Jazz and festive New Orleans stands out against the same-type American cities with sky-high skyscrapers and boring single-store suburbia. The largest city in the state of Louisiana and one of the largest port cities in the USA is located on both banks of the Mississippi River. New Orleans is one large, loud bar that gathers all street Jazz musicians, rainforests, and French provinces. Every year, it calls together crowds of tourists with its hasty tunes to its grandiose carnivals. This city amazes and creates an atmosphere of a real holiday.
Districts of New Orleans
To see all the treasure of the ancient European architecture, one should explore the residential and quiet district of Bywater. It’s an area with wide cozy porches, a free library in the shape of a coffin, and a new park in the form of a crescent on the bank of the Mississippi.
City’s Downtown is packed with hotels, shops, and typical American skyscrapers. The main street with palms and red trams figuratively divides New Orleans in the French and American parts.
If you take an old tram of New Orleans, it will take you to the Art District. There, the former commercial warehouses became galleries and museums.
The Garden District is renowned for its gorgeous Creole snow-white villas and shadowy backyards with a cozy atmosphere. It is one of the most expensive districts in New Orleans where you can see the house of that famous “young old-man” Benjamin Button.
It’s not that easy to reach the rest of the city. And some districts unexpectedly turn from pleasant places to real ghettos.
Map New Orleans
New Orleans is endowed with interesting historical places. Tourists from all corners of the world come here to see them. In this city, the cultures of France, Spain, Africa, and America intermingle with each other. New impressive architectural quarters and districts appeared as a result of this extraordinary union. It’s possible to find something new here every time you visit New Orleans and explore the detail of this hot city on the bank of the Mississippi.
A rare combination of such a diversity of nations caused the appearance of new ethnic groups such as Creole and Cajuns. These are the descendants of immigrants from France and Spain with their language. When 200 years ago, black-skinned slaves were brought to America from Africa and Haiti, they also brought their faith with them. It was the Voodoo cult. This mystical theme is trendy among tourists. However, New Orleans can’t boast of having too many followers of this religion. The French and Spaniards brought Catholicism with them. It is still the predominant religion in New Orleans.
A brief history
At this period, the state of Louisiana became a large slaveholding center. The grand-scale plantations where they grew cotton and sugarcane were located precisely in this region. A high flow of goods went through New Orleans. This factor increased the number of pirates’ attacks.
One of the most significant fights in the history of the country happened in 1815. It was the Battle of New Orleans. The opposition of two powers fighting for the advantageous port on the map resulted in the victory of the American army against England.
The financial sufficiency was provided by the stable, permanent work of the enormous plantations and the labor exploitation of the Afro-Americans that had been brought from different countries. The economy was growing steadily with the constant incoming flow of the black-skinned slaves and the circulative turnover of commodities. However, it did not last long. After the Civil War, forced labor became non-demanded.
These were difficult times for New Orleans. And in this tough period, one of the most legendary genre pearls of music was born. Of course, we are talking about jazz.
By 1930, the number of French-speaking citizens had reached its peak. It was gradually decreasing with the appearance of immigrants from Ireland and Germany. At the end of the XX century, the city became a real multi-cultural center. It was continually absorbing the cultural peculiarities of various nations.
The most horrible tragedy in the history of New Orleans happens in August 2005. Hurricane Katrina hit the city and damaged the dike dam. Almost the whole town was under the water. Fortunately, the most significant architectural constructions came to practically no harm.
New Orleans kept up its spirits, transformed and renovated, saving the most valuable things for the history of the city. Nowadays, tourism is the primary source of vital force and constant festive spirit of the citizens.
Before the trip, you should calculate the approximate budget that you will require for the travel:
The best time to visit Louisiana
Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is the main event in the city. Travelers all over the planet come to participate in it. It usually happens at the end of February or the beginning of March. This variegated holiday is celebrated to greet spring before the Catholic fasting begins. French Quarter becomes a colorful extravaganza with masks, moving platforms, music, dances, and satiric performances. Houses and trees wear rainbow beads, sparkles and everything is decorated with flowers. If your visit does not coincide with this grand event, you can feel the festive spirit in Mardi Gras World Museum.
New Orleans hosts plenty of other exciting events besides a carnival. For example, the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival in March, French Quarter and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festivals in April. The events and cultural mix in New Orleans unite the traveling fanciers all year around. When all is said and done, you have to listen to “What a wonderful world” to understand the city of Big Easy.
A retro ferry goes from the pier on the Mississippi River. The ride is paid. However, if you go a bit further, you shall see another boat that departures every 10 minutes. Local citizens use it to get from one bank to another. It’s not so spectacular and beautiful, but you forget about these trifles as soon as you get to know its main peculiarity - the ride is absolutely free.
Since 2015, only visitors with guides or people whose relatives are buried here can enter St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.
You pay for a ride in a tram at the entrance. If you have not purchased the transport card, make sure you have some cash. The machine does not give any change. There is a Jazzy Pass ticket available with an unlimited number of ride per day.
If you want to coincide your trip with the dates of the Mardi Gras Festival, you should find and book accommodation at least six months before the event (in August/September).
Louisiana is one of the few states in America, where they don’t ask for your identification card while buying alcoholic drinks.
What should a tourist definitely do in New Orleans?
- Begin your walking tour with the French Quarter. It’s the brightest district in the city. It’s a real pleasure to stroll down the streets with Creole cottages pastel facades, flowery patios, gas lamps, and cafes with a casual, cozy atmosphere. If you are hungry, don’t hesitate to drop by the French Market. It sells traditional street food, fresh fruit, and one of the main raisins - alligator meat.
- Taste some donuts with icing sugar and drink a cup of coffee, enjoying a beautiful view of the river at Café du Monde. Local citizens love this French cafe. It was opened in 1862! However, you must be ready to stand in long lines as every tourist guide mentions this place.
- Drop by Jackson Square. It is located just a step away from the bank of the Mississippi and just around the corner from the famous French cafe. Here you can admire the working process of the local artists who paint real masterpieces in a couple of minutes. You should also pay your attention to the symmetrical facade with three spires, the Doric columns, and decorative stucco elements of Saint Louis Cathedral. It is the only Roman-Catholic church in the USA that has been active since the XVIII century.
- Visit the oldest and the most famous cemetery in New Orleans, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. As the city is partially located on the swampy terrain, they had to place the burials above the ground. Therefore, the cemeteries turned into small towns with pyramidal and other kinds of tombs. Marie Laveau - the Queen of Voodoo - is buried at St. Louis Cemetery. After the release of the “American Horror Story” series, her grave became extremely popular. It’s impossible to walk by this tomb with a peculiar plate, beads and flowers, left by the fans. If you see a crypt or a vault fully marked with three X, you can be sure that a Voodoo cult practitioner lays here.
- Take a ride on a local rarity green tram that has been going without a break since 1835 along the oldest tram line in the country called St.Charles Streetcar. It will take you through a beautiful tunnel of southern oaks. A red tram on Canal Street Line will bring you to another significant stop. It’s City Park.
- The beauty of City Park will amaze you. It’s the sixth in size park in America. At the beginning of the XIX century, it was known as “The Dueling Oaks". People came here to settle the dispute and arrange duels in the shadows of the Spanish moss (some trees are over 800 years old). You can enjoy the harmony of the “music of wind” under one of the oldest trees, the Singing oak. There is a greenhouse in the botanic garden situated on the territory of the park. It displays tropical and desert prehistoric plants and orchids. A boating house stands not far from a small lake. You can rent bicycles and catamarans there. The New Orleans Museum of Art - NOMA - is also located in this wildlife area with captivating views. Its collection consists of 40 000 exhibits. Among the displays, there are traditional African masks, exhibitions by French artists, and works dating to the period of Italian Renaissance.
- You must try the national dishes of New Orleans. Unlike standard American street food with hamburgers and hot dogs, the peculiar Louisiana cuisine rules here. It’s a combination of French, Spanish, and African traditions. That’s why New Orleans is famous for its extraordinary dishes: gumbo and jambalaya. Gumbo is a thick soup with vegetables, meat, seafood, that resembles a ragout. Jambalaya is just like gumbo, but it doesn’t include any stock. These dishes used to be a meal for poor people. Later, they became real iconic symbols of the state.
- If you want to grab a bite, don’t hesitate to try the Po’Boy sandwich. It’s a type of French sandwich. The stuffing can be either fish or meat. It is dressed with Creole mustard or tabasco with butter.
- Visit Bourbon Street in the evening and listen to how it sounds. This extremely lively street is always filled with tourists and freaks and has a humming nightlife. Jazz can be heard from every open door of every bar. It combines the Afro-American religious songs, American folklore motives, and music played by street brass bands. If you want to listen to the old compositions in headphones, go to the Museum of Jazz. It frequently holds free movie screening. Don’t go by vinyl shops. There you can easily find a record with anything: starting from the classical jazz of Louis Armstrong to contemporary hip-hop tracks written by Frank Ocean, a native citizen of New Orleans.
- Drop by the first bar in America called “Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop”. It got its name in honor of the sadly remembered pirate. According to the legend, Lafitte hid gold and jewelry in the basement of this building.
- Swim on the boat along the ghostly Bayou Manchac. It’s a perfect spot to dive into the magical, captivating, and mysterious Louisiana. At night, you can see lights that the local citizens call “the deceased’ candles”. The myths about this bayou horrify with the images of voodoo doctors and werewolves. Bayou Manchac also witnessed the impact and damages of Hurricane Katrina.