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25 Things You Should Know About New Orleans

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You’ve heard of Bourbon Street and are well aware of the Big Easy’s reputation for booze and beads—but here are some tidbits you may not have known.

1. Yes, you can drink in the streets. The city allows for the possession and consumption of alcohol in public areas such as the French Quarter.

2. Hence, most NOLA bars offer to-go cups, and drive-through daiquiri shops exist (though if you’re the driver, you can’t put your straw in the cup).

3. The now-famous Hurricane cocktail—a mix of rum, fruit juice, and syrup or grenadine—was first served at the city’s Pat O’Brien's bar in the 1940s.

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4.
Not surprisingly, the city's official motto is "Laissez les bons temps rouler!"("Let the good times roll!")

5. Even the funerals are a celebration of the life of the recently deceased. Jazz funerals, a distinctly New Orleans tradition, became popular in the African American community in the late 19th century. Historically, the first "line" of a funeral parade consists of loved ones, while a "second line" of more distant well-wishers follows behind. Accompanying brass bands play somber tunes on the way to the grave site, but launch into upbeat melodies once the dead has been properly laid to rest.

6. Most of the tombs in New Orleans are located above ground—not due to the city's high water table, as some claim, but instead as a continuation of an Old World tradition popular in Roman Catholic communities in Spain and France.

7. One of the most visited tombs belongs to Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. The self-proclaimed oracle, born in 1794, was known for performing voodoo rituals and exorcisms.


8.
Perhaps this is why New Orleans is consistently ranked as one of the spookiest (and "most haunted") cities in America.

9. Speaking of spooky, according to a PhD student at Louisiana State University, the city is home to 50 "real" vampires. While they don't have any supernatural powers, these individuals—of which there are 5000 total in the U.S.—believe they need to "drink blood (human or animal) in order to sustain themselves," The Washington Post reports.

10. Once the capital of the French colony of Louisiana, NOLA remained the capital of the U.S. state until it was moved to Baton Rouge in 1849. The city was once again named the capital for a brief period during Reconstruction.

11. The Battle of New Orleans, which took place between December 24, 1814 and January 8, 1815, was the last major battle of the War of 1812. It took place after the treaty was officially signed, but word hadn’t reached the soldiers.

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12.
Until roughly 1890, NOLA’s City Park was the spot for dueling. Fighters would face off with their opponents—pistol or saber in hand—at the “Duelling Oaks.”

13. Several of the city’s more historic homes have a unique feature: floor-level mirrors, which women once used to ensure their ankles weren’t showing.

14. The city is the birthplace of jazz—and famed trumpet virtuoso Louis Armstrong.

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15.
Reese Witherspoon and Ellen DeGeneres were also born there, while Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, Lil Wayne, and Solange Knowles all call The Big Easy home. (Well, at least the site of one of their homes.)

16. The first U.S. opera was staged in New Orleans in 1796—a production of Ernest Grétry’s Silvain.

17. Among the (many) local delicacies: beignets (named the Louisiana state doughnut in 1986), alligator, and turtle soup.

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18.
It’s got a lot of history. According to the National Register, The Crescent City has 20 historic districts—more than any other city in the United States.

19. And a lot of water. Until the mid-20th century, New Orleans had more miles of canals (both above and below ground) than Venice, Italy.

20. There’s a big bridge, too. At 23.83 miles, Lake Ponchartrain Causeway is the longest continuous bridge over water in the world.

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21.
Sorry Vegas: the modern version of poker was invented in New Orleans. It's where craps first took off, too.

22. In 1815, New Orleans dentist Levi Spear invented dental floss.

23. There’s more lingo to master than "Who Dat?", the chant of the New Orleans Saints football team. When residents ask “Where y’at?” they’re asking about your state of mind, not your physical location.

24. The Superdome—where those Saints play—is the largest fixed domed structure in the world. Each seat inside is a different color than the one next to it, creating the illusion that the dome is fuller than it is.

25. The city can’t actually take credit for the birth of Mardi Gras. The annual celebration originated in Mobile, Alabama in 1703.

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The Annual Festivals That Draw the Most People in Every State
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Every state has that one big event each year that draws residents from across the region or even across the nation. Louisiana has Mardi Gras. Kentucky has the Kentucky Derby. South Dakota has Sturgis. Genfare, a company that provides fare collection technology for transit companies, recently tracked down the biggest event in each state, creating a rundown of the can't-miss events across the country.

As the graphic below explores, some states' biggest public events are national music and entertainment festivals, like Bonnaroo in Tennessee, SXSW in Texas, and Summerfest in Wisconsin—which holds the world record for largest music festival.

Others are standard public festival fare. Minnesota hosts 2 million people a year at the Minnesota State Fair (pictured above), the largest of its kind in the U.S. by attendance. Mardi Gras celebrations dominate the events calendar in Missouri, Alabama, and, of course, Louisiana. Oktoberfest and other beer festivals serve as the biggest gatherings in Ohio (home to the nation's largest Oktoberfest event), Oregon, Colorado, and Utah.

In some states, though, the largest annual gatherings are a bit more unique. Some 50,000 people each year head to Brattleboro, Vermont for the Strolling of the Heifers, a more docile spin on the Spanish Running of the Bulls. Montana's biggest event is Evel Knievel Days, an extreme sports festival in honor of the famous daredevil. And Washington's biggest event is Hoopfest, Spokane's annual three-on-three basketball tournament.

Mark your calendar. Next year could be the year you attend them all.

A graphic list with the 50 states pictured next to information about their biggest events
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Alexa Can Now Help You Find a Wine Pairing
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Even if you enjoy wine regularly, you may not know exactly how you’re supposed to pair it with food. But you don’t have to be a sommelier to put together a good pairing at home. According to Lifehacker, you can just ask Alexa.

An Alexa skill called Wine Finder is designed to help you figure out which wine varietal would go best with whatever food you’re planning to eat. You just have to ask, “What wine goes well with … ”

Created by an app developer called Bloop Entertainment, the Amazon Echo skill features a database with 500 wine pairings. And not all of them are designed for someone working their way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The skill will also help you find the proper pairing for your more casual snacks. In one demo, the skill recommends pairing nachos with a Sauvignon blanc or Zinfandel. (Note that the latter also goes well with Frito pie.)

You can also ask it to find you the perfect wine to drink with apple pie and pizza, in addition to the meats, cheeses, and other wine-pairing staples you might expect. However, if you ask it what to pair with hot dogs, it says “water,” which is an affront to hot dog connoisseurs everywhere.

There are a few other wine-pairing skills available for Alexa, including Wine Pairings, Wine Pairings (two different skills), and Wine Expert. But according to user reviews, Wine Finder is the standout, offering more and higher-quality suggestions than some of the other sommelier apps.

It’s free to enable here, so drink up.

[h/t Lifehacker]

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