25 Things You Should Know About New Orleans


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.


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.

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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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.


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.


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.

Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

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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84 Years Ago Today: Goodbye Prohibition!
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
Keystone/Getty Images

It was 84 years ago today that the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, repealing the earlier Amendment that declared the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol illegal in the United States. Prohibition was over! Booze that had been illegal for 13 years was suddenly legal again, and our long national nightmare was finally over.

A giant barrel of beer, part of a demonstration against prohibition in America.
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Prohibition of alcohol was not a popular doctrine. It turned formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. It overwhelmed police with enforcement duties and gave rise to organized crime. In cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis, the dismantling of breweries left thousands of people unemployed.

Photograph courtesy of the Boston Public Library

Homemade alcohol was often dangerous and some people died from drinking it. Some turned to Sterno or industrial alcohol, which was dangerous and sometimes poisoned by the government to discourage drinking. State and federal governments were spending a lot of money on enforcement, while missing out on taxes from alcohol.

New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of Prohibition.

The midterm elections of 1930 saw the majority in Congress switch from Republican to Democratic, signaling a shift in public opinion about Prohibition as well as concerns about the depressed economy. Franklin Roosevelt, who urged repeal, was elected president in 1932. The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution was proposed by Congress in February of 1933, the sole purpose of which was to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment establishing Prohibition.

American men guarding their private beer brewing hide-out, during Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

With passage of the Constitutional Amendment to repeal Prohibition a foregone conclusion, a huge number of businessmen lined up at the Board of Health offices in New York in April of 1933 to apply for liquor licenses to be issued as soon as the repeal was ratified.

The Amendment was ratified by the states by the mechanism of special state ratifying conventions instead of state legislatures. Many states ratified the repeal as soon as conventions could be organized. The ratifications by the required two-thirds of the states was achieved on December 5, 1933, when conventions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah agreed to repeal Prohibition through the Amendment.

Workmen unloading crates of beer stacked at a New York brewery shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.
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A brewery warehouse in New York stacked crates past the ceiling to satisfy a thirsty nation after the repeal of Prohibition.

Keystone/Getty Images

Liquor wouldn't officially be legal until December 15th, but Americans celebrated openly anyway, and in most places, law enforcement officials let them.

Courtesy New District
Say ‘Cheers’ to the Holidays With This 24-Bottle Wine Advent Calendar
Courtesy New District
Courtesy New District

This year, eschew your one-tiny-chocolate-a-day Advent calendar and count down to Christmas the boozy way. An article on the Georgia Straight tipped us off to New District’s annual wine Advent calendars, featuring 24 full-size bottles.

Each bottle of red, white, or sparkling wine is hand-picked by the company’s wine director, with selections from nine different countries. Should you be super picky, you can even order yourself a custom calendar, though that will likely add to the already-high price point. The basic 24-bottle order costs $999 (in Canadian dollars), and if you want to upgrade from cardboard boxes to pine, that will run you $100 more.

If you can’t quite handle 24 bottles (or $999), the company is introducing a 12-bottle version this year, too. For $500, you get 12 reds, whites, rosés, and sparkling wines from various unnamed “elite wine regions.”

With both products, each bottle is numbered, so you know exactly what you should be drinking every day if you really want to be a stickler for the Advent schedule. Whether you opt for 12 or 24 bottles, the price works out to about $42 per bottle, which is somewhere in between the “I buy all my wines based on what’s on sale at Trader Joe’s” level and “I am a master sommelier” status.

If you want to drink yourself through the holiday season, act now. To make sure you receive your shipment before December 1, you’ll need to order by November 20. Get it here.

[h/t the Georgia Straight]


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