The Crescent City is often touted as “the birthplace of jazz” and “home to American Mardi Gras”—much to the chagrin of Chicago and Mobile, which hold their own counterclaims. Just what “firsts” can safely be attributed to New Orleans? Right this way.
Start in Jackson Square, which is flanked by the twin Pontalba Buildings, the first apartment complex in the United States, which dates to 1851.
Head down Chartres Street, and you’ll discover the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, home to the nation’s first licensed pharmacist, Louis J. Dufilho, Jr., who practiced here in the early 1800s.
Upper Chartres houses the Old Ursuline Convent, where the first American nun, Sister St. Stanislas Hachard, took her vows in 1729.
Take a stroll through the French Market, the oldest continually operating public market in the nation. Local farmers display fresh-picked goods each Wednesday starting 2 pm, while local bands perform and chefs conduct free cooking demos.
Cross Esplanade Avenue and you’re in the Marigny neighborhood. Now home to Frenchmen Street and its live music clubs, the area once housed the plantation of Bernard de Mandeville, who introduced the game of craps stateside in 1813.
Culture vultures should fly by 623 Canal Street, former site of Vitascope Hall, the nation’s first public movie theater, which opened in 1896. Grab a bite at the nearby Hyatt Regency, where the in-house Vitascope Hall restaurant serves up serious sushi and 42 flat-screen TVs.
Or have lunch at Café Opera, where the first opera house in the U.S. once stood—yep, right on Bourbon Street—and live opera can often be heard today.
Afterward pay a visit to Armstrong Park, where jazz is said to have first taken hold. Named for the late jazz great, the park is located in Tremé, the nation’s oldest African-American neighborhood, established in the early 1700s.
A drink before dinner? Head to the Sazerac Bar for “the official cocktail of New Orleans,” first poured here during the 1880s.
Order another round at Antoine’s, the city’s oldest eatery. Then dive into an order of oysters Rockefeller, which originated here in 1840.
Map of A New Orleans Itinerary of "Firsts"