New Orleans, United States
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New Orleans is a major U.S. port and the largest city in Louisiana. New Orleans is the center of the New Orleans Metropolitan Area, the largest metro area in the state.
New Orleans is located in southeastern Louisiana, straddling the Mississippi River. It is coextensive with Orleans Parish, meaning that the boundaries of the city and the parish are the same. It is bounded by the parishes of St. Tammany (north), St. Bernard (east), Plaquemines (south) and Jefferson (south and west). Lake Pontchartrain, part of which is included in the city limits, lies to the north and Lake Borgne lies to the east.
The city is named after Philippe II, Duc d’Orléans, Regent of France, and is well known for its multicultural and multilingual heritage cuisine, architecture, music (particularly as the birthplace of jazz), and its annual Mardi Gras and other celebrations and festivals. The city is often referred to as the “most unique” city in America.
National protected areas
- Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge
- Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve (part)
- New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park
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 CNN poll released in October 2007 ranked New Orleans first in eight categories, behind only New York City, which ranked first in 15. According to the poll, New Orleans is the best U.S. city for live music, cocktail hours, flea markets, antique shopping, nightlife, “wild weekends”, “girlfriend getaways” and cheap food. The city also ranked second for gay friendliness, overall food and dining, friendliness of residents, and people-watching, behind San Francisco, California, Chicago, Illinois, Charleston, South Carolina, and New York City, respectively. However, among the top 25 U.S. travel destinations as established by the poll, the city was voted last in terms of safety and cleanliness and near the bottom as a family vacation 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. 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.
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, and a hint of Cuban traditions combine to produce a truly unique and easily recognizable Louisiana flavor.
Unique specialties include 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); 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”.) New Orleans residents enjoy some of the best restaurants in the United States that cater specifically to locals, and visitors are encouraged to try the local establishments recommended by their hosts. Another New Orleans specialty is the Praline, a delicious candy made with brown sugar, granulated sugar, cream, butter and pecans.
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 “Brooklynese”, to people unfamiliar with either. There are many theories to 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, Kreyol Lwiziyen is still spoken by the Creoles. Also rare, an archaic Louisiana-Canarian Spanish dialect is spoken by the Isleño people, but it can usually only be heard by older members of the population.
New Orleans is notably absent from the Protestant Bible Belt that dominates religion in the Southern United States. In New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast area, the predominant religion is Catholicism. Within the Archdiocese of New Orleans (which includes not only the city but the surrounding Parishes as well), 35.9% percent of the population is Roman Catholic. The influence of Catholicism is reflected in many of the city’s French and Spanish cultural traditions, including its many parochial schools, street names, architecture, and festivals, including Mardi Gras.
New Orleans also famously has a presence of its distinctive variety of Louisiana Voodoo, due in part to syncretism with Roman Catholic beliefs, the fame of voodoo practitioner Marie Laveau, and New Orleans’ distinctly Caribbean cultural influences. Although the exotic image of Voodoo within the city has been highly promoted by the tourism industry, there are only a small number of serious adherents to the religion.
New Orleans’ pre-Katrina population of 10,000 Jews has now dropped to 7,000. In the wake of Katrina, all New Orleans synagogues lost members, but were able to re-open in their original locations, except for Congregation Beth Israel, the oldest and most prominent Orthodox synagogue in the New Orleans region. Beth Israel’s building in Lakeview was destroyed by flooding, and it is currently in temporary quarters in Metairie.
New Orleans has three active streetcar lines. The St. Charles line is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in America and each car is a historic landmark. The Riverfront line runs parallel to the river from Esplanade Street through the French Quarter to Canal Street to the Convention Center above Julia Street in the Arts District. The Canal Street line uses the Riverfront line tracks from the intersection of Canal Street and Poydras Street, down Canal Street, then branches off and ends at the cemeteries at City Park Avenue, with a spur running from the intersection of Canal and Carrollton Avenue to the entrance of City Park at Esplanade, near the entrance to the New Orleans Museum of Art.
The city’s streetcars were also featured in the Tennessee Williams play, A Streetcar Named Desire. The streetcar line to Desire Street became a bus line in 1948. There are proposals to revive a Desire streetcar line, running along the neutral grounds of North Rampart and St. Claude, as far downriver as Poland Avenue, near the Industrial Canal.
Hurricane Katrina destroyed the power lines supplying the St. Charles Avenue line. The associated levee failures flooded the Mid-City facility storing the red streetcars which normally run on the Riverfront and Canal Street lines. Restoration of service has been gradual, with vintage St. Charles line cars running on the Riverfront and Canal lines until the more modern red cars are back in service; they are being individually restored at the RTA’s facility in the Carrollton neighborhood. On December 23, 2007, streetcars were restored to running on the St. Charles line up to Carrolton Avenue. The much-anticipated re-opening of the second portion of the historic route, which continues until the intersection of Carrolton Avenue and Claiborne Avenue, was commemorated on June 28, 2008.
Public transportation in the city is operated by the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (“RTA”). There are many bus routes connecting the city and suburban areas. The RTA lost 200+ buses due to Hurricane Katrina, this would mean that there would be a 30-60 minute waiting period for the next bus to come to the bus stop, and the streetcars took until 2008 to return, so the RTA placed an order for 38 Orion VII Next Generation clean diesel buses, which arrived in July 2008. The RTA has these new buses running on biodiesel. The Jefferson Parish Department of Transit Administration operates Jefferson Transit, which provides service between the city and its suburbs.
New Orleans proper is served by Interstate 10, Interstate 610 and Interstate 510. I-10 travels east-west through the city as the Pontchartrain Expressway. In the far eastern part of the city, New Orleans East, it is known as the Eastern Expressway. I-610 provides a direct shortcut for traffic passing through New Orleans via I-10, allowing that traffic to bypass I-10’s southward curve. In the future, New Orleans will have another interstate highway, Interstate 49, which will be extended from its current terminus in Lafayette to the city.
In addition to the interstate highways, U.S. 90 travels through the city, while U.S. 61 terminates in the city’s downtown center. In addition, U.S. 11 terminates in the eastern portion of the city.
New Orleans is home to many bridges, the tolled Crescent City Connection is perhaps the most notable. It serves as New Orleans’ major bridge across the Mississippi River, providing a connection between the city’s downtown on the eastbank and its westbank suburbs. Other bridges that cross the Mississippi River in the New Orleans area are the Huey P. Long Bridge, over which U.S. 90 travels, and the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge, which carries Interstate 310.
The Twin Span Bridge, a five-mile (8 km) causeway in eastern New Orleans, carries I-10 across Lake Pontchartrain. Also in eastern New Orleans, Interstate 510/LA 47 travels across the Intracoastal Waterway/Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet Canal via the Paris Road Bridge, connecting New Orleans East and suburban Chalmette.
The tolled Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, consisting of two parallel bridges are, at 24 miles (39 km) long, the longest bridges in the world. Built in the 1950s (southbound span) and 1960s (northbound span), the bridges connect New Orleans with its suburbs on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain via Metairie.
The metropolitan area is served by the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, located in the suburb of Kenner. New Orleans also has several regional airports located throughout the metropolitan area. These include the Lakefront Airport, Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans (locally known as Callendar Field) in the suburb of Belle Chasse and “Southern Seaplane”, also located in Belle Chasse. Southern Seaplane has a 3,200-foot (980 m) runway for wheeled planes and a 5,000-foot (1,500 m) water runway for seaplanes. New Orleans International suffered some damage as a result of Hurricane Katrina, but as of April 2007, it contained the most traffic and is the busiest airport in the state of Louisiana and the sixth busiest in the Southeast.
The city is served by rail via Amtrak. The New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal is the central rail depot, and is served by three trains: the Crescent, operating between New Orleans and New York City; the City of New Orleans, operating between New Orleans and Chicago; and the Sunset Limited, operating through New Orleans between Orlando, Florida, and Los Angeles, California. From late August 2005 to the present, the Sunset Limited has remained officially a Florida-to-Los Angeles train, being considered temporarily truncated due to the lingering effects of Hurricane Katrina. At first (until late October 2005) it was truncated to a San Antonio-to-Los Angeles service; since then (from late October 2005 on) it has been truncated to a New Orleans-to-Los Angeles service. As time has passed, particularly since the January 2006 completion of the rebuilding of damaged tracks east of New Orleans by their owner, CSX Transportation, the obstacles to restoration of the Sunset Limited’s full route have been more managerial and political than physical.
With the strategic benefits of both a major international port and one of the few double-track Mississippi River crossings, the city is served by six of the seven Class I railroads in North America: Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF Railway, Norfolk Southern Railway, Kansas City Southern Railway, CSX Transportation and Canadian National Railway. The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad provides interchange services between the railroads.
Recently, many have proposed extending New Orleans’ public transit system by adding light rail routes from downtown, along Airline Highway through the airport to Baton Rouge and from downtown to Slidell and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Proponents of this idea claim that these new routes would boost the region’s economy, which has been badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and serve as an evacuation option for hospital patients out of the city.
The Canal Street Ferry connects the heart of New Orleans with the neighborhood of Algiers Point on the other side of the Mississippi River. This service has been in continuous operation since 1827. Pedestrians ride for free, while automobiles are charged a fee. Service is from 6 am until midnight.
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