New Orleans charmswith its energy and community spirit: Dixieland jazz, laid-back locals,cherished architecture and a distinctive French flair.
Lashedby Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans continues to rebuild. Meanwhile, intrue Southern style, the city embraces the mantra “let the good times roll.”You’ll find the locals relaxed, and unhurried, always ready for a chat, andembodying the spirit of the city’s nickname, “The Big Easy.”
New Orleans sits onthe Mississippi River in southern Louisiana. It was founded in1718 by Phillippe d’Orleans, then the Regent of France. The city was underSpanish control for decades before it passed back into French hands, and thenwas sold to the United States in 1803.
A magnet forimmigrants, the city attracted sugar and cotton workers from France, Ireland,Germany and Africa. Today you’ll find it a multicultural blend of Creoles,African Americans and French-speaking locals.
Goto the FrenchQuarter to see the rattling streetcars made famous in TennesseeWilliams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire. This lively area is known for its ornate,Spanish Colonial architecture. Each year, leading up to Lent, theFrenchQuarter hosts the colorful Mardi Gras festivities, said to havestarted as early as 1743.
While in the quarter,stop by the famous Café du Monde, beloved for chicory-laced cafe au lait andFrench-style beignets. From here, cross the road to Jackson Square.This beautiful park has been a popular hangout for artists since the early1920s. Today, it’s home to painters, tarot readers, musicians, streetperformers and classic Creole cuisine. Sample traditional food, includingpo’boy sandwiches, fresh Louisiana crawfish, spicy gumbo, jambalaya stews andsugary pralines.Don'tmiss a night out on iconic Bourbon Street, known for itsnightspots, cafes, strip joints and jazz clubs. Venues here have hosted manyfamous musicians, including Louis Armstrong, a New Orleans native.
New Orleans also hasstrong ties to a strain of Voodoo religion that is still practiced by a handfulof locals. You can take a voodoo-themed tours of the infamous St. LouisCemetery, whileLafayette Cemetery is a popular location for movieshoots.
Getting around iseasy, though, as the city is flat and ideal for walking. Alternatively, jump ona streetcar for an inexpensive bit of fun. Several lines originate in Downtownand cover most of the areas you will want to visit. At night, find a cab at acab-stands and hotels, or telephone one and it will generally arrive fairlyquickly. Driving in New Orleans is not recommended. Parking spaces are scarceand expensive, and finding your way is sometimes difficult with many one-waystreets and a rather complicated layout.
For more details oninteresting local attractions and activities, check out our things to do in New Orleans page.
Best time to visit New OrleansThe best time to visit is late winter, or early spring—you'll enjoy moderate weather (nights can be cool), blooming azaleas, and a busy, fun atmosphere filled with festivals and other special events. During the most popular festivals like Mardi Gras (February) and the Jazz and Heritage Festival (April–May), the city is bustling with excitement and activities, but hotel rooms are in short (and expensive!) supply. If you plan to visit the city during these events, it’s wise to book your room well in advance.
Peak season: February through May is the busiest time for travel to New Orleans. Temperatures are warm, but not hot, the azaleas are in full bloom, and the city is hopping with festivals and special events.
Value season: In December (before and during Christmas), tourists are scarce, so you can take advantage of dramatically lower hotel rates. The weather is mild and the city is decorated in seasonal glitter, making this a great time to visit the Big Easy. From June through August, the weather is hot and humid. During the summer months, the sun can shine for as long as 11 hours each day, providing little break from the heat.