New Orleans, Louisiana

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For information on the events of Hurricane Katrina, see effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans.
New Orleans, Louisiana
City flag City seal
City nicknames: "The Crescent City", "The Big Easy", "The City That Care Forgot"

Location in the State of Louisiana and the United States
Parish Orleans Parish, Louisiana
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

350.2 mi² (907.0 km²)
180.6 mi² (467.6 km²)
169.7 mi² (439.4 km²)
Population (See note)
Total (2000)

Time zone Central: UTC–6
Location 29° 57′ 53″ N, 90° 4′ 14″ W
Mayor of New Orleans C. Ray Nagin
City website

New Orleans (local pronunciations: /nuːˈɔɹliːnz/, /nuːˈɔɹliːənz/, or /nuːˈɔɹlənz/) (French: La Nouvelle-Orléans, pronounced Image:ltspkr.png /la nuvɛl ɔʀleɑ̃/ in standard French accent) is a major U.S. port city and the largest city in the U.S. state of Louisiana. It is located in southeastern Louisiana along the Mississippi River, just south of Lake Pontchartrain, and is coextensive with Orleans Parish.

The city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding in August 2005. As of mid October 2005, efforts continue to aid survivors, clean up debris, and restore infrastructure. While parts of the city which suffered moderate damage have reopened to residents and businesses and have resumed functioning, other parts of town most severely damaged are open only during daylight hours for residents to salvage items from their formerly flooded homes.

New Orleans is a Southern city known for its multicultural heritage (especially French, Spanish and African American influences) and its music and cuisine. It is a world-famous tourist destination thanks to its many festivals and celebrations; the most notable annual events are Mardi Gras ("Fat Tuesday"), Jazz Fest, Southern Decadence, and college football's Sugar Bowl, which serves as the national championship once every four years. The most recent U.S. census put New Orleans's population at 484,674 and the population of Greater New Orleans at 1,337,726; however, due to the evacuation of the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, these numbers do not reflect the actual number of people inhabiting the region as of October 2005.

New Orleans was founded by the French in 1718 and has played an important role in the history of the United States. The city was named in honor of Philip II, Duke of Orléans, who was regent and ruler of France when the city was founded. This is comparable to the naming of New York City in honor of James, Duke of York, heir to the throne of England.

It is a major port city due to its location near the Gulf of Mexico and along the Mississippi River, making it a hub for goods which travel to and from Latin America. The petroleum industry is also of great importance to the New Orleans economy; many oil rigs are located in the Gulf. The Port of South Louisiana (which includes the port of N.O.) is based in the New Orleans metropolitan area and is the fourth largest port in the world in terms of raw tonnage, and among the largest U.S. ports for several major commodities, including cement and coffee.

The city's several nicknames describe various characteristics of the city, including the "Crescent City" (describing its shape around the Mississippi River), "The Big Easy" (a reference by musicians to the relative ease of finding work in the city), and "The City that Care Forgot" (associated with the easy going, carefree nature of many of the local residents). The city's unofficial motto, "Laissez les bons temps rouler" ("Let the good times roll") describes the party-like attitude of many residents.

The city's name is often abbreviated NOLA. Residents of the city are referred to as New Orleanians.



Main article: History of New Orleans

Colonial era

New Orleans is a historic city. Sign at Jackson Square in the French Quarter
New Orleans is a historic city. Sign at Jackson Square in the French Quarter

The place was first discovered by Spanish conqueror Alonso Alvarez de Pineda in 1518 along with the Mississippi River, which was named "Espiritu Santo" river.

New Orleans was founded in 1718 by the French as La Nouvelle-Orléans, under the direction of Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville. The site was selected because it was a rare bit of natural high ground along the flood-prone banks of the lower Mississippi, and was adjacent to a Native American trading route and portage between the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain via Bayou St. John (known to natives as Bayou Choupique). A community of French fur trappers and traders had existed along the bayou (in what is now the middle of New Orleans) for at least a decade before the official founding of the city. Nouvelle-Orléans became the capital of French Louisiana in 1722, replacing Biloxi.

In 1763, the colony was ceded to the Spanish Empire and remained under Spanish control for 40 years.

The Great Fire of 1788 destroyed many of the existing structures in the city (800 houses were destroyed), which were made of wood. As a result of this, and a subsequent fire in 1795 (another 200 houses destroyed), much of 18th century architecture still present in the French Quarter was built under Spanish rule and demonstrates Spanish colonial characteristics, wood was replaced with bricks.

The three most impressive buildings of New Orleans comes from the Spanish times: St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo and the Presbytere.

In 1795, Spain granted the United States "Right of Deposit" in New Orleans, allowing Americans to use the city's port facilities. Louisiana reverted to French control in 1801 after Napoleon re-acquired the territory from Spain by treaty. But in 1803, Napoleon sold Louisiana (which then included portions of more than a dozen present-day states) to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. At this time the city of New Orleans had a population of about 10,000.

19th century

In its early days it was noted for its cosmopolitan polyglot population and mixture of cultures. The city grew rapidly, with influxes of Americans, French and Creole French, many of the latter fleeing from the revolution in Haiti. During the War of 1812 the British sent a force to try to conquer the city, but they were defeated by forces led by Andrew Jackson some miles down river from the city at Chalmette, Louisiana on January 8, 1815 (commonly known as the Battle of New Orleans).

1888 German map of New Orleans.
1888 German map of New Orleans.

The population of the city doubled in the 1830s, and by 1840 the city's population was around 102,000, fourth-largest in the U.S, the largest city away from the Atlantic seaboard, as well as the largest in the South after Baltimore. However, population growth was at times plagued by yellow fever epidemics, such as the great scourge of 1853 that killed nearly 10,000 people in New Orleans.

New Orleans was the capital of the state of Louisiana until 1849, then again from 1865 to 1880. As a principal port it had a leading role in the slave trade, while at the same time having North America's largest community of free persons of color. Early in the American Civil War it was captured by the Union (by David Farragut -son of Spanish emigrants- later named the first US Navy Vice-Admiral) without a battle, and hence was spared the destruction suffered by many other cities of the American South. It was the first captured city in the American South. It retains a historical flavor with a wealth of 19th century structures far beyond the early colonial city boundaries of the French Quarter. The city hosted the 1884 World's Fair, called the World Cotton Centennial. An important attraction in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the famous red light district called Storyville.

20th century

New Orleans panorama from 1919.
New Orleans panorama from 1919.
Canal Street, looking away from the river, 1920s
Canal Street, looking away from the river, 1920s
A view across Uptown New Orleans, with the Central Business District in the background, 1990s
A view across Uptown New Orleans, with the Central Business District in the background, 1990s

Much of the city is located below sea level between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, so the city is surrounded by levees. Until the early 20th century, construction was largely limited to the slightly higher ground along old natural river levees and bayous, since much of the rest of the land was swampy and subject to frequent flooding. This gave the 19th century city the shape of a crescent along a bend of the Mississippi, the origin of the nickname The Crescent City. In the 1910s engineer and inventor A. Baldwin Wood enacted his ambitious plan to drain the city, including large pumps of his own design which are still used. All rain water must be pumped up to the canals which drain into Lake Pontchartrain. Wood's pumps and drainage allowed the city to expand greatly in area. However, pumping of groundwater from underneath the city has resulted in subsidence. The subsidence greatly increased the flood risk, should the levees be breached or precipitation be in excess of pumping capacity (as was the case in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina). There were many warnings in the late 20th century that a major hurricane or a Mississippi flood could create a lake in the central city as much as 9 m (30 ft) deep, which could take months to pump dry.This warning was augmented by vestigial fears from Hurricane Betsy, and the lasting stories of the Army Corps of Engineers blasting the flooding levees, drowning the poorer neighborhoods of the lower ninth ward. The Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, (HCNA) respresenting a substantial group of the aforementioned lower ninth ward, created a lobby against the Army Corps of Engineers furthering work on the levees which might endanger the neighborhoods. The HCNA sent Jamal Morelli, activist and New Orleans artist, to respresent them in Washington, D.C. Jamal Morelli's struggle for the neighborhood was successful in protecting the lower ninth ward. (2000-2004)

In 1905 Yellow Fever was reported in the city, which had suffered under repeated epidemics of the disease in the previous century. As the role of mosquitos in spreading the disease was newly understood, the city embarked on a massive campain to drain, screen, or oil all cisterns and standing water (breeding ground for mosquitos) in the city and educate the public on their vital role in preventing mosquitos. The effort was a success and the disease was stopped before reaching epidemic proportions. President Theodore Roosevelt visited the city to demonstrate the safety of New Orleans. The city has had no cases of Yellow Fever since.

New Orleans was hit by major storms in the 1909 Atlantic hurricane season and the 1915 Atlantic hurricane season.

In the 1920s an effort to "modernize" the look of the city removed the old cast-iron balconies from Canal Street, the city's commercial hub. In the 1960s another "modernization" effort replaced the Canal Streetcar Line with buses. Both of these moves came to be regarded as mistakes long after the fact, and the streetcars returned to a portion of Canal Street at the end of the 1990s, and construction to restore the entire line was completed in April 2004.

The suburbs saw great growth in the second half of the 20th century; the largest suburb today is Metairie, which borders New Orleans to the west. Metairie is not incorporated and is a part of Jefferson Parish.

Much of the city flooded in September of 1947 due to the 1947 Fort Lauderdale Hurricane.

In 1965 the city was damaged by Hurricane Betsy, with catestrophic flooding of the city's Lower 9th Ward.

While long one of the USA's most-visited cities, tourism boomed in the last quarter of the 20th century, becoming a major force in the local economy. Areas of the French Quarter and Central Business District which were long oriented towards local residential and business uses switched to largely catering to the domestic and international tourist industry.

A century after the Cotton Centennial Exhibition, New Orleans hosted another World's Fair, the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition.

The city experienced severe flooding in the May 8th 1995 Louisiana Flood when heavy rains suddenly dumped over a foot of water on parts of town faster than the pumps could remove the water.

Hurricane Katrina

An aerial view of the flooded areas in part of the New Orleans Central Business District
An aerial view of the flooded areas in part of the New Orleans Central Business District
Main article: Effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans

The city suffered greatly from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall on August 29, 2005 on the gulf coast near the city. Mayor Nagin issued a mandatory evacuation of the entire city, the first such order ever issued in New Orleans. Many residents chose to stay or, because of the failure to activate available public transportation (hundreds of available buses later lost to flooding), were stranded in the city. The eye of the storm passed within 10 to 15 miles of New Orleans, bringing strong winds that downed trees, shattered windows, and hurled debris around the area. Heavy rains and flooding immediately affected the eastern areas of the city.

The situation worsened on August 30 when three levees along canals which drain into Lake Pontchartrain were breached. These canals were the 17th Street Canal, the Industrial Canal, and the London Avenue Canal. As much as 80% of the city, much of which is below sea level, flooded, with water reaching a depth of 25 feet (7.6 meters) in some areas. As of October 25, 2005 the number of confirmed deaths due to Katrina in Louisiana reached 1050. The Times Picayune in a November 2005 article states that there are in addition to those 1050 confirmed deaths 5000 missing residents of the city. Early estimates of the cost of physical damage from the storm have exceeded 100 billion USD, however the actual total could be much greater, far surpassing Hurricane Andrew as the costliest hurricane in United States history. [1]

The city government declared the city off-limits to residents while clean-up efforts began and warned that those remaining could be removed by force, for their health and safety. On September 15, several of the suburban towns had started allowing residents to return. The mayor announced a "phased repopulation" plan to start bringing residents of the city back in the next two weeks. Concern about the fragility of the city's flood defences and transportation caused repopulation efforts to be postponed due to Hurricane Rita. [2]. New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward was reflooded when a storm surge from Rita overcame one of the repaired levees on the Industrial Canal [3]. By October 1, parts of the city accounting for about one-third of the population of New Orleans had been reopened, including the French Quarter.[4] As of October 1, only 5% of the city remained underwater.

Geography and climate

Vertical cross-section of New Orleans, showing maximum levee height of 23 feet (7 m).
Vertical cross-section of New Orleans, showing maximum levee height of 23 feet (7 m).

New Orleans is located at 29° 57′ 53″ N, 90° 4′ 14″ W (29.964722, -90.070556)1 on the banks of the Mississippi River, approximately 100 miles upriver from the Gulf of Mexico at 30.07°N, 89.93°W. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 907.0 km² (350.2 mi²). 467.6 km² (180.6 mi²) of it is land and 439.4 km² (169.7 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 48.45% water.

The city is located in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, between the Mississippi River in the south and Lake Pontchartrain in the north. The area along the river is characterized by ridges and hollows. Fields atop the ridges along the river are referred to as the "frontlands." The land contour slopes away from the frontlands to the "backlands", comprised of clay and silt. The Mississippi Delta, at the mouth of the Mississippi River, covers about 13,000 square miles (about 1/4 of Louisiana) and consists of silt deposited by the river, and is the most fertile area of Louisiana.

The city of New Orleans actually contains the lowest point in the state of Louisiana, and one of the lowest points in the United States, after Death Valley and the Salton Sea. Much of the city is actually located between 1 and 10 feet (0.3 to 3 m) below sea level, and as such, is very prone to flooding. Rainwater is continually pumped out of the city and into Lake Pontchartrain across a series of levees and dikes. However, if it rains more than 1 inch, or if there is a major storm surge, such as that caused by a hurricane, greater flooding can occur. Because of this, most of the cemeteries in the city use above ground crypts as opposed to underground burial.

The New Orleans Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), the 39th largest in the United States, includes the Louisiana parishes of Orleans (contiguous with the city of New Orleans), Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and St. Tammany.


New Orleans contains many distinctive neighborhoods.
New Orleans contains many distinctive neighborhoods.

The Central Business District of New Orleans is located immediately north and west of the Mississippi River, and is historically called the "American Quarter." Most streets in this area fan out from a central point in the city. Major streets of the area include Canal Street and Poydras St. The term "downtown" refers to those parts of town that are downriver from the central business district. "Uptown" refers to those parts of town that are upriver from the central business district. Parts of the city that are located downtown include the world famous French Quarter (most noted as the central tourist district, with its array of shops, bars, and nightclubs along Bourbon Street), Storyville (now defunct), Treme, Faubourg Marigny, Bywater, the 7th Ward, and the Lower 9th Ward. Parts of the city that are located uptown include the Garden District, the Irish Channel, the University District, Carrollton, Gert Town, Fountainbleau, and Broadmoor.

Other major districts within the city include Bayou St. John, Mid City, Gentilly, Lakeview, Lakefront, New Orleans East, The upper 9th Ward and Algiers.

Parishes located adjacent to the city of New Orleans include St. Tammany Parish to the northeast, St. Bernard Parish to the south, Plaquemines Parish to the southwest, and Jefferson Parish to the west.

A true-color satellite image of New Orleans taken on NASA's Landsat 7
A true-color satellite image of New Orleans taken on NASA's Landsat 7


The climate of New Orleans is subtropical, with mild winters and hot, humid summers. In January, morning lows average around 43 °F (6°C), and daily highs around 62°F (17°C). In July, lows average 74°F (23°C), and highs average 91°F (33°C). The lowest recorded temperature was 11.0°F (-11.6°C) on December 23, 1989. The highest recorded temperature was 102.0°F (38.9°C) on August 22, 1980. The average precipitation is 59.74 inches (1520 mm) annually.

On rare occasions, snow will fall. Most recently, a trace of snow fell on Christmas in 2004, during the 2004 Christmas Eve Snowstorm. On December 25, a combination of rain, sleet, and snow fell on the city, leaving some bridges icy. Before that, the last white Christmas was in 1954, and brought 4.5 inches (110 mm). The last significant snowfall in New Orleans fell on December 22, 1989, when most of the city received 1 or 2 inches of snow.

People and culture


City of New Orleans
Population by year [5]

1810 - 17,242
1820 - 27,176
1830 - 46,082
1840 - 102,193
1850 - 116,375
1860 - 168,675
1870 - 191,418
1880 - 216,090
1890 - 242,039
1900 - 287,104
1910 - 339,075
1920 - 387,219
1930 - 458,762
1940 - 494,537
1950 - 570,445
1960 - 627,525
1970 - 593,471
1980 - 557,515
1990 - 496,938
2000 - 484,674

Note: Though New Orleans has been evacuated because of conditions caused by Hurricane Katrina, the evacuees remain residents of the city. While medium-to-long term changes in population may be drastic, there is no way, short of speculation, to account for these effects. The U. S. Census figures presented here are the most recent; and verifiable.

As of the census2 of 2000, there were 484,674 people, 188,251 households, and 112,950 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,036.4/km² (2,684.3/mi²). There were 215,091 housing units at an average density of 459.9/km² (1,191.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 67.25% African American, 28.05% White, 0.20% Native American, 2.26% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.93% from other races, and 1.28% from two or more races. 3.06% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. The population of Greater New Orleans stood at 1,337,726 in 2000, placing it 35 amongst United States metropolitan areas.

There were 188,251 households out of which 29.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 30.8% were married couples living together, 24.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.0% were non-families. 33.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.7% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 3.23.

In the city the population was spread out with 26.7% under the age of 18, 11.4% from 18 to 24, 29.3% from 25 to 44, 20.9% from 45 to 64, and 11.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 88.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $27,133, and the median income for a family was $32,338. Males had a median income of $30,862 versus $23,768 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,258. 27.9% of the population and 23.7% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 40.3% of those under the age of 18 and 19.3% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

New Orleans is well known for its Creole culture and the persistence of Voodoo practice by a few of its residents, as well as for its music, food, architecture, and spirit of celebration.


New Orleans is usually pronounced by locals as "Noo Or-lins," or "Noo Aw-lins." The pronunciation "N'Awlins" is not generally used by locals but has been popularized by the tourist trade. The distinctive local accent, sometimes identified as Yat, is unlike either Cajun or the stereotypical Southern accent so often misportrayed by film and television actors. It does, like earlier Southern Englishes, feature frequent deletion of post-vocalic "r". It is similar to a New York "Brooklynese" accent to people unfamiliar with it. There are many theories to how the accent came to be, but it likely results from New Orleans' geographic isolation by water, and the fact that New Orleans was a major port of entry into the United States throughout the 19th century. Many of the immigrant groups who reside in Brooklyn also reside in New Orleans, with Irish, Italians, and Germans being among the largest groups. The prestige associated with being from New Orleans by many residents is likely a factor in the linguistic assimilation of the ethnically divergent population. This distinctive accent is dying out generation by generation in the city (but remains very strong in the surrounding Parishes). As with many sociolinguistic artifacts, it is usually attested much more strongly by older members of the population. Also notable are lexical items specific to the city, such as "lagniappe" (pronounced LAN-yap) meaning "a little something extra," "makin' groceries" for grocery shopping, or "neutral ground" for a street median.


The major daily newspaper is the New Orleans Times-Picayune, publishing since 1837. Other alternative weekly publications include the Louisiana Weekly and the Gambit Weekly.

Greater New Orleans is well served by television and radio. The market is the 43rd largest Designated Market Area (DMA) in the U.S., serving 672,150 homes and 0.610% of the U.S. Major television network affiliates serving the area include WWL 4 (CBS), WGNO 26 (ABC), WDSU 6 (NBC), WVUE 8 (FOX), WNOL 38 (WB), WUPL 54 (UPN), and WPXL 49 (PAX). PBS stations include WYES 12 and WLAE 32. WHNO 20 also operates as an independent station in the area.

Museums and other attractions

Bourbon Street, New Orleans, in 2003, looking towards Canal Street.
Bourbon Street, New Orleans, in 2003, looking towards Canal Street.

Greater New Orleans has many major attractions, from the world-renowned Bourbon Street and the French Quarter's notorious nightlife, St. Charles Avenue (home of Tulane and Loyola Universities), and many stately 19th century mansions.

Favorite tourist scenes in New Orleans include the French Quarter (known locally as "the Quarter"), which dates from the French and Spanish eras and is bounded by the Mississippi River and Rampart Street, Canal Street and Esplanade Ave. The French Quarter contains many popular hotels, bars, and nightclubs, most notably around Bourbon Street. Other notable tourist attractions in the quarter include Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, the French Market (including the Café du Monde, famous for café au lait and beignets), and Preservation Hall.

Also located near the French Quarter is the old New Orleans Mint, formerly a branch of the United States Mint, now operates as a museum. The National D-Day Museum is a relatively new museum (opened on June 6, 2000) dedicated to providing information and materials related to the allied invasion of Normandy, France. The Natchez is an authentic steamboat with a calliope tours the Mississippi twice daily.

Art museums in the city include the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. The Audubon Park and the Audubon Zoo are also located in the city of New Orleans. New Orleans is also noted for its many beautiful cemeteries. Some notable cemeteries in the city include Saint Louis Cemetery and Metairie Cemetery.

The city is also world-famous for its food. Specialties include beignets, square-shaped fried pastries that are sometimes called French doughnuts (served with coffee and chicory "au lait"); Po'boy and Italian Muffaletta sandwiches; Gulf oysters on the half-shell and other seafoods; etouffee, jambalaya, gumbo, and other Creole dishes; and the Monday evening favorite of red beans and rice. (Louis Armstrong often signed his letters, "red beans and ricely yours.")

Annual cultural events and fairs

See also: New Orleans Mardi Gras

Mounted Krewe Officers in the Thoth Parade during Mardi Gras.
Mounted Krewe Officers in the Thoth Parade during Mardi Gras.

Greater New Orleans is home to numerous year-around celebrations, including Mardi Gras, New Years Eve celebrations, and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. New Orleans' most famous celebration is its Carnival Season. The Carnival season is often known (especially by out-of-towners) by the name of the last and biggest day, Mardi Gras (literally, "Fat Tuesday"), held just before the beginning of the Catholic liturgical season of Lent. Mardi Gras celebrations include parades and floats; participants toss strings of cheap colorful beads and doubloons to the crowds. The Mardi Gras season is kicked off with the only parade allowed through the French Quarter (Vieux Carré, translated Old Square), a walking parade aptly named Krewe du Vieux.

The largest of the city's many musical festivals is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Commonly referred to simply as, "Jazz Fest", it is one of the largest music festivals in the nation, and features crowds coming from all over the world to experience music, food, arts, and crafts. Despite the name, it features not only jazz but a large variety of music, including both native Louisiana music and nationally-known popular music artists.


Louis Armstrong, famous New Orleans Jazz musician.
Louis Armstrong, famous New Orleans Jazz musician.

New Orleans has always been a significant center for music with its intertwined European, Latin American, and African-American cultures. The city engendered jazz with its brass bands. Decades later it was home to a distinctive brand of rhythm and blues that contributed greatly to the growth of rock and roll. Its general atmosphere of Dionysian art has also resulted in chaotic artists such as Crash Worship, Liquiddrone, and Jamal Morelli. In addition, the nearby countryside is the home of Cajun music, Zydeco music, and Delta blues.

The city also created its own spin on the old tradition of military brass band funerals; traditional New Orleans funerals with music feature sad music (mostly dirges and hymns) on the way to the cemetery and happy music (hot jazz) on the way back. Such traditional musical funerals still take place when a local musician, a member of a club, krewe, or benevolent society, or a noted dignitary has passed. Until the 1990s most locals preferred to call these "funerals with music," but out of town visitors have long dubbed them "jazz funerals." Younger bands, especially those based in the Treme neighborhood, have embraced the term and now have funerals featuring only jazz music.


The Louisiana Superdome, home to the New Orleans Saints.
The Louisiana Superdome, home to the New Orleans Saints.

The city is the home to several professional, major league sports teams, including the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League and the New Orleans Hornets of the National Basketball Association (moved from Charlotte, North Carolina at the start of the 2002–2003 season). The Saints play in the Louisiana Superdome, and the Hornets play in the adjacent New Orleans Arena.

Due to the effects of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans, including damage both to the exterior and the interior of the Louisiana Superdome, the New Orleans Saints will have to play their "home" games in Baton Rouge and San Antonio, Texas. The football season began just a week after the storm hit, and the Saints played their first "home" game against the Giants at Giants Stadium. After that, they traveled to San Antonio to play in the Alamodome for their "home" game against Buffalo. Next the Saints will remain in San Antonio to play their opponent Atlanta. For the October 30 game the Saints will travel to Baton Rouge, where they will play in LSU's Tiger Stadium. The Saints will play the next three "home" games in Baton Rouge. The final game of the Saints' season will be played in San Antonio. All in all the Saints will play a total of three "home" games in San Antonio, and four "home" games in Baton Rouge. The Hornets will play 35 "home" games at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City,Oklahoma, with the remaining 6 to be played in Baton Rouge or, if possible, in New Orleans.

The city also has an Arena Football League team, the New Orleans VooDoo, owned by the Saints' owner, Tom Benson. The New Orleans Zephyrs, AAA minor league baseball team plays in adjacent Metairie. They are currently affiliated with the Washington Nationals.

The city also hosts two college football bowl games annually: the New Orleans Bowl and the Sugar Bowl.

Historically, many teams have been formerly located in the city, including the New Orleans Pelicans baseball team (1887–1959), the New Orleans Breakers of the United States Football League, the New Orleans Night of the Arena Football League (1991–1992), and the New Orleans Brass ice hockey team (1997–2003). Former basketball teams were the New Orleans Buccaneers (c. 1967–1970), and the New Orleans Jazz (1974–1980) which became the Utah Jazz.


A freighter on the Mississippi River in New Orleans.
A freighter on the Mississippi River in New Orleans.

New Orleans is an industrial and distribution center, and a major U.S. seaport. It is one of the busiest seaports in not only the United States, but also the world. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet Canal in the mid 20th century to accommodate New Orleans' barge traffic.

Like Houston, New Orleans is located in proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and the many oil rigs lying just offshore. There are a substantial number of energy companies that have their regional headquarters in the city, including BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Shell Oil Company. The city is also home to one Fortune 500 company, Entergy Corporation, an electric power provider.

The federal government has a significant presence in the area. The NASA Michoud Assembly Facility is located in the eastern portion of Orleans Parish. Lockheed-Martin also has a large manufacturing facility located in the Greater New Orleans area that produces external fuel tanks for space shuttles.

Other companies with a significant presence or base in New Orleans include BellSouth, Hibernia Corp., IBM, Navtech, Harrah's (downtown casino), Popeye's Fried Chicken, and Zatarain's.

The Port of New Orleans handles about 145 million short tons (132 million tonnes) of cargo a year and is the largest faction of the Port of South Louisiana, the latter being the largest and busiest shipping port in the western hemisphere and the 4th busiest in the world.

About 5,000 ships from nearly 60 nations dock at the Port of New Orleans annually. The chief exports are grain and other foods from the Midwestern United States and petroleum products. The leading imports include chemicals, cocoa beans, coffee, and petroleum. The port handles more trade with Latin America than does any other U.S. gateway, including Miami.

New Orleans is also a busy port for barges. The barges use the nation's two main inland waterways, the Mississippi River and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, which meet at New Orleans. The port of New Orleans handles about 50,000 barges yearly.

There are also two ferries that cross the river near the Garden district and the French Quarter. These ferries are free of charge to pedestrians, but motorists pay a $1 fee to cross on them.

New Orleans is also one of the most visited cities in the United States, and tourism is a major staple in the area's economy. The city's colorful Carnival celebrations during the pre-Lenten season, centered on the French Quarter, draw particularly large crowds. Other major tourist events and attractions in the city include Mardi Gras, the Sugar Bowl, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and Southern Decadence (one of the largest annual Gay/Lesbian celebrations in the nation).



New Orleans has a mayor-council government. The city council consists of five councilmembers that are elected by district and two at large councilmembers. Mayor C. Ray Nagin, Jr. was elected in May 2002.

The New Orleans Police Department provides professional police services to the public in order to maintain order and protect life and property. The Orleans Parish civil sheriff's employees serve (deliver) papers involving lawsuits. The Criminal Sheriff's department maintains the parish prison system.

The city of New Orleans and the parish of Orleans operate as a merged city-county government.6 Before the city of New Orleans became co-extensive with Orleans Parish, Orleans Parish was home to numerous smaller communities. Some of these communities within Orleans Parish have historically had separate identities from the city of New Orleans, such as Irish Bayou and Carrollton. Algiers, Louisiana was a separate city through 1870. As soon as Algiers became a part of New Orleans, Orleans Parish ceased being separate from the city of New Orleans.


New Orleans Public Schools, the city's school district, is one of the area's largest school districts. NOPS contains approximately 100 individual schools. The Greater New Orleans area has approximately 200 parochial schools.

Several institutions of higher education also exist within the city, including University of New Orleans, Tulane University, Loyola University New Orleans, Dillard University, Southern University at New Orleans, Xavier University of Louisiana, Louisiana State University Medical School, and Our Lady of Holy Cross College. Other schools include Delgado Community College, Nunez Community College, Culinary Institute of New Orleans, Herzing College, Commonwealth University, and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.


The metropolitan area is served by Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (IATA: MSY, ICAO: KMSY), located approximately nine miles west of the city in the city of Kenner. It serves millions of passengers on approximately 300 nonstop flights per day to or from destinations throughout the United States, Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The airport also handles a significant amount of charter operations from Europe. The airport also serves as a nonstop gateway to Mexico for Federal Express.

Within the city itself is Lakefront Airport, a small, general aviation airport, as well as the New Orleans Downtown Heliport, located on the roof of the Louisiana Superdome's parking garage. There are also several regional airports located throughout the metropolitan area.

The city is also served by rail via Amtrak. The New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal is the central rail depot, and it is served by three trains: the Crescent to New York City, the City of New Orleans to Chicago, Illinois, and the Sunset Limited from Orlando to Los Angeles.

In addition, the city is served by six Class I freight railroads. The Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroads approach the city from the west, the Norfolk Southern and CSX from the east, and the Canadian National and Kansas City Southern from the north.

Public transportation in the city is operated by New Orleans Regional Transit Authority ("RTA"). In addition to the many bus routes connecting the city and suburban areas, there are three active streetcar lines moved by electric motors powered by DC wires overhead. The St. Charles line (green cars, formerly connecting New Orleans with the then independent suburb of Carrollton) is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in New Orleans and a historic landmark. The Riverfront line (also known as the Ladies in Red since the cars are painted red) runs parallel to the river from Canal Street through the French Quarter to the Convention Center above Julia Street in the Arts District. The Canal Street line uses the Riverfront line tracks from Esplanade Street to Canal Street, then branches off down Canal Street and ends at the cemeteries at City Park Avenue with a spur running from the intersection of Canal and Carrollton Avenue to the entrance of City Park at Esplanade near the entrance to the New Orleans Museum of Art.

The city's streetcars were also featured in the Tennessee Williams play, A Streetcar Named Desire. The streetcar line to Desire Street became a bus line in 1948, but may be restored as a light rail streetcar line.

The roads in the city are arranged in a radial grid pattern, emanating out to various parts of town from a central point in the Central Business District. I-10 travels east-west through the city, and goes very close to the Central Business District, taking traffic west towards Baton Rouge, Louisiana and east-northeast to Slidell, Louisiana. The "Twin Spans" carry I-10 across the Industrial Canal. Further east, the Interstate connects New Orleans East with Slidell across an arm of Lake Pontchartrain; these causeways were severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina; by October single lanes in each direction had been reopened. They are to be replaced with a new six-lane bridge in 2006. As I-10 heads south towards the Central Business District, it is called the Pontchartrain Expressway. I-610 connects I-10 and travels through the northern central part of the city. US 90 crosses the Mississippi River as it leaves the Central Business District, and heads south towards the southern suburbs as the Westbank Expressway, circling around the city and rejoining I-10 in the western parts of the city. I-10 is also connected to I-12, north of Lake Pontchartrain, via the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, consisting of two parallel bridges, which are also the longest in the world.

The interstate highways serving New Orleans were laid out in the middle of the 20th century, a time when a larger proportion of Gulf of Mexico freight traffic passed through New Orleans. I-10 goes west to Houston and beyond and east to Mobile and Florida, with I-59 and I-55 heading northward to Birmingham and Memphis, respectively. Later, I-12 created a shortcut that avoided crossing Lake Pontchartrain. In Slidell, I-59 and I-12 both end at an interchange with I-10, which turns southward toward New Orleans while I-12 continues straight to rejoin I-10 near Baton Rouge. There are also plans to extend I-49 from Lafayette to New Orleans. The route would follow U.S. Highway 90 and the Westbank Expressway, placing the southern terminus at I-10 behind the Superdome. The southern termini of US Highways 11 and 61 are in New Orleans, and US 51 terminates just west of the city, Laplace.

The Pontchartrain Expressway (U.S. Highway 90's business route), becomes the Westbank Expressway south of the Mississippi River. Along its route west then northwest from the Crescent City Connection bridge to its terminus at I-10 near the Superdome, the Pontchartrain Expressway follows the path of the former New Basin Canal, dug in the 19th century by thousands of immigrant (mostly Irish) laborers, and filled in in 1947. Some of the older warehouse structures still standing along the Pontchartrain Expressway can trace their roots to their days along the banks of the canal.

Roads along the Mississippi River were the first to carry overland traffic into New Orleans. US 51 (the "Old Hammond Highway"), US 90, and US 11 followed old Indian routes along slight ridges to become the first automotive highways. Louisiana governor Huey P. Long championed Airline Highway (US 61) to bypass the circuitous river road between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The route of today's US 90 east of New Orleans once included a ferry crossing at Fort Pike. Governor Long built public draw bridges at the Rigolets as political retaliation against the operators of a then-private toll bridge across Lake Pontchartrain. Long achieved his objective: the US 11 toll bridge failed commercially and is owned by the State. US 11 was the escape route for Ignatius J. Reilly at the end of John Kennedy Toole's novel, A Confederacy of Dunces.

West of New Orleans, the Ruddock exit at milepost 6 of I-55 is the only trace left of a thriving community that was literally washed away by the hurricane of September 1915. Frenier Beach Hurricane Storm Surge Revisited In the 1960s, a controversial "Dixie Freeway" that would have been designated I-410 would have created an "outer loop" encompassing St. Bernard Parish, the westbank areas of New Orleans and Jefferson, and back across the river in St. Charles Parish where I-310 now runs. Environmental concern for the wetlands south of New Orleans and economic considerations derailed those plans.

Sister cities

New Orleans has ten sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International, Inc. (SCI): Juan-les-Pins (France), Maracaibo (Venezuela), Matsue (Japan), Mérida (Mexico), Innsbruck (Austria), Pointe Noire (Republic of Congo), San Miguel de Tucuman (Argentina), Tegucigalpa (Honduras), Caracas (Venezuela), and Holdfast Bay (Australia).

See also

External links

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