New Orleans is best known for its Mardi Gras season, but there’s a lot more depth and richness to this city’s history and culture. Here’s a quick-hit list of everything you’d want to know!
1. Origins Of Bourbon Whiskey
New Orleans’ popular Bourbon Street was named after the French Bourbon dynasty, not the whiskey.
2. Masks Are Mandatory?
It’s illegal to ride on any Mardi Gras float in the city without wearing a Mardi Gras mask.
3. Most Haunted City In America
New Orleans is known as one of the most haunted cities in the United States, with many creepy old mansions and graveyards to visit.
For example, the LaLaurie Mansion is an allegedly haunted house in the French Quarter that also holds family secrets. After a fire, rescuers discovered dozens of slaves chained to the walls and body parts on the floor in a secret attic. Creepy, creepy stuff.
4. America’s First Mixed Drink
America’s first mixed drink, the Sazerac (the official cocktail of the city), was created in a French Quarter bar by Antoine Peychaud.
The Sazerac is traditionally made with 1/4 oz of Absinthe, 1 1/2 oz of whiskey or cognac, a sugar cube, and three dashes of bitters.
5. Dental Floss Origins
A New Orleans dentist, Levi Spear Parmly, invented the first form of dental floss. Spear mint, anybody?
6. Three Different Flags
New Orleans is one of the few cities in America to have lived under three different flags: the French, the Spanish, and then the French again before being sold to the United States.
7. Creation Of Jazz
The city’s creation of jazz music is attributed to the fact that New Orleans was the only spot where slave owners let their slaves own drums.
8. Former Capital
While Baton Rouge is the state’s current capital, New Orleans was named the capital twice.
9. First Poker Game
The first game of poker was played in the city in the 19th century using just a 20-card pack of cards.
10. Oldest Active Cathedral In America
The city houses the oldest continuously used cathedral in the country, the St. Louis Cathedral.
11. Largest Urban Park In U.S.
Located in New Orleans, City Park is one of the largest parks in the nation and was once a popular spot for Creole men to meet and duel.
12. Spanish Architecture
While the city’s most famous neighborhood is called the French Quarter, the majority of the buildings there were actually influenced by Spanish architecture.
13. First Opera
The first opera in America, Sylvain by Ernest Gretry, was performed in the city in 1796.
14. Not The First Mardi Gras Party
While many people consider the city the prime destination for Mardi Gras activities, Mobile, Alabama actually held the first Mardi Gras party in America.
15. Mafia’s Birthplace
New Orleans is the first home of the American Mafia.
16. Popular Cuisine
While the town is known for Cajun food, the predominant type of food cooked here is in fact Creole.
17. Italian Immigrants
New Orleans was the first site of immigration for Italians in the United States. It also had one of the largest Italian populations in the country until Baltimore and New York became more popular destinations for newcomers.
18. Above Ground Tombs
Most of the city is built on a swamp, making it important that the dead in the city be interred in above-ground tombs.
19. First Pharmacy In America
The city was home to the first pharmacist in America, Louis Joseph Dufilho, Jr. His shop on Chartres Street still stands today, albeit as a pharmacy museum.
20. Pirates Help Defeat The British
It was a French pirate, Jean Lafitte, who helped General Andrew Jackson defeat the British at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, the only real triumph for the US in the War of 1812.
Paul Morphy, a chess master, was born in the city. Today, his house at 1113 Chartres Street is a museum.
22. First Girls’ School In America
The Ursuline Convent is the oldest brick and post building of the entire French Colonial style in the country and was home to the nation’s first girls’ school.
23. Origins Of Grits
Popular in the city, grits originated from sagamite, a mixture of Indian corn that is boiled in water with either bacon fat or butter.
The game of craps was first brought to New Orleans by Bernard de Marigny. Its name comes from the word “crapaud” or “frog,” a derogatory reference to Americans considering the French “frog eaters.”
25. The Live Oak Society
The Live Oak Society was composed entirely of trees with the exception of just one honorary human chairman who used to require that each of the trees pay their dues: 25 acorns each year.
26. Survived Every Storm
The Milneburg or Port Pontchartrain Lighthouse survived every storm since the 1850s in the city, including Hurricane Katrina.
27. Steamship Houses
There are two houses in the city of Holy Cross that are built like steamships; Paul Doullut loved his vessels so much that he built two houses to look like them.
28. Exotic Animal Racing
For those seeking a once-in-a-lifetime experience, you can watch exotic animal racing at the Fairgrounds including zebras and ostriches!
29. Funeral Home Turned Farmer’s Market
The Fresh Market on the corner of St. Charles and Louisiana was once a funeral home. Creepy!
30. Secret Room Of Art
Looking for interesting art in the French Quarter? M.S. Rau Antiques has a secret room that you can visit to see some historical art and artifacts.
31. Pyramid Tomb
A pyramid tomb in St. Louis Cemetery was built by actor Nicolas Cage. Many theories surround the creation of the tomb, including one rumor that the actor is a member of the Illuminati.
32. Bus Station Full Of Art
Some of the best and most historic murals in the city can be found in bus stations. The Greyhound Station (the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal) houses amazing murals depicting Louisiana history. They were painted by Conrad Albirizio from 1951 to 1954.
Whether or not you’ve been before, we hope these cool facts make you want to head on down to the Big Easy.