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    20 Surprising Facts About New Orleans That Are Worth Knowing

    Your unofficial guide to the Big Easy.

    Normally in February, the Big Easy would be in full swing celebrating Mardi Gras. But this year, since the traditional parades were canceled because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, people had to find new ways to celebrate.

    Pedestrians walking around in the French Quarter
    Benedek / Getty Images

    While tourists and Crescent City locals alike may not have been able to celebrate Mardi Gras 2021 the way they imagined, we've rounded up some interesting facts about this go-to Louisiana destination to help cure those blues.

    1. To start, New Orleans is believed to be one of the most haunted cities in America.

    2. The Buckner Mansion was featured as Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies in the FX anthology series American Horror Story: Coven.

    3. Constructed between 1722 and 1732, Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop claims to be "the oldest structure used as a bar in the United States."

    4. If you fancy a drink, a variety of iconic cocktails gained popularity after being invented in New Orleans.

    5. Preservation Hall usually holds over 350 acoustic concerts each year — it's a true jazz lover's paradise.

    6. Marie Laveau, better known as the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, is said to have a tomb at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

    7. Speaking of tombs, actor Nicolas Cage has actually prepurchased one in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

    A pyramid-shaped tomb
    Lucy Lambriex / Getty Images / Via

    The unique pyramid design is hard to miss, and it's often visited on cemetery tours.

    8. The first-ever New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival took place in 1970, and the tradition has continued on ever since.

    Tiny Universe performs on the Congo Square Stage
    Douglas Mason / Getty Images

    It was originally held in Congo Square and had four stages, but it's since moved to a bigger venue. Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, and Ray Charles are just a few of the fest's former headliners.

    9. Café Du Monde opened in 1862 and serves hot coffee and sugar-dusted French beignets to customers 24/7.

    10. Located in Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest continuously used Catholic cathedral in the US.

    cathedral with a lush garden
    Seanpavonephoto / Getty Images

    It dates back to the 1700s and is one of the most notable landmarks in the French Quarter.

    11. Poker fan? NOLA is thought to be one of the places where modern-day poker was developed.

    Playing Cards fanned out
    Jr Images / Getty Images

    The game has ancient roots and was likely influenced by many different cultures. The poker we know today can be traced back to the French game poque, which was introduced to French America in 1803, around the time of the Louisiana Purchase.

    12. The tradition of eating king cake — a colorful cake with a tiny baby figurine hidden inside — is an absolute must during Mardi Gras season.

    colorful round cake
    David E. Rome / Getty Images

    It's typically enjoyed at the start of the season from Jan. 6 (aka the King's Day or Twelfth Night) through Fat Tuesday. Often made of plastic, the trinket is thought to bestow luck on whoever finds it in their piece of cake.

    13. Best known for penning Interview With the Vampire and The Queen of the Damned, author Anne Rice was born in New Orleans and formerly called the Garden District home.

    14. Bourbon Street, one of the most well-known spots in the city, was actually named after the House of Bourbon (the French royal family at the time).

    Bourbon Street sign with the haunted Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop in the background
    Peter Unger / Getty Images

    It runs for 13 blocks and dates back to 1718. Today it's home to an array of bars, restaurants, and other hot spots for tourists and locals alike.

    15. The first (recorded) New Orleans Mardi Gras parade took place in 1837.

    a  float with the theme 'Children's Stories That Live Forever' in the Krewe of Bacchus parade during Mardi Gras
    Skip Bolen / WireImage

    However, the city may not actually be able to claim the first Mardi Gras festivities on US soil. The town of Mobile, Alabama, is believed to have hosted its own celebration back in 1703 and claims to have introduced it to NOLA.

    16. You can thank local dentist Dr. Levi Spear Parmly for the invention of dental floss as we know it.

    dental floss container
    Daniil Dubov / Getty Images

    In his 1819 book, A Practical Guide to the Management of the Teeth, Parmly describes using a waxed silk thread to clean between teeth and is often credited with the invention.

    17. Jazz icon Louis Armstrong is a New Orleans staple: There are two statues in the city honoring him, AND he's the namesake of the airport and a park.

    18. Dating back to the mid-1800s, City Park is 1,300 acres and one of the United States' oldest urban parks.

    19. If you're craving French-Creole cuisine, you can't go past Antoine's Restaurant, the city's oldest restaurant.

    20. Finally, the motto for New Orleans, "Laissez les bon temps rouler," means "Let the good times roll."

    Outdoor Mardi Gras beads and mask on light post
    Lynne Mitchell / Getty Images

    While this Cajun French phrase is often said during the Mardi Gras season, it's truly an embodiment of NOLA as a whole. From the delicious local eats to the history throughout the city, you won't find anywhere else as unusual as this place.

    What's your favorite thing about New Orleans? Let us know in the comments below!

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    illustrated city skyline
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