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Best Historic Locations in New Orleans

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Idyllically laid within the ambit of New Orleans' famous French Quarter district, Jackson Square is steeped in a rich history associated with the epoch-making Louisiana Purchase. An arsenal of historic landmarks, including the three-steepled St. Louis Cathedral, The Cabildo and the Presbytere stand amid vast landscaped gardens, with the bronze statue of the heroic Andrew Jackson forming a compelling centerpiece. Although now buried under layers of history, the square harks back to a fascinating past, when it was originally known as the Place d'Armes. An erstwhile site for public executions, this square saw a dramatic shift at the turn of the twentieth century. At the height of the Roaring Twenties, this National Historic Landmark became widely known for its association with the arts, allowing artists to gather and participate in the exchange of ideas. Through the years, Jackson Square has been touched by fleeting, yet enduring associations with tarot-readers, jugglers, street artists, and paraders, echoing the very unbeatable ethos that New Orleans is known for today.

A glorious jewel gleaming in the heart of the city, the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis is one of the most prominent landmarks in the French Quarter. Illustrious in the extreme, the Cathedral has often single-handedly solidified New Orleans' identity. Lording over the historic landscape of Jackson Square, this magnificent cathedral is a soulful amalgamation of culture, history and an inextricable French legacy. The Cathedral of St. Louis was first built in 1718 but became an established parish in 1720. The current cathedral is not the original, but a rebuilt expansion of the third version of the cathedral, built in 1789. In 1964, Pope John Paul II designated the cathedral as a Minor Basilica. The graceful beauty of the St. Louis Cathedral and its surrounding courtyards in the French Quarter makes it a sight to behold. Cradled on the banks of the Mississippi River, the cathedral is considered one of the greatest symbols of Catholicism on the North American continent. Upheld by beautiful blue steeples and interiors which are just as ornate, this cathedral is an edifice hewn with an indelible French heritage.

Consisting of six sites spread across New Orleans, this historic site pays homage to the pirateering legacy of Jean Lafitte, and the historical events that unfolded in his wake. The visitor center has historic walking tours of the French Quarter and also sets the scene for other historic sites in and around New Orleans. The extensive Barataria Preserve is part of the site, and is sheathed in a tapestry of marshes, swamps and dense hardwood forests, while the Chalmette Battlefield has been the ground of many historic battles and wars. Characterized by a string of teeming bayous and inextricable Cajun traditions, the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is a stirring insight into the historical heart of New Orleans.

Step back into the Antebellum beauty of the old South with a tour of Oak Alley Plantation. A short drive from the city of New Orleans, Oak Alley Plantation gives visitors a glimpse into the life that once was for Louisiana residents. Visitors are invited to tour the mansion and grounds, including the quarter-mile-long picturesque canopy created by the stately branches of the 300-year-old oak trees that gave the former plantation it's name. Guides dressed in period clothing lead informative tours of the mansion. Oak Alley's signature Mint Julep's are available for sale at the mansion, and the Oak Alley Restaurant offers a full menu for hungry visitors.

Built on a race course in 1872, Metairie Cemetery is known for its architectural beauty. It has one of the finest collection of funeral statues and marble tombs which has made it secure a place in the prestigious National Register of Historic Places in December, 1991. It also holds its place in the Forbes list of ten bests cemeteries in the world. This cemetery is worth visiting while in New Orleans.

This Greek Revival mansion is home to original English and American antiques and eight acres of formal gardens and decorative fountains. Although florals vary with the seasons, visitors can count on a spectacular display year-round. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Longue Vue House & Gardens features ever-changing exhibits. A gift shop sells horticulture and decorative items, children's gifts and reproductions from the Longue Vue Collection.

The Sisters of Ursula established Catholic schools for African-American and Native American girls and set up the first orphanage in Louisiana. The convent is now home to Catholic archives dating back to 1718. It is the oldest building on record in New Orleans and the entire Mississippi Valley. It sits across from another historic site, the Beauregard-Keyes House, and is part of the Archbishop Antoine Blanc Memorial. It is open for self guided tours.

The center of all cultural activities, the French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans. The city of New Orleans was built around the main square of what was then known as the Vieux Carré, after the city's founding in 1718. However, most of the area's buildings come from the early 19th Century, when the city was acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. Although originally settled by French Creoles, by the early 20th Century they were mostly gone from the French Quarter, and bohemian culture began to boom in the area. Architectural delights like Jackson Square and its Saint Louis Cathedral are highlights of the neighborhood. The French Quarter's single most famous landmark, Bourbon Street, is a nightlife mainstay, being the main drag of Mardi Gras celebrations. Replete with rich architectural history and cultural implications, the French Quarter truly encapsulates New Orleans' vibrant spirit.

New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park provides an ideal platform for all to experience and share the cultural history of jazz in New Orleans. The park aims to educate visitors through its database of information, on the origin and development of jazz in America. A hallmark feature of this site is the Perseverance Hall, where black jazz performers played for black or white audiences in the 1800's. The park hosts special jazz events several times a year. The seasonal concerts for Christmas are extremely popular.

Located on the boundary of the French Quarter, Saint Louis Cemetery Number One is the oldest cemetery in the city. The above ground burial practices are typical of swampy New Orleans, where early settlers soon discovered that coffins buried in the ground would float to the surface after a hard rain. There are many ornate family tombs and vaults, but visitors to Saint Louis Cemetery Number One must be accompanied by a licensed tour guide or have a special pass issued for persons with loved ones or family members buried in the cemetery.

Originally known as Rue Bourbon, New Orleans' infamous Bourbon Street runs the length of the city's French Quarter, although it is the eight-block stretch of "Upper Bourbon Street," lined with bars and clubs of every genre, that is known for its lively nightlife scene. Initially a sought after residential neighborhood, shifting borders and demographics saw Bourbon Street succumb to the same vices the city had come to be known for, becoming famous for its restaurants, nightclubs and other risque establishments. Today, this street is best known for its involvement in the Big Easy's greatest festival, Mardi Gras, and its love affair with live jazz and blues. Each night, revelers throng the street with drinks in hand, their smiling faces lit by the multi-colored glow of neon lights. By day, the avenue's quaint architectural heritage comes to the fore, with time-honored eateries doling out traditional po'boys, beignets and other quintessentially, local eats.

Second to the original Saint Louis Cemetery, number two was built in the 1820s after the population in New Orleans increased, but there were outbreaks of yellow fever. This above-ground addition is located two blocks from Number One, both owned, operated and maintained by the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Tours are recommended, due to the unsafe surrounding neighborhood.

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