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New Orleans in Louisiana.

 

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New Orleans is a major United States port and the largest city and metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana.

Culture and contemporary life

Tourism

New Orleans has many major attractions, from the world-renowned French Quarter and Bourbon Street's notorious nightlife to St. Charles Avenue (home of Tulane and Loyola Universities, the historic Pontchartrain Hotel, and many 19th century mansions), to Magazine Street, with its many boutique stores and antique shops.

According to current travel guides, New Orleans is one of the top ten most visited cities in the United States; 10.1 million visitors came to New Orleans in 2004, and the city was on pace to break that level of visitation in 2005. Prior to Katrina, there were 265 hotels with 38,338 rooms in the Greater New Orleans Area. In May 2007, there were over 140 hotels and motels in operation with over 31,000 rooms.

A 2009 Travel + Leisure poll of "America's Favorite Cities" ranked New Orleans first in ten categories, the most first-place rankings of the 30 cities included. According to the poll, New Orleans is the best U.S. city as a spring break destination and for "wild weekends," stylish boutique hotels, cocktail hours, singles/bar scenes, live music/conerts and bands, antique and vintage shops, cafés/coffee bars, neighborhood restaurants, and people-watching. The city also ranked second for gay friendliness (behind San Francisco, California), friendliness (behind Charleston, South Carolina), bed and bath hotels and inns, and ethnic food. However the city was voted last in terms of active residents and near the bottom in cleanliness, safety, and as a family destination.

The French Quarter (known locally as "the Quarter" or Vieux Carré), which dates from the French and Spanish eras and is bounded by the Mississippi River, Rampart Street, Canal Street, and Esplanade Avenue, contains many popular hotels, bars, and nightclubs. Notable tourist attractions in the Quarter include Bourbon Street, Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, the French Market (including Café du Monde, famous for café au lait and beignets) and Preservation Hall. To tour the port, one can ride the Natchez, an authentic steamboat with a calliope, which cruises the Mississippi the length of the city twice daily. Unlike most other places in The United States, and the world, New Orleans has become widely known for its element of elegant decay. The city's many beautiful cemeteries and their distinct above-ground tombs are often attractions in themselves, the oldest and most famous of which, Saint Louis Cemetery, greatly resembles Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Also located in the French Quarter is the old New Orleans Mint, a former branch of the United States Mint, which now operates as a museum, and The Historic New Orleans Collection, a museum and research center housing art and artifacts relating to the history of New Orleans and the Gulf South. The National World War II Museum, opened in the Warehouse District in 2000 as the "National D-Day Museum", is dedicated to providing information and materials related to the Invasion of Normandy. Nearby, Confederate Memorial Hall, the oldest continually operating museum in Louisiana (although under renovation since Katrina), contains the second-largest collection of Confederate memorabilia in the world. Art museums in the city include the Contemporary Arts Center, the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) in City Park, and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

New Orleans also boasts a decidedly natural side. It is home to the Audubon Nature Institute (which consists of Audubon Park, the Audubon Zoo, the Aquarium of the Americas, and the Audubon Insectarium), as well as gardens that include Longue Vue House and Gardens and the New Orleans Botanical Garden. City Park, one of the country's most expansive and visited urban parks, has one of the largest (if not the largest) stands of oak trees in the world.

There are also various points of interest in the surrounding areas. Many wetlands are in close proximity to the city, including Honey Island Swamp. Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery, located just south of the city, is the site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans.

Entertainment and performing arts

The New Orleans area is home to numerous celebrations, the most popular of which is Carnival, often referred to as Mardi Gras. Carnival officially begins on the Feast of the Epiphany, also known as the "Twelfth Night". Mardi Gras (French for "Fat Tuesday"), the final and grandest day of festivities, is the last Tuesday before the Catholic liturgical season of Lent, which commences on Ash Wednesday.

The largest of the city's many music 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, featuring crowds of people from all over the world, coming 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 international artists. Along with Jazz Fest, New Orleans' Voodoo Experience ("Voodoo Fest") and the Essence Music Festival are both large music festivals featuring local and international artists.

Other major festivals held in the city include Southern Decadence, the French Quarter Festival, and the Tennessee Williams/ New Orleans Literary Festival.

In 2002, Louisiana began offering tax incentives for film and television production. This led to a substantial increase in the number of films shot in the New Orleans area and brought the nickname "Hollywood South." Films which have been filmed or produced in and around New Orleans include: Ray, Runaway Jury, The Pelican Brief, Glory Road, All the King's Men, Déjà Vu, Last Holiday, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and numerous others. In 2006, work began on the Louisiana Film & Television studio complex, based in the Treme neighborhood. Louisiana began to offer similar tax incentives for music and theater productions in 2007, leading many to begin referring to New Orleans as "Broadway South."
Louis Armstrong, famous New Orleans jazz musician

New Orleans has always been a significant center for music, showcasing its intertwined European, Latin American, and African cultures. New Orleans' unique musical heritage was born in its pre-American and early American days from a unique blending of European instruments with African rhythms. As the only North American city to allow slaves to gather in public and play their native music (largely in Congo Square, now located within Louis Armstrong Park), New Orleans gave birth to an indigenous music: jazz. Soon, brass bands formed, gaining popular attraction that still holds today. The city's music was later significantly influenced by Acadiana, home of Cajun and Zydeco music, and Delta blues.

New Orleans' unique musical culture is further evident in its funerals. A spin on the tradition of military brass band funerals, traditional New Orleans funerals feature sad music (mostly dirges and hymns) on the way to the cemetery and happier 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 visitors to the city have long dubbed them "jazz funerals".

Much later in its musical development, New Orleans was home to a distinctive brand of rhythm and blues that contributed greatly to the growth of rock and roll. An example of the New Orleans' sound in the 1960s is the #1 US hit "Chapel of Love" by the Dixie Cups, a song which knocked The Beatles out of the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100. New Orleans became a hotbed for funk music in the 1960s and 1970s, and by the late 1980s, it had developed its own localized variant of hip hop, called bounce music. While never commercially successful outside of the Deep South, it remained immensely popular in the poorer neighborhoods of the city throughout the 1990s.

A cousin of bounce, New Orleans hip hop has seen commercial success locally and internationally, producing Lil Wayne, Master P, Birdman, Juvenile, Cash Money Records, and No Limit Records. Additionally, the wave of popularity of cowpunk, a fast form of southern rock, originated with the help of several local bands, such as The Radiators, Better Than Ezra, Cowboy Mouth, and Dash Rip Rock. Throughout the 1990s, many sludge metal bands started in the area. New Orleans' heavy metal bands like Eyehategod, Soilent Green, Crowbar, and Down have incorporated styles such as hardcore punk, doom metal, and southern rock to create an original and heady brew of swampy and aggravated metal that has largely avoided standardization.

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