New Orleans (/, locally /; French: La Nouvelle-Orléans [la nuvɛlɔʁleɑ̃] (listen)) is a consolidated city-parish located along the Mississippi River in the southeastern region of the U.S. state of Louisiana. With an estimated population of 393,292 in 2017, it is the most populous city in Louisiana. A major port, New Orleans is considered an economic and commercial hub for the broader Gulf Coast region of the United States.
New Orleans is world-renowned for its distinct music, Creole cuisine, unique dialect, and its annual celebrations and festivals, most notably Mardi Gras. The historic heart of the city is the French Quarter, known for its French and Spanish Creole architecture and vibrant nightlife along Bourbon Street. The city has been described as the "most unique" in the United States, owing in large part to its cross-cultural and multilingual heritage. Founded in 1718 by French colonists, New Orleans was once the territorial capital of French Louisiana before being traded to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. New Orleans was once the third-most populous city in the United States, and it was the largest city in the American South from the Antebellum era until after World War II. The city's location and low elevation have historically made it very vulnerable to flooding, leading to the installation of a complex system of levees and drainage pumps.
New Orleans was severely affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, flooding over 80% of the city and causing a population decline of over 50%. Since Katrina, major redevelopment efforts have led to a rebound in the city's population. Although, concerns about gentrification, new residents buying property in closely knit communities, and displacement of longtime residents have been voiced .
The city and Orleans Parish (French: paroisse d'Orléans) are coterminous. As of 2017, Orleans Parish is the third most-populous parish in Louisiana, behind East Baton Rouge Parish and neighboring Jefferson Parish. The city and parish are bounded by St. Tammany Parish and Lake Pontchartrain to the north, St. Bernard Parish and Lake Borgne to the east, Plaquemines Parish to the south, and Jefferson Parish to the south and west.
The city anchors the larger New Orleans metropolitan area which had an estimated population of 1,275,762 in 2017, making it the most populous metropolitan area in Louisiana and the 46th-most populated in the United States.
The New Orleans cityscape in early-February 2007
The city is named after the Duke of Orleans, who reigned as Regent for Louis XV from 1715 to 1723. It has many illustrative nicknames:
- Crescent City alludes to the course of the Lower Mississippi River around and through the city.
- The Big Easy was possibly a reference by musicians in the early 20th Century to the relative ease of finding work there. It may have originated in the Prohibition era, when the city was considered one big speakeasy due to the government's inability to control alcohol sales in open violation of the 18th Amendment.
- The City that Care Forgot has been used since at least 1938, and refers to the outwardly easy-going, carefree nature of the residents.