If you were last here in, say, July 2005, everything will seem to be mostly where you left it.
The French Quarter still hums with booze and brass bands. Carnival still owns the city's heart every February, culminating with the joyful, raucous Mardi Gras celebration on Fat Tuesday. Streetcars still clatter up stately St. Charles Avenue beneath the broad live oaks.
But squint, and New Orleans is a subtly though significantly different place since Hurricane Katrina overwhelmed the city's levies Aug. 29, 2005, and left 80 percent of the streets underwater. From dozens of new restaurants and bars to booming startup and real estate industries to a new park along the long-underutilized Mississippi riverfront, the Crescent City - the nickname most locals prefer to the Big Easy - has seen an unlikely transformation rooted in both the opportunity, and the need, to rebuild. New Orleans always played the role of Southern siren with its endemic joys: jazz, revelry and rich food. But the city also was sort of stuck in that pose; few visited New Orleans for what was new.