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New Orleans, Louisiana Travel Guide
Last Updated: Jan-14-2012, Hits: 18,957, Rating: 4, Reviews: 1, Votes: 1 Bookmark and Share
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New Orleans, Louisiana Travel Guide Restaurants (70)
Hotels and Lodging (77)
Bars and Nightlife (57)
Attractions (31)
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Location: North America
Geography: City, Wetlands/Swamp
Vacation Type: Romantic, Relaxation, Culture and History
Popularity: Touristy
Costs: Budget, Moderate
Attractions: Golfing, Spa & Wellness, Shopping, Gambling, Festivals, Ecotourism, Cultural Attractions, Food Destination, Historical Sites, Nightlife, Gardens

Facts and Stats:
City population: 343,829
Metropolitan Population: 1,235,650
Government: Constitution based Federal Republic
Time Zone: CST (GMT-6)
Telephone Area Code: 504
Country Dialing Code: +1
Languages: English

Oh, New Orleans has so many tales to tell, and so do most people that spend any time there. The sub tropical climate, the rich eclectic histories and food, Voodoo, Jazz, Mardi Gras, Bayous, Bourbon Street, cemeteries, cocktails to go - New Orleans is a trip you won't ever forget.

Brief History:
La Nouvelle-Orleans, or New Orleans is the largest city in Louisiana, founded in 1718 by France's Jean Baptiste La Moyne, Sieur de Bienville. It ceded to the Spanish Empire in 1763, and reverted briefly back to French control in 1801. Napoleon then sold Louisiana to the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase for under a dollar an acre. The unique geography of New Orleans' location on the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf of Mexico access led to rapid development and a city known as a haven for refugees from many different places.

The history and culture of New Orleans is a vibrant tapestry with thread woven in from all over the world. It was, and has been since, a cosmopolitan melting pot of cultures with an emphasis on French, Spanish, American, Caribbean, African, South American and American Indian.

The blend of so many cultures and practices brought forth some things completely new. Jazz is one such example. Midwest musicians brought ragtime, Mississippi delta migrants brought gospel and blues, Africans brought drums, and Europe brought symphony halls. That, combined with local marching bands all fused into something called Jazz. Many recordings in the 20s were recorded in Chicago, but make no mistake that these greats laying down a new style of music on vinyl had been playing it for years in New Orleans.

Cajun and Creole cultures are another example of the fusion of different cultures into something new. Spanish, French and African (primarily) merged into Creole, and Acadians (primarily) with some Spanish or Indian influences, merged into Cajun. Some cultural traditions and practices became steeped into the soul of New Orleans, such as West African Voodoo or French Mardi Gras. All are an integral part of New Orleans distinctive, decadent and inimitable style.

Of course, no discussion of New Orleans history would be complete without mentioning Hurricane Katrina, which was the costliest and deadliest hurricane in United States history. Years later, New Orleans is still working hard to recover from the hurricane. By the time Hurricane Katrina approached the city at the end of August 2005, most residents had evacuated. As the hurricane passed through the Gulf Coast region, the city's federal flood protection system failed, resulting in the worst civil engineering disaster in American history. Floodwalls and levees constructed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers failed below design specifications and 80% of the city flooded. Tens of thousands of residents who had remained in the city were rescued or otherwise made their way to shelters of last resort at the Louisiana Superdome or the New Orleans Morial Convention Center. Over 1,500 people died in Louisiana and some are still unaccounted for. Hurricane Katrina called for the first mandatory evacuation in the city's history, the second of which came 3 years later with Hurricane Gustav.

The long term ramifications include the costly effect the hurricane has had on tourism, which is a huge revenue generator for New Orleans. However, the last Mardi Gras showed about an 80% turn out, which is pretty good considering the city is still recovering and rebuilding. The French Quarter and Bourbon Street were virtually untouched by Katrina, which is also good news for the tourism industry. Katrina was devestating to be sure, but nothing can wipe out the heart and spirit that resides in New Orleans.

New Orleans is located in Southeastern Louisiana along the Mississippi River and just south of Lake Pontchartrain. It is a major port (the 4th largest in the world, and one of the oldest in the United States) because of the proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River. New Orleans winds along the Mississipi in a "C" shape, hence the nickname, "The Crescent City". New Orleans is actually located below sea level, and is surrounded by water, so the city is also surrounded by levees and pumping stations to keep it from drowning. This system obviously did not protect the city from the deadly force of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Most people who travel to New Orleans come to see Vieux Carre, or The French Quarter. The French Quarter is built on the highest ground in the city, and thus it escaped most of Hurricane Katrina's deadliness. It is New Orleans oldest and most famous neighborhood with many beguiling contradictions. While wandering around you will be enchanted by the heavenly smells of chicory or Creole food, and then assaulted with putrid garbage or urine smells. Lovely restored French and Spanish houses are nestled next to the destitute and broken down. Bourbon Street is bawdy and loud, with strip clubs and loud music, while Royal and Chartres streets are more dignified with antique stores and art galleries.

The French Quarter stretches 14 blocks along the Mississippi river from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue, and 7 blocks from the Mississippi up to Rampart Street. Jackson Square, a former military parade site, is the center of the city. Jackson Square teems with psychics and musicians, street performers and carriage rides. The St. Charles street car flanks the Mississippi, and will hop you over to another popular place to visit in New Orleans- The Garden District. Canal Street marks the edge of the French Quarter, and on the other side of Canal is where Americans settled in the 1850's after not being welcome in the French Quarter. The street names are all in English, as opposed to the Rues of the French Quarter. The Nouveau Riche built their mansions on oversized lots to emphasize their gardens, and developed what is now known as the Garden District. Today, it is an elegant and beautiful strolling neighborhood and home to some of the finest restaurants in the city and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1.

The famous motto in New Orleans is,"Laissez les bons temps rouler" : "Let the good times roll." And so they do. The city is famous for it's tolerant attitude, late bar hours, music, rich food, and eclectic mix of people at any given time in any given place. The people are as warm as the weather, and proud of their unique city. New Orleanians are proud of the slow tempo of their daily life, of their culture and history and of their unique lassez faire (let it be) attitude. New Orleans is exuberant in personality and the music scene is unrivaled. On any night you can hear Jazz, Zydeco, Blues, Soul, Cajun, Brass Band, Rock... or whatever else you might want to hear. The nightlife in the French Quarter is outrageous, the bars are open til 4 in the morning with music venues, dance clubs, Gentleman's clubs, stands with jello shots and crazy colored concoctions all open onto a teeming mass of folks on Bourbon Street at all hours. The distinctive local accent is rather difficult to describe, something of The South meets Brooklyn- and like many things in New Orleans, not something you will encounter anywhere else. The crime rate is incredibly high. The homicide rate is consistently in the top 5 in the country. Greater New Orleans is certainly not safe to wander about alone after dark. The French Quarter is generally safe; just don't wander down dark alleys and the like. Beyond the French Quarter, the areas can be seedy and you should avoid them at night. New Orleans is a 24 city with open container laws, and this makes for poor decision making from time to time. Take precautions to be safe from pick pocketing or violent crime. Use traveler's checks when possible, don't leave valuables unattended, don't be alone after dark and don't let strangers lure you away from well-lit areas.

Food and Nightlife:
Creole cuisine is legendary and fantastic. It is a mix as eclectic as the city itself. Creole and Cajun cuisine have a backbone in French, Spanish and African Cuisine. When you go, you must try the Chicory Coffee, Beignets, Pralines, Gumbo, Jambalaya, Po'Boys, Muffallatas, oysters, and much more. Creole cuisine isn't particularly health conscious, but that is what makes it so good! Creole and Cajun are somewhat similar, but people make a distinction in New Orleans about the two. In most cases,the local cuisine you will encounter in New Orleans will be considered Creole. Broadly speaking, Cajun is peasant country cooking, and Creole is city cooking. Creole and Cajun cuisine both utilize the holy trinity of onion, celery and green bell pepper as a base for many recipes, and both utiliZe a french roux as a base sauce, but Cajun uses lard rather than butter as the fat ingredient in the roux. Bear in mind, just because the food is famous here doesn't make every single dining establishment stellar. Take the time to go off a few recommendations. You wouldn't want to miss the opportunity to try some of the best food in the United States. Here are some places we tried that would not be on our repeat list: Most places you might encounter on Bourbon Street are probably going to be mediocre because they are catering to tourists and not repeat business. We tried Sammy's on Bourbon Street- The Trout and shrimp were terrible, and very overpriced. The Alpine had some killer Ragin Cajun' Bloody Mary's and some decent fettuccine, but really bad ribs and Redfish. The Alibi has some serious drunk gut-bomb fare, if that's your thing - it wasn't ours. The Clover Grill- we had some bad scrambled eggs and sausage. Although I hear they make a good burger- wish I would have had one! In any event, we were surprised at how often the food was less than stellar, and learned the hard way that scouting out a place with a good reputation is worth it. We did have a good meal at the Crescent City Brew house, and everyone raves about Commander's Place in the Garden District. The Fried Chicken at Fiorella's was very good as well. Cafe Du Monde only serves cafe au lait and beignets, but both are very good.

Accommodations are pretty reasonable for a US City. Once you are in the French Quarter, and the closer you get to Bourbon Street, the more overpriced it is. Bourbon Street is very touristy and overpriced, so only do there what most people do- drink, laugh, listen to music and take your clothes off for Mardi gras beads, if that's your thing. The gift shops and restaurants are a rip-off- you probably could have figured that one out on your own, but it bears repeating especially if you get drunk on Bourbon Street, and if you are planning on getting drunk on Bourbon Street, you may need to be told that more than once. There are ATMS everywhere, but they all charge $3-5 service charge, plus what your bank will ding you for, and they mostly have a 100.00 max withdrawal- which means they will ding you for 80 or so bucks if you rely on withdrawing money every day. It is also dangerous to cruise around with a lot of money, since it is high crime there and a lot of pickpockets and robberies. Perhaps Travelers Checks, or keeping your extra money tucked in your hotel room might be the way to go (many hotels have safes for money and passports)- although most places take credit cards. Use your best judgment to ensure you have the best time possible.

Getting There and Around:
Louis Armstrong International Airport is located in Kenner, 11 miles northwest of downtown New Orleans.There are 14 major airlines servicing Louis Armstrong International Airport. United, Northwest, Jet Blue, Continental and Delta are several of the major carriers. From Louis Armstrong International, you can rent a car or take a shuttle, cab, or limousine to your destination. If you would like to see Greater New Orleans or other parts of Louisiana, you may consider renting a car, however most people who travel to New Orleans stay in the French Quarter. If you do, you can walk to most places of interest. There are 3 streetcar lines (St. Charles, Canal and Riverfront lines),bus routes and cabs if you stay or travel outside of the French Quarter. Whatever you decide, bear in mind that 20 blocks doesn't seem far to walk, but it can get tedious. Also, depending on what time of the year you go, it can be unbearably hot and humid if you plan on walking everywhere.
You certainly don't have to tailor your vacation around the French Quarter,there are lots of cool places to see outside of The French Quarter. The Garden District, both upper and lower, The Bayous, River Road, The Warehouse District, and Riverwalk are all great places to see and do.

New Orleans is close to the Gulf Of Mexico, and has sub tropical weather.This type of weather is characterized by high humidity in the summer and mild winters. Fall and Early Spring are the best times to travel, although many people base their trips there on what festival is taking place. The summers can be steamy, hot, and humid while the heart of winter can be a little dreary, but not really cold.

Here is the current weather in New Orleans:

Below are the weather averages by month:

Month Avg High Avg Low Average Rainfall
January 62 43 5.87"
February 65 46 5.47"
March 72 53 5.24"
April 78 58 5.02"
May 85 66 4.62"
June 89 72 6.83"
July 91 74 6.2"
August 91 74 6.15"
September 87 71 5.55"
October 80 60 3.05"
November 71 52 5.09"
December 65 46 5.07"

  • Spring is good time to visit (march/april) humidity isn't too bad, and flowers are in bloom.

  • Crime is high here, so keep your possessions close and just be reasonable about your activities - don't wander off drunk and alone on a dark street.

  • Like any place you visit, the more courteous and respectful you are, the more you will get in return. For those who complain natives are rude, try and remember the masses of unpleasant tourists doing things they would never do in their own backyard, coming to New Orleans and doing it here.

  • St.Louis Cemetery No#1 is notorious for robbery, and most places recommend only going there in a tour group by day, if at all.

  • Bourbon Street is full of rip offs, so try to use your best, albeit probably not sober judgment. Also, Bourbon Street is an experience best seen by night.

  • Lafayette Cemetery closes at 2:30 pm on weekdays. You can take the historic streetcar if you wish to experience the oldest streetcar in the U.S. for 1.50 each way, or you can take a cab to the French Quarter for about 10.00 bucks. If you are in a group of 4 or more, it really makes more sense to hop in a cab. They offer tons of walking tours of the Garden District and Lafayette Cemetery, so you can always do that, too.

  • Unless you want to pay a lot for street entertainment, don't let them lure you in by starting before you get a chance to stave them off. They definitely work for more than minimum wage. We had some lady make us hat balloons and wanted 5-10 a piece for them. I thought she should pay ME 5-10 bucks for having to wear one. Enough said.

  • Do not wear sandals on Bourbon Street at night, there is broken glass, trash, gallons of spilled beer, urine, vomit, ugh.

  • In general, don't let strangers engage you on the street; it is more than likely a scam of some kind. A common one is betting you some denomination they can tell you where you got your shoes. If you let them, they will tell you got your shoes on whatever street you are standing on, and they are right, cause at that moment you do got your shoes on that street. Ha, pay up. Anyway, They are trying to get your money, so save yourself some time and cash and don't engage.

  • The stage is all set for fun, so go have some!

  • Services:
    New Orleans Police Department: (504) 821-2222
    Fire Department: (504) 483-2550
    Louis Armstrong International Airport: (504) 464-0831
    Traveler's Aid: (504) 464-3522

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    User Reviews (1)

    Reviewed by: sloshed
    Review date: Jan-30-2010

    We were in New Orleans just before Katrina and had a lot of fun. Partying on Bourbon street is certainly touristy, but fun no matter how you slice it. We totally screwed up on our dining choices and walked away thinking that there isn't very good food in N.O. Unfortunately, we just didn't go to the right places. In addition to destroying our livers, we checked out the beautiful Garden District, went to a cemetary, and did a swamp tour. A word to the wise... Stay on the main streets, especially at night. We nearly got rolled by a group of people and it was pretty scary. 

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