New Orleans is one of the most picturesque and interesting cities in the US In the section known as the French Quarter, or the Vieux Carre (old square), the pastel-colored houses with their courtyards and wrought-iron balconies seem more Latin American than North American. In another section, the Garden District, large handsome houses with broad verandas and white columns recall the era before the Civil War. Even the city’s cemeteries are different: Because much of the city is below sea level, the earth is too wet for burials, so the tombs all lie above ground. Famous for its fine restaurants, New Orleans is also the birthplace of jazz and the site each year of the famous Mardi Gras, the carnival that precedes Lent.
New Orleans is the southernmost Mississippi port, not far from the Gulf of Mexico. There cargoes are exchanged between seagoing vessels and the steamboats and barges of the Mississippi river system. Today the port of New Orleans handles more freight than any other US port.
New Orleans was established in 1718 by the French. In the 1760s it fell under Spanish control. Returned to France in 1800, the city was acquired by the US in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
New Orleans was the original “Dixie Land,” so named for a ten-dollar bill with a large DIX (French for ten) printed on it that circulated in the city before the Civil War.