New Orleans in a Nutshell
NOLA is the biggest city in Louisiana State, nicknamed the Big Easy or Crescent City due to its shape caused by the location on the Mississippi River curve.
An important port city and trade route, a colorful place with a remarkable atmosphere of a multi-cultural hub, a celebration of music and unusual rhythm, excellent Creole cuisine, cheerful festivals, and a unique vibe of easy-going people. There is no place on earth like New Orleans.
The Foundation of the City
New Orleans is one of the oldest cities in America, founded by the French in Spring of 1718 as a port city due to its strategic geographic location on the Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain. They named it after the French city Orlean, which they left when came to settle the area on the American land. It was sold to the Spanish and was under their control for 40 years before moving back to French ownership, which they gave up in 1803 when Napoleon sold the city to the Americans as part of Louisiana deal.
Despite the changes of government over the years, the French roots are still seen in many aspects of the city, from its culinary culture to State laws.
Before the colonists arrived, the area was inhabited by Native Americans for hundreds of years, and they developed it to be a central location of an important trade route.
Disasters and Rehabilitation
The face of the New Orleans has changed a number of times due to disasters that hit it. In 1788 a great fire destroyed most of the city, and it was rebuilt by the Spanish after another fire happened in 1795. Another main historical event impacted the city’s population was the peak of the “Yellow Fever” epidemic in 1853, which took the lives of more than 10,000 people.
The most recent disaster occurred when the extremely destructive and deadly Hurricane Katrina hit the city in August 2005. The storm broke the floodgates, and almost the entire city was flooded with water, causing huge destruction all around, which estimated in milliards of dollars.
Yet, the city was rehabilitated each time and became a colorful and significant metropolis, an important trade center, filled with music, food, and easy, serene people.
New Orleans is located in the south of the United States, along the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, above the Mexico Gulf. About half of the city is water, and most of it was built below sea level; therefore it is surrounded by floodgates.
Its strategic location made it one of the most central and significant ports in the world, and closeness to the Gulf made it important in the US oil industry. The American Quarter is the city’s central business district.
Nonetheless, since the late 20th century most of the city’s economy is based on the tourism industry (the French Quarter is the central tourists’ location), and millions of people visit the city every year, especially during the two big events of the Mardi Gras Festival (throughout the month of Shrove Tuesday. We also recommend to read about the all-female krewes here) and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Although these two main events draw many visitors to the city, in fact, there are always many things to see and experience in NOLA, and the residents never neglect an opportunity to party in the streets, so any time is a great time to attend. Even in the fall and winter, which are calmer, the weather is usually welcoming to explore the outdoors and enjoy the magic of this city.
What once was the capital of the State of Louisiana remained not only its biggest city but also a unique place with a particular character and an enchanting atmosphere. A big part of the one of a kind ambiance is because of the demographic weave from the Indian roots, through the European conquer, till the American residents, modern era immigrants, slaves from Africa, refugees from the Haitian Revolution, and free African-Americans that arrived and settled in the southern city.
Back in the days, this port city was a key location for slave-traders and human trafficking and had the nation’s largest slave market.
Different communities gathered in NOLA over the years, and their ancestors heritage is well preserved in the city (for example, Louisiana Creole French is a local dialect). The various traditions eventually created a new multi-culture hub that is reflected until these days by the local fusion cuisine, the Voodoo tradition, the architecture, and the centralization of music in general and the jazz in particular, a genre that was developed in this city.
Firsts’ in the USA
As one of the first and developed cities in the United States, New Orleans has several firsts in her records, besides the worldwide famous Jazz music genre. Another music related ‘first’ is the first documented Opera performance, happened in New Orleans in 1796.
A ‘first’ that was naturally developed in the city is the cocktail, as mixed drinks started to be served in the city since the 1800s. Around this time the poker game began to be played by sailors at New Orleans Port.
An interesting ‘first’ related to New Orleans is the practice in prescription, painkillers, and pharmacists, (more can be learned about this topic at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, located in the house of the first licensed pharmacists in the USA). And one last ‘first’ worth mentioning here is that at the end of the 19th century, Vitascope Theater operated in New Orleans, and it was the first commercial movie theater showing moving images on a screen.