New Orleans skyline

New Orleans was founded in 1718 by French explorer Jean Baptist Le Moyne de Beinville. The site was chosen because of its relatively high ground along the flood-prone Mississippi River. It was adjacent to the trading route between the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain via Bayou St. John, and it was developed as an important colonial city. The city was named in honor of the then Regent of France, Philip II, Duke of Orléans.

It passed to the Spanish in 1763 following the Seven Year’s War as part of the Treaty of Fountainbleau. The United States was allowed the right to use the city’s important port as part of Pickney’s Treaty in 1795, and then control reverted back to France in the Treat of San Ildefonso.

In 1803, Napoleon sold the city as part of the Louisiana Purchase to the United States. During the 19th century, the city developed into an important commercial port for the fledgling United States, and by 1840 was the fourth-largest city in the nation — the largest city away from the Atlantic coast and the largest city in the South.

The city was captured by federal forces early during the Civil War, and served as the model for Reconstruction. Today, the Port of New Orleans is one of the most-important maritime shipping facilities in the country.

New Orleans also is a major tourist destination, with hundreds of thousands of visitors invading the city each year for the annual Mardi Gras celebration. And the French Quarter of the city, with Bourbon Street as its epicenter, is a year-round draw for those looking for 24-hour partying.