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New Orleans Travel Guide

New Orleans Travel Guide

New Orleans has an undeniable soul, tangible in her bustling jazz bars, hearty eateries and sluggish swamps; there's nowhere else like it on earth:

The beating heart of New Orleans is her jazz music. From the bustling live performance spots dotted throughout the French Quarter, to the numerous festivals that fill the city on a regular basis with paraders and party-goers, visitors will find jazz riffs spilling out onto the streets and into their tapping toes and snapping fingers. This historic city - also known as 'The Big Easy' or simply 'NOLA' - is located in the southeast of Louisiana, straddling the Mississippi River. At times in her history New Orleans has been occupied by both the French and the Spanish, a legacy that has trickled down into the distinct Creole architecture and delectable Cajun food offered by many restaurants in the city.

New Orleans' reputation as a top-notch holiday destination took a strong blow from the devastating hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which swept through the city in 2005, and flooded 80 percent of the city. The people of New Orleans rallied together, however, and many agree that today the city is back to its former glory. Still, evidence of the disaster remains, which you can see on one of the specifically tailored Katrina Tours which takes you through some of the less-touristy areas of the city.

NOLA is world-renowned for her hectic festival schedule, most famous of which is, of course, Mardi Gras. Other festivals, which celebrate everything from St Patrick's Day to Gay Easter, occur throughout the year. Fans of the more macabre will enjoy taking in some of the Voodoo culture of New Orleans, whether at the Voodoo Museum or on a cemetery tour.

If you thought New Orleans was just about the nightlife, consider it again. This is a place that offers something for everyone, all done with its very own special style and flair.

Best time to visit New Orleans

Spring time, which falls between March and May, is a well recommended for paying a visit to The Big Easy. Temperatures are moderate, and comfortable enough to walk around in shorts and a t-shirt, and it is also one of the least humid times of year. Several festivals also fall over this period, including St. Patrick's Day, The Gay Easter Parade and the French Quarter Festival, making it a fun time to visit. Get more information on New Orleans' climate and weather.

What to see in New Orleans

-Visit Mardi Gras World, where you can experience the most famous festival in the world year-round.

-Explore the comprehensive and riveting D-Day National WWII Museum for insight into this historical event.

-The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum is where you can learn all about the history of the 'dark arts' in the area and much more besides.

-The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is popular for its own recreation of the Gulf of Mexico.

What to do in New Orleans

-Go for a picnic in one of the city's many beautiful parks, such as City Park or the Louis Armstrong Park.

-Go for a ride along the Mississippi river in a traditional steamboat.

-Take a spin on the carousel or do a crash course on the bumper cars at Carousel Gardens Amusement Park.

-Go for a jaunt in the French Quarter - it's hard to top a night out on Bourbon Street.

Beyond New Orleans

There are several options for day trips or weekend getaways just outside of New Orleans. For a taste of 'bayou life' one of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve sites is a wonderful option. If you like things spicy, you can visit the birthplace of Tabasco sauce on Avery Island. While you're there, take a peek at the swamp 'gators at Jungle Gardens wildlife refuge, or do some bird watching at Bird City. If you'd like to explore a little further afield in Louisiana, the state capital, Baton Rouge, is located some 75 miles (121km) away. This is a great city for exploring stately historic plantation houses, and reliving a slice of the country's past. Other highlights in the area include a trip to the USS Kidd at the Baton Rouge Nautical Centre, and the Louisiana Art and Science Museum.

Getting there

Louis Armstrong International Airport is located 11.5 miles (19km) west of central New Orleans, and is reachable by public buses, shuttles and taxis. Flights to New Orleans are available from a large number of major US airports, as well as Toronto and Montego Bay, Jamaica. Get more information on Louis Armstrong International Airport.

Did you know?

-Canal Street, just outside the French Quarter, was once the widest street in the world, named for a canal that was never built.

-The total mileage of canals both above and below ground is more than that of Venice.
-Poker was invented in New Orleans in the early 1800s.

-Mardi Gras colours purple, green and gold were chosen in 1872 to honour Russian Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff who was visiting New Orleans. The purple signifies justice, green for faith and gold for power.


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Royal Street © ~MVI~

When Jean Baptiste Le Moyne picked out the strategic spot on the Mississippi River for his French colony in 1718, little did he know that he had doomed a future city to tragedy nearly 290 years later. Situated on a swamp, and surrounded by the sea, Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River, the subsiding city of New Orleans chose to swim rather than sink with the construction of a system of levees, pumps and canals to protect the city from flooding.

However, on the 30 August 2005, Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst hurricanes ever to hit the United States, slammed into the region, catapulting New Orleans into world headlines that followed the struggle of the community to cope with extensive damage, loss of life and the flooding of more than 75 percent of the city.

Despite the 'I told you so' attitude of much of the world, the proud residents of New Orleans were more determined than ever to rebuild their city, to bring back the jazz, the extravagant celebrations and the 'Big Easy' lifestyle that once made it the party capital of America. Local musicians have returned home, after-dark options are burgeoning and the strains of jazz and blues rhythms are once again echoing through the streets of the atmospheric French Quarter. Legendary Bourbon Street continues to host carnivals and parades, including the annual Mardi Gras, which has a reputation for being the most scandalous and sensational event on the world's festival calendar.

Besides all the partying, New Orleans has plenty of serious sightseeing to offer. The city is full of picturesque historic buildings, lush parks, interesting museums displaying everything from voodoo culture to modern technology, riverboats and historic streetcars, and of course jazz cafes. But for now evidence of the calamity, as well as the city's determination to survive, take first place in any visitor's 'to do' list.

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