Ah, the Big Easy, famous for Mardi Gras, voodoo, and Jazz. Commonly associated with Cajun culture, despite being a few hours away from any of it. Also, hurricanes—both meteorological and mixological. The French have a consulate there. Another claim to fame is the food; you can find almost any kind of seafood (except lobster) here. The squeamish can rest easy about how well-cooked their food is.
New Orleans has a rich cultural history. Sitting out the mouth of the mighty Mississippi River where it meets the Gulf of Mexico, the city was founded by French traders in 1718 but was likely a hub of commerce and conflict long before then as a gateway for goods and people to enter the middle of North America. The French, Spanish, British, numerous indigenous groups, and (later) Americans all fought for control of the port. Enslaved African people comprised a large portion of the city's population as the city became a major hub of chattel slavery, but the French Code Noir provided slightly more opportunities for freedom than the British system, and New Orleans soon boasted the highest population of free Black people in North America. The mixing of their cultural traditions with French Catholicism, native practices, and the many other ideas and beliefs that intersected in this place led to the development of the city's unique Afro-Creole culture.
The United States obtained the city from the French with the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, opening the door for American Western expansion. The final great battle of The War of 1812 played out in New Orleans, and while it is typically pointed out that the battle occurred after the war was officially over, American history could have turned out very differently if the British military had taken the city. After the battle, the population of New Orleans grew to be one of the largest cities in the U.S., at one point closely rivaling Baltimore for the title of the nation's second-largest city. The strategic and economic importance of the port once again came into play during The American Civil War. While Louisiana seceded and joined the Confederacy, the Union army prioritized securing New Orleans to keep the Mississippi River open, and the North held the city under military occupation through most of the war after May 1862.
After the war, however, the growth of railways and other forms of transportation made access to the Mississippi less and less important, and the city began to decline through the 20th century. Its low elevation and aging infrastructure resulted in utter disaster when Hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005, resulting in devastating floods that displaced thousands of residents. It is now only the 50th biggest city in the U.S. (45th biggest metro), a steep descent from its former glory, and is still struggling mightily to recover. However, it remains the biggest city in Louisiana, and its rich history, culture, and the spirit of its people still shine brightly as ever. The Big Easy is also the birthplace of the first American Mafia crime family, thanks in no small part to the historically significant Italian population, many of whom arrived here after the Civil War especially in the late 19th century.
If you're visiting the city, you may notice the streets here tend to be rather narrow, because they were originally built for horse and carriage. Do not complain; this indicates that a natural disaster has never annihilated the surrounding area and created room for a wider road. Tourists think being they're cute by pronouncing the name of the city "N'awlins". To not incur the wrath of a local, just go with "Nu-OH'rlins"note . Once you've lived here a couple of years, your speech will naturally slur it down, but don't force it.
If you ask for directions in New Orleans, don't expect to hear "North", "South", "East", or "West". Due to the Mississippi River which curves through the middle of the city, you'll likely hear something like "Go up on Saint Charles Avenue" if you wish to leave the French Quarter and go Uptown, for example, even though to outsiders' eyes, Saint Charles Avenue "appears" to go south and wind back up to going north. Although it sounds complicated, it's really not that hard to figure out when you look at a map. If you wish to study the geography a bit further, a good guide can be found here. It's important to remember that "Eastbank" and "Westbank" are in reference to the location of the river. This is probably what would trip up visitors the most since there are fragments of the East Bank that are geographically west of the West Bank, and vice-versa.
New Orleans's oldest (and for a long time only) pro sports team, the Saints of the National Football League, were for many years the absolute worst team in the entire league—they went their first two decades without putting up a winning season and over thirty years without winning a playoff game. After Katrina forced them to play their home games elsewhere while their home stadium, the Superdome, underwent repairs and housed thousands of displaced residents, many feared that the city would lose its team to a larger and wealthier market. Upon returning to the city in 2006, with a brand new head coach and quarterback, the Saints put up their best season in the franchise's history, nearly reached a Super Bowl, and eventually won one a few years later. The morale boost this gave to the city is hard to quantify, and the Saints don't seem likely to go anywhere anytime soon with one of the most dedicated fanbases in sports. The city's other pro sports team, the Pelicans (formerly Hornets) of the National Basketball Association, don't quite have the history of the Saints, having moved the city from Charlotte just a few years before Katrina. However, they too had their best season ever not long after the disaster. With both teams now sharing common ownership, they both seem stable finally.
- The Big Easy
- It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans
- Southern Gothic: New Orleans is a favorite setting for Southern Gothic works, especially in vampire fiction, perhaps because of the associating the area has with Voodoo.
New Orleans in popular media:
- Season 9 of The Real World
- All Dogs Go to Heaven
- Chief Wiggum PI, the fake spinoff of The Simpsons
- The James Bond movie Live and Let Die.
- New Orleans a 1947 film starring Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong.
- Often appears in Marvel Comics, usually in solo series that Gambit appears in, and storylines that centre around him, often featuring its feuding Thieves and Assasins Guilds.
- Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! features its Earth-C counterpart, "Mew Orleans."
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, though it averts most tropes associated with the city
- Abby Scuito from NCIS hails from the city and would like to point out that the jazz is played after the burial. There is now an entire NCIS spin-off that is set in New Orleans.
- Left 4 Dead 2's "The Parish" campaign takes place in the French Quarter.
- Anne Rice. She authors some quite exquisite scenery about the Big Easy: Exit to Eden, Interview with the Vampire, Belinda, Feast of All Saints, Blood Canticle, Blackwood Farms, Taltos, The Witching Hour, Memnoch the Devil, and The Tale of the Body Thief.
- The Princess and the Frog is set in Roaring 20s New Orleans.
- Werner Herzog's The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
- HBO's Treme, from the creators of The Wire, explores the aftermath of Katrina.
- Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island
- The Expendables' main operations are based here. Oddly, the city is established in the first film by a sweeping crane shot of... Baton Rouge.
- The first Gabriel Knight.
- A Streetcar Named Desire
- Gone with the Wind — Rhett and Scarlett honeymoon in New Orleans
- FoxTrot — Roger and Andy honeymooned here too.
- A Confederacy of Dunces, which many locals consider the most accurate portrayal the city has ever gotten.
- Déjà Vu (2006)
- The Skeleton Key, though only a few scenes are set here (mostly when the protagonist's Token Black Friend explains to her about hoodoo). The rest of the time, it's set in the countryside.
- One Calvin and Hobbes strip has Calvin wonder where people go when they die, to which Hobbes responds that he believes they play saxophone for an all-girl cabaret in New Orleans. "So you believe in Heaven?" "Call it what you like."
- New Orleans is Vampire: The Requiem's setting of choice, likely due to its association with vampire fiction.
- Features several times in Rick Riordan's mythology books:
- Nico di Angelo spends some time in New Orleans before The Sword of Hades starts. Apparently, he likes celebrating death here (his father is a death god).
- Hazel Levesque (also a child of the same death god) of The Heroes of Olympus fame has her homeland in New Orleans, and parts of her flashbacks are set here. She attended a segregated school located in the city alongside Sammy Valdez, Leo's great-grandfather, which means that Leo's ancestral home is here too.
- The Kane siblings travel to New Orleans in The Red Pyramid to meet Anubis. Much like Nico above, he apparently likes the whole "celebrating death" thing (this time, it's because he is a death god).
- Chronicles of Nick
- The Originals, the spinoff of The Vampire Diaries, is set here (and revels in its setting).
- American Horror Story: Coven
- New Orleans is completely destroyed in the opening episode of Aldnoah.Zero when a Knight Castle crashes into the center of the city at relativistic speed, setting off an explosion comparable in destruction to a nuclear blast.
- New Orleans is the hometown of Cécile Rey and Marie-Grace Gardner in American Girls Collection.
- "The Masks", one of the later episodes of The Twilight Zone (1959), takes place during Mardi Gras.
- In Barefoot, the protagonist's family is from New Orleans, and the scenes set there were filmed on location.
- Pretty Baby takes place in the former Red Light District of Storyville, shortly before and during when it was shut down in 1917.
- In the Phineas and Ferb fanfic "Finding Dad", Phineas and Isabella travel to New Orleans to look for their missing parents.
- The setting for Infamous 2, except it's called "New Marais".
- The setting for the Benjamin January mystery series, set in antebellum New Orleans with a heavy focus on the racial politics of the era.
- Girls Trip takes place during the annual Essence Fest.
- Assassin's Creed III: Liberation focuses on the post-Seven Years' War history of New Orleans when it was still a predominantly French-speaking colony under the control of the Spanish Empire with slavery playing a big role in the story since the protagonist Aveline is the daughter of a wealthy merchant's concubine.
- Mafia III is set in a fictionalized version of New Orleans known as New Bordeaux in the 1960s amidst racial tension after the Civil Rights Acts were passed into law. It's also dominated by the Southern Union, a thinly veiled Expy of The Klan (minus the historical anti-Catholicism given the setting).
- Saint Denis from Red Dead Redemption II is a No Communities Were Harmed version of 19th century New Orleans, down to their culture, cityscape, and the surrounding bayous.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- Cloak & Dagger (2018): The Big Easy is the home city of the main characters as opposed to New York City in the original comics.
- The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Sam Wilson is a proud, born-and-bred native of the Crescent City, much like his actor Anthony Mackie. It also makes an appearance in the first episode of the series.
- Yancy Derringer
- Chef!: Carl Casper's El Jefe Cuban-sandwich truck stops in New Orleans on its cross-country trip, and adds a few New Orleans favorites to its menu. Carl bonds with his son over Café du Monde beignets.