95 Fascinating Facts about New Orleans, Louisiana

The city of New Orleans is famous for Mardi Gras, Cajun and Creole culture & cuisine, jazz music, and Hurricane Katrina. It is one of most culturally significant and unique cities in the country.

Find out what else “The Big Easy” is known for with these fun New Orleans facts. Also read these fun facts about Louisiana, the state where New Orleans is found!

General New Orleans Facts

  • New Orleans is the largest city in the US state of Louisiana and 12th largest in the Eastern United States.
  • With 383,997 residents, New Orleans is the 53rd largest city in the United States, putting it between Tampa, Florida and Cleveland, Ohio in terms of population.
Aerial view of downtown New Orleans, including a large park and many buildings
Downtown New Orleans
  • The New Orleans metropolitan area is home to 900,000 people, the 49th largest in the country.
  • Around 27% of all Louisianans live in the Greater New Orleans Area.
  • The population of New Orleans has been shrinking for decades. It is currently just over half what it was in 1960. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 further displaced 800,000 people.
  • New Orleans is located in the southeastern area of the state, facing Lake Pontchartrain, which has the longest continuous bridge over water in the world.
  • New Orleans is particularly prone to flooding, with the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster being the most prominent example.
  • The Mississippi River, 2nd longest in the country, passes right by New Orleans before emptying in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Mississippi River with fog on it and a bridge in the distances, with buildings of New Orleans on the side
Fog on the Mississippi beside New Orleans
  • The city sits at the same latitude as Cairo, Egypt.
  • The highest temperature ever recorded in New Orleans was 102°F (38.9°C) in 1980, while the lowest was 6.1°F (−14.4°C) in 1899.
  • French explorer Sieur de Bienville named the city Nouvelle-Orléans for the Prince Regent of France, Philippe II, Duke of Orléans.
  • Due to the city’s varied mix of languages and culture (including Cajun and Creole), it has been named the most unique city in the country. Travel show host Anthony Bourdain has called the city’s food scene the most exciting in the country.
Some men playing musical instruments on the street in New Orleans
Musicians on the street in New Orleans
  • Some common nicknames for New Orleans are The Crescent City, The Big Easy, The City That Care Forgot, The City of Yes, and Hollywood South.
  • The slogan of New Orleans is “laissez les bon temps rouler”, which is a Cajun/French translation for “let the good times roll”.
  • People from New Orleans are called New Orleanians, while people from the state of Louisiana are known as Louisianians and Louisianans.
  • Around 60% of New Orleans residents are African American.
The New Orleans flag flying in the wind with a blue sky behind it
The official flag of New Orleans
  • The New Orleans flag shows a white field bordered on the top by a red stripe and on the bottom by a blue stripe. In the center, three fleur-de-lis are depicted, a traditional French symbol resembling a flower. These symbols demonstrate the French heritage of New Orleans and the strong ties that the city has to France in general.
  • New Orleans has 13 sister cities, including Caracas (Venezuela), Orléans (France), Innsbruck (Austria), and Durban (South Africa).

Interesting Facts about New Orleans Places & Events

  • Bourbon Street is the most famous street in New Orleans. Located in the touristy French Quarter, or Vieux Carré, it is the focal point of Mardi Gras, one of the most famous festivals in the country.
People walking on the street at night on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras
Bourbon Street during Mardi gras
  • Mardi Gras, which means “Fat Tuesday”, is a pre-lent celebration which culminates on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras traditions in New Orleans include parades, costumes, tossing of beaded necklaces, flashing, and parties in the streets.
  • After the first Mardi Gras was held in New Orleans in 1837, the festival became practically synonymous with the city.
  • The festival now draws over 10 million visitors to New Orleans every year.
  • Mardi Gras is also celebrated in other countries including Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, and Sweden.
  • St. Louis, Missouri has the 2nd largest Mardi Gras celebration in the country.
A parade float at Mardi Gras with lots of people in the crowd lifting their arms to receive necklaces
Mardi Gras parade
  • The Carnival-centered Mardi Gras Fountain in Lakeshore has art tributes that honor over 90 Mardi Gras Carnival krewes (social organizations that organized floats for the parades).
  • The French Quarter is a National Historic Landmark, with numerous squares and buildings dating to the late 1800s.
  • Jackson Square, originally known as the Place d’Armes, is the principal park in the French Quarter and it’s been a National Historic Landmark since 1960. It’s the place where Louisiana became an official territory of the US after the Louisiana Purchase.
  • Besides the above, there are two dozen other National Historic Landmarks in New Orleans, including the United States Mint, Court of Appeals, Customhouse, St. Charles Streetcar (the longest running streetcar in the world), and several historic homes, churches, and other buildings.
A red streetcar passing a row of buildings and some palm trees in New Orleans
A streetcar in New Orleans
  • Other trendy neighborhoods in New Orleans include Algiers Point, Garden District, Warehouse District, and Broadmoor.
  • The tallest building in New Orleans is Hancock Whitney Center, which has 51 floors and stands 697 ft (212 m) tall.
  • Other iconic buildings in New Orleans include St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo, Longue Vue House and Gardens, the Presbytére, and the New Canal Lighthouse.
  • Some well-known New Orleans landmarks include the Lombard House, the Leeds Foundry, the Hibernia Bank Building, Our Lady of Guadeloupe Church and the Pitot House.
St. Louis Cathedral at dusk
St. Louis Cathedral is the most famous building in New Orleans.
  • One of the nation’s oldest African American churches is the St. Augustine Catholic Church, which was designed by J.N.B. De Pauilly in 1841. The church is also home to the “Tomb of the Unknown Slave”, a tribute to enslaved Africans who died in New Orleans and were buried in unmarked graves.
  • New Orleans’ Voodoo Music & Arts Experience has featured over 2000 acts, including some of the because names in music, like KISS, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, and 50 Cent.

New Orleans Economy and Society Facts

  • The Greater New Orleans area has the 47th largest economy in the United States, between the Greater Oklahoma City area and the Greater Memphis area.
  • New Orleans is home to one Fortune 500 company, Entergy, which delivers electric power to states in the Deep South.
Buildings in downtown New Orleans
The financial district of New Orleans
  • Other famous companies that started in New Orleans include Pelican Publishing Company, Walton Construction, and Barton Brands.
  • New Orleans is home to the oldest family-run restaurant in the country, Antoine’s, which has been visited by famous patrons such as Pope John Paul II, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Roosevelt, and Herbert Hoover.
  • There are 20 colleges and universities in New Orleans, with the largest being the University of New Orleans, Loyola University New Orleans, and Tulane University.
  • New Orleans’ crime rate is about half that of Baltimore, Maryland, but double that of Louisville, Kentucky.
  • Famous shopping malls and markets in New Orleans include Canal Place Mall, Little Flea NOLA, the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk, Magazine Street, and the French Market.
  • New Orleans is home to two billionaires: Sazerac Spirits owner William Goldring (3.9 billion) and New Orleans Saints & New Orleans Pelicans owner Gayle Benson (3.4 billion).
An uphill street with typical New Orleans houses and a few cars parked on the street
Houses in New Orleans
  • 23.7% of people in New Orleans live below the poverty line. It’s the nation’s highest official poverty rate.
  • 58.5% of Louisiana residents voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
  • The world can thank New Orleans for the following inventions: dental floss, cotton candy, venetian blinds, the Sazerac (sometimes considered the world’s first cocktail), jazz music, and poker.
  • Movies filmed in New Orleans include Unhinged, Black and Blue, 21 Jump Street, Deep Water, and Happy Death Day.
  • TV shows filmed in New Orleans include Treme, The Thing About Pam, and NCIS: New Orleans.

New Orleans Sports Facts

  • The New Orleans Saints have made 10 Playoff appearances (the first was in 1987) and won the Super Bowl 1 time, in 2009, the only time they’ve ever appeared in it.
The Caesars Superdome lit up in purple at night.
Caesars Superdome (formerly Mercedes Benz Superdome)
  • New Orleans has hosted the Super Bowl 10 times.
  • Some of the most famous athletes from New Orleans include the great quarterback Peyton Manning, baseball players Mel Ott and Will Clark, and basketball player Clyde Drexler.
  • Audrey Patterson of New Orleans was the first African American woman to win an Olympic medal.

Other Famous New Orleans People

  • Actors John Goodman, Anthony Mackie, Sam Trammell, and Tyler Perry were born in New Orleans.
  • Actresses Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock, Patricia Clarkson and Pauley Perrette were also born in New Orleans.
  • Musicians Lil Wayne, DJ Khaled, Lil’ Fizz and August Alsina were born in New Orleans.
  • Ferdinand Morton, otherwise known as Jelly Roll and considered the first great jazz composer and pianist, was born in New Orleans.
  • Other famous New Orleans jazz musicians included Louis Armstrong, Allen Toussaint, King Oliver, Kermit Ruffins, and Fats Domino.
A mosaic of famous people born in New Orleans
Famous New Orleanians Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, John Goodman, Lil Wayne, Reese Witherspoon, and Sandra Bullock (clockwise from top-left)
  • Tennessee Williams fled his home in St. Louis and adopted New Orleans as his hometown. He would become one of the most preeminent playwrights in the country. Several of his works are set in New Orleans.
  • Ruth Benerito of New Orleans invented wrinkle-free cotton and is credited for saving the cotton industry. Also, during the Korean War, she invented an intravenous method to feed seriously wounded soldiers.
  • Andrew Higgins invented the landing craft, which allowed US troops to make amphibious landings during World War II. He was from New Orleans.
  • Born in New Orleans, Joseph Lascaux was a dentist who invented a machine that spun sugar to make cotton candy.
  • The Wood screw pump was invented by Albert Baldwin Wood to reduce flooding in New Orleans.
  • New Orleans resident Dr. Andrew Schally won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1977, while another New Orleans resident, William Faulkner, won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949.

New Orleans History Facts

  • The Chitimacha people were the original inhabitants of the New Orleans area.
A row of connected historic homes in New Orleans
Historic architecture in New Orleans
  • New Orleans city was founded in 1718.
  • From 1765 to 1785, thousands of Acadians (a group of French-speaking people in Canada) were forcibly removed from Nova Scotia province, with main of them ending up in New Orleans/Louisiana and becoming known as Cajuns.
  • Louisiana became a state and New Orleans its capital in 1812.
  • In 1815, the Battle of New Orleans took place 5 miles southeast of the French Quarter. It was the climax of a months-long attempt by England to take the city, with England losing.
  • The Pontchartrain Railroad Company (PRR) established the first rail service in the city in 1831. The first trains were pulled by horses and the line was five miles long.
  • In 1837, the Picayune newspaper began publication.
Side view of a green and red streetcar in New Orleans
The St. Charles Streetcar, operating since 1835, is the longest running streetcar in the world
  • The nation’s oldest family-run restaurant, Antoine’s, opened in 1840.
  • The New Orleans Pacific Railway Company was established in 1876 and originally ran trains between New Orleans and Shreveport.
  • In 1882, rail service was established between New Orleans and El Paso.
  • In 1892, Homer Plessy was arrested for boarding a train in New Orleans reserved for white passengers. Homer is categorized as seven-eighths Caucasion and one-eighth African. He fought the charge all the way to the US Supreme Court.
  • The roots of jazz music began in the late 1800s and early 1900s in New Orleans.
  • WSMB radio began broadcasting in 1925.
  • New Orleans thrived during WWII, with factories booming and many servicemen passing through the city (and its bars and brothels) en route to other places.
A black man in a suit playing a trombone on the street
Jazz musician in New Orleans
  • The board of Tulane University voted to admit African American students after a lawsuit was filed to desegregate the institution in 1962.
  • In 1970, New Orleans hosted its first Super Bowl.
  • Ernest Morial was the first African American to be elected as mayor of New Orleans in 1978.
  • The first new streetcar line in the city since 1926 was the Riverfront line, which was opened in 1988.
  • In 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans, causing massive floods and displacing almost 1 million people.
Some rubble, broken car, and American flag after Hurricane Katrina struck Mississippi
Damage from Hurrican Katrina
  • President Bush pledged 110 Billion USD to New Orleans for the reconstruction of the damages caused by Hurricane Katrina.
  • In 2021, Mardi Gras parades were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Orleans Food and Drink Facts

  • Some of the most famous foods associated with New Orleans, otherwise known as Cajun or Creole cusine, include gumbo, jambalaya, and beans and rice.
  • The main difference between Cajun and Creole cuisine is that the latter uses more tomatoes and is considered city food, while the former is considered country food.
A pile of boiled crawfish, corn, and potatoes, a signature dish in New Orleans
New Orleans crawfish boil
  • Other dishes associated with or invented in New Orleans include king cakes, po boys, crawfish, oysters, BBQ shrimp, muffaletta, banana foster, New Orleans pralines, and snowballs.
  • There is a cocktail named after Vieux Carré (the French Quarter). The drink was invented in Hotel Monteleone, New Orleans in 1937.
  • Another famous cocktail invented in New Orleans is the Sazerac, which some consider to be America’s first cocktail.
  • An essential ingredient in both the Vieux Carré and Sazerac is Peychaud’s Bitters, which was invented in the city in the 1830s.
A glass of Sazerac on a wooden table
The Sazerac, invented in New Orleans, is considered the world’s first cocktail
  • Yet another famous New Orleans cocktail is the Hurricane, whose name comes from obvious reasons.
  • In New Orleans, cocktails are often served in plastic because it’s legal to carry them out into the streets, but not in glass.