The city of New
Orleans in the State of Louisiana is home to many historic attractions, from
the world-famous French Quarter and Bourbon Street's famous (and infamous)
nightlife to St. Charles Avenue, home to two great universities, the
historic Pontchartrain Hotel and beautiful 19th century mansions. Magazine
Street is another well-known strand, with its boutique stores and antique
Current travel guides put New Orleans in the top 10 most visited American cities, with over 10 million visitors in 2004. The city was on a pace to break that record when Hurricane Katrina hit in September 2005. Still, in May 2007 there were 140 hotels and motels operating more than 31,000 rooms for tourists. One of the city's biggest industries, tourism is rebounding for a simple reason, the rich treasure of historic sites in the city.
Best For Grown-ups - Although a CNN poll from October 2007 ranked New Orleans first in eight categories, it won for the things that are most attractive to adult visitors, such live music, cocktail hours, antique shopping and nightlife. Among the 25 top U.S. destinations, however, New Orleans was last in terms of safety and cleanliness, and also close to last as a family vacation destination. That said, tourists over 21 years of age will find no better "adult city" in the entire nation.
The French Quarter is known locally as "the Quarter" (or in French as Vieux Carre), and dates from the French and Spanish occupations. Bounded by the Rampart Street, Canal Street, Esplanade Avenue and the Mississippi River, the area contains many historic hotels, bars, buildings and public spaces. Famous tourist attractions in the Quarter include Jackson Square, Bourbon Street, the French Market, St. Louis Cathedral and Preservation Hall, called the "birthplace of jazz." Visitors can ride the Natchez steamboat, an authentic one with working calliope, as it cruises the Mississippi up and down the city length twice a day. Of course, the city's many serene, picturesque cemeteries and their artistic tombs are attractions in themselves. Among the oldest and most famous is the Saint Louis Cemetery, patterned after Paris, France's Pere Lachaise Cemetery.
Other Pearls Of The Quarter - The old New Orleans Mint is also located in the French Quarter. A former working unit of the United States Mint, it is now a museum. The Historic New Orleans Collection is there, too, and is a research center with art and artifacts from the storied past of New Orleans and the Gulf South. In the Warehouse District, the National World War II Museum started out in 2000 as the "National D-Day Museum," and showcases information and materials related to the 1944 Invasion of Normandy.
Other art museums in the city, with ties of various strength and length to the city's historic past, include the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) in City Park, the Contemporary Arts Center and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. The oldest continuously operating museum in Louisiana is the Confederate Memorial Hall, being renovated since Katrina, which claims the second-largest cache of Confederate memorabilia in the whole world.
Nature Calls - New Orleans is also very proud of its natural side, and is home to the Audubon Nature Institute consisting of the Audubon Zoo, Audubon Park, the Aquarium of the Americas and the Insectarium. All of these constituent parts delve deep into the local history, as do the unique New Orleans Botanical Gardens. City Park, among the country's largest and most visited urban parks, has perhaps the oldest, largest and most talked-about stands of oak trees in the world.
There are many other points of historical interest in the surrounding areas, whether you go north, south, east or west of the city. Many wetlands are close by the city, such as Honey Island Swamp and other areas drenched in legend and lore. Some neighboring locations, of course, are drenched in the blood of patriots and enemies, such as Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery. Located just a bit south of the city, this is the site of the famous 1815 Battle of New Orleans, memorialized in song and legend.
New Orleans is a fascinating place in many regards, not the least of which is its long history as a center for various cultures that ruled at various times. With the mix of French, Indian, Spanish and other bloodlines, the resulting culture and history are quite varied and colorful. The city and the surrounding areas are positively awash in history, just as they are home to legends and myths. Separating these from one another gives New Orleans visitors an entertaining and educational way to learn about the truth of this quintessentially American city.
By Jesse Henson
To explore attractions, events, and plan your vacation to New Orleans go to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau site at http://www.neworleanscvb.com.