The capital of Louisiana, New Orleans has long been influenced by Spanish, French, and African ancestry. This blend of cultures is reflected in everything: the Spanish architectural ironwork in the French Quarter, the tasty French baked goods at every café, and the music overflowing from the bars on Bourbon Street. You’ll even hear genres of music you never knew existed – like “swamp pop.”
Spend time in the City of the Dead, and visit the tomb of voodoo priestess Marie Laveau at the St. Louis Cemetery. Peruse the offerings at the French Market. If you’re visiting during spring, not sticking around for Mardi Gras is practically a crime. Even when you’re not in the mood for merriment and revelry, you can enjoy some time on the Mississippi River, or hanging out with the wildlife in the wetlands. Whatever the case, you’re in for a memorable trip.
Places to Visit in New Orleans
- Bourbon Street
- The French Quarter
- The Wetlands
- Garden District
- Lafayette Cemetery
- Café du Monde
- The Pontalba Apartments
- Faulkman House
Unique Things to See and Do in New Orleans
- Check out the luxurious gardens in the Garden District
- Walk around the French Quarter taking in the unique architecture
- Listen to ghost stories at Lafayette Cemetery
- Kayak in the wetlands
- Order a beignet and a café au lait at Café du Monde
- Party on Bourbon Street (especially during Mardi Gras)
- Learn about New Orleans’ unofficial red light district, Storyville
New Orleans History
Steeped in history, New Orleans’ past is not without complications and drama. It’s all part of what gives New Orleans its vibrant Creole culture. Thanks to its ideal trading location on the Mississippi River, the French snatched up the city from Native Americans in the early 1700s. That didn’t last long, however, because Louisiana was succeeded to Spain in 1762.
Spain only ruled Louisiana for 40 years. In that time, there was heavy trading with Mexico and Cuba. Fires destroyed most of the city in 1788 and again in 1794, and New Orleans was built with the brickwork you see prevalent today. Much of the architecture (especially the ironworks) in the famous French Quarter is Spanish.
Louisiana went back to France in 1803, which then sold it to the United States. In the War of 1812, the final battle was fought to defend New Orleans, led by Andrew Jackson. New Orleans’ main square, Jackson Square, is named in his honour. In the 19th century, New Orleans became a massively wealthy city and a popular trading port. Thousands of slaves came through the city, and yet New Orleans was home to a thriving free black community. New Orleans was captured during the Civil War, and then a tumultuous Reconstruction period followed.
In the 20th century, New Orleans became the city it is today. Jazz was born, the city grew, and drainage canals allowed more people to live below sea level. People started flocking to the city for Mardi Gras, and to see where people like Tennessee Williams, Louis Armstrong, and Jean Galatoire were inspired. Although New Orleans was 80% underwater during 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the city has bounced back with a vengeance. And maybe that’s what makes the place so special – its complete resilience over the centuries, and a willingness to fight for what’s right.
Getting Around New Orleans
Getting around New Orleans is easy. The city is flat and perfect for walking, and sightseeing on foot is a rewarding experience. While car rentals are recommended if you’re planning on getting outside the city, driving within the city can be quite the hassle. Many streets are also narrow and one-way, making navigation difficult for people who don’t know their way.
Taxis are plentiful, but can be scarce during festivals like Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. Therefore it’s good to have a nearby hotel booked during the busiest times of year.
Did you know…?
Voodoo was apparently first introduced in the United States via New Orleans. A woman named Marie Laveau practiced all kinds of spooky things, like exorcisms.
Did you ALSO know…?
Both games, poker and craps, were invented in New Orleans.
Best Time of Year to Travel to New Orleans
When temperatures are mild is the best time to visit New Orleans and Louisiana. This is usually during spring and late fall. Summers are very hot and stifling. You can better avoid hurricane season in the late fall, but Mardi Gras celebrations take place during the spring. Regardless, there are plenty of festivals taking place year-round! New Orleans can be quite fun during New Year’s, for example.
Ready to plan your visit to New Orleans? Check out these popular guides and trips.