservatory of the Two Sisters, the Historic New Orleans Train Garden, and collections of roses, aquatics, succulents, shrubs, perennials, and annuals. Originally known as the City Park Rose Garden, the garden opened in 1936 as New Orleans' first public classical garden. It is one of the few remaining examples of public garden design from the WPA and Art Deco period.
The museum has over 40,000 pieces of art, including paintings by Degas, Monet and Matisse, a suit of Samurai armor, a collection of Faberge' eggs, and a sculpture garden. Wednesday-Sunday, 10-5. Fee for admission.504-658-4100.
New Orleans is famous for its innovative music which provides a strong Blues and Jazz influence along Bourbon Street. Pete Fountain, Al Hirt, Irma Thomas, The Neville Brothers and Harry Connick, Jr. are all products of New Orleans. Louis Armstrong was such an important influence on the city 's musical heritage that both the international airport and a French Quarter park are named in his honor.
One of the most modern in he world, the aquarium includes water exhibits of the Caribbean, the Amazon rain forest, Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. Located on Canal Street at the Mississippi River. Fee for admission. Open Tuesday–Sunday, 10–5. Closed Monday.
One of only six IMAX theaters in the world with 3-D and high-definition capability and six-channel speakers, the theater is located on Canal St. next to the Aquarium. Fee for admission. Open Tuesday–Sunday, 10-5. Closed Monday. Showtimes vary. 800-774-7394.
The four-story, 70,000-square-foot building, has actual landing craft, equipment and warplanes from WWII. The Pacific Invasion Wing opened Dec.7, 2001. 945 Magazine St. Open Tuesday–Sunday, 9-5. Closed Monday. Fee for admission, free for children under 5 and uniformed military.